I’ve shared with this community the story of being set up by a high-ranking Trump administration official, Heather Swift, Spokesperson for then-Secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke and the Department of the Interior. In short, Ms. Swift purposefully hip-checked me and accused me of pushing her; I was arrested and sent to jail on the basis of her lies. (After I played the video of the incident at my trial that was entirely incompatible with Ms. Swift’s testimony, I was acquitted. The judge said I was “very credible” and that the government hadn’t come close to proving its case.) I’ll repost the detailed story of my arrest at the bottom of this diary (along with the video).
I’m writing about it again because The Billings Gazette, Ms. Swift’s home-state paper, just published an update to their report on my arrest, and it actually holds Ms. Swift accountable for her lies.
Look — the Billings Gazette is a conservative newspaper. And they disagree with my “emperor wears no clothes” style of aggressive reporting.
But they don’t like being lied to, they aren’t stupid, they care about journalism, and they obviously care about their own reputation.
And man, they didn’t pull any punches in holding Heather Swift accountable:
When I contacted Swift to ask for her side of the story, she would only talk to me off the record.
I wanted to know why the story she told seemed to be out of line with what the camera showed. What was I missing?
I also wondered why everyone else seemed to tell the same story? Did they all talk before filing the reports?
And why did the judge in the case say that the government had not even come close to meeting its burden of proof, especially after he saw the video.
"I spoke the truth and stand by it," Swift wrote to me. "I'm not comfortable discussing the situation further."
Quite frankly, the whole situation is disappointing.
I get the frustration of ambushing politicians and sticking cameras in their faces often. Then again, when you become a cabinet secretary, you have to expect the publicity, right?
Public officials, like Swift, who appears to still be employed at the Department of The Interior, should have to explain why their police reports seem to tell something different than the camera.
To me, this looks more like a set-up for a particularly brash and loud media tracker who is not liked.
Here’s the relevant part of original story:
So on March 15, 2018, Ryan Zinke, the famously corrupt Secretary of the Department of the Interior, had just wrapped his appearance before the House Natural Resources Committee. I introduced myself and tried to ask him a couple of questions.
I think this is a good place to let Republicans tell you what happened next. (Each of these statements was given under penalty of perjury to the United States Capitol Police.)
Here’s what Heather Swift, the supposed victim told police:
And here’s what Swift’s colleague at the Department of Interior (and witness against me at my trial), Amanda Castor, told the police (remember, this statement was given under penalty of perjury):
Also under penalty of perjury, this is what Tyler Dever said happened (I especially like the way he made himself into a sort of heroic badass, saving the Secretary from me, a “threat to public safety”):
The responding officer took Heather Swift’s complaint and I was charged with simple assault. Importantly, Ms. Swift pressed to have me jailed (rather than receiving an appearance ticket) so that she could secure a “stay-away” order. (Those things are very convenient for Republicans that don’t like intrepid reporters asking inconvenient questions).
So I was cuffed, arrested, and sent to jail. I begged and begged the police to look at the video I captured, explaining to them that this was a political hit and that the video would prove each of the Republican witnesses was lying in order to smear me and the organization I worked for. The police refused. They seized my camera (and its video), and I spent the rest of the day and overnight in a small shared cell. No blankets or pillows were provided and the two bunk beds were literally sheet-metal trays fastened to the wall. There were no mattresses. Entertainment consisted of a fellow prisoner in the cell across from mine standing and fondling his penis, which was unnaturally large. OK, so that wasn’t entertainment at all, but rather really drove home how our country deals with its mentally ill population.
Anyway, while I was in jail, Ms. Swift passed the time by reaching out to her friends at the DailyCaller to describe her terrifying experience (no fucking link for them):
Heather Swift, press secretary Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, was leaving a meeting with the House Committee on Natural Resources when she was allegedly assaulted by an American Bridge staffer, who reportedly pushed Swift violently while lunging after her boss.
According to the official, Swift engaged the liberal operative verbally, attempting to protect her boss, but the American Bridge staffer pushed back harder.
Swift told The Daily Caller in an exclusive statement that the American Bridge staffer was much bigger than her and acted like a “lunatic.”
First of all I want to thank the Capitol Police for their quick action and professionalism.
It happened so fast. It was terrifying and I still can’t believe it happened. He is a big guy. He came up behind me fast, aggressive and very physical. Who knows what this lunatic was thinking?
Since joining the Trump Administration I’ve received harassing and threatening tweets, emails, phone calls, and letters (to include death threats) but being physically targeted and assaulted brings it to another level. This violent action only strengthens my desire to serve my president and my country.
Democrats claim to support women but they allow their operatives to assault women. They need to immediately denounce this type of violent behavior.
Interior communications director Laura Rigas says she is “extremely irate” that a female member of the Department of the Interior “was physically assaulted today by a Democrat staffer from the PAC American Bridge.”
Rigas’ statement continued:
“These politically motivated, personal, written, verbal, and now physical attacks against Trump administration officials must stop. Violent physical attacks have no place in politics, at work, or in our society. The perpetrator has been arrested and charged, and we thank the Capitol Police for their quick action.”
The press reports began with DailyCaller, but didn’t end there. Breitbart kicked it up a notch, reporting that I pushed Swift to the ground. I wonder where they got that from? I wonder if it could have been Ms. Swift?
U.S. Capitol Police arrested a man on Thursday for allegedly assaulting a communications team member from the Department of the Interior following a budget hearing on Capitol Hill where DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke was testifying.
Following the House Committee on Natural Resources hearing, the man, who identified himself as a reporter with American Bridge 21st Century, reportedly pushed DOI Press Secretary Heather Swift to the ground in pursuit of Zinke.
Swift told Breitbart News she is grateful to law enforcement and shocked by the incident.
And from there, again, while I remained jailed (I didn’t get out until the next day at 4 PM), the story moved to Washington Post, CNN and multitudes of additional publications. Several editorials were written decrying the violence seeping into politics, using the accusations against me as Exhibit #1. Sean Spicer and every GOP communications staffer in DC retweeted links to articles.
(You know how these things work, right? There are email lists of communications professionals and other “influencers” on both sides of the aisle. Many times, when you see certain stories “trend” or “go viral”, it’s because links were circulated on these email lists made up of professionals whose job it is to cultivate and grow their followers.)
Meanwhile, American Bridge had no idea what to think. After all, I was hired for my reputation as and “edgy” reporter willing to ask the questions Republicans didn’t want to answer and to keep calling them out plainly when they lied. I cannot emphasize enough how unique that is in Washington DC. It’s simply not done and people aren’t used to seeing it. And without the video, there was no way I could show my bosses what actually happened.
I was put on paid leave and Bridge hired a top-flight lawyer to defend me in the criminal case. Eventually the news-cycle passed me by, which was a very good thing as far as American Bridge was concerned. They, totally understandably did not want to be in the news for one of their staffers assaulting a female Republican staffer, especially as #MeToo and #TimesUp and #BelieveWomen reached critical mass. So I was ordered not to talk about the incident.
Eventually we got the video back from the police. Would you like to see it? Let me apologize in advance for how banal and unexciting it is, but here you go:
So this is what really happened:
I waited for the hearing to conclude, then approached Secretary Zinke. Two days earlier he had given Senate testimony and I caught him in the hallway as he left and asked him to explain how he still had a job after spending tens of thousands of dollars on a pair of doors for his office and helicopter rides around the Bears Ears Monument. His staff freaked out, Capitol Police intervened, and I was never able to get an answer from him. But he answered similar question in his House appearance, and they sounded pretty satisfactory to me. So I shook his hand and apologized for my earlier questions. But I had additional questions. Zinke turned to go, and I followed step-wise, the way one does when moving through a crowd in a small space. Heather Swift intercepted me and asked who I was with. I answered honestly, and she sneered that I wasn’t real media. Whatever. I realized Zinke was moving into the Committee space and if I was going to have a chance to ask my questions, I needed to get out to the hallway elevators. As I turned toward the public exit, Swift stepped aggressively from my right to my left, and swung her hip into me. Simultaneously, I said something like, “You don’t push me” while she said something like “Stop pushing”. I don’t think she realized I was filming the entire time, and thank God I was. Because the video shows her moving from my right to my left while holding a coffee and a phone in the same hand. The video is smooth — it’s pretty compelling evidence that I didn’t “come up behind her fast” like a “lunatic”, or even touch her at all. And it certainly demonstrates that not only was I not “shoving people” or “barrelling” anyone over, but I wasn’t even calling out questions to Ryan Zinke or behaving in any way that could be described as aberrant or alarming at all.
Anyway, needless to say, this video was put before the judge at court. Swift and Castor testilied against me, and each were unable to explain their witness statements vs. the video.
On the other hand, I had no trouble at all explaining their witness statements. They wanted to send this very effective reporter to jail so they could smear me and my organization. And their plan worked to perfection.
It turns out that when you are arrested for assaulting the spokesperson for the Department of Interior, a lot of stories are written.
When you are acquitted — even when the judge says he finds you “very credible” and Swift not at all credible — well… Only one story was written. In what amounts to a niche journal. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate E&E News beyond words, but it sure would have been nice if Washington Post or CNN decided to follow up.