Erik Prince, founder of private security contractor Blackwater and brother of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, recruited a former British spy in 2016 to professionalize the undercover operatives at Project Veritas, the conservative sting video shop run by James O'Keefe, The New York Times reports, citing documents and people involved in the subsequent operations to discredit perceived "deep state" enemies of former President Donald Trump inside the U.S. government.
The ex-undercover British spy, Richard Seddon, trained conservative operatives first at the Prince family ranch in Wyoming, then at a large, $10,000-a-month house near Georgetown University. Female undercover operatives tried to entrap FBI agents, sometimes using fake dating app profiles, and State Department employees, the Times reports. But "one of the most brazen operations of the campaign" was an attempt to take down H.R. McMaster, Trump's second national security adviser.
The plan was reportedly to send a female operative to Tosca, a restaurant McMaster frequented, to engage him in drinks and conversation and record him disparaging Trump or making other inappropriate remarks on camera. One of the people involved in the McMaster plot was Barbara Ledeen, a longtime Republican staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee before retiring, she says, earlier this year. Presented with the details of the operation, Ledeen told the Times she was just a messenger, "not part of a plot."
Ledeen said "someone she trusted" contacted her to help with the McMaster operation. "Somebody who had his calendar conveyed to me that he goes to Tosca all the time," she said, and she passed the information on to a man she believed to be a Project Veritas operative with a fake name. The McMaster operation was aborted after he, unrelated to Project Veritas, resigned under pressure from Trump.
O'Keefe did not respond to the substance of the Times' report but did accuse the newspaper of running a "smear piece" on Project Veritas. Seddon left the project in 2018, before O'Keefe started releasing low-impact "unmasking the deep state" videos. He was dismayed, three former Project Veritas employees told the Times, with "O'Keefe's desire to produce quick media content rather than to run long-term infiltration operations." Read more about the operation and its cast of characters at The New York Times.