The latest world-shaking story of outrageous election tampering from serial fake news manufacturer James O'Keefe just keeps getting stupider. Last week, O'Keefe's Project Veritas (Latin for Not so truthy really) sparked predictable wingnut outrage with its tale of Pennsylvania postal worker Richard Hopkins, who claimed he had heard the postmaster of Erie, Pennsylvania, discussing a scheme to backdate the postmarks on absentee ballots put in the mail after Election Day, so they could still be counted. Why, Hopkins had even signed a sworn affidavit detailing the plot! Sen Lindsey Graham even cited the incident in a letter to the Justice Department calling for an investigation into Joe Biden stealing the election.

As we noted the other day, the story fell apart when investigators from the Postal Service's Office of Inspector General interviewed Hopkins and he recanted the story in a second sworn affidavit. But Project Veritas stuck to its guns and tweeted an interview in which Hopkins told O'Keefe he'd only recanted under pressure from investigators, and that he felt like he "just got played" in the interview. On Wednesday, Project Verdigris posted a two-hour recording Hopkins made while he was being interviewed by postal inspectors, claiming it proved he'd been coerced into changing his statement, shame on those brutal manipulative cops.

Just never mind the stuff Hopkins actually does say in the interview, like admitting he had only overheard parts of the conversation and then just assumed it was about ballot tampering. And that he hadn't actually heard the postmaster say anything about backdating ballots. Also that Project Veritas had written up the affidavit for him, as is normal when one has a blockbuster first-person allegation of election fraud.

The Washington Post listened to the full interview so you don't have to, and notes that when the agent asked Hopkins if he still wanted to stand by his sworn statement that he'd heard the postmaster and a supervisor discussing "backdating ballots" after Election Day, Hopkins replied, "At this point? No."


As the Post points out, the video documents that the agents "repeatedly reminded Hopkins that his cooperation was voluntary," and Hopkins signed a form saying he was participating of his own volition. Asked if he had a lawyer, Hopkins said Project Veritas had a lawyer "on retention" in case he needed to be called to testify in court; the agent told Hopkins that if he had his own lawyer, then he ought to "make whatever efforts possible to have that person here."

In the recording, Hopkins said Project Veritas had written the affidavit, and that he regretted signing it because it portrayed him saying he'd directly witnessed several things he had actually just made assumptions about.

He said he was not fully aware of its contents because he was in "so much shock I wasn't paying that much attention to what they were telling me."

A spokesman for the group said in a statement emailed to The Post that the "affidavit was drafted with Mr. Hopkins' input and requested revisions."

In that initial affidavit, Hopkins said that on November 5, he'd heard the postmaster and a supervisor discussing how they had "back-dated the postmark on all but one of the ballots collected on November 4, 2020, to make it appear as though the ballots had been collected on November 3," so they could be counted. But nah:

In the interview with federal agents, though, Hopkins said he overheard only a few portions of a conversation between the postmaster and another worker. The two were standing at a distance that made it difficult to hear the full conversation, but Hopkins said he could make out three phrases: "ballots on the 4th," "all for the 3rd," and "one postmarked on the 4th."

"My mind probably added the rest," he told the investigators, before acknowledging that he never heard anyone use the word "backdate."

Hopkins agreed to sign a revised affidavit that replaced much of what had originally been presented as certainty with phrasing saying the statement was based on his "assumptions" or "impressions."

Hopkins doesn't come off as the sharpest knife on the Christmas tree, either:

Hopkins, a self-described libertarian who said he voted for President Trump, explained, in part, why he was suspicious of his bosses. He said postal workers were instructed to continue to pick up ballots mailed after Election Day, a practice that is routine and does not mean that those ballots would be deemed valid by election officials.

"It's so weird that we're picking up ballots because, at this point [after Election Day], they're no longer valid," he told investigators.

Dude. You're a postal carrier. You don't decide whether ballots are valid, you deliver the goddamn mail and leave the election to the election people, who would have rejected any ballots mailed late. (As it happens, Pennsylvania set aside all ballots postmarked by November 3 but which arrived after Election Day, so they weren't included in Joe Biden's victory margin anyway.)

Also this, which is about equal parts pathetic and hilarious; emphasis added by Yr Wonkette.

Hopkins told investigators that he collected one ballot on his route on Nov. 5, and secretly wrote the date on the back of it in case a supervisor backdated the appropriate postmark. He said he had no direct knowledge of any directive to backdate ballots, nor did he witness anyone manipulate a ballot.

Hopkins insisted that he made the allegations in good faith because he believed a federal investigation into voter fraud was warranted.

One of these days there's going to be a hell of a history dissertation written on how rightwing narratives about 'voter fraud' led wingnuts around the country to fuck around with elections for the sake of doing their own Encyclopedia Brown "investigations."

I should also point out that I wasn't able to force myself to listen to the entire recording, but the parts I did listen to don't exactly vindicate Project Venividivici's portrait of a brave truth-teller browbeaten into submission. The agent initially uses a lot of fairly standard cop interview techniques, like pretending he's just looking out for Hopkins's best interests and being sort of smarmily "friendly." But we wouldn't call the interview "coercive" — this wasn't the sort of hours-long ordeal leading to a false confession that anyone's ever going to make a podcast about.

It's also not a horrifying tale of sinister ballot fraud. To borrow a phrase from a real conspiracy, this is not a very bright guy, and things got out of hand.

[Daily Beast / Project Veritas on Youtube / WaPo]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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