A cohort of rightwing activists hatched a plan during Donald Trump’s administration to discredit his perceived foes – including a honey trap plot that used “female undercover operatives” – in an attempt to catch and discredit government employees criticizing the former president, the New York Times reported.
Their efforts included a “planned sting operation” targeting Trump’s then national security adviser, HR McMaster, and clandestine surveillance against FBI staffers, with the goal of exposing anti-Trump opinions in the law enforcement agency, according to the newspaper.
The work against FBI staffers was orchestrated by Project Veritas, a conservative organization, and carried out from a $10,000-a-month rental home in Washington DC’s Georgetown neighborhood, the Times reported. Project Veritas has long used sting operations against Democratic politicians, advocacy groups, and media outlets.
At this luxe home, “female undercover operatives” scheduled dates with FBI employees, hoping to surreptitiously record them making derogatory statements about Trump. They used fake dating app profiles to attract FBI members, the Times said.
Female activists who worked at this house had “Project Veritas code names”, such as “Tiger” and “Brazil”. Those residing at this house were instructed not to receive postal mail addressed to their legal names. If they used a ride-share app to get home, the driver had to stop before arriving there, to make sure no one saw where they really lived, the Times said.
An ex-British spy, Richard Seddon, was recruited by a security contractor to train Project Veritas activists “to infiltrate trade unions, Democratic congressional campaigns and other targets.”
It’s not known whether Trump’s aides knew about these efforts.
However, Barbara Ledeen, who was reportedly among the participants in efforts against McMaster, told the Times that she was brought on by an individual “with access to McMaster’s calendar”. The newspaper points out that at the time, Ledeen worked as a staffer on the Senate judiciary committee when it was helmed by the Republican Iowa senator Charles Grassley.
This effort targeting McMaster involved a plot to hire a woman, who carried a secret video camera, to catch him making inappropriate statements that his enemies could use to get him booted from his position.
The plot was abandoned in March 2018, after McMaster resigned on 22 March of that year. McMaster didn’t leave because of the plot but rather, wanted to resign rather than be fired by Trump, who had soured on him, The Times said.
In an email response sent to supporters Thursday, Project Veritas called the Times’ expose a “smear campaign, with group founder James O’Keefe saying: “Project Veritas never sanctioned such an operation. Even for ‘The Old Gray Lady’ this allegation is pretty pathetic.”
Project Veritas filed a defamation lawsuit against the Times in 2020 over its reporting on one of its videos.