Cesar Sayoc stood in the throng of shouting, teeth-gnashing Trump supporters and joined a chant directed at news cameras.
“CNN sucks! CNN sucks!” they screamed. “Tell the truth! Tell the truth!”
Sayoc had seemingly found his tribe at the Trump rally in February 2017.
In previously unreleased video captured by the crew of filmmaker Michael Moore, the sleeveless shirt Sayoc wore that day in Melbourne, Fla., featured a collage of pro-Trump imagery, and his sign, like his chants, derided CNN — perhaps the most frequent target of Trump’s anti-media rage.
In that way, Sayoc — now known as the mail-bomb suspect — had already transformed into the human avatar of his van’s rolling fever dream of political paranoia. The image emblazoned on his shirt could also be seen on a large decal on the white van found during Sayoc’s arrest, near other images of prominent Democrats, including Moore.
Also on that van: a large decal that read “CNN sucks.”
Sayoc, 56, has been charged with sending more than a dozen potential bombs to various Democratic and media figures who have been critical of Trump. He appeared in a Miami federal court on Monday as law enforcement officials said he kept a list of more than 100 targets.
Hours before his court appearance, CNN said that authorities had intercepted another suspicious package addressed to the news organization at a post office in Atlanta.
On Sunday, Moore released raw footage from the rally that appears to show Sayoc in perhaps the first video document of his apparent and budding political extremism.
Moore said the footage was left out of “Fahrenheit 11/9,″ his recent documentary about the rise of Trump.
“You’ve seen the photos of him on the news over the past couple days — a slight, normal, everyday American,” Moore wrote about Sayoc on Instagram after posting the video on YouTube.
“But those are from before. Here with our footage I can show you what he had actually become — overdosed on steroids in what looks like some desperate attempt to hang on to what was left of his manhood.”
It’s not clear how Moore found Sayoc in a stream of mass footage, though images of Sayoc posted on his apparent Twitter feed show a wardrobe and background that match news images of that rally. A representative for Moore did not respond to a request for comment.
The rally had transformed into a spectacle of borderline hero worship where “demonic activity was palpable,” a Florida pastor said afterward.
Sayoc had been described by associates and co-workers as a “loner” who often ran afoul of the law and sometimes lived in his van. He did not appear to be a close follower of politics.
That changed in 2016.
"And along came the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, who welcomed all extremists, all outsiders, all outliers, and he felt that somebody was finally talking to him,” said lawyer Ronald Lowy, who has represented Sayoc in the past and now represents his family.
Trump has said he should not bear any responsibility for the heated political rhetoric apparently harnessed by Sayoc.
When asked about Sayoc’s alleged van decals and memes that lionize him, Trump said, “I don’t know, I heard he was a person who preferred me over others.”
A preference for Trump may be understating it, though at the rally Sayoc appears a bit more subdued than some other supporters taking cues from Trump to hurl insults at reporters.
Sayoc joins the chants, but there are few indications of unhinged behavior. Like some others, he smiled as he yelled. He looked happy to be there, in a dense core of anger.