Video played during the trial of six people charged with participating in rioting on the day of President Trump's inauguration was secretly recorded by Project Veritas and shows a planning meeting ahead of the protests, according to testimony.
Defense attorneys questioned the government's reliance on the video, with one asking a D.C. police officer about his knowledge of Project Veritas. The organization uses secret recordings to target the mainstream news media and left-leaning groups.
The video, played this week, shows a group in a D.C. church basement for what prosecutors said was a Jan. 8 protest planning meeting. It shows organizers advising that people wear comfortable shoes, avoid carrying identification and, if stopped by police, decline to give their names. One person says that would "jam up the police."
In court Wednesday, D.C. police officer Bryan Adelmeyer testified that while working undercover, he attended the same planning meeting. Days later, he said, Veritas sent police a copy of a video, which the officer said was secretly recorded.
Adelmeyer testified that nearly 300 people attended the meeting and that organizers said they planned to be "nonviolent but confrontational" and cause "as many traffic disruptions as possible."
Defense attorney Jamie Heine asked Adelmeyer about apparent edits made to the video, pointing out that the timer seemed to skip a few seconds and later disappeared.
Adelmeyer said authorities made one edit to avoid revealing his disguise. Prosecutors said they also edited the video to conceal the identity of the person who made it.
In an email, Stephen Gordon, communications director for Project Veritas, said the organization attended the meeting and provided "uncut, raw video" to D.C. police, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service.
In court, Heine repeatedly asked Adelmeyer whether he was familiar with Project Veritas. The officer said he had done Google searches.
Heine asked if the officer knew that the group's founder, James O'Keefe, was convicted of a misdemeanor in 2010 for using a fake identity to enter a federal building during a sting. Heine also asked Adelmeyer if he was aware of the news earlier this week that a woman who appears to work with Project Veritas falsely claimed to The Washington Post that, as a teenager, she had been impregnated by Roy Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama.
Adelmeyer said he had "read about that."
Defense attorney Sara Kropf asked Adelmeyer if anyone heard on the video was associated with Project Veritas. "Is it possible other Veritas people were there who could have been speaking as well?" she asked.
Adelmeyer said he did not know.
Attorneys for the six defendants, the first group charged in the protests to go to trial, say their clients were peacefully protesting when a handful of march attendees began vandalizing businesses and vehicles.
Prosecutors have said there is no evidence that the six defendants directly caused any damage but contend that they were part of the group and also bear responsibility.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff used the video to show that protesters discussed strategies to deal with police. There was no mention on the video of vandalizing.
Adelmeyer, who said he didn't know anyone working with Veritas was at the meeting, testified that he thinks the recording was made with a tiny camera that replaces a button on clothing.
The officer said that he had agreed to go undercover and "was told we were investigating criminal activities masked by First Amendment activities."
The first defendants to face trial are Heine's client, Michelle Macchio, 26, of Naples, Fla., as well as: Jennifer Armento, 38, of Philadelphia; Christina Simmons, 20, of Cockeysville, Md.; Alexei Wood, 37, of San Antonio; Oliver Harris, 28, of Philadelphia; and Brittne Lawson, 27, of Pittsburgh.
Trials for others charged in the protests are set through mid-2018.