Hillary Clinton gave the go-ahead for outside groups to have Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stalked by operatives in Donald Duck costumes in a possible violation of federal election law, according to an undercover video released Monday.
The latest footage from Project Veritas Action showed Robert Creamer, a campaign consultant with Democracy Partners, saying that the Democratic presidential nominee asked to have Mr. Trump followed by “Donald Duck” at campaign events to ask why he was “ducking” the release of his tax returns.
“And, in the end, it was the candidate, Hillary Clinton, the future president of the United States, who wanted ducks on the ground and so, by God, we will get ducks on the ground,” said Mr. Creamer in the video conversation with a Project Veritas investigator.
Mr. Creamer added: “Don’t repeat that to anybody.”
Donald Duck look-alikes appeared on the campaign trail at rallies for Mr. Trump and running mate Mike Pence holding signs with messages such as, “Donald ducks releasing his taxes.”
Scott Foval, national field director for Americans United for Change, said in the video that he actually wore the Donald Duck costume himself at an event.
James O’Keefe, president of Project Veritas, accused the Clinton campaign, Democratic National Committee and consultants of running afoul of election law by coordinating on the strategy, describing it as an “illegal dark-money conspiracy.”
He said a campaign expert told Project Veritas that the video showed “political activity opposing Trump, paid for by Americans United for Change funds, but controlled by Clinton and her campaign.”
“The connection between Creamer, President Obama and Hillary Clinton is undeniable, as are the campaign law violations,” said Mr. O’Keefe on the video. “If it looks like a duck, if it talks like a duck and it walks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. They broke the law.”
The video was the third released in the last week after a yearlong undercover operation into behind-the-scenes Democratic chicanery led by Mr. O’Keefe, who has promised to post more footage by the Nov. 8 election.
After the release last week of the first two videos, Mr. Creamer said he had stepped down from his role with the presidential campaign, while another Mr. Foval was fired.
Mr. Creamer, who is married to Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat, was linked to President Obama last week after visitor logs showed he has visited the White House 342 times since 2009, including 47 trips to the Oval Office.
Mrs. Clinton told reporters Thursday that she knew nothing about the dirty tricks shown in the videos, while other Democrats have called into question the veracity of the footage, arguing that Project Veritas has a history of selectively editing its posts.
“It’s a video of someone who has a track record of doctoring videos,” said Clinton strategist Joel Benenson on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “These people have resigned; whether they were talking to him on camera or whether they had some snipped there that’s been manipulated and taken out of context, I don’t know.”
He also said he was “pretty confident” that there were no other Democratic operatives engaged in similar secretive activity.
The liberal group ThinkProgress reported last week that the Trump Foundation paid $10,000 to Project Veritas in May 2015, using data provided by the foundation to The Washington Post.
Project Veritas spokesman Stephen Gordon said that the Trump donation “didn’t impact our actions one way or the other,” saying that the group has a “multimillion-dollar budget, and the cost of this video series alone is way up there.”
Mr. Trump pointed to the videos last week as an example of sleazy tactics designed to disrupt his campaign.
“James O’Keefe makes all of the major editorial decisions here,” Mr. Gordon said in an email. “We rely on donations and have thousands of generous people all across the country who help us expose the truth that the mainstream media refused to cover.”
Project Veritas and the Public Interest Legal Foundation filed complaints last week with the Federal Election Commission asking for an investigation into illegal campaign coordination between the Clinton campaign, DNC and third-party groups.
The latest video offered more evidence that Democrats hoped to incite Trump supporters at rallies in skirmishes that would draw media attention.
“Provide protection. Because, I got to tell you, I think this duck is going to get roughed up somewhere,” said Americans United for Change president Brad Woodhouse in the footage.
Mr. Creamer responded, “Oh, I’m sure,” while Mr. Woodhouse added, “Somewhere someone is going to rip his costume off.”
Mr. Foval said he personally encountered aggression while wearing the duck costume.
“Because once they pull out these signs, Trump supporters literally start throwing punches at you,” Mr. Foval said in the video, adding later, “I almost got punched on Monday morning. I mean, I was in a duck costume.”
The video featured long discussions about copyright issues with Disney regarding the duck, which looks like its character Donald Duck, and DNC involvement with the project.
DNC spokeswoman Jenna Price said on hidden camera that the party and Americans United for Change were working together on the duck project, even though the DNC told The Wall Street Journal in September that it no longer had responsibility for the campaign tactic.
“We kind of divvy up responsibilities,” said Ms. Price. “So sometimes it will be like campaign-owned.”
One reason for the switch was DNC interim chair Donna Brazile’s relationship with the Disney-ABC Television Group, said Mr. Creamer.
“They [Disney] said it was a trademark issue. It’s not, but Donna Brazile had a connection with them and she didn’t want to get sued,” Mr. Creamer said on the video. “You know, something. So we switched the ownership of the duck to Americans United for Change, and now our signs say, ‘Trump ducks releasing his tax returns.’ And we haven’t had any more trouble.”
Ms. Brazile served as an ABC News commentator before taking the interim DNC post in July, and while the network has suspended her role, she continues to make appearances on programs such as “This Week.”
But Mr. Creamer made it clear the Donald Duck strategy was green-lighted by Mrs. Clinton herself: “We originally launched this duck because Hillary Clinton wants the duck.”
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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