MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Department of Justice has concluded that secretly recorded videos of a Democratic activist bragging about deploying troublemakers at Donald Trump presidential campaign rallies show no evidence that laws were broken.
Conservative activist James O'Keefe and his investigative film group, Project Veritas, released secretly recorded and selectively edited video footage in October of Wisconsin-based liberal operative Scott Foval boasting about connections to the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton's campaign. Foval appears to say he had arranged for people, including some who are mentally ill, to incite violence at Trump rallies.
He also appears to say hired agitators should have their medical and legal bills covered and it would be easier to get away with voter fraud if out-of-state residents drive to the polls in cars rather than organizers busing them in.
Wisconsin's Republican attorney general, Brad Schimel, said shortly after the videos were released that he was concerned they suggest election and voter fraud.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained a Jan. 31 DOJ memo discussing the videos through an open records request. In the memo, Assistant Attorney General Roy Korte concludes the statements in the videos are vague and lack context. Supplemental videos the DOJ obtained are also vague and do nothing to clear up the ambiguous nature of the original recordings, Korte said.
"Based on all the available facts I do not believe there is any basis to conclude that the videos demonstrate or suggest violations of Wisconsin law," Korte wrote.
O'Keefe was convicted in 2010 as part of a scheme to illegally make recordings at the office of then-Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat. Foval said in October that O'Keefe's associates set him up.
Project Veritas spokesman Stephen Gordon said in an email Tuesday that to the group, Foval's remarks appear to be violations of the law and that Schimel's decision not to move forward is disappointing.
"We provided ample evidence of electoral irregularities on a silver platter to the Wisconsin AG's office," Gordon wrote. "As we've experienced in the past, some investigative bodies prefer to shoot the messenger rather than to do their job."
Scot Ross, executive director of liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, questioned why Schimel sat on a memo showing his fears of election fraud were false for three months.
"This is beyond partisan politics," Ross wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "This is abuse of power by Schimel."
DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said in an email that Schimel takes voter fraud allegations seriously, but that these allegations didn't justify further investigation or charges.
"It is not unusual for a prosecutor to receive allegations, investigate the allegations, and then not to bring charges or open a wider investigation," he said.
Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1