A British former spy had been recruited by Donald Trump allies to set up a “honeytrap” operation to use pretty women to target alleged critics of the then-president, according to a report in The New York Times.
The potential covert agents, who would be given code names like 'Brazil' and 'Tiger' reminiscent of spy fiction, were handpicked at a Wyoming ranch owned by the family of Erik Prince, former US Navy SEAL officer and founder of the private military company Blackwater, now called Academi.
Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, was US Secretary of Education during Donald Trump's White House tenure.
The contractor, who was believed to be close to the Trump administration, reportedly hired an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon to oversee the recruitment of the women. The covert operation allegedly also involved the conservative investigative journalist group Project Veritas, known for conducting stings on news organisations and other groups.
At the Wyoming ranch, Prince and Seddon allegedly resorted to diverse ploys to ferret out the leanings of the prospective spies.
Thus, the women were purportedly asked who their dream dinner party guests would be, and questioned as to their news sources of choice.
The selected women were subsequently whisked away to a secret $10,000-a-month six-bedroom Georgetown mansion in Washington, DC, with Ubers instructed to drop them off a distance from the clandestine residence, claims the outlet.
There, the seductive spies were reportedly trained to use their wiles to entice their targets to speak out blithely while covertly filming the results.
Role-playing exercises were a must, according to the report, based on documents cited by The New York Times.
For example, a trainee had to “defend their cover” and “avoid exciting” the officer if they were to be interrogated by law enforcement.
The prospective honeypot agents also learned elaborate ruses to successfully target a person in an elevator, and were encouraged to perceive their “targets as a possible future access agent, potential donor, support/facilities agent”.
All female recruits, while instructed to “create and maintain a fictional cover,” were told to burn the training manual after the course was completed.
The female agents were ostensibly to target a plethora of targets, ranging from State Department staff to FBI agents.
H.R. McMaster, who took over from Mike Flynn as National Security Advisor in February 2017, was allegedly one such target used to expose potential anti-Trump sentiment.
McMaster had hit headlines in November 2017 after a BuzzFeed article reported that he had made disparaging remarks about Donald Trump at a dinner with business executives, referring to the then-POTUS as a “dope” with the IQ of a “kindergartener”.
Glamorous Texas journalist Tarah Price, whose social media profile says 'love guns, and despise feminism', was ostensibly offered $10,000 to waylay McMaster at a DC Italian restaurant he was known to frequent, and attempt to seduce him into dishing some dirt, according to a May 2018 email sent by her former boyfriend to the website Project Veritas Exposed and cited by The New York Times.
The efforts of the enticing agents were reportedly aided by Barbara Ledeen, an aide to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The woman, who has since retired, allegedly provided details of McMaster's schedule.
She has since insisted that she was merely a messenger, and not “part of a plot”, according to the paper.
State Department employees were reportedly targeted by another woman - a Russian-born pro poker player and former contestant on the television programme Survivor, Anna Khait.
It is suggested that the covert agent, whose social media showed her to be pro-Trump, was tasked with luring her targets on fake dates. Filmed undercover, the encounters were believed to be a ploy to get the individuals to spill the truth about their attitude towards Trump and reveal if they sought to somehow thwart his agenda.
In response to the report, Anna Khait tweeted on Thursday night that it was not “illegal to investigate the people who are SUPPOSED to be transparent with the American people.”
Investigative journalism requires investigation. I know that’s hard for fake news to comprehend.— Anna Khait (@Annakhait) May 14, 2021
Anna Khait added she was proud of her efforts, tweeting that she “never kissed anyone during a Project Veritas investigation”, as she slammed “fake news gotta fake”.
You don’t need to kiss anyone to get people in DC to blab about themselves. They’re so narcissistic 🤣— Anna Khait (@Annakhait) May 14, 2021
There has not yet been a response from Tarah Price. Project Veritas and the head of the group, James O' Keefe, dismissed the article as “a smear piece” from the Times.
“Because The New York Times is losing to Project Veritas in a court of law, it is trying to smear Project Veritas in the court of public opinion. I think the court, like me, may well be appalled at The New York Times’ continued pattern of defamation of Project Veritas.” he said, as Project Veritas sued The Times for defamation in 2020.