Release of US Capitol attack footage reignites false FBI claims

In a new twist on years-old conspiracy theories about the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, conservative lawmakers, publications and media personalities are claiming recently released security footage shows an undercover federal agent disguised as a Donald Trump supporter. This is false; the man pictured is Kevin Lyons of Chicago, who was sentenced after stealing from then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office during the riot.

"I can’t wait to ask FBI Director Christopher Wray about this at our next oversight hearing," says Republican US Senator Mike Lee of Utah in a November 18, 2023 post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The post includes a message from Derrick Evans, a US congressional candidate and former West Virginia state lawmaker who pleaded guilty to a felony after breaching the Capitol during the 2021 riot.

"Is this person flashing a badge? If so, this would prove there were undercover federal agents disguised as MAGA," Evans says in a November 18 X post sharing a screenshot from a video.

Screenshot from X, formerly known as Twitter, taken November 20, 2023

Similar posts rocketed across X and other platforms, including Facebook and Instagram. Conservative media personalities, such as podcaster Joe Oltmann and Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield, amplified the claims.

"BREAKING J6 VIDEO: Undercover Officer Disguised as Trump Supporter Flashes Badge to Cops As He Enters US Capitol on Jan. 6," said the Gateway Pundit, a far-right website that has repeatedly published misinformation about the attack, in a headline shared across social media.

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, also repeated the accusation in a post on X.

Screenshot from Truth Social taken November 20, 2023
Screenshot from X taken November 20, 2023



The clip is part of a tranche of security footage the US House of Representatives released November 17 -- but it does not show a secret FBI agent.

The man in the pro-Trump hat is Kevin Lyons of Chicago, Illinois, an HVAC technician who in July 2023 was sentenced to four years in federal prison (archived here).

Lyons is the latest defendant targeted by long-debunked conspiracy theories about federal officials infiltrating and instigating the Capitol riot, during which Trump supporters sought to disrupt Congress's certification of President Joe Biden's electoral victory.

There is no evidence the FBI coordinated with anyone charged in the attack, said Keven Ruby, a senior research associate at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which had analyzed more than 1,130 related cases as of November 20 (archived here).

Trump is slated to go on trial in Washington in March on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

HVAC technician who called police 'Nazis'

The screenshot ricocheting across social media comes from a clip published by the House Committee on House Administration (archived here).

Lyons appears approximately 22 seconds into the video. In addition to his red "Make America Great Again" cap, he is identifiable by his face scarf, hooded sweatshirt and zip-up jacket.

Screenshot taken November 21, 2023 from the US House Committee on House Administration website
Screenshot taken November 21, 2023 from the US House Committee on House Administration website



Court documents show Lyons wearing the same outfit in a still of a video recovered from his phone, and also in a photo of him posing with a framed photograph of Pelosi and late Democratic Congressman John Lewis (archived here and here).

The agreed statement of facts for Lyons's trial says that the day before the attack, Lyons posted a map on Instagram of his driving route from Chicago to Washington. He said he was "heading to DC to STOP THE STEAL!" (archived here), the slogan used by Trump supporters.

Once in the nation's capital, Lyons recorded himself marching from Trump's rally near the White House to the Capitol. He riled up the crowd, breached the building and called out for Pelosi.

Lyons then entered the speaker's office and filmed himself stealing a wallet from a coat and the framed photo of Pelosi and Lewis.

Screenshot taken November 21, 2023 from the sentencing memorandum in United States of America v. Kevin James Lyons
Screenshot taken November 21, 2023 from the sentencing memorandum in United States of America v. Kevin James Lyons



Lyons yelled at police, calling them "oath breakers," "Nazi bastards," "traitors" and "SS" -- a reference to the elite guard of the Nazi regime.

Lyons's attorney said in court filings that his client had spent his entire adult life working as an HVAC technician (archived here).

What was Lyons holding?

AFP could not independently verify what Lyons was holding in the video released by the House, though the object does not appear to be shaped like a badge.

An NBC News journalist and Adam Kinzinger, a former Republican congressman who served on the House committee that investigated the January 6, 2021 attack, both said on X that the item is a vape (archived here and here), or electronic cigarette.

Accounts affiliated with the Sedition Hunters, a community of volunteers who have investigated footage and social media posts related to the Capitol attack and provided tips to law enforcement, shared a different shot of Lyons on a street in Washington holding what appears to be a vape (archived here and here). The screengrab comes from a Facebook video posted the day of the attack (archived here).

Screenshot from Facebook taken November 21, 2023

Several people who initially claimed the object was an FBI badge later walked back their allegations.

Greene edited her post to remove the screenshot of Lyons and the reference to identification. The Gateway Pundit updated its headline and story to say the supposed badge "is likely a vape instead."

AFP has previously debunked other misinformation about the Capitol attack here and here.

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