If you were considered a threat to Donald Trump’s hard right “America first” agenda in the 2020 election, you were in the crosshairs of a group of Republican dirty tricksters who sought to gather dirt on you and undermine your candidacy. It didn’t matter if you were progressive, Democrat or even a moderate Republican – you were a target of conservatives who used large campaign donations and fake cover stories to infiltrate political organizations to bolster Trump and his most ardent supporters.
An investigation by The New York Times exposes how those undercover operations involved a former British spy connected to the security contractor Erik Prince, brother of Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos, a wealthy heiress to the Gore-Tex fortune and a couple who ingratiated themselves into the fabric of the Wyoming Democratic Party. The operation also targeted Democrats in Colorado, Arizona and possibly other western states.
The Times reports that the couple, Beau Maier and Sofia LaRocca, each contributed $10,000 to the Democratic National Committee and used that largesse to infiltrate Democratic Party events, including a cocktail reception that preceded its primary debate in Las Vegas last year. Interviews and documents show that the couple maintained their cover sufficiently well to earn the trust of numerous party officials.
The former spy involved in the operation, Richard Seddon, also was revealed to have orchestrated another clandestine effort by conservative activists to attack and discredit perceived Trump enemies inside the U.S. government – what Trump referred to as “the deep state.” Some of the more stunning revelations are that Seddon’s activities included planning a sting operation in 2018 against H.R. McMaster, who was Trump’s national security adviser at the time, and setting up secret surveillance of FBI employees and other government officials.
According to the report, Seddon was recruited by Prince at the beginning of the Trump administration and tasked with training conservative activists like Maier and LaRocca on the basics of espionage and then sending them out on political sabotage missions.
It’s unclear what the effort accomplished. But the operation’s use of spycraft to manipulate the politics of several states over years goes way beyond the tactics of more traditional political dirty tricks operations.