Watch | An "acid attack" planned for Trump's inauguration? Here's the story surrounding conservative provocateur James O'Keefe and the anti-Trump group Disrupt J20.
A prank, plot, or ruse?
Video shot by a conservative undercover operative and released on Monday appears to have captured liberal protestors discussing ways to disrupt a Donald Trump inaugural event by releasing noxious butyric acid and triggering smoke detectors and sprinklers.
But sorting out whether the video was evidence of a terrorist plot, a stink bomb prank, or just a ruse may fall on the eye of the beholder. Or at least their political leanings.
Stink bomb plot?
Conservative activist James O’Keefe, whose controversial group Project Veritas captured the video and released it Monday, said his footage provides evidence of a plot that violates the District of Columbia terrorism laws, so he reported it to federal authorities.
And several media outlets wrote stories with headlines about a potential Inauguration Day acid attack.
Big names like the Daily Mail, Nancy Grace, and Laura Ingraham shared headlines on Facebook claiming an "acid attack" plot.
Butyric acid at DeploraBall
In the video, activists affiliated with the group #DisruptJ20 talk about deploying butyric acid, a chemical commonly associated with the smell of rotten butter, at the DeploraBall, a high-profile inauguration party for Trump supporters in Washington, D.C.
“They’re the ones articulating how they’re going to harm people and break multiple felonies,” O’Keefe told Circa in an interview.
A 'false flag'
But the liberal, anti-fascism group #DisruptJ20 whose members were captured on the tape said they knew about O’Keefe’s operative and staged a ruse, or “false flag”, in which its members pretended to plot an attack they never really planned to carry out.
Instead, the activists say they are just planning good-old fashioned protests, without the acid or the fire sprinklers.
#DisruptJ20 denies plot
After the video release Monday, #DisruptJ20 released a statement saying they had never plotted a stink bomb.
"False plans were discussed with [Project Veritas]," the group said. "They spoke of false plans in order to protect themselves, and did not discuss any real intentions."
Between us and O'Keefe, only one of us has a record for criminally misleading the public to smear strangers, and it isn't us— ✊ Resist This✊ (@ResistsThis) January 16, 2017
The group also attacked Project Veritas on Twitter.
O'Keefe caught infiltrating before
If #DisruptJ20 was aware it was being infiltrated by O'Keefe's group, it wouldn't be the first time.
Last week, a Project Veritas reporter was caught offering money to a liberal organization to see if they would stage a disruption of the Trump inauguration.
O'Keefe told Circa he doesn't believe DisruptJ20's explanation. "They trusted my guy," he said.
"Tell it to the FBI," O'Keefe added, claiming he had brought the video to federal law enforcement authorities, and possessed more material on the group. "This whole excuse of, 'We were just playing along,' is not going to work.”
Security on alert
Federal officials responsible for ensuring security at Friday’s inauguration said they were unaware of any specific concerns about a butyric acid attack plot.
But they also said they are prepared for just about anything as Trump’s inauguration re-stokes continuing passions on both sides of the political aisle still lingering from a tumultuous election.
Is a stinkbomb an acid attack?
The term "acid attack" could immediately bring to mind the idea that someone is planning to throw corrosive acid on someone.
That is not quite what a butyric acid stink bomb is -- but to be sure, butyric acid is corrosive, and can be harmful if too much is inhaled. A butyric acid release on an abortion clinic in 1998 caused minor injuries.
A DeploraBall organizer said he plans to bring legal action against #DisruptJ20.