Just a day after the right-wing group Project Veritas was busted attempting to discredit the Washington Post with a fake sexual assault story, federal prosecutors on Tuesday took the "absolutely shocking" step of using a Veritas video as part of their case against several of the nearly 200 demonstrators facing "rioting" charges for taking part in January's anti-Trump protests during his inauguration.
"The fact that they have to fall back on using these far-right trolls, which are widely discredited, not only speaks to the illegitimacy of their case, but also a fundamental relationship between the Trump administration and the alt-right."
—James Anderson, It's Going DownJude Ortiz, a member of Defend J20 Resistance—a group supporting the protesters in the ongoing trial—called the video "a dubious piece of evidence at best" and said "it's appalling that it's coming from the far right."
The video is the product of Project Veritas operatives' infiltration of Disrupt J20 meetings in the weeks leading up to President Donald Trump's inauguration. Directed by right-wing provocateur James O'Keefe, Project Veritas is notorious for recording and heavily editing videos to smear organizations it dislikes (Planned Parenthood, for instance).
While secret videos taken during the pre-inauguration meeting have been used to claim that anti-Trump groups planned to commit acts of violence and destruction, Disrupt J20 said in a statement that the infiltrators were discovered and fed "false plans."
Tuesday was not the first time the U.S. government has used videos from far-right sources in their case against the inauguration protesters, some of whom could face decades in prison if convicted.
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James Anderson, a member of the anti-fascist coalition It's Going Down, argued that the government is relying on "widely discredited" sources like Project Veritas—which is run by right-wing provocateur James O'Keefe—because it "doesn't have very much to go on."
"The fact that they have to fall back on using these far-right trolls, which are widely discredited, not only speaks to the illegitimacy of their case, but also a fundamental relationship between the Trump administration and the alt-right," Anderson told the Guardian.
The inauguration protesters' trial began on November 15. Civil liberties groups have strongly criticized the government for bringing such harsh charges against demonstrators, arguing that law enforcement indiscriminately swept up peaceful demonstrators.
Steven McCool, an attorney for one of the six protesters currently getting their time in court, argued during testimony last week that the J20 "case is about our freedom to associate with one another and express political views freely."
"The police failed to discriminate between lawbreakers and protesters," McCool concluded.