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Project Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report

A conservative activist group, helped by a former British spy, secretly surveilled government employees during the Trump administration with the goal of discrediting perceived enemies of former President TrumpDonald TrumpWhat blue wave? A close look at Texas today tells of a different story Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin Trump's former bodyguard investigated in NY prosectors' probe: report MORE, The New York Times reported, citing people and documents on the matter.   

Project Veritas — with aid from a former British spy and Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater — was part of a campaign that involved surveillance operations against members of the FBI.
 
The overall effort, the Times wrote, also included a plan for a sting operation against Trump’s former national security adviser H.R. McMaster that involved some Veritas staffers, though Veritas itself has denied any involvement with that plot.
 
Both, the Times alleged, were intended to reveal anti-Trump sentiments.
 
A spokesperson for Project Veritas did not comment on the Times story but pointed to a video posted to YouTube featuring James O’Keefe, the head of Project Veritas.
 
“Adam, if you’re asking these questions suffice it to say you have your facts wrong and it appears you’re going to print based upon supposition, rumor, and speculation rather than verifiable facts,” O’Keefe said in the video, addressing Adam Goldman, one of the Times reporters who contacted him for comment.
 
Prince and McMaster could not be reached for comment.
 
Project Veritas filed a defamation suit against the Times in November after asking the paper to retract two stories, one by Maggie Astor and another by Tiffany Hsu, about a Project Veritas video accusing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) of voter fraud.
 
As part of the FBI operation reported by the Times, Project Veritas rented a pricey Georgetown house as headquarters.
 
The group reportedly had women pose as potential dates for FBI agents in order to secretly record them making negative comments about Trump.
 
The plan to discredit McMaster involved hiring a woman to approach him in the bar of Washington, D.C., restaurant Tosca and over drinks record him making comments that could get him fired, the Times wrote.
 
It is unclear, however, if Project Veritas ever ran the operation against McMaster, the Times reported.
 
Prior to the FBI sting and the McMaster plot, members of Project Veritas were trained and supported by a former intelligence officer who had worked for MI-6, the United Kingdom’s external intelligence agency.
 
The MI-6 officer had been recruited by Prince in 2016 and helped Project Veritas with another sting operation that copied files and recorded conversations from the Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers.
 
That officer also helped recruit Veritas staffers, the Times had previously reported, and some of the training for the FBI and McMaster operations took place at Prince’s Cody, Wyo., ranch. The ex-spy managed Project Veritas’s field operations until the middle of 2018, the Times stated.
 
With the FBI and McMaster efforts, the Times said, the group's efforts morphed from exposes on groups like the Federation of Teachers, or media companies like CNN, to targeting government officials who were critical of the Trump administration. 
 
 
Under Prince’s leadership, Blackwater was a federal security contractor during the Iraq War. In 2015, a former Blackwater employee was sentenced to life in prison and three others received 30-year sentences for their part in the 2007 killings of 14 unarmed Iraqi citizens.
 
In December last year, Trump pardoned all four of the former contractors.
 
Updated at 9:30 p.m.