U.S. CAPITAL — Throughout the summer time of 2018, former British spy Richard Seddon reached out to his previous colleague and good friend, private navy contractor Erik Prince, for help in launching a brand new enterprise that would use undercover brokers to infiltrate progressive teams, Democratic campaigns, and different opponents of President Donald J. Trump.
Using his celebrity status, interviews, and documents suggest that Mr. Prince raised funds for Mr. Seddon’s eavesdropping operation, the goal of which was to acquire dirt that could be used to damage politicians and activists in multiple states.
Susan Gore, a Wyoming heiress to the Gore-Tex fortune, met with Mr. Prince and Mr. Seddon in August of 2018 and eventually became the project’s primary benefactor.
The Role Mr. Prince Played in the Operation,
Which has not been previously revealed, provides more context for how a group of ultraconservative Republicans used spycraft to seek to influence the American political landscape.
Mr. Prince, a former C.I.A. contractor best known as the founder of the private military agency Blackwater, and whose sister, Betsy DeVos, was Mr. Trump’s education secretary, has been the subject of scrutiny over the years due to Blackwater’s record of violence across the globe and his subsequent ventures training and arming international forces.
Recent evidence of his involvement in domestic political espionage initiatives during the time he served as a casual consultant to Trump administration officers is his willingness to support Mr. Seddon’s operation.
Documents Obtained by:
The Occasions and interviews with people familiar with Mr. Seddon’s plans reveal, among other things, that he recruited Mr. Prince to help him secure finance.
They shed light on the operation’s goals of “analysis, penetration, and infiltration of the unconventional left networks,” as one document puts it, and “targeting Republicans perceived as insufficiently conservative.”
According to a Report in the Occasions,
Mr. Prince enlisted Mr. Seddon to join the conservative group Challenge Veritas in 2016 and 2017 so that he could teach espionage techniques to the group’s operatives and oversee its covert activities. Mr. Prince also kindly provided the use of his family’s Wyoming property for Challenge Veritas’ training purposes.
After Mr. Seddon left Challenge Veritas in 2018, he began his private, financially supported surveillance activity.
It is not known how many other possible donors besides Ms. Gore Mr. Prince would have to pursue in order to secure funding for Mr. Seddon’s business. According to three sources, in January of 2019, Ms. Gore personally met with billionaire Wyoming businessman Foster Friess in an attempt to solicit funding for the project.
One source familiar with the meeting between Prince and Seddon and Ms. Gore in 2018 claims that Prince and Seddon discussed the goal of the private surveillance operation as being to gather dirt on Democrats and “RINOs,” which is conservative slang for “Republicans in name only.”
They claimed that Wyoming would serve as the initial base of operations before expanding outside.
Over the Course of Two Years,
Mr. Seddon’s operatives built networks in Colorado and Arizona and donated thousands of dollars to the Democratic National Committee and various candidates while pretending to be genuine Democrats.
Federal campaign finance laws prohibit “straw man” donations, in which money is covertly funnelled to campaigns from individuals other than the actual donors.
According to several familiar with the situation, the Justice Department is separately investigating Mr. Prince on unrelated matters. It’s not clear how far that probe will go.
Prince turned down an opportunity to comment. Neither Mr. Seddon nor Ms. Gore responded to our messages.
The documents provide previously unknown information on efforts to influence politics in Wyoming. Although the state leans heavily Republican at the moment, Mr. Seddon and Ms. Gore worried that it would swing to the Democrats like Colorado has.
One target was Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, who was disliked by certain conservatives there because of his moderate views.
In August of 2018, after Mr. Gordon defeated billionaire Mr. Friess in a detailed Republican major battle, Mr. Friess blamed his loss on Democrats switching events on Election Day to vote for Mr. Gordon.
Wyofile, a Wyoming-Based Political News Website,
obtained an email from Mr. Friess in which he speculated that the Democrats might gain from a vote-for-a-celebration deal with the Republicans. With Trump winning with 70% of the vote, he continued, “it shows how the Democrats have been able to control our elections by putting on a Republican cloak.”
It was in the month of January 2019 that Mr. Gordon began working for the company. In a document from that month, it was said that Mr. Seddon’s operatives had “identified three possible sources inside the new governor’s administration and have initiated expedited cultivations with a view to early recruitment.”
The operatives reported later in January that they had “efficiently recruited another supply with a task within the new governor’s office,” and that the “supply has committed to contribute insights, assist expose corruption, and help with ultimate placement of undercovers.”
According to the Documents,
Mr. Seddon’s agents also sought information on Steve Harshman, the then-Republican speaker of the House in Wyoming, who was also not considered as sufficiently supportive of Mr. Trump by certain conservatives.
That a “new undercover might be becoming a member of the staff” and assigned to Mr. Harshman was indicated in a report in February of this year.
The following June of 2019, a report stated, “we foresee a large haul, combined with fresh strains of intelligence on the Republican side of the house.”
The documents also show that other prominent Wyoming Republicans, in addition to Ms. Gore, participated in Mr. Seddon’s spy operation.
One document indicates that Wyoming state legislator and ex-politician Marti Halverson gave the operatives a list of names. The former directors of the Wyoming Division of Workforce Companies, John Cox and Scott Talbott, were included in the checklist.
The document has a December 2018 creation date and identifies Mr. Talbott as “one other of the names of corrupt people from Marti.”
When contacted via phone, Ms. Halverson said, “Frankly, I’ve got nothing to say on the matter.” She ended the call by hanging up.
Mr. Seddon recruited other ex-Challenge Veritas employees to help with the Wyoming operation, including James Artherton, a British operator codenamed “kimchi” who was involved in a 2017 Challenge Veritas scheme targeting an editor for The New York Occasions in London.
According to documents, one undercover agent also secured employment with the Wyoming Investor Community, a group of wealthy liberal donors who had made a calculated decision to back Republican moderates over those more closely aligned with Mr. Trump’s agenda.
The position afforded her the unique opportunity to learn critical information about the Republican candidates the organisation was objectively endorsing.
Mr. Prince has previously shown interest in investigating Democratic politicians for dirt. Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia inquiry of the Trump administration, looked into a 2016 incident in which Republican operatives thought they had gotten deleted Hillary Clinton emails from the dark web and requested Mr. Prince’s help to verify them.
The particular counsel’s report noted that Mr. Prince “supplied funds to rent a tech adviser to evaluate the validity of the emails. The technology consultant shared Prince’s opinion and concluded that the emails were fake.
Late that Year,
Mr. Prince asked Mr. Seddon to help train the Challenge Veritas agents. Both men knew each other from Mr. Prince’s time spent leading Blackwater and realised they had a lot in common, including a love of guns and the American frontier. In case of a catastrophic event in the United States, Mr. Seddon keeps his cabin packed with weapons, food, and other supplies.
Mr. Seddon proposed constructing an internet site the place different so-called preppers may buy their very own provides and speak to one another within the occasion of what he referred to as a “Black Swan” second — a severe terrorist assault, one other pandemic, or a civil struggle — throughout a gathering of workers of Ms. Gore’s group, the Wyoming Liberty Group, in a Las Vegas suburb final April.
Ms. Gore ultimately decided to reject the concept because of its high price tag, which was estimated to begin in the hundreds of thousands of dollars by those familiar with the scheme.