A federal judge has turned down a bid by the conservative undercover video producer Project Veritas to throw out a lawsuit filed by Democratic organizations and activists it had targeted during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The suit, filed in June andseeking more than $1 million in damages, alleges that Project Veritas and its founder, James O’Keefe, sent an intern using a false name to infiltrate the offices of the Democracy Partners consulting group about two months before the 2016 general election, in an effort to turn up dirt on the group’s operations countering some of Donald Trump’s rallies.
The intern, who called herself Angela Brandt, allegedly used a fake résumé to get the internship and brought video and audio devices into the activists’ offices, where planning was underway for events aimed at “bracketing” Trump appearances.
In October 2016, Project Veritas released some of the videos and various documents online, contending that the events were actually aimed at inciting violence at Trump rallies. One Democratic activist involved in the work, Bob Creamer, resigned, and another, Scott Foval, was fired.
Inher ruling Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle said the suit could proceed because Creamer, Democracy Partners and a related company called Strategic Consulting had plausibly asserted that Brandt — whose real name is said to be Allison Maass — trespassed by entering the group’s offices after making false representations about her background and intentions.
Project Veritas’ lawyers argued that making unauthorized recordings did not undercut the fact that Maass was granted permission to be in the Democratic consultants’ offices, but the judge disagreed.
“The complaint alleges that Maass obtained her job — and thus the consent to enter Democracy Partners’ office — through misrepresentation,” wrote Huvelle, an appointee of President Bill Clinton. “Under these circumstances, plaintiffs’ ‘consent’ does not bar a claim for trespass.”
The conservative outlet’s attorneys also contended that any damages Creamer and the firms incurred were not the result of trespassing or trickery, but because of the underlying conduct that the sting exposed. Huvelle, however, said it wasn’t for her to decide what led to any damages Creamer or the firms incurred.
“It is well established that under District of Columbia law that ‘proximate cause is generally a factual issue to be resolved by the jury,’” Huvelle wrote.
Huvelle also left open the possibility that the defendants’ conduct violated the D.C. Wiretap Act, despite the fact that Maass appears to have been present during the recordings and typically D.C. law requires consent from only one person involved in a conversation to record it.
A spokesman for Project Veritas, Stephen Gordon, downplayed the judge’s ruling.
“Our belief is that this is a carefully crafted lawsuit which may have survived the motion to dismiss but will fail in the end,” Gordon said. “As the case proceeds, our attorneys will show the entire case is nothing more than an attempt to retaliate against Veritas for exposing Democracy Partners’ dirty political operation.”
A lawyer for Creamer and the Democratic firms, Joseph Sandler, welcomed the decision.
“We are pleased that the court has decided to let this important case to proceed and to allow our clients, who were really injured by the tactics and actions of Project Veritas, to pursue all of their claims,” Sandler said. “We look forward to proving that Project Veritas’ tactics were not merely dishonest and underhanded but violated the legal rights of the people affected — people who were doing nothing more than participating in the political process by legitimately helping candidates and causes in which they believed.”
The judge’s decision Thursday does not resolve the case or guarantee that it will go to trial, but it does open the door to the discovery process, during which both sides will be able to demand records and take testimony from individuals with insight into the events in dispute.
The ruling comes following considerable public tumult for Project Veritas in recent months, including The Washington Post’s high-profile exposure in November of a concerted effort by the group topersuade the newspaper to report on a fabricated rape allegation against Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican who lost his bid for a U.S. Senate seat last month. The blow-up also revealed weeks of undercover recording by Project Veritas apparently aimed at trying to get Post reporters to display political bias or say unflattering things about Trump.
Isn’t it funny? Project Veritas and James O’Keefe apparently have a problem with any news reporter having any kind of political bias or saying unflattering things about Traitor Trump. But? They Project Veritas and James O’Keefe had no damn problem with all the political bias and unflattering things that Reich-Wing Repugnant news organizations said against President Barack Obama or President Bill Clinton. Talk about bias and hypocrisy on the part of James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas huh?
Atheist Militants Rising
Many of Project Veritas’ stings have led to litigation.
The organization didscore a legal victory last month in Michigan, after a federal judge lifted a restraining order that had blocked the group from publishing videos and other information it gathered during an undercover infiltration of a local union chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
On 1 June 2017, James O’Keefe and (a well-known maker of “sting” videos) was named as a defendant in a federal lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages. The lawsuit accuses his Project Veritas activist organization of “trespass; fraudulent misrepresentation; and civil conspiracy” in the production of a series of videos he made leading up to the 2016 presidential election, for which one of his employees infiltrated a Democratic consulting firm posing as an intern.
The lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C. on behalf of Democracy Partners, Strategic Consulting Group and Robert Creamer, accuses O’Keefe and his two nonprofit organizations Project Veritas and Project Veritas Action Fund — along with his operatives Allison Maass and Daniel Sandini — of using false pretenses to gain access to Democracy Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based political consulting firm that was a subcontractor for the Democratic National Committee. As a result of their activities, the firm lost multiple contracts.
According to Stephen Gordon, a spokesman for Project Veritas, there was no wrongdoing. In an e-mailed statement, Gordon told us:
Our undercover journalists operated within the spirit, intent and letter of the law. In this case, our undercover journalist was welcomed, as a volunteer, into the Democracy Partners’ offices, was handed a card access key for the entire office area and was voluntarily provided with a computer login, all without ever being asked by Democracy Partners to sign any form of a non-disclosure agreement.
The lawsuit alleges that Creamer was introduced in late June 2016 to a man using a pseudonym (later identified as Sandini) who presented himself as a potential donor to a non-profit Creamer had done work for. In mid-July 2016, Sandini told Creamer he had a niece named “Angela Brandt” who wanted to do volunteer work for Democratic candidates.
On 21 September 2016, Project Veritas employee Allison Maass (posing as “Angela Brandt”) began working for Democracy Partners as an intern after providing falsified biographical and work history information. Per the lawsuit, she carried:
…at most or all times a camera and audio recording devices which were concealed and not visible to anyone talking or meeting with her in the Democracy Partners’ offices.
According to court documents, Maass, posing as the intern Brandt, was given full access to Democracy Partners’ building, a computer sign-on and wireless password, and was privy to conversations and information deemed confidential and proprietary by the firm. Some of the documents she took from Democracy Partners were published by Project Veritas and audio she recorded wound up as part of a four-part video series called “Rigging the Election.”
The lawsuit says the videos were released just before the 2016 presidential election:
On her first day of work, Maass was also asked to provide a resume. She provided a fabricated resume on September 22, 2016 that used the fake name, “Angela Brandt” and omitted her employment with Project Veritas, her real work history, her work for other conservative news outlets that oppose the candidates and projects SCG and Democracy Partners work with, and her real educational background degree. Instead, it provided an entirely false and fabricated work history and education.
Democracy Partners relied on this fabricated resume, and the trust Maass steadily gained through her volunteer work related to the Republican National Convention and the ongoing interest she expressed in gaining further advocacy and campaign-related experience, to continue Maass’s internship and give her assignments. Had Maass provided her real employment history and educational background, she would never have been hired and her internship would have been immediately terminated. …
During the course of her internship, Maass was included among the recipients of highly confidential emails, and in confidential discussions in in-person meetings and on conference calls; and she was sent confidential documents. She was given the phone number and private access code for client conference calls. She was also brought to confidential client meetings. These calls, emails and documents all contained confidential business information which Creamer told her was confidential and not to be shared with anyone with whom she had not been instructed to share it.
Maass provided a number of these confidential documents and emails to PV and PVAF. PVAF then published them on its website under the heading “VeritasLeaks” on or around October 26, 2016. The website states “Here are some supporting documents for the Democracy Partners videos we have been releasing.”
The lawsuit also accuses O’Keefe of “selectively editing” the videos, and then drawing misleading conclusions from the footage included in his series:
The video was heavily edited and contained commentary by O’Keefe that drew false conclusions from the selectively edited videos, to charge that Plaintiffs were involved in a conspiracy to incite violence at rallies for then-candidate Donald Trump, and falsely implied that the ongoing work in planning and implementing the bracketing events was part of that conspiracy. The purpose of this video, and all of the videos, was falsely to portray the Democratic Party and progressive organizations as being engaged in unethical and illegal activity.
Democracy Partners’ attorney Joseph Sandler accused O’Keefe and company of being “modern day Watergate burglars.” Sandler told us:
To misrepresent yourself, and lie and submit fake resumes to get access on false premise to confidential information and tape surreptitiously on top of it — real journalists don’t do that. This illegal conduct has done real damage and we’re trying to hold them accountable for the damages they caused.
In a statement sent to reporters, O’Keefe said:
We are on the right side of the law and will not stop exposing the truth. Right now, the Attorney General of Wisconsin is still investigating possible criminal charges against [operative] Scott Foval. This lawsuit further justifies the need to drain the swamp. Our army of guerrilla journalists, which grows daily, will continue to expose the malfeasance and corruption committed by these organizations. …
We will not be intimidated. We will not be silenced. We will find out who is funding this lawsuit. We will never stop exposing the truth. We will not back down.
The videos purport to show Democracy Partner employees, including Foval, a Madison activist, talking about potentially illegal activities, such as voter fraud and causing chaos at campaign rallies for then-candidate Donald Trump. When they were initially released, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said they showed “apparent violations of the law”.
As of late April 2017, local news media in Wisconsin reported that Schimel’s office had released contradictorystatements about whether or not the investigation was ongoing. We were unable to reach the office on the afternoon of 2 June 2017 to inquire about the current status of the probe. Foval gave an interview to a local publication on 18 May 2017, in which he said the things he discussed in the video were “hypothetical” and not real scenarios — an explanation panned by Project Veritas’ executive director in the same article.
Project Veritas maintains that these videos were not misleading. Gordon pointed to a passage in the first video in which an Scott Foval tells O’Keefe’s employee that he had planted people in the crowd at a rally for Republican Wisconsin Governor (and former presidential candidate) Scott Walker to cause a commotion. At the 12-minute mark of the video, Foval says:
Remember the Iowa state fair thing where Scott Walker grabbed the sign out of the dude’s hand and then the dude gets kind of roughed up right in front of the stage right there on camera? That was all us.
Foval was fired shortly after the videos were released; Creamer had released the following statement at the time:
We regret the unprofessional and careless hypothetical conversations that were captured on hidden cameras of a temporary regional contractor for our firm, and he is no longer working with us. While, none of the schemes described in the conversations ever took place, these conversations do not at all reflect the values of Democracy Partners.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., three men, Paul Kuhn, Colin Dunn, and Scott Charney, each pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor conspiracy to commit assault after they were caught in a separate sting video produced by Project Veritas in which they discussed plans to disrupt an event leading up to President Trump’s 20 January 2017 inauguration. All three signed what is referred to as a deferred sentencing agreement — if they perform 48 hours of community service and abide by the law the guilty plea will be withdrawn and the case will be dismissed at the time of sentencing.
Here is a link to Democracy Partners lawsuit against Project Veritas.
Erik Prince is the Comte de Rochefort of Trumplandia, one of the secretive evil geniuses behind the gilded throne of Donald the First. Like the ignoble character in French author Alexandre Dumas’ brilliant “The Three Musketeers,” Prince reappears in Trumplandia from time to time, committing acts of skullduggery that benefit his unbalanced benefactor. Of late, […]
Earlier during the month I wrote a post “Anti-Christian latest intolerance: Swiss Christian Chocolate Company.” I had an interesting troll in the comments who claimed to be a Christian fighting against other Christians for “intolerance.” I responded in a post here: Calling out a Drive-By Virtue-Signaling Troll. Seems like the story with this troll has a […]
Funny how these scumbag intolerant Christians can spew all kinds of lies, hate and bullshit at us atheists and they all think? We atheists are just going to continue to lay down and take it.
These ChristoTalibans? Are no different than the MuslimTalibans. Perverted, degenerates, disgustingly demonic scumbags, true shitstains on the underwear of humanity.
They think because they are Christians they have a fucking right to shove their brutal, shitty, vile and evil, blood covered, butchering and slaughtering, persecuting religion upon the rest of us and think we are just going to shut our mouths and let these Fascist shitstains on the underwear of humanity keep walking all over us.
I got news for these ChristoTaliban shitstains on the underwear of humanity. They haven’t met too many atheists like myself yet, but we are a rising breed of atheists, who have fucking had it with all these Theist Fascist pig fuckers who think they can tell everyone else what to do and we should just shut up and take it. The Dark Ages are over you dumb asses. Try burning us now.
Well fuck that. Any fucking Christian gets into my face and tries to do me, or my loved ones harm? Better have their wills written out and be prepared to meet their invisible sky daddy. See if he will save your ass as I rip your fucking heads off, shit down your necks, put your heads back on, poke your fucking eyeballs out and skull fuck you for your Jeebus the Dead Jewish Zombie Still Rotting on a Fucking Stick.
How do you like that ChristoTwats? If you ChristoFascists can scream how you all should have the right to put us atheists, or anyone else to fucking death, according to your Bronze Age bullshit terrorist theology of Christianity? I got new for ya. And if you think we atheists are going to continue to lay down for you punks hiding behind a religion called Christianity and using the title of Christian to spew your hate and death against atheists, lgbts and others and think you are not going to get called out on it by this atheist? I got fucking news for you there too Sunshines. I will stand up to your vile and evil bullshit. I will expose it and I will never fear punk assed bully bitches like yourselves. So suck it up and deal with it you fascist pig fucking ChristoTalibans.
Bunch of Project Veritas Jimmy Blowboi O’Keefe and Erik Twatwaffle Prince clown car of Reich-Wing ChristoFascist Traitor Trump blowbois. Listen well bitches. If I have the unmitigated balls to stand up and get in the faces of the Popes, Cardinals, Bishops and Archbishops of the Roman Catholic Cult of Pedophiles without one ounce of fear what the fuck makes you punks think I would be afraid of you mental midget morons?
Database of Publicly Accused Roman Catholic Priests, Nuns, Brothers, Deacons, and Seminarians in the United States This is just the database for priests in the United States, filled with over 10,000 named Catholic priests, brothers, nuns and sisters busted for raping and abusing children. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/member/index.jsp
Erik Prince, the security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda, according to interviews and documents.
One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.
Using a different alias the next year, the same undercover operative infiltrated the congressional campaign of Abigail Spanberger, then a former C.I.A. officer who went on to win an important House seat in Virginia as a Democrat. The campaign discovered the operative and fired her.
Both operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has gained attention using hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups. Mr. Seddon’s role in the teachers’ union operation — detailed in internal Project Veritas emails that have emerged from the discovery process of a court battle between the group and the union — has not previously been reported, nor has Mr. Prince’s role in recruiting Mr. Seddon for the group’s activities.
Both Project Veritas and Mr. Prince have ties to President Trump’s aides and family. Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Mr. Trump’s agenda.
Mr. Prince, the former head of Blackwater Worldwide and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has at times served as an informal adviser to Trump administration officials. He worked with the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn during the presidential transition. In 2017, he met with White House and Pentagon officials to pitch a plan to privatize the Afghan war using contractors in lieu of American troops. Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, rejected the idea.
Mr. Prince appears to have become interested in using former spies to train Project Veritas operatives in espionage tactics sometime during the 2016 presidential campaign. Reaching out to several intelligence veterans — and occasionally using Mr. Seddon to make the pitch — Mr. Prince said he wanted the Project Veritas employees to learn skills like how to recruit sources and how to conduct clandestine recordings, among other surveillance techniques.
James O’Keefe, the head of Project Veritas, declined to answer detailed questions about Mr. Prince, Mr. Seddon and other topics, but he called his group a “proud independent news organization” that is involved in dozens of investigations. He said that numerous sources were coming to the group “providing confidential documents, insights into internal processes and wearing hidden cameras to expose corruption and misconduct.”
“No one tells Project Veritas who or what to investigate,” he said.
A spokesman for Mr. Prince declined to comment. Emails sent to Mr. Seddon went unanswered.
Mr. Prince is under investigation by the Justice Department over whether he lied to a congressional committee examining Russian interference in the 2016 election, and for possible violations of American export laws. Last year, the House Intelligence Committee made a criminal referral to the Justice Department about Mr. Prince, saying he lied about the circumstances of his meeting with a Russian banker in the Seychelles in January 2017.
Once a small operation running on a shoestring budget, Project Veritas in recent years has had a surge in donations from both private donors and conservative foundations. According to its latest publicly available tax filing, Project Veritas received $8.6 million in contributions and grants in 2018. Mr. O’Keefe earned about $387,000.
Last year, the group received a $1 million contribution made through the law firm Alston & Bird, a financial document obtained by The New York Times showed. A spokesman for the firm said that Alston & Bird “has never contributed to Project Veritas on its own behalf, nor is it a client of ours.” The spokesman declined to say on whose behalf the contribution was made.
The financial document also listed the names of others who gave much smaller amounts to Project Veritas last year. Several of them confirmed their donations.
The group has also become intertwined with the political activities of Mr. Trump and his family. The Trump Foundation gave $20,000 to Project Veritas in 2015, the year that Mr. Trump began his bid for the presidency. The next year, during a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump claimed without substantiation that videos released by Mr. O’Keefe showed that Mrs. Clinton and President Barack Obama had paid people to incite violence at rallies for Mr. Trump.
In a book published in 2018, Mr. O’Keefe wrote that Mr. Trump years earlier had encouraged him to infiltrate Columbia University and obtain Mr. Obama’s records.
Last month, Project Veritas made public secretly recorded video of a longtime ABC News correspondent who was critical of the network’s political coverage and its emphasis on business considerations over journalism. Many conservatives have gleefully pounced on Project Veritas’s disclosures, including one particularly influential voice: Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son.
The website for Mr. O’Keefe’s coming wedding listed Donald Trump Jr. as an invited guest.
Mr. Prince invited Project Veritas operatives — including Mr. O’Keefe — to his family’s Wyoming ranch for training in 2017, The Intercept reported last year. Mr. O’Keefe and others shared social media photos of taking target practice with guns at the ranch, including one post from Mr. O’Keefe saying that with the training, Project Veritas will be “the next great intelligence agency.” Mr. Prince had hired a former MI6 officer to help train the Project Veritas operatives, The Intercept wrote, but it did not identify the officer.
Mr. Seddon regularly updated Mr. O’Keefe about the operation against the Michigan teachers’ union, according to internal Project Veritas emails, where the language of the group’s leaders is marbled with spy jargon.
They used a code name — LibertyU — for their operative inside the organization, Marisa Jorge, who graduated from Liberty University in Virginia, one of the nation’s largest Christian colleges. Mr. Seddon wrote that Ms. Jorge “copied a great many documents from the file room,” and Mr. O’Keefe bragged that the group would be able to get “a ton more access agents inside the educational establishment.”
The emails refer to other operations, including weekly case updates, along with training activities that involved “operational targeting.” Project Veritas redacted specifics about those operations from the messages.
In August 2017, Ms. Jorge wrote to Mr. Seddon that she had managed to record a local union leader talking about Ms. DeVos and other topics.
“Good stuff,” Mr. Seddon wrote back. “Did you receive the spare camera yet?”
As education secretary, Ms. DeVos has been a vocal critic of teachers’ unions, saying in 2018 that they have a “stranglehold” over politicians at the federal and state levels. She and Mr. Prince grew up in Michigan, where their father made a fortune in the auto parts business.
AFT Michigan sued Project Veritas in federal court, alleging trespassing, eavesdropping and other offenses. The teachers’ union is asking for more than $3 million in damages, accusing the group of being a “vigilante organization which claims to be dedicated to exposing corruption. It is, instead, an entity dedicated to a specific political agenda.”
Project Veritas has said its activities are legal and protected by the First Amendment, and the case is scheduled to go to trial in the fall.
Other Project Veritas employees on the emails include Joe Halderman, an award-winning former television producer who in 2010 pleaded guilty to trying to extort $2 million from the comedian David Letterman. Mr. Halderman was copied on several messages providing updates about the Michigan operation, and in one message, he gave instructions to Ms. Jorge. Project Veritas tax filings list Mr. Halderman as a “project manager.”
Two other employees, Gaz Thomas and Samuel Chamberlain, were also identified in emails and appeared to play important roles in the Michigan operation. Efforts to locate Mr. Thomas were unsuccessful. A man named Samuel Chamberlain who matched the description of the one employed by Mr. O’Keefe denied he worked for Project Veritas. He did not respond to follow-up phone messages or an email.
Last year, Project Veritas submitted a proposed list of witnesses for the trial over the lawsuit. Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Thomas were on the list. Mr. Seddon was not.
Ms. Jorge, 23, did not respond to email addresses associated with her Liberty University account. In an archived version of her LinkedIn page, Ms. Jorge wrote she had a deep interest in the conservative movement and hoped one day to serve on the Supreme Court after attending law school.
In a YouTube video, Mr. O’Keefe described the lawsuit as “frivolous” and pointed to a portion of the deposition in which David Hecker, the president of AFT Michigan, said that one of the goals of the lawsuit was to “stop Project Veritas from doing the kind of work that it does.”
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement: “Let’s be clear who the wrongdoer is here: Project Veritas used a fake intern to lie her way into our Michigan office, to steal documents and to spy — and they got caught. We’re just trying to hold them accountable for this industrial espionage.”
In 2018, Ms. Jorge infiltrated the congressional campaign of Ms. Spanberger, posing as a campaign volunteer. At the time, Ms. Spanberger was running to unseat a sitting Republican congressman in a race both parties considered important for control of the House. Ms. Jorge was eventually exposed and kicked out of the campaign office.
It was unclear whether Mr. Seddon was involved in planning that operation.
Mr. Seddon was a longtime British intelligence officer who served around the world, including in Washington in the years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He is married to an American diplomat, Alice Seddon, who is serving in the American consulate in Lagos, Nigeria.
Mr. O’Keefe and his group have taken aim at targets over the years including Planned Parenthood, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Democracy Partners, a group that consults with liberal and progressive electoral causes. In 2016, a Project Veritas operative infiltrated Democracy Partners using a fake name and fabricated résumé and made secret recordings of the staff. The year after the sting, Democracy Partners sued Project Veritas, and its lawyers have since deposed Mr. O’Keefe.
In that deposition, Mr. O’Keefe defended the group’s undercover tactics, saying they were part of a long tradition of investigative journalism going back to muckraking reporters like Upton Sinclair. “I’m not ashamed of the methods that we use or the recordings that we use,” he said.
He was asked whether he had provided any of the group’s secret recordings of Democracy Partners to the Republican National Committee or any member of the Trump family. He said that he did not think so.
In 2010, Mr. O’ Keefe and three others pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor after admitting they entered a government building in New Orleans under false pretenses as part of a sting.