Wednesday Evening Open Thread: Joke O’Keefe Strikes (Himself) Again!

Lest we forget — being a Republican means never learning anything from one’s mistakes. Jane Mayer, in the New Yorker, on a repeat offender:

James O’Keefe III, the conservative activist famous for undercover stings, has dedicated his life to exposing the “misconduct” of others. But he’s developed a side business in accidentally exposing his own. In the latest chapter of his strange career, the League of Conservation Voters, a national environmental-advocacy group, has filed a complaint against three individuals who infiltrated its operations, at least two of whom, the group alleges, “could be associated with” O’Keefe and have past ties to him. The group’s leaders recently began to suspect that they were being scammed, and decided to go to the authorities before O’Keefe or his alleged associates released any material on their own.

In a six-page letter of complaint sent to the California Department of Justice on Friday, the League of Conservation Voters, or L.C.V., asked the state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, to open a criminal investigation into the operatives for potential fraud, racketeering, unfair business practices, trespassing, invasion of privacy, and possible violation of the state’s two-way-consent eavesdropping laws. The environmental group filed the letter in California because the “imposters,” as it labelled the operatives, first made contact with the organization through its state branch in the San Francisco Bay Area. A spokesperson for the California Department of Justice declined to comment, as is its policy on potential criminal investigations.

O’Keefe, whom I reached by phone on Tuesday, said that he was unaware of the letter and otherwise declined to discuss the matter. “I don’t comment on investigations real or imagined, or work with mainstream reporters who operate in bad faith,” he told me. In 2016, I wrote an article for this magazine about O’Keefe’s bungled attempt to sting George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, a liberal nonprofit group that O’Keefe had targeted.

L.C.V.’s letter describes an elaborate, six-month-long scheme. It alleges that the three operatives created false personas—backed up with fake Facebook, LinkedIn, and e-mail accounts—under which they met with “dozens” of the group’s staffers, board members, and donors, and gained access to “confidential” information. According to the letter, “at least two” of the individuals, who are identified as Christian Hartsock and Daniel Sandini, have reportedly worked with O’Keefe in the past, though L.C.V.’s letter acknowledges that the group doesn’t know whether O’Keefe was directly involved in the sting or merely inspired a copycat operation. Hartsock and Sandini also have connections to Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief political adviser: they both received film credits in “Occupy Unmasked,” a 2012 documentary directed by Bannon. The film’s cast notes describe Hartsock as a longtime collaborator of O’Keefe’s and a “protégé” of Andrew Breitbart, the late founder of the right-wing Web site Breitbart News, which Bannon ran prior to joining Trump’s Presidential campaign last year. They also say that Sandini is “inspired by Andrew Breitbart and James O’Keefe.” The third individual named in the letter, Ann Vandersteel, is a conservative online commentator who has promoted conspiracy theories including “Pizzagate,” the election-season right-wing fantasy that claimed Hillary Clinton’s campaign was running a child-molestation ring in the basement of a Washington pizza parlor that, among other things, has no basement. (Hartsock declined to comment for this article, and attempts to reach Sandini and Vandersteel were unsuccessful.)…

According to the letter, the scheme began last December, when Hartsock approached L.C.V.’s Oakland, California, office pretending to be a man named Trent Maynard. He allegedly said that he represented a wealthy but politically inexperienced donor who had been motivated by Trump’s election to give to progressive causes. Hartsock presented a fake business card and mentioned that his donor friend wanted to be introduced to environmental leaders and elected officials. Soon after, L.C.V. staffers invited Hartsock to attend an Inauguration Day fundraiser for environmental groups, where he mingled with various progressive leaders…

The L.C.V. staff found some of Sandini’s behavior bizarre. At one L.C.V. event, he seemed inexplicably disappointed when he wasn’t able to present a pair of cufflinks to the California Senate’s president pro tempore, Kevin de León, after de León failed to show. The staff also noticed that he had a habit of leaving his cufflinks, and his phone, on tables during get-togethers, which, according to L.C.V.’s letter, “raises the possibility that we have been recorded without consent. We are deeply concerned that if surreptitious, unauthorized videos or recordings were made, these individuals could make deceptive edits to create unfair, malicious, and false impressions.”…

Beats looking for an honest job, I guess.
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Apart from casting a cold eye on all the little criminals, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



Media Open Thread: Beyond ‘An Embarrassment of Riches’, into ‘A Disgrace of WTFs’…

Decline and fall of a once-great ideal, in three arcs:


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[*record scratch*] Fox News Dumbest Talking Head, former Bill O’Reilly hand puppet:


(If you’re unable to listen, ‘America is not a racist nation’ immediately segues to ‘Maxine Waters & Susan Rice, encouraging NK?’ and ‘[Black] guys with guns threatening President Trump over food stamps’)

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Flat Rejection Open Thread: There Are *NOT* Two Sides to This Argument

I know, I know — overkill. But this is 2017, and we’re trying to explain to the guy currently squatting in the Oval Office, in this very timeline, that Nazis are wrong. It feels like we have to make some kind of record…


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Vice News’ Interview with the Racists

Vice News has made their interviews with some of the leaders and participants from Saturday’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville online so everyone can see it, not just HBO subscribers. They describe their reporting as:

On Saturday hundreds of white nationalists, alt-righters, and neo-Nazis traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, to participate in the “Unite the Right” rally. By Saturday evening three people were dead – one protester and two police officers – and many more injured.

“VICE News Tonight” correspondent Elle Reeve went behind the scenes with white nationalist leaders, including Christopher Cantwell, Robert Ray, David Duke, and Matthew Heimbach — as well as counterprotesters. VICE News Tonight also spoke with residents of Charlottesville, members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Charlottesville Police.

From the neo-Nazi protests at Emancipation Park to Cantwell’s hideaway outside Virginia, “VICE News Tonight” provides viewers with exclusive, up-close and personal access inside the unrest.

Here’s the video:



Jaw-Dropping Read: “White Nationalists Try on an Unfamiliar Role: Police Victims”

And I feel like ‘victims’ should be in air-quotes, because SRSLY. I try not to mock the ‘Unearned Confidence of A Mediocre White Male’ too often, but even Politico strains to take these luzers at their whinge word…

Organizers of Saturday’s deadly white nationalist rally say they are planning to return to Charlottesville for a future rally and to file lawsuits against city and state authorities for allegedly failing to protect their gathering.

But first, they must cope with a psychic shock: feeling betrayed by government authorities they believed would always protect them. Before this weekend’s events, the alt-right had been a bastion of pro-police sentiment — especially when it came to police shootings of unarmed black victims and clashes with the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, the alt-right’s leaders are grappling with the realities of being identifiable members of an unpopular minority group in public.

“I have never felt like the government or police were against me,” said white nationalist leader Richard Spencer at a small news conference inside his home here on Monday afternoon. “There has never been a situation in my life when I’ve felt this way.”

Jason Kessler, the Charlottesville rally’s organizer, was also reeling. “This has changed everything,” he said. “I thought that the police would uphold constitutional law no matter what.”…

Following Saturday’s violence, Kessler attempted to hold a news conference on Sunday in front of Charlottesville’s City Hall but was foiled by anti-racism demonstrators, some of whom physically attacked him. Kessler criticized Virginia state troopers — who intervened after a scuffle broke out — for not taking more proactive steps to protect him.

“Even the lefties are astonished that the police apparently must’ve been ordered to just stand aside,” said white nationalist Jared Taylor, who has been called “the intellectual godfather of the alt-right” and monitored the weekend’s events from afar. “There wasn’t even a single arrest when Jason Kessler was assaulted. What were the police doing?”
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Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Proud to Be A Democrat


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From Politico, “Democrats press GOP to scrutinize rise in white supremacy”:

Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee are asking panel Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) to examine racist fringe groups, including those that organized Saturday’s violent protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on the University of Virginia campus…

California Rep. Lou Correa, who sits on the Homeland panel, was the first Democrat to call for hearings.

“Yesterday’s horrific acts against innocent Americans were clear acts of terrorism,” he said. “Our country has a homegrown terrorism problem we refuse to address. That ends now. We must hold hearings and finally address that terrorism inflicted by white supremacy extremists is destroying our country.”

A spokesman for Homeland ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) confirmed to POLITICO that committee Democrats were organizing to increase pressure on the panel to schedule hearings on white supremacist terrorism.

Homeland Democrats have already called for such hearings twice this year to no avail. A spokesperson for McCaul did not respond to request for comment.

The issue is going beyond the committee. Top House Democrats will discuss the matter during a leadership call and Democratic caucus conference call scheduled for Tuesday, according to a senior Democratic source. House Judiciary Democrats likewise held a call and are coordinating efforts to ramp up pressure on Republicans to address the growing threat…



Late Night Open Thread: Godwin’s Other Law