In court filings and a video narrated by Project Veritas' founder James O'Keefe (pictured), the group alleged that federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York used 'secret warrants' to obtain Project Veritas employees' emails via Microsoft
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Project Veritas claimed Tuesday that the Department of Justice ‘spied’ on their employees’ emails and used gag orders to cover it up during the investigation into the conservative group’s purchase of Ashley Biden’s diary before the 2020 election.

In court filings and a video narrated by Project Veritas’ founder James O’Keefe, the group alleged that federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York used ‘secret warrants’ to obtain Project Veritas employees’ emails via Microsoft, the email service provider used by the organization. 

A number of those subpoenas included gag orders, which prevented Microsoft from publicly saying they existed.   

In a letter written Tuesday to Judge Analisa Torres, the group’s lawyers suggest this was done behind her back – after Torres previously ruled that materials in the case needed to be handed over to a ‘special master,’ to determine if any of them could be withheld from investigators due to Project Veritas’ claims of journalistic privilege.  

Project Veritas, which has used sting operations to go after Democrats and left-leaning media organizations, says its employees are journalists and thus have First Amendment protections. 

The homes of O’Keefe and two other former staffers were raided by the FBI in November – a move that raised eyebrows since Project Veritas identifies as a news outlet and there are DOJ policies and laws that prevent search warrants against reporters.  

‘Project Veritas has just obtained documents showing the SDNY was spying on Project Veritas journalists well before the FBI raided the homes of our journalists last November – secretly reading our emails, concealing that from the court in our case against the SDNY,’ O’Keefe said in the video. ‘This is a fundamental, intolerable abridgement of the First Amendment by the Department of Justice.’   

In court filings and a video narrated by Project Veritas' founder James O'Keefe (pictured), the group alleged that federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York used 'secret warrants' to obtain Project Veritas employees' emails via Microsoft

In court filings and a video narrated by Project Veritas’ founder James O’Keefe (pictured), the group alleged that federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York used ‘secret warrants’ to obtain Project Veritas employees’ emails via Microsoft

O’Keefe said the evidence was found in legal documents from Microsoft obtained by Project Veritas – and show that the government wanted emails starting in January 2020, which was eight months before the group even knew about the diary. 

He said the group is also filing a motion demanding that the federal government disclose if it asked any other entity for Project Veritas’ documents. 

O’Keefe also called the DOJ probe into Ashley Biden’s diary an ‘unprecedented investigation.’ 

‘As far as we know, federal law enforcement has never before investigated an abandoned diary,’ O’Keefe said in the video.     

The latest legal maneuvering comes after The New York Times reported Sunday more details about Project Veritas’ alleged efforts to obtain and authenticate Biden’s diary – including that it was shown and shopped around a Trump fundraiser before being purchased by Project Veritas for $40,000.   

The Times reported that Biden received a call from a man working for Project Veritas saying he found a diary and thought it belonged to her. He allegedly didn’t tell Biden he was affiliated with the conservative group.  

But according to the Times the call was meant to trick Biden into confirming that her diary was real. 

It could complicate Project Veritas’ legal case, as the group has wanted to be classified as a publisher, and thus have journalistic First Amendment protections. 

But using deception – as the caller did when he used a fake name – is not typical journalist behavior. 

In a statement to DailyMail.com, Project Veritas’ press secretary R.C. Maxwell said, ‘As is typical, the New York Times misses the real story by years much as they did with a certain laptop.’

‘Similarly, the Times has long accused Project Veritas of engaging in a “coordinated disinformation campaign” while now admitting Veritas’ reporting confirmed Ashley Biden’s diary was real and Veritas’ activities surrounding the diary were all employed “to authenticate the diary,”‘ Maxwell said. 

Ashley Biden's (right) diary was shown and shopped around a Trump fundraiser before it was purchased by Project Veritas for $40,000 in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election

Ashley Biden’s (right) diary was shown and shopped around a Trump fundraiser before it was purchased by Project Veritas for $40,000 in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election

The head of Project Veritas, James O'Keefe, was pulled out of his apartment wearing just underwear and handcuffs during an early morning raid in November

The head of Project Veritas, James O’Keefe, was pulled out of his apartment wearing just underwear and handcuffs during an early morning raid in November

In court filings, prosecutors suggested Project Veritas was complicit in the theft of some of Biden’s other belongings, which interviews with the Times show the group obtained to confirm the diary was Biden’s.       

After going to rehab in Florida in 2019, Biden moved into a two-bedroom house rented by a friend in Delray Beach, Florida, staying there while her father competed in the Democratic primaries in the spring of 2020. 

But in June, for the final months of the campaign, Ashley Biden relocated back to the Philadelphia area, leaving some of her belongings at the house, with plans to move back in the fall before the lease expired in November. 

Her roommate allowed an ex-girlfriend named Aimee Harris and her two children to move in according to previous reporting by the Times.

Harris was reportedly going through a bitter custody battle and struggling financially.

Her ‘social media postings and conversations with friends suggested that she was a fan of Mr. Trump,’ a Times report from December said. 

Ashley Biden (right) at age six is seen with her father, now President Joe Biden, when the then-senator was running for president the first time in August 1987

Ashley Biden (right) at age six is seen with her father, now President Joe Biden, when the then-senator was running for president the first time in August 1987

Ashley Biden (right) sits with her parents Jill Biden (left) and Joe Biden (center) at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, when Biden was then Sen. Barack Obama's running mate

Ashley Biden (right) sits with her parents Jill Biden (left) and Joe Biden (center) at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, when Biden was then Sen. Barack Obama’s running mate 

Ashley Biden (left) walks alongside her father President Joe Biden (right) as they leave church in November in Wilmington, Delaware

Ashley Biden (left) walks alongside her father President Joe Biden (right) as they leave church in November in Wilmington, Delaware 

Ashley Biden is photographed arriving at a White House state dinner in October 2016

Ashley Biden is photographed arriving at a White House state dinner in October 2016 

Harris soon found out that Ashley Biden had lived at the address previously and left some of her things at the home, according to the earlier Times report.  

What happened next is the subject of the investigation. 

Project Veritas told a federal judge that in September 2020 someone described as ‘a tipster’ called and left a voicemail, telling the conservative group that ‘a new occupant moved into a place where Ashley Biden had previously been staying and found Ms. Biden’s diary and other personal items.’ 

The ‘diary is pretty crazy,’ the message said. ‘I think it’s worth taking a look at,’ the caller added.  

Project Veritas confirmed that the group paid money for the diary. 

They did it through an unnamed proxy from two people identified by their initials – A.H. and R.K. 

The group said they purchased the diary lawfully. 

The Times identified those individuals as Harris and Robert Kurlander. 

Kurlander was a longtime friend and former housemate of Harris, who previously pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in a drug-related money laundering scheme and was sentenced to 40 months in prison. 

Robert Kurlander tweeted at Trump and Donald Trump Jr. in October 2020, just weeks before election day, telling them that 'Ashley and Hunter are disasters'

Robert Kurlander tweeted at Trump and Donald Trump Jr. in October 2020, just weeks before election day, telling them that ‘Ashley and Hunter are disasters’ 

Kurlander tweeted at Trump and Donald Trump Jr. in October 2020, just weeks before election day, asking ‘where are Biden’s two kids? Why aren’t they campaigning like your 4 kids? Your great awesome kids. You can tell a lot about the family by the children !!!!!’ 

‘Ashley and Hunter are disasters,’ he continued. ‘Reflection of the parents. Joe !!!’  

He’s continued to share pro-Trump tweets since. 

The new Times report said that Kurlander contacted Elizabeth Fago, a Florida-based businesswoman, who was nominated by Trump in December 2020 to serve on the National Cancer Advisory Board. 

It was Fago’s daughter who called Project Veritas’ tip line on September 3, 2020, The Times said. 

According to the Times, three days later, Harris and Kurlander – who brought along the diary – attended a fundraiser at Fago’s house in Jupiter, Florida. 

The fundraiser was also attended by Donald Trump Jr. 

The Times said it was unclear if Trump Jr. saw the diary at the party. 

Mark Paoletta, a lawyer who worked for Vice President Mike Pence, who was doing some lobbying work for Project Veritas and its head James O’Keefe, told Republican lawmakers this fall that Trump Jr. found out about the diary at the fundraiser – but showed no interest in it and said whoever was in possession of it should report it to the FBI.

Paoletta later called back the group of Congressional Republicans to say that he wasn’t sure his characterization of Trump Jr.’s reaction was accurate, The Times reported. 

After the fundraiser, Project Veritas sought to acquire the diary, flying Harris and Kurlander to New York to meet with several of the group’s operatives at a hotel on Manhattan’s West Side.

No deal was struck during that trip, so Harris and Kurlander returned to Florida.

One of O’Keefe’s top lieutenants, Spencer Meads, was sent to Florida to further investigate the diary. 

In court filings, Project Veritas said its operatives obtained additional items that belonged to Ashley Biden that ‘sources’ said were ‘abandoned.’ 

‘The sources arranged to meet the Project Veritas journalist in Florida soon thereafter to give the journalist additional abandoned items,’ Project Veritas’ lawyers wrote. 

In filings, prosecutors cast doubt on Project Veritas’ actions being above-board. 

‘Put simply, even members of the news media “may not with impunity break and enter an office or dwelling to gather news,”‘ prosecutors wrote.    

Prosecutors challenged the group’s ‘repeated claim that they had “no involvement” in how the victim’s property was “acquired.”‘ 

O’Keefe was pulled out of his apartment wearing just underwear and handcuffs during an early morning raid in November, two days after other Project Veritas employees had their homes raided by the FBI. 

O’Keefe, according to court filings, told his team in an October 12, 2020 email that he decided not to publish a story about the diary.

‘We have no doubt the document is real,’ he said, but he added that it would be ‘characterized as a cheap shot.’ 

Four days later, Project Veritas wrote to the then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his campaign to say they had obtained Ashley Biden’s ‘abandoned’ diary and wanted to question the now-president on-camera. 

Around the same time, Project Veritas finalized the deal to buy the diary from Harris and Kurlander for $40,000 – wiring them the money. 

‘Should we not hear from you by Tuesday, October 20, 2020, we will have no choice but to act unilaterally and reserve the right to disclose that you refused our offer to provide answers to the questions raised by your daughter,’ Project Veritas’ chief legal officer Jered T. Ede wrote. 

Biden’s lawyers responded by calling the ask an ‘extortionate effort to secure an interview.’

They refused to acknowledge whether the diary belonged to Ashley Biden, but told Ede it should be regarded as stolen property and called it ‘ludicrous’ that it was abandoned. 

The lawyers said ‘serious crimes’ might have been committed.  

Biden’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan told Ede, according to The Times, ‘This is insane; we should send to SDNY.’ 

Biden’s lawyers did alert prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, which is now in charge of the probe. 

During the back-and-forth, on October 24, the conservative site National File published excerpts of the diary, and later the full thing. 

The postings didn’t get a lot of attention. 

The site said it obtained the diary from someone at another organization that refused to publish it. 

O’Keefe was reportedly furious, The Times said, and some people at Project Veritas believed someone leaked it from within their organization.  

In a court filing last year, O’Keefe’s lawyer said Project Veritas arranged for Ashley Biden’s possessions to be delivered to a police station in Florida in early November 2020, near the Delray Beach property.  

Lawyer Adam Leo Bantner (pictured) was captured in bodycam footage dropping off bags of possessions that belonged to Ashley Biden in November 2020 to the Delray Beach Police Department

Lawyer Adam Leo Bantner (pictured) was captured in bodycam footage dropping off bags of possessions that belonged to Ashley Biden in November 2020 to the Delray Beach Police Department 

‘Project Veritas gave the diary to law enforcement to ensure it could be returned to its rightful owner,’ O’Keefe said in a statement in November. 

A Florida lawyer named Adam Leo Bantner dropped off the bags the day after Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election. 

Citing the police report and bodycam footage, The Times said Bantner told officers that his client told him that the property was ‘possibly stolen’ and he ‘got it from an unknown person at a hotel.’ 

Bantner describes the bags as ‘crap’ to an officer, who then responds he’s going to throw the bags in the garbage because there was no ‘information’ or ‘proof of evidence.’ 

‘Like I said, I’m fine with it,’ Bantner replied.  

The police report said that officers determined the items in the bags belonged to Ashley Biden, alerting both the Secret Service and the FBI, which collected them.  

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