Great new reporting from Andy Kroll:
The disinformation operation was christened “Project Clintonson.” It brought together two notorious figures in Republican political circles, Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Trump adviser Roger Stone. Their objective couldn’t have been more explicit.
“We do not need to make major gains among African American voters,” said a 13-page proposal for Project Clintonson that Prince sent to unnamed donors a week before Election Day 2016. “We merely need to dampen turn out [sic] and make it difficult for the Black Democratic elected officials in Hillary’s pocket to turn out Black voters at Obama-like levels. A shift of a few points in the right places can swing this election.”
The aim of Project Clintonson was to spotlight a young black man named Danney Williams, who claims that he is Bill Clinton’s son, and to cast Hillary Clinton as the “villain of this drama.” The pitch for Project Clintonson says that Williams was “definitively the abandoned son” of Bill Clinton and that “African American voters would be incensed to learn that it was Hillary who demanded that Bill abandon his only son.”
There is no evidence to back up the claims about Danney Williams and the Clintons, but proving that wasn’t the point. The goal of this project was to weaponize a conspiracy theory about a supposed illegitimate son of Bill Clinton as a way to disgust black Americans and dissuade them from voting in the 2016 election, documents obtained by Rolling Stone indicate.
A key piece of Trump’s strategy four years ago — and again this November — is a constant barrage of lies, disinformation, and hyperbolic rhetoric to drown out the news and overwhelm the average voter, to “flood the zone with shit,” as former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon put it.
The new documents obtained by Rolling Stone include an emailed fundraising plea from Prince to prospective donors and the 13-page proposal laying out the objectives and multimillion-dollar budget for Project Clintonson, which would be routed through a shadowy nonprofit group tied to Roger Stone called the Committee for American Sovereignty Education Fund.
Internal documents, tax records, and interviews about Stone and Prince’s efforts with Project Clintonson illustrate how a lax campaign-finance system and an overtly racist voter-suppression effort created the perfect opportunity to do just what Bannon said. They show the Trump operation’s real aims when it came to black voters, the lengths they would go to dissuade black voters, and the very real possibility that similar operations are underway in 2020.