The White House moved Wednesday to distance itself from a Democratic dirty-tricks scandal amid Republican calls for an investigation and newly released footage revealing that a Hillary Clinton campaign consultant schemed to have women bullied at a Donald Trump rally.
The latest hidden-camera video posted by Project Veritas shows Aaron Black, an associate at the Democratic consulting firm Democracy Partners, brainstorming about how to make sure pro-Trump men bully hired female agitators.
“So we get people behind Trump when he’s at a rally, but we make sure it’s women and they are positioned next to men,” said Mr. Black. “We want images of the men bullying the women who are trying to hold their signs up. That’s what I’m going to do. That is what we’re going to do. That is the hit.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, called for the FBI to conduct a “serious criminal investigation,” while the Public Interest Legal Foundation filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee and two political consulting firms.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the videos reveal a “fundamental threat to our democracy.”
“I have a very simple first question: Where is the FBI? Why is the FBI not investigating? You have a willful effort to foment violence, to break up a presidential campaign, to intimidate voters — where is the Federal Bureau of Investigation?” Mr. Gingrich told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
Footage released this week shows Democratic operatives discussing voter-fraud schemes and their work in hiring and training agitators — including the mentally ill, homeless and union members — to incite violence by baiting Trump supporters at campaign events.
The scandal reached the Obama administration Wednesday after reports that Democracy Partners head Robert Creamer, who stepped down Tuesday over the uproar, has visited the White House 342 times, including 45 meetings with President Obama, since 2009.
Asked if Mr. Creamer could be called a friend of the president, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, “That’s not how I would describe him.”
Mr. Creamer, a longtime political consultant who pleaded guilty to tax and banking violations in 2005, is married to Democratic Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky of Illinois, a close Obama ally.
Mr. Earnest said he had no information about Mr. Creamer’s trips to the White House, but cautioned that it is highly unlikely he had engaged in “one-on-one” meetings with the president.
The White House visitor logs reflect guests who have been cleared to enter the building, but do not indicate whether a visitor actually attended an event. Twelve of the events listed for Mr. Creamer had more than 1,000 attendees.
Mr. Earnest also condemned any effort to incite violence at political rallies, calling it “entirely inconsistent with the president’s view about community organizing and waging a vigorous campaign.”
“There should be no misunderstanding that the use of violence or any other thing that could be construed as a dirty trick is not condoned by the president of the United States,” Mr. Earnest said. “It is not consistent with the kinds of values that we cherish in this democracy.”
Some of Wednesday’s uproar was directed at Project Veritas, which has made its share of enemies over the years for its undercover investigations targeting liberal groups and Democrats on issues such as voter fraud.
“Despite what the name might suggest, these videos have not often released the truth,” said Mr. Earnest, while the website Snopes said the films “reveal tidbits of selectively and (likely deceptively edited) footage absent of any context in which to evaluate them.”
“Unless his organization releases the footage in full, undertaking a fair assessment of their veracity is all but impossible,” said the Snopes article.
Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe engaged in several spirited exchanges on social media with journalists such as “The Daily Show“‘s Anthony De Rosa, who asked whether Mr. O’Keefe would release the “raw, unedited footage.”
Replied Mr. O’Keefe: “You are a producer for ‘The Daily Show.’ Are you willing to publish your raw video materials to accompany your segments?”
Mr. O’Keefe’s supporters argued that the accuracy of the videos is demonstrated by the Democratic reaction: Not only did Mr. Creamer step down from the campaign, but Americans United for Change national field director Scott Foval also was fired.
Quipped conservative pundit Guy Benson: “O’Keefe is a liar! Also, we’re firing the people he exposes on camera.”
Even though the videos ignited a firestorm on social media, the conservative Media Research Center blasted the three networks Wednesday for what it described as burying the story.
“While the media was focused on applauding Obama’s latest Trump bashing, they failed to notice that two top Democratic operatives … both lost their jobs after being caught on tape discussing how they helped incite violence at Trump rallies, circumvented election laws and even perpetrated voter fraud,” said the center’s Kyle Drennen.
In the latest video, Democratic operative Aaron Black says female campaign operatives would be assigned to arrive at a Trump rally seven hours early in order to gain prime positions behind the candidate, and that they would smuggle in provocative signs in order to elicit an on-camera reaction from pro-Trump men.
“Yup, and fold up those signs that we have and put them in their pockets,” Mr. Black says in a conversation with a Project Veritas investigator.
The associate, whose real name is Aaron Minter, worked for Mr. Creamer but also identifies himself in the video as “deputy rapid-response director for the DNC.”
So far, the Clinton campaign and the DNC have made no public comment on the content of the videos or resignations of the Democratic consultants.
Mr. O’Keefe has said his group plans to release more videos stemming from its yearlong undercover investigation before the Nov. 8 election.