A former British spy is accused of helping conservative activists in the US run a "honeytrap" campaign designed to discredit political enemies of then-president Donald Trump.
Richard Seddon, a former MI6 agent, was named by The New York Times as working with Project Veritas to recruit and train undercover operatives to entrap FBI employees and government officials who were thought to be unfavourable towards Trump.
The allegations are that a campaign masterminded from a US$10,000 a month townhouse in Georgetown, Washington DC, included paying women with codenames such as "Tiger" and "Brazil" to arrange dinner dates with the officials with the aim of secretly recording them making disparaging remarks about Trump.
That information could then be used as leverage to ferret out members of the government trying to undercut Trump's agenda.
One target was HR McMaster, the president's national security adviser. McMaster was supposedly chosen for the sting because of his opposing views on an Iranian nuclear deal and the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan.
A Buzzfeed report alleged he had described Trump as an "idiot" and a "dope" with the intelligence of a "kindergartener" at a private dinner.
It is reported that someone with access to McMaster's diary shared that he often ate at Ristorante Tosca, an upscale Italian in downtown Washington, and a plan was hatched to stake it out and wait for him to arrive.
Armed with a hidden camera, a female Project Veritas operative who had been allegedly offered US$10,000 would be expected to strike up conversation with McMaster and get him to make comments that could be used to either force him to resign or get him fired, The New York Times said. The woman did not respond to their request for comment.
In the end, McMaster, a former lieutenant general, resigned after just over a year in the role and the plan was abandoned. It is not known if Trump or his inner circle knew of the operation against him.
Anna Khait, a Russian poker player who once appeared on the television show Survivor, was allegedly recruited to target a state department employee.
Yesterday, she admitted working undercover for Project Veritas, but said: "You don't need to kiss anyone to get people in DC to blab about themselves. They're so narcissistic."
It is claimed that Seddon played a key role in recruitment, hosting training camps at an airport hangar in Cody, Wyoming. It is alleged he was brought into the company in 2016.
It is understood that Seddon was responsible for building up Project Veritas' undercover capabilities, hiring former soldiers and agents to work alongside him. He left the firm in 2018, The New York Times said, and could not be reached for comment.
Other tactics by the group were said to include creating profiles on dating apps in an attempt to make contact with targets, which included FBI agents.
Project Veritas did not respond to a request for comment.
In an email to supporters referring to newspaper allegations about McMaster, founder James O'Keefe said: "Project Veritas never sanctioned such an operation. This allegation is pretty pathetic."
Trump has not yet commented on the allegations, but has laid out plans for two rallies next month and one around July 4 as he continues to tease a 2024 presidential run.
He is "very keen to get out there and cheer up his supporters", one source told The Daily Telegraph.