The feds have reportedly carried out searches of at least two locations associated with the bumbling amateur spies at right-wing outfit Project Veritas in what sources speaking with the New York Times said on Friday is an investigation into how the group obtained the private diary of Joe Biden’s daughter before the 2020 elections.
The Times wrote that “people briefed on the matter” told the paper that FBI agents working with federal prosecutors searched two locations “linked to people who had worked with the group and its leader, James O’Keefe,”
One of the locations was in New York City, while the other was in Mamaroneck, New York, where the Project Veritas offices just so happen to be located.
Project Veritas claims to be a journalistic outfit that exposes corruption. One could also call it a partisan operation that platforms claims of left-wing corruption and attempts to infiltrate progressive organizations with the intent of secretly recording members saying something that angers conservatives—upon which time Project Veritas touts their findings as a blockbuster expose worthy of being showered with donations. In an ongoing civil suit between consulting firm Democracy Partners and Project Veritas, which infiltrated the consultancy using an operative with a fake name and resume, a federal judge recently ruled Project Veritas could be referred to as a “political spying operation” in court.
For example, consider their 2010 attempt to enter the offices of U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu by disguising Project Veritas operatives as telecom workers, which ended with O’Keefe convicted on a misdemeanor charge. Project Veritas has launched bumbling psyops on media organizations, most infamously floating fake accusations against Republican candidate for senator of Alabama Roy Moore to Washington Post reporters in 2017. The Post didn’t bite, and Moore lost the election due to many other allegations he was a pedophile and sexual predator (Moore denied the accusations). More recently, Project Veritas backed a supposed whistleblower and Postal Service employee who raised funds off of claims he had witnessed a Pennsylvania postmaster planning election fraud against Donald Trump; postal investigators later confirmed the guy was full of shit.
According to the Times, a representative of the Biden family informed federal authorities in Oct. 2020 that several of Ashley Biden’s personal items, including the diary in question, had been stolen in a burglary. Project Veritas never published the diary. But another right-wing site published dozens of pages from it, claiming the source was a whistleblower at another media organization that had refused to publish it. The separate right-wing site also claimed to know where the actual diary was, as well as stated their source was in possession of an audio recording of Ashley Biden verifying its authenticity.
The pages were posted at the same time Donald Trump was aggressively promoting claims Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was involved in corrupt business deals. The Times wrote that few other media outlets, including conservative ones, engaged with the leak seriously.
But the Bidens complaint to the feds triggered a Justice Department investigation, the Times reported, that is still ongoing. In addition to the location searches, a source told the paper federal investigators have requested an interview with “at least one person who worked for Project Veritas.” The Times also noted that the address of the media company that published the diary pages is shared with a company registered to former British spy Richard Seddon, a onetime Project Veritas consultant, as well as another company previously tied to O’Keefe:
At one point, Project Veritas relied on a former British spy named Richard Seddon to help train its operatives, teaching them espionage tactics such as using deception to secure information from potential targets.
Flyover Media, the company that owns the website that published the pages from the diary, is registered to the same Sheridan, Wyo., address as Mr. Seddon’s company, Branch Six Consulting International. Mr. O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, was once the president of a company that later registered at the same address.
Neighbors told the Times that the search which had taken place at East 35th St. in Manhattan was not a friendly visit and involved FBI agents pounding on a door, shouting “Open up!”/ “FBI!”, and eventually breaking down the door to gain access. Public records examined by the Times show longtime Project Veritas operative Spencer Mead lives at that address.
Project Veritas has previously sent a poorly-written, not very intimidating legal threat to Gizmodo for referring to it as a “disinfo shop.” (They claim they “never report anything other than the absolute truth”.) They seemed particularly touchy that our coverage had associated them with a reported operation to have a young woman approach then-National Security Adviser HR McMaster at a restaurant and secretly record him shit-talking his then-boss, Donald Trump. (That operation apparently never happened, and we updated our coverage to reflect Project Veritas’s insistence that it wasn’t involved.)
The legal threat contained mentions of “sheep loyal to indoctrinating the public with a set narrative and a well-established pattern of malice,” as well as accusations that Gizmodo had “clearly triggered poor taste by writing as you have” and was “recklessly [engaging] in journalism ”. It concluded with the comment, “Perhaps you and management of Gizmodo would enjoy the suffix, Defendants.”
To the best of our awareness, as of Friday afternoon, locations associated with only one party involved in this exchange have been raided by the FBI.
Update: 11/6/2021: In an email that we missed prior to publication, Project Veritas referred Gizmodo to a statement in which the organization acknowledged that the diary had been shopped to them, but stated Project Veritas had declined to publish it because they could not verify its authenticity. The statement also says “Project Veritas gave the diary to law enforcement to ensure it could be returned to its rightful owner,” as well as suggested any subsequent federal investigation into the matter “smacks of politics.”