As Donald Trump warns about the prospect of a "rigged" presidential election, he's getting some help from a conservative activist group.
Project Veritas, which has carried out several damaging video sting operations, has posted videos in recent days purporting to show Democratic operatives bragging about inciting violence at Trump's campaign events, and appearing to detail how they could bus out-of-state supporters in to commit voter fraud.
"Once again Donald Trump was ahead of his times," campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Fox News on Tuesday night. "He's been talking about this for the last couple days."
One of the operatives, Scott Foval, has been fired from his job at Americans United for Change, according to multiple news outlets.
The second, Robert Creamer, has said he's stepping back from his position at Democracy Partners.
Both firms have been doing political work for Democrats this year.
Unaware that he was being recorded by a hidden camera, Foval appeared to walk through how operatives could commit voter fraud by shipping in out-of-state people to vote. "You can prove conspiracy if there's a bus," he says at one point. "If there are cars, it's much harder to prove."
He also detailed how he and other operatives recruit and train people to protest Trump events and to try to draw Trump supporters into physical confrontations. "There's a script," he says. "Sometimes the 'crazies' bite ... sometimes they don't bite."
"It is not hard to get some of these a******* to pop off," Foval said at another point. "It's a matter of showing up to want to get into the rally in a Planned Parenthood T-shirt, or 'Trump is a Nazi,' you know. You can message to draw them out, and draw them to punch you."
Trump has regularly blamed disruptions and violence at his rallies on Democratic campaigns. During the primary, he often said Bernie Sanders' campaign was sending people to protest at his rallies.
The videos are edited, and O'Keefe and Project Veritas have a history of selectively — and at times misleadingly -- editing their videos. While they have previously posted raw footage, they have not done so with these latest stings.
Another political operative who appears in the video says this is a case of misleading editing. Immigration reform activist Caesar Vargas wrote on Facebook that "they just edited the video to distort the story."
The video shows Vargas appearing to agree to a scheme that an undercover Project Veritas operative is pitching that would involve busing people from state to state in order to vote illegally.
Vargas says, "this is not going to happen this election," but appears to be open to the idea at another point in time. "Can we make something special during midterm elections in 2017," he says.
But it's not clear what Vargas is talking about here. Theoretically, he could be talking about any number of proposals floated during that meeting. "Whatever I told this group is what I tell everyone in public: We fight for our family not for a political party," Vargas wrote on Facebook. "They have a transcript of our conversation to confirm I told them that voting twice was illegal."
The head of Project Veritas, James O'Keefe, has a long history of promoting conservative agenda items using hidden camera stings. He effectively shut down community organizing group ACORN in 2009 by posting videos of ACORN staffers offering advice on how to avoid taxes, among other things.
ACORN had already been a conservative target, but in the wake of the videos Congress voted to freeze its federal funding. O'Keefe has targeted former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, election officials in Michigan and New Hampshire, the Open Society Foundation and NPR.
Still, the voter fraud bluster comes at a time when Trump is regularly claiming the presidential election is "rigged" against him as he falters in the polls. Trump has tweeted about voter fraud, and instructed supporters to keep tabs on voting in big cities like Philadelphia.
Creamer's taped comments are much less inflammatory, but he has nonetheless stepped away from his firm, Democracy Partners. In a statement on Facebook, the group said it was "the victim of a well-funded, systematic spy operation that is the modern day equivalent of the Watergate burglars. The plot involved the use of trained operatives using false identifications, disguises, and elaborate false covers to infiltrate our firm and others."
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