October 19, 2016 - 5:29 PM
MIAMI - Conservative activist James O'Keefe has released secretly recorded, selectively edited video footage that includes a Democratic activist bragging about deploying troublemakers at rallies held by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
After O'Keefe began releasing videos this week, two Democratic operatives stopped working on the presidential race and both the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton's campaign denounced the tactics described in the footage. Both said the activities described never took place.
O'Keefe's group, Project Veritas, promised to release additional videos ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
The central character in the recordings is Scott Foval, a Wisconsin-based liberal operative. He is portrayed in the footage as boasting about his connections to the party and the Clinton campaign, and claiming to have arranged for people, including some who are mentally ill, to incite violence at Trump rallies.
"You can message to draw them out, and draw them out to punch you," Foval is shown on a video as saying.
Foval also appears to say hired agitators should have their medical and legal bills covered. As with much of the video's content, it's impossible to say with certainty what Foval meant, because the videos are edited in a way so that it's not clear what led to the comment.
In a separate video, Foval muses to an undercover O'Keefe associate about how it would be easier to get away with voter fraud if out-of-state residents drive to the polls in the targeted states in cars rather than being bused in by an organizer. "So you can't prove that it's en masse, so it doesn't tip people off," he says.
There's no evidence presented in the video that anything Foval discusses as a theoretical has ever occurred.
Foval told The Associated Press in an email that O'Keefe's associates had set him up.
"This scheme to cast legitimate organizing activities as a sinister plot is nothing but a ruse," he said, adding, "O'Keefe's crew of impostors continued to walk down a path of deception and manipulation."
O'Keefe and Project Veritas have a long track record of targeting Democratic groups, often by hiding their identities and using hidden cameras. A previous O'Keefe sting led to the demise of ACORN, a community organizing group that O'Keefe portrayed as engaged in criminal activity via hidden camera videos.
O'Keefe was convicted in 2010 as part of a scheme to illegally make recordings at the office of then-Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat.
In this case, Foval appears to have been several steps removed from the presidential race.
In July, the Democratic National Committee paid about $26,000 to Mobilize, the consulting firm of Robert Creamer, a longtime liberal activist based in Washington and the husband of Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky. Creamer was also featured in the latest O'Keefe videos, although not saying anything that appeared to be unethical or illegal
His DNC contract called for him to stage Democratic events outside Trump rallies, and he hired Foval as a subcontractor.
Creamer told the AP that Democrats have, in fact, sought to limit their contact with Trump supporters, requesting police barricades to avoid conflicts. Creamer voluntarily ended his DNC contract on Tuesday, saying he was doing so to avoid becoming an election-time "distraction."
Americans United for Change, a liberal group that said it had a separate contract with Foval to work on Social Security issues, said it is no longer associated with him. People For the American Way, another group that once employed Foval, said it has not worked with him in months.
Both groups said that what Foval appeared to say in the videos did not reflect their ethical standards.
DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile accepted Creamer's decision to end his contract work and said in a statement the activities described in the videos "do not in any way comport with our long standing policies on organizing events."
She also said she does not believe anything "articulated in the video actually occurred."
Clinton campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas said the campaign supports the decision to cut ties with the operatives ensnared by O'Keefe, saying "some of the language and tactics referenced in the video are troubling even as a theory or proposal never executed."
Associated Press writer Lisa Lerer contributed to this report from Las Vegas.
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News from © The Associated Press, 2016