WASHINGTON — Robert Creamer, whose consulting firm is a Democratic National Committee contractor, said Wednesday he was “stepping aside” from that role after an undercover video from a conservative group suggested his workers had a hand in triggering confrontations outside and inside Donald Trump rallies.
Creamer, an Evanston resident, is the husband of Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and appears, along with others, in the undercover video posted by a conservative investigative non-fot-profit organization, Project Veritas Action.
The video, which had more than 4 million views as of Wednesday afternoon, surfaced as Trump is stepping up his assertion, without evidence, that the election system is rigged against him.
The video focuses on another Trump complaint: that outside agitators — not Trump’s backers — trigger fights at his rallies.
Project Veritas Action, founded by James O’Keefe, has been criticized for selectively editing videos from its undercover operations aimed at liberal or Democratic allied organizations. O’Keefe is known for his highly controversial tactics and selective edits that create untrue storylines, notably in videos about Planned Parenthood and ACORN, a national community organization.
Hours before the final presidential debate, O’Keefe said in a statement, will Clinton “disavow her lieutenant, Bob Creamer, whose foot soldiers have been inciting violence at political rallies?”
Creamer told the Chicago Sun-Times that O’Keefe’s allegations that he and his firm had a role in inciting violence at Trump events “are completely untrue.” But he also said he is stepping aside because “I do not wish to be a distraction to the important task of electing Hillary Clinton and defeating Donald Trump.”
During the presidential debate, Trump — while not mentioning Creamer by name — accused Clinton and President Barack Obama of paying people to incite violence ahead of his planned rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago earlier this year.
“She caused the violence,” Trump said of his Democratic rival.
A female activist in the Project Veritas Action video identified as Zulema Rodriguez told an unidentified interviewer using a hidden camera that she had a hand in organizing protests at a Trump rally at the UIC Pavilion last March.
Trump ended up canceling the rally, days before the Illinois primary, when skirmishes broke out between his supporters and protesters.
Creamer said Rodriguez was organizing anti-Trump protests around the UIC event but wasn’t working for him at the time.
Trump set his sights on Creamer earlier Wednesday, too, retweeting a Daily Caller story about Creamer headlined, “Dem Operative Who Oversaw Trump Rally Agitators Visited White House 342 Times.”
White House visitor logs show Creamer has made 340 visits since Obama took office in January 2009.
Creamer told the Sun-Times, “The Obama White House has regular meetings of progressive organizations every week. Lots of people go, including me.”
Explaining the video scenes that included him, Creamer said he thought he was talking to a man who was a potential large donor to Democratic causes. In reality, that man was posing as a donor and secretly recording Creamer.
In the video, Creamer says he is part of a daily call with the Clinton campaign “to go over the focuses that need to be undertaken.”
Project Veritas also was able to plant an intern in Creamer’s Washington, D.C., office to secretly video workers. Creamer said she posed as the niece of the fake potential donor, who asked Creamer to give her a job.
The sting operation ended last Friday, Creamer said — as far as he knows — when, after a lunch with the fake donor at Tosca, in downtown Washington, a video crew from Sinclair, a conservative outlet, appeared outside the restaurant, wanting to interview him. The fake donor disappeared and the “intern” was gone when he got back to his office, Creamer said.
Most of the allegations of triggering incidents with Trump backers in the video came from Scott Foval, a Creamer subcontractor fired in the wake of the video being released. Foval was taped by a Project Veritas undercover operative posing as a Democratic activist, Creamer said.
On the video, Foval claimed to have arranged for mentally ill people, homeless people and others to spark violence at Trump rallies. “I mean, honestly it’s not hard to get some of these (expletive) to pop off,” Foval says.
Foval told The Associated Press in an email that he was set up. “This scheme to cast legitimate organizing activities as a sinister plot is nothing but a ruse,” he said.
Creamer told the Sun-Times Foval was “bragging” about events that never actually happened.
Creamer said his contract with the DNC, through a firm he runs called Mobilize, did not start until June 8 and is now voided. The DNC had paid Creamer’s firm $42,000 a month to cover the equivalent of seven or eight full-time workers.
Creamer’s speciality is grass roots organizing and political messaging. In 2006, he pled guilty to federal check kiting charges stemming from 1996, when he juggled money to keep Illinois Citizens Action afloat. He served five months in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.
DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile said in a statement, “We do not believe, or have any evidence to suggest, that the activities articulated in the video actually occurred. We have accepted the decision by Mobilize, an organization we contracted with in June 2016 and run by Bob Creamer, to step aside from its work with the DNC so that it is not a distraction three weeks before the election.
“The discredited source of these videos, James O’Keefe, is a convicted criminal with a history of doctoring video to advance his ideological agenda. We are in the process of conducting an internal investigation to determine whether he and his cohorts committed any illegal activities in this well-funded operation.”
Zac Petkanas, the director of Rapid Response for the Clinton campaign said in a statement, “While Project Veritas has been known to offer misleading video out of context, some of the language and tactics referenced in the video are troubling — even as a theory or proposal never executed. We support the Democratic National Committee’s appropriate action addressing this matter. . . .”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, asked about the video at the daily briefing said, “I’ve tried to urge people to take those reports not at face value and not just with a grain of salt, but maybe even a whole package of salt. Because despite what the name might suggest, these videos have not often revealed the truth.”
Attempts to reach Rep. Schakowsky late Wednesday were unsuccessful.