It has been evident that the Biden Justice Department is out to get James O’Keefe and Project Veritas since O’Keefe et al. were raided last year under federal search warrants procured by the FBI. Although O’Keefe was instructed to remain mum, the authorities promptly leaked news of the raid to the New York Times. All this in the matter of Ashley Biden’s diary. We have followed the story in more than 25 posts accessible here.
The national security establishment has treated Ashley Biden’s diary as a federal case. They have leaked confidential information to Times reporters including Adam Goldman and Michael Schmidt, both of whom promoted Russia hoax stories that won Pulitzer Prizes. Ashley Biden’s diary is now subject to the Russia hoax treatment, both within the Biden Department of Justice and at its Times public relations arm.
In the latest development yesterday, Florida residents Aimee Harris and Robert Kurlander pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property. The Department of Justice has posted the criminal information signed by SDNY United States Attorney Damian Williams here and its press release here. The Department of Justice press release is amplified in the companion New York Times story by Goldman and Schmidt here.
Project Veritas — the buyer of the “stolen property” stored by Ashley Biden in a room of the Delray Beach “private residence” in which Aimee Harris subsequently stayed — is referred to throughout the criminal information as “the Organization.” According to the charge and plea, Project Veritas paid a total of $50,000 for the diary and related property that authenticated it as Ashley Biden’s.
As I read this material, the footsteps are getting closer to O’Keefe and Project Veritas. The Times story related that “in a sign that the investigation into the group will continue, the authorities said Mr. Kurlander had agreed to cooperate with the authorities.” I sought comment last night from Project Veritas attorney Paul Calli. Calli kindly responded with a statement (partially quoted in the Times story):
Project Veritas’s news gathering was ethical and legal. A journalist’s lawful receipt of material later alleged to be stolen is routine, commonplace, and protected by the First Amendment.
The government wishes to pursue PV based on routine acts of journalism.
You don’t think Josh Gerstein asked for corroboration, when his source provided a stolen draft of the Dobbs opinion stolen from the [United States Supreme Court], before he published it?
If a journalist accepting a source’s offer to provide material to corroborate source material already provided is criminal, the First Amendment and a free press are dead.
Implicit in Calli’s statement is the Supreme Court decision in Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001). In Bartnicki the Court held that the First Amendment protected the publication of lawfully obtained information that was itself obtained illegally. The Court held that federal law making it a crime to intercept and disseminate telephone conversations cannot constitutionally be applied to the media when they report on matters of public concern.
The facts alleged in the criminal information charging Harris and Kurlander raise the question whether Project Veritas lawfully obtained the diary — i.e., whether the facts fit within the doctrine of Bartnicki. The Court’s fundamental factual predicates were that the media defendants played no part in the underlying illegal conduct and that their access to the information was obtained lawfully.
If, as I believe, Project Veritas is the ultimate target of what I have called The O’Keefe Project from the beginning, the Biden Justice Department appears to have laid its cards — a substantial part of its evidence and theories — on the table in advance of charges against “the Organization.” The lawyers for Project Veritas have now had a look and, one might reasonably guess, a few cards of their own that have yet to be played.
UPDATE: Andrew McCarthy’s August 27 NRO column carefully restates the facts alleged in the criminal information to which Harris and Kurlander pleaded guilty. As I only imply above, the facts as alleged seem to take the prospective case against O’Keefe/Project Veritas outside the ambit of the Bartnicki case.