The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has subpoenaed James O’Keefe, the leader of political activist organization Project Veritas, to testify before a grand jury after video of an Atkinson man admitting to double voting in 2018 was published online.
O’Keefe said in an interview that a criminal investigator handed him the subpoena minutes after he met with representatives from the Attorney General’s office to share evidence about a 77-year-old Atkinson man who admitted to accidentally voting twice in the 2018 election.
Project Veritas, a New York-based nonprofit that has been criticized in the past for using illegal and potentially unethical tactics, previously sent the Union Leader a video in which its operatives questioned Robert A. Bell of Atkinson about his voting record.
In the edited video and in a subsequent telephone interview with a Union Leader reporter, Bell admitted that he cast an early-voting ballot in Florida last year and then also voted in New Hampshire. Election records from Atkinson and Flagler County, Fla. also confirm that Bell voted in both states, a felony under state and federal law.
Bell, who is a registered Republican, said the Project Veritas operatives did not tell him they were recording the conversation until after it had concluded. In New Hampshire, it is illegal under most circumstances to record another person without their consent.
It was not immediately clear on Tuesday whether the subpoena was related to the Bell case or Project Veritas’ previous work in New Hampshire. The document orders O’Keefe to appear May 17 and “testify to what you know relating to an investigation by the Grand Jury into the operations of Project Veritas,” according to a copy O’Keefe shared with the Union Leader.
The Attorney General’s office has subpoenaed Project Veritas in the past in order to gain copies of its unedited video footage.
Deputy Attorney General Jane Young said she could not legally comment on the subpoena or any other matters related to a grand jury.
“It’s just shocking to me that they would subpoena investigative reporters instead of the man who confessed … to voting multiple times,” O’Keefe said.
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Bell said that when he cast his ballot in New Hampshire last November he had forgotten that he voted early in Florida while there for the funeral of his best friend. Until recently, Bell maintained a home in Florida.
“I was back here (in New Hampshire) and I had totally forgotten everything that had happened because it was my best friend of 25 years and I was really distraught after the funeral down there,” Bell said.
“Project Veritas came back today, harassing me at my door with a video recorder again. I’m a 77-year-old, almost 78-year-old, veteran and I don’t appreciate that kind of harassment from idiots.”
Bell added that he has filed a complaint with the Atkinson police.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has indicted five people and separately issued five civil penalties for wrongful voting since 2016. It obtained its first conviction in February, when a 21-year-old college student pleaded guilty to registering to vote in New Hampshire after already having voted in Massachusetts.
Three of those five indictments stemmed from the Crosscheck system, a multi-state effort to compare voting lists and identify wrongful voters. Florida does not participate in Crosscheck so the system would not have flagged Bell’s two ballots.
Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Chong Yen, who oversees the office’s elections division, said he could not yet comment specifically about Bell.
“This is one of the types of things that our office does — review these concerns to see if they have any merit,” Chong Yen said. “We will determine whether or not to commence an investigation and go from there.”
A history in NH
This is not the first time Project Veritas and O’Keefe have sought to expose illegal voting in New Hampshire.
In 2012, the organization’s operatives covertly filmed themselves attempting to obtain ballots under the identities of deceased voters. The videos prompted legislators to pass a voter ID law.
In 2016, Project Veritas released a video purportedly showing staffers on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign incorrectly using the address of a Manchester field office as their domicile in order to register to vote.
That same year, the group released another video that supposedly showed poll workers in Nashua telling undercover operatives how to register to vote in the city, even though the operatives weren’t from Nashua. The Union Leader later reported that the two people seen in the video were not actually poll workers.
“Voter fraud is real. The integrity of the American election system is being undermined,” O’Keefe said Tuesday. “Transparency needs to occur and it’s important for people to know that the system has problems.”
Project Veritas publicly released edited versions of the 2016 videos but turned over the full footage to the Attorney General’s office in response to a subpoena.
O’Keefe has run into several legal and ethical problems as a result of his sting operations.
In 2010, he and three associates were convicted of misdemeanors for entering a federal building under false pretenses in order to secretly film inside the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.
A handful of states, including Florida, have banned O’Keefe from fundraising because he failed to report the misdemeanor conviction on nonprofit forms.
More recently, Project Veritas came under fire after the Washington Post reported in 2017 that a woman who appeared to be working for the organization tried to plant a fake story about a sexual relationship with Roy Moore, who at the time was running for the Senate in Alabama.
O’Keefe dismissed any accusations that Project Veritas acts unethically as untrue and “efforts to malign my integrity.”
“We never attempted to plant fake stories … none of our videos have ever been proved to be fake,” he said, adding that “we didn’t break any laws” in filming the conversation with Bell.