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Groundswell Extremists Plotted To Smear H.R. McMaster, FBI Agents

Some well-known right-wing extremists got together to run sting operations against “Deep State” members perceived as insufficiently loyal to Donald Trump.

Crooks and Liars has been reporting for years about the extremist activism of the Groundswell group, led by Ginni Thomas, aka Mrs. Clarence Thomas. Last year, C&L reported that the gang, including Mrs. Thomas and Republican Senate staffer Barbara Ledeen, fed Trump loyalty lists and blacklists designed to purge the government of non-loyalists.

A bombshell story from The New York Times reveals the effort went way beyond that.

From The Times:

The campaign included a planned sting operation against Mr. Trump’s national security adviser at the time, H.R. McMaster, and secret surveillance operations against F.B.I. employees, aimed at exposing anti-Trump sentiment in the bureau’s ranks.

The operations against the F.B.I., run by the conservative group Project Veritas, were conducted from a large home in the Georgetown section of Washington that rented for $10,000 per month. Female undercover operatives arranged dates with the F.B.I. employees with the aim of secretly recording them making disparaging comments about Mr. Trump.

Although Thomas is not named in the piece, Ledeen is. In addition to being a Groundswell member, she was a staffer for the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. She “said she was brought on by someone ‘with access to McMaster’s calendar,’” The Times wrote.

Other well-known extremists named are mercenary Erik Prince, who provided funding and a place to train (he’s also the brother of Betsy DeVos Trump’s education secretary), James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas, who provided the operatives. The Times said it is not clear if Project Veritas, itself was involved in the McMaster sting, though it seems likely.

The scheme against Mr. McMaster, revealed in interviews and documents, was one of the most brazen operations of the campaign. It involved a plan to hire a woman armed with a hidden camera to capture Mr. McMaster making inappropriate remarks that his opponents could use as leverage to get him ousted as national security adviser.

Who initially ordered the operation is unclear. In an interview, Ms. Ledeen said “someone she trusted” contacted her to help with the plan. She said she could not remember who.

Ms. Ledeen posted numerous negative articles about Mr. McMaster on her Facebook page. After The Times published its article about Mr. Prince’s work with Project Veritas, she wrote on Facebook, “We owe a lot to Erik Prince.”

The sting against McMaster was abandoned when he resigned, The Times said.

There’s a lot more in the article, including information about Richard Seddon, the former British spy who was recruited by Prince and "ran field operations for Project Veritas until mid-2018." Seddon “set out to professionalize” Project Veritas, The Times reported, and “hired former soldiers, a former F.B.I. agent and a British former commando.” The Times obtained documents showing “Mr. Seddon built espionage tactics into training for the group’s operatives.”

In a discussion about the report on MSNBC's Deadline: White House today, New York Times reporter Nick Confessore (not an author of the piece) joked to host Nicolle Wallace, “Look, if I tried to sell this story to Netflix, Nicolle, they would toss me out of their offices and say it wasn't realistic, this couldn't possibly be true.”

Former Republican operative Matthew Dowd pointed out that if you substitute Putin’s name for Trump in the article, it would not seem outlandish at all, meaning that this is behavior typical of foreign strongmen and fascists.

The scary thing is, none of these people have gone away or been put away (though they probably deserve to be). So you have to wonder, what are they plotting now?

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