The Justice Department raided two locations associated with conservative group Project Veritas as part of an investigation into how a diary stolen from President Biden’s daughter, Ashley, was released a week and a half before the 2020 presidential election, according to informed people. About that.
Federal agents in New York on Thursday carried out court-ordered searches – one in New York and one in suburban Westchester County – targeting people who had worked with the group and its leader, James O’Keefe, according to two of those informed. on events. The investigation is being conducted by FBI agents and federal prosecutors in Manhattan who are working on public corruption issues, the people said.
After the article was initially posted online on Friday, Mr. O’Keefe released a video confirming that current and former Project Veritas employees were raided at their homes on Thursday.
He said the group had recently received a summons to appear before a grand jury and acknowledged that Project Veritas had been involved in discussions with sources about the newspaper. But he has long defended the management of the newspaper by his group, claiming that he and his colleagues acted as ethical journalists.
“It appears the Southern District of New York now has reporters on the radar for the crime supposed to be doing their job legally and honestly,” Mr. O’Keefe said, referring to federal prosecutors in Manhattan. “Our efforts were the makings of responsible and ethical journalism and we have no doubt that Project Veritas did the right thing every step of the way.”
Project Veritas did not publish Ms Biden’s diary, but dozens of handwritten pages of it were posted on a right-wing website on October 24, 2020, at a time when President Donald J. Trump was seeking to undermine Mr. Biden’s credibility by portraying his son, Hunter, as engaging in corrupt business transactions. The post was largely ignored by other conservative and mainstream media.
The website said it obtained the diary of a whistleblower who worked for a media organization who refused to publish an article about it before the election. He claimed to know where the diary was and that the whistleblower had an audio recording of Ms Biden admitting it was his.
The Trump administration’s Justice Department, then headed by Attorney General William P. Barr, opened an investigation into the case shortly after a representative for the Biden family reported to federal authorities in October 2020 that several of Ms Biden’s personal items had been stolen in a burglary, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Mr O’Keefe said in the video that “informants” contacted Project Veritas in 2020 to alert them to the existence of the newspaper, saying they stayed in a room Ms Biden had recently visited. But Mr O’Keefe said his group could not authenticate the newspaper and made the “ethical” decision not to publish it.
He said Project Veritas attempted to return the diary to the Justice Department and a lawyer representing Ms Biden, who he said refused to take it. Mr O’Keefe described the investigation as politically motivated, questioning why the Justice Department of Ms Biden’s father was pursuing the case.
In recent weeks, federal investigators have contacted at least one person who worked for Project Veritas to question him about the newspaper, one of those briefed on the case said.
Project Veritas has a habit of targeting Democratic Congressional campaigns, labor organizations, the news media and others. The group carries out undercover operations, using hidden cameras and false identities. At one point, Project Veritas relied on a former British spy named Richard Seddon to help train its agents, teaching them spy tactics such as using deception to gain information from potential targets.
Flyover Media, the company that owns the website which published the newspaper pages, is registered at the same address in Sheridan, Wyo., As Mr. Seddon’s company, Branch Six Consulting International. Mr. O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, was once the president of a company which subsequently registered at the same address.
Project Veritas has an ongoing defamation lawsuit against the New York Times for a 2020 article about a video the group made alleging electoral fraud in Minnesota.
Ms Biden, 40, is Mr Biden’s youngest child. She kept a low profile and garnered far less attention than Hunter Biden, her half-brother. In 2019, Mr. Trump refused military aid to Ukraine while pressuring the president of that country to help him investigate Hunter Biden’s trade relationship, which led to the first impeachment of Mr. Trump.
An FBI spokesperson in New York declined to comment on the investigation, saying only that agents “carried out law enforcement activities related to an ongoing investigation” at two locations. One of the searches took place at an apartment on East 35th Street near the Midtown Tunnel and the other in Mamaroneck, NY, north of New York.
A spokesperson for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan declined to comment.
In Manhattan, a neighbor one floor above the raided apartment on East 35th Street said she was awakened from her sleep early Thursday morning by officers knocking on the door and repeatedly shouting “Open.” ! And “FBI!” “
“I thought it was a joke,” said neighbor Mychael Green, 23. “For 10 minutes, they knocked on her door obviously very loudly,” and eventually forced entry into the apartment, Ms. Green said. A few hours later, the door jamb was clearly broken and the door was ajar.
Spencer Meads, longtime Project Veritas agent and Mr O’Keefe’s confidant, has been living in the apartment since 2019, according to public records.
Ms Green said officers were yelling “Spencer, open up!” “
A former employee of Project Veritas said Mr Meads had been involved in recruiting agents. A website that tracks Project Veritas operatives said Mr Meads had also been involved in undercover operations for the group.
Mr. Meads did not respond to an email or text requesting comment.
The Justice Department is in a very unusual situation with regard to Mr Biden’s children. Not only is he investigating Ms Biden’s diary case, but Hunter Biden revealed last year that prosecutors at the Delaware Department of Justice were investigating his taxes.
The pages were uploaded under the signature of Patrick Howley, a journalist who has worked for several conservative media outlets in recent years. He was the first to disclose a yearbook photo of Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia’s page that showed an individual in Ku Klux Klan attire and another black-faced individual.
Mr Howley also disclosed damaging text messages between Cal Cunningham, a Democrat candidate for the Senate from North Carolina, and a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair.
While the disclosure of Ms. Biden’s diary has been largely ignored, some far-right media and Mr. Trump’s supporters have jumped on the news from the newspaper as further evidence that Mr. Biden was unfit to be president. Alex Jones, a prominent far-right radio host, referred to the diary of an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast.
Mr. Trump has used Twitter to send or promote positive comments about Project Veritas at least six times in the last two years of his presidency. Mr. Trump bolstered the content of Project Veritas even before he became president, and shortly after announcing his presidential campaign in 2015, Mr. O’Keefe visited the Trump Tower and showed footage of Mr. Trump that he he intended to broadcast to hurt Hillary Clinton, the most likely Democratic candidate.
In 2016, a Project Veritas agent infiltrated Democracy Partners, a political consulting firm, using a false name, forging a resume and making secret staff records.
Democracy Partners then sued Project Veritas. In a ruling last month in the lawsuit, United States District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman said Democracy Partners may characterize the conduct of Project Veritas as a “political espionage operation” in the United States. upcoming trial.
Kitty Bennett and Matthew Cullen contributed to the research.