Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has taken most of the blame for the 2016 campaign season’s plunge into the gutter, but in a new set of hidden-camera reports, an infamous right-wing provocateur has found some Democrats who brag that they are more than happy to get down in the muck, too.
Among other things, two subcontractors who work indirectly for the Democratic National Committee boast about sending protesters to Trump rallies in the hope of provoking a violent response that can be caught on camera. Their boss, who happens to be the husband of a Democratic member of Congress, is seen in a discussion of how people might be able to vote illegally. (He is not seen endorsing illegal voting or advocating it.)
The videos were produced by Project Veritas, which is run by James O’Keefe. His work, over the years, has been riddled with dishonest editing meant to change the apparent meaning of things his targets say, and the omission of essential context. O’Keefe was also convicted of illegally entering the office of then-Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana in an apparent attempt to plant a recording device.
However, there’s no good way to spin some of the comments that O’Keefe’s project caught on tape during a conversation with Scott Foval, a field organizer whose Foval Group was subcontractor working for the DNC.
“Sometimes the crazies bite,” he says at one point, referring to efforts to incite violence at Republican events.
“You remember the Iowa state fair thing where Scott Walker grabbed the sign out of the dude’s hand and then the dude kind of gets roughed up right in front of the stage right there on camera?” Foval says. “That was all us. The guy that got roughed up is my counterpart.”
He also talks about hiring mentally ill and homeless people to do unspecified “crazy stuff” for him.
“I’m saying we have mentally ill people, that we pay to do shit, make no mistake,” says Foval in the video. “Over the last twenty years, I’ve paid off a few homeless guys to do some crazy stuff, and I’ve also taken them for dinner, and I’ve also made sure they had a hotel and a shower. And I put them in a program. Like I’ve done that.”
At one point, Foval describes a hypothetical plan to bus in illegal voters, suggesting it was unlikely there would be a prosecution if they were caught.
“Would they charge each individual of voter fraud?” he asks. “Or are they going to go after the facilitator for conspiracy, which they could prove? It’s one thing if all these people drive up in their personal cars. If there’s a bus involved? That changes the dynamic.”
Another figure in the tapes, Aaron Minter, brags about helping to orchestrate massive protests that sparked violence and forced the cancellation of a Trump event in Chicago earlier this year.
The most senior figure in the videos is Bob Creamer, the husband of Illinois Rep. Jan Schackowsky. In the tapes, he is seen nodding his head when a person who appears to be from Project Veritas speaks about the hypothetical possibility of busing in people to vote illegally.
Creamer does not endorse the practice, but after the tapes were released, he released a statement indicating that he would be removing himself from further campaign activity.
“I am unwilling to become a distraction to the important task of electing Hillary Clinton, and defeating Donald Trump in the upcoming election,” Creamer said in a statement. “As a result, I have indicated to the Democratic National Committee that I am stepping back from my responsibilities working with the campaign.”
Creamer insisted that none of the activities mentioned in the videos actually took place.
The videos are not Creamer’s first brush with scandal. In 2004 he was indicted on multiple charges of bank fraud and eventually spent several months in federal prison as a result.
The recordings went public at a time when Trump is trying hard to convince his supporters that the election, which polls indicate he is going to lose badly, is actually “rigged” against him. While they don’t show evidence of the sort of vast conspiracy that would be necessary to truly rig a US election, they make it harder for Clinton and her camp to dismiss Trump’s claims as beyond the pale.
So far, the Clinton campaign and the DNC have limited their response to the Project Veritas videos by insisting that the activities described by Foval, in particular, didn’t happen, and noting that he has been dismissed.
“We do not believe, or have any evidence to suggest, that the activities articulated in the video actually occurred,” said interim DNC chair Donna Brazile.