January 29th, 2010
12:45 PM ET
12 years ago

Activist proclaims innocence in Landrieu office incident

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/29/art.landrieu.05.gi.jpg caption= "Activist proclaims innocence in Landrieu office incident."]

(CNN) - Conservative activist James O'Keefe said Friday that the government had "confirmed" that he did not try to wiretap or bug the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana.

He offered no evidence to back his assertion.

O'Keefe, 25, Joseph Basel, 24, Robert Flanagan, 24, and Stan Dai, 24, were charged Tuesday with entering Landrieu's New Orleans office - which is federal property - under "false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony," according to a news release from the local U.S. attorney's office.

Calling himself an "investigative journalist," O'Keefe claimed he was trying to test the credibility of a claim by Landrieu that her office had been unable to field calls from constituents opposed to her stance on the Senate
health care bill because her phone lines had been "jammed for weeks."

Landrieu voted in favor of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's health care bill in December after receiving a promise of significant additional federal funding for her home state in a deal critics labeled the "Louisiana purchase."

"I decided to investigate why a representative of the people would be out of touch with her constituents for 'weeks' because her phones were broken," he said in a statement released on the conservative Web site biggovernment.com.

"In investigating this matter, we decided to visit Sen. Landrieu's district office - the people's office - to ask the staff if their phones were working."

O'Keefe claimed that "sole intent" of his "investigation was to determine whether or not Sen. Landrieu was purposely trying to avoid constituents who were calling to register their views to her as their senator."

"On reflection," he added, "I could have used a different approach ... particularly given the sensitivities that people understandably have about security in a federal building."

O'Keefe said he had "taped the entire visit, the government has those tapes, and I'm eager for them to be released because they refute the false claims being repeated by much of the mainstream media."

He also slammed various news organizations, including MSNBC and the Washington Post, for what he claimed was inaccurate coverage of the events surrounding his arrest.

"The public will judge whether reporters who can't get their facts straight have the credibility to question my integrity as a journalist," he said.

Basel and Flanagan attempted to gain access to Landrieu's office Monday while posing as telephone repairmen. The two men were "each dressed in blue denim pants, a blue work shirt, a light green fluorescent vest, a tool belt and a construction-style hard hat when they entered the Hale Boggs Federal Building," the release noted.

After they entered the building, the two men told a staffer in Landrieu's office they were telephone repairmen, according to the release and a news release from the U.S. attorney's office and an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Steven Rayes. They then asked for - and were granted - access to the reception desk's phone system.

O'Keefe, who had been waiting in the office before the pair arrived, recorded their actions with a cell phone, said Rayes' affidavit.

Landrieu said Thursday that the four men had "embarrassed themselves and their families."

In a statement released by her office, the Democratic senator also called claims by the men's lawyers that their clients were trying to embarrass her staff "a clear and calculated effort to divert attention away" from the crime itself.

"The fact remains that they perpetrated a false identity scheme on building security by posing as telephone workers and attempting to manipulate the phone in her office," the statement said, saying those involved could face up to 10 years in prison for the federal crime.

O'Keefe is the same conservative activist who dressed as a pimp last summer and visited the office of ACORN, which bills itself as an advocacy group for low and middle income families, to solicit advice on setting up a brothel, among other scenarios, law enforcement officials confirmed. He secretly recorded the visits on videotapes that were posted on the Internet, leading to a media firestorm.

Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, his office said.

Articles on conservative Web sites connect O'Keefe to a man named Joe Basel, describing them as conservative student activists and filmmakers.

Filed under: Mary Landrieu • Senate
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. jerseylou

    If these guys had been Democrats during the Bush years they would have been kept in jail without bail.Why is every body treating these thugs as children they are grown men, ask fox news.

    January 29, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  2. Andy from NYC

    More GOP higinks.

    January 29, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  3. dude palin

    Put them all in prison...It's a crime...No spin please !

    January 29, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. Beverly in NC

    These Republican lunatics are NOT innocent. They committed felonies by breaking into the office of a Senator with the intention of tapping phones and other crimes. Anyone ever heard of Watergate?

    31 Republicans signed a petition praising the criminal acts of these extremists and said "more citizens should act like them". How great to know Republicans support criminals and criminal acts. Of course we have seen that there no line they won't cross to get what they want. No values, no integrity, no character.

    I think we should launch an investigation into these people and who they work for. It is probably the tea baggers. Did you know the tea bagger organization is a FOR PROFIT group? Their spending and tax records should be closely examined. How anti-American to create a FOR PROFIT group to spread lies, hate, and outrageous racism and implied violence towards President Obama. They should be put on an FBI watch group as an official hate group. There is very little difference in what they do or preach than the Klan or White Supremacist groups.

    I fear Republican "anything goes" tactics as domestic terrorists than I do any foreign group. Republicans are openly fine to destroy America if they can get any gain from it. Trying to bring down our President, our country, and our People is pure treason. How can anyone support the Party of NO who has called for our failure and who praise criminals?

    January 29, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  5. rs

    What is it about Republicans and telephones? They can't resist messin' with them.

    January 29, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. Stop the Nonsense

    O'keefe is dangerous. Anyone that thinks they can lie their way into a government facility, is a criminal.
    If he were a serious journalist, he would have handled this differently.
    I want to know if he plans to spend this much time and attention to the hundres of poplitical organization masquerading as churches.
    I would think if he felt being a pimp was appropriate to see how ACORN would respond to asking for assistance, I would think he would also want to know where the money goes and what is being preached in the name of God. Maybe he could dress as a homeless person this time. O rmore in character- use his pimp outfit again.

    January 29, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  7. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    "The fact remains that they perpetrated a false identity scheme on building security by posing as telephone workers and attempting to manipulate the phone in her office," the statement said, saying those involved could face up to 10 years in prison for the federal crime.

    If they even TOUCHED the telephone equipment, it seems disingenuous now to even TRY to make the case that they were not going to tamper with them.

    More to the point, I want the perpetrators (and the entire Republican party, whom they represent) to suffer the fullest consequences of the law, to the same degree that O'Keefe wanted for the Acorn knuckleheads ALL OF ACORN.

    OK, I only want the LandrieuGate Four to suffer those consequences, but I want them to get JAIL TIME FOR BREAKING THE LAW!

    January 29, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  8. Southern boy

    O'Keefe and friends knew exactly what they were doing. They're nothing but urban terrorists trying to pull off their shenanigans in a federal building. Operating under false pretenses and impersonating others whom they are not, they should be given plenty of time in a federal building, like 10 years.

    January 29, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  9. James B

    really, so being dressed as phone reps and trying to decieve the staff is ok ? lie, lie lie and then this way to the big house

    January 29, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. Dale

    Divert, distract, distort. Yep, they are Republicans all right.

    January 29, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  11. Greg, San Francisco, CA

    O'Keefe is a lying slime and deserves jail. If this were a Democratic "Investigative journalist" (don't make me laugh) perpetrating this stunt at a Republican Senator's office, there would be calls for a full federal investigation. Well documented that the ACORN tapes were doctored. 10 years Jimmy, 10 years.

    January 29, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  12. Steve

    "The public will judge whether reporters who can't get their facts straight have the credibility to question my integrity as a journalist," is zero.

    January 29, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  13. Ken

    "I decided to investigate why a representative of the people would be out of touch with her constituents for 'weeks' because her phones were broken,"

    Well, you could have just made a phone call to her instead of breaking and entering under a false ID.

    January 29, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  14. Jack Fl

    I question anyone's integrity who has a habit of going into an office under false pretenses. I also wonder who is funding these people?

    January 29, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  15. Pimply mini-fascists playing games

    Interesting that O'Keefe and these mini-fascists target one of the most conservative members of Congress for their fun and games. Sen. Landrieu is barely to the left of Joe Lieberman, yet these foolish clowns not only try to bug her phones, but also decide they're going to lie about it. You could not make up anything more Nixonian. At least go after somebody like Sen. Kerry or Sanders. Why her? Send these fools to jail for a year and let them learn their lesson. I'm sure their rich mommies and daddies will bail them out of this mess with expensive lawyers and bought off judges. Isn't it funny how republicans never take responsibility for anything they do? The party of No in more ways than we can count.

    January 29, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  16. feup with GOP in Houston

    Oh, I get it, he only looked like he was going to bug and wire tap, he just happened to have the tools along. What a loser.

    January 29, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  17. Leon

    Hey O'Keefe great job at ACORN but don't get carried away with the end justifies the means. I hope everything works out, but posing as telephone repairmen is a little differend than posing as a pimp and hooker

    January 29, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  18. phoenix86

    Landrieu is a paranoid idiot.

    January 29, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  19. Bob of Lompoc

    Sleazy Nixon – Halderman – Liddy – Ehrlichman 70s creepy behavior. These people who breached the LA Senator's office to tamper with phones are not youngsters caught in "youthful descretions". They are Republican criminals, just as those named above. Prosecute them and put them away.

    January 29, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  20. Dave

    Hey, O'Keefe -

    I'm an "investigative journalist" too. I've heard some things about you and your family and the people you support, and it is my self-appointed duty to find out more about them. There are no lines of decency that I need to regard or worry about crossing - I'm after the "truth," which is more important than your sense of privacy or decency.

    I'm going to disguise myself, present myself to you under false pretenses, secretly record the interactions, edit it, and then present it to the world heavily ladden with commentary and opinion, all the while patting myself on the back for having "guts" to "do what is right." I'm sure you'll champion my heroics!

    So sad you can't find something constructive for yourself to do...

    January 29, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  21. Mark

    So they pose as telephone repairmen, enter the office under false pretenses to see if the phones are out of order or jammed and weren't going to bug the phones? Does he really think people are that stupid?

    January 29, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  22. Mary Lou

    Isn't there a gag order on this goofball?

    January 29, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. Sam Smith

    "The people's office"? Nice try! A federal building remains just that, no matter what some "conservative" thinks or says. And if he would have wanted to gauge the reaction of the staff to complaints that the phones don't work he could have send his buddies in plain clothes. Dressing them up like he did showed that he PLANNED something.

    Maybe he got more out of it than he bargained for. According to what i heared somewhere the staff actually ASKED the two guys to take a look at the phones, no ID shown or asked for. Did these people ever get some kind of training? You have to take of your shoes to get on a plane but any guy walking in from the street is given access to a senators phone system! Are you kidding me?

    January 29, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  24. A disgusted former Republican

    Just lock the members of this Republican "Dirty Tricks" team. This reminds one of Watergate and the "plumbers".

    When you think Republicans cannot sink lower, they prove that they can. They should reach the bottom of the pit soon.

    January 29, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  25. Judy Miami

    Do they think they are s;pecial – break the law , pay the consequences. Thugs!

    January 29, 2010 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
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