Capitol attack conspiracy theories
Rioters clash with police as they push barricades to storm the US Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. AFP

A newly-released mass of security footage from the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol has reignited a host of long-debunked conspiracy theories -- with conservative lawmakers and media personalities getting in on the act.

Republican Senator Mike Lee and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene joined a chorus of influencers claiming cameras caught a man disguised in a "Make America Great Again" cap flashing a badge that identified him as law enforcement.

"I can't wait to ask FBI Director Christopher Wray about this at our next oversight hearing," Lee, who represents Utah, said on X, formerly Twitter.

In reality, the man in the clip -- published after new House Speaker Mike Johnson ordered hours of surveillance video released -- is a Donald Trump supporter from Chicago.

Kevin James Lyons, identifiable by his outfit, worked as an air conditioning technician until he was sentenced to more than four years in prison in July, according to court filings. One of more than 1,200 people arrested in connection to the riot, he was found guilty of six charges.

Now Lyons is the latest fodder for a years-old disinformation campaign experts say aims to whitewash Trump's efforts to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 election victory.

Another man charged in the Capitol attack, Ray Epps, filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News in July after ex-network host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed he was an FBI operative working to entrap Trump supporters.

Court documents say Lyons filmed himself inside Nancy Pelosi's office and posed with a framed photo he stole from the then-House speaker. He also pocketed a wallet, and called the police Nazis.

Other footage from the day appears to show him carrying a vape -- not a badge.

"Complete fact-free idiot," former Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger, who served on the House committee that investigated the Capitol riot, posted in response to Lee. "It's a vape."

Greene and others who amplified the accusations about Lyons, including the far-right Gateway Pundit website, backtracked after journalists and online sleuths identified him.

Keven Ruby, a senior research associate with the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, said his team's analysis of more than 1,130 cases has found no evidence FBI agents instigated any defendants charged in the assault.

But across platforms, conservatives misrepresented other moments from the tapes.

Another video of a man's handcuffs being removed also inspired claims about undercover officers until he was identified as a rioter charged in October for allegedly assaulting police.

Asked about the allegations, the FBI pointed AFP to recent testimony in which Wray said the agency had "emphatically not" orchestrated the violence.

A law enforcement source on Capitol Hill also told AFP it is "false" that federal personnel instigated the attack.

Laura Thornton, senior vice president of democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told AFP the buck stops with Trump, who has downplayed the events as he prepares to go on trial in March on charges of conspiring to reverse the 2020 election results.

"Trump calls the January 6 insurrectionists in prison 'hostages,' plays their 'anthem' at his rallies and promises to pardon them all," she said.

On Truth Social, Trump congratulated Johnson for releasing the videos, claiming they would "reveal what really happened."

He also shared a post from Lee asking how many in the mob were "feds."

Michael Jensen, of the University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, said such claims are "virtually guaranteed" to persist, noting they also took off when Carlson previously aired other unseen footage.

"This is all part of a broader effort to rewrite the history of that day, downplay the seriousness of the crimes that were committed, and bolster the election campaigns of the former president and his allies," he said.

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