When armed, masked men and people with long telescopic lenses showed up in Arizona’s ballot boxes last month to stalk voters, many public officials were outraged. Complaints about voter intimidation have been filed and sent to the Department of Justice.
But on the pro-Trump Internet, plans for this sort of thing have been in the pipeline for months.
The video, released in May, claims, with no evidence, that the drop boxes were the scene of massive universal election fraud in 2020, which was enough to steal the election from former President Donald Trump. The film, titled “2,000 mules,” tries to use cell phone geolocation data and surveillance video to claim that the so-called “mules” are stuffed with boxes of voting cards.
The claims in the film have been thoroughly exposed by election and cyberspace experts. Former US Attorney General William Barr referred to the video when he told the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack that he did not believe the elections had been stolen.
“I haven’t seen anything since the election to change my mind on this, including the movie 2000 Mules,” Barr said in his testimony.
But still the lie continues.
“If you’re talking to people who don’t believe the 2020 elections were fair, nine times out of 10, one of the first things they’ll talk about is” 2,000 mules, “said Garrett Archer, an ABC15 data analyst in Arizona, and previously Senior Election Analyst with Arizona Secretary of State.
The film uses selected surveillance footage and misused geolocation data to try to present a convincing case of widespread electoral fraud. Many focus on alleged fraud in Georgia, but an investigator from Georgia’s Republican-led secretary of state said in May that it tracked down several people who had been accused of being mules by a group associated with the film and found voting legally.
On Truth Social’s social media platform Trump, people inspired by the movie began staging drop-box viewing to make sure the alleged widespread scam, which they falsely believe took place in 2020, was not happening in 2022.
A group called “Clean Elections USA” emerged, organized by a woman named Melody Jennings, who said she was inspired by the “2000 Mules”.
Speaking to Steve Bannon on his radio show, Jennings said, “I was really inspired by the idea of ’2000 Mules,’ adding that when she saw the movie trailers, she decided to start organizing voting box viewing.
When drop boxes opened in Maricopa County, Arizona in October, Jennings wrote on Truth Social that volunteers were watching them. Later, when the news of men in tactical costumes spread at one of the boxes, she published again, writing: “I am not responsible for individual decisions. We are all unique and as adults we do a lot. Still a free country last time I checked. Whether I agree or disagree with individuals, how they emerge from their patriotism or obey the law, this is not my calling or yours. I don’t love it optically. ”
Jennings and her group Clean Elections USA have faced legal challenges trying to stop alleged intimidation of voters in coin boxes.
Last week, the Arizona Women’s League division filed a lawsuit in federal court targeting groups and individuals, including Jennings, who allegedly conspired to intimidate voters in Arizona through a coordinated effort known as “Operation Drop Box.”
In the lawsuit, the League argues that the behavior of the people who monitored the drop boxes in Yavapai and Maricopa counties is part of an “escalating scheme to intimidate and harass voters in Arizona” that undermines voters’ rights to “free vote”. against intimidation, threats or coercion ”.
The Justice Department released a brief statement on Monday telling the court that the lawsuit allegations “raise serious concerns about voter intimidation”, adding that “efforts to secure vigilance over the ballot” and “private campaigns targeting video voters” are likely to infringe the federal the Voting Rights Act.
On Tuesday, an Arizona federal judge imposed new restrictions on the US Clean Elections, blocking members from openly carrying weapons or a bulletproof vest within 250 feet of drop boxes and from talking or yelling at voters rejecting their ballots in the state. The group was also prohibited from photographing or filming voters in drop boxes or posting similar photos.
The order will expire in two weeks for the remainder of the election season. This happened just four days after a judge made another ruling on a related case brought by a retirement association and an organization for Hispanic voters, refusing to issue an injunction restricting drop box sightings.
Then, District Judge Michael Liburdi, who oversees the litigation, said there were legitimate concerns about the proceedings but not enough evidence stage to limit the rights under the First Amendment.
Some have had trouble with the way the movie calls the voters shown in the movie “mules.” Bill Gates, a Republican and chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Directors, said the use of the term “mules” was dehumanizing and could lead to violence.
The word mule is often associated with the transport of illegal drugs. “They dehumanized people with the term” mule, “said Gates,” these are people who are going to vote, exercising their right to vote in a democracy. ”
“This dehumanization that is taking place in our political discourse right now is very dangerous because it justifies the use of violence,” said Gates.
Gates himself was targeted for conspiracy theories and harassment for his role in causing lies in the wake of the 2020 election. Sharing the name with the founder of Microsoft, who is also the target of conspiracy theories, didn’t help in this case.
A lifelong Republican, Gates blames his fellow republic for promoting the lies.
“What is the reaction of the people? When literally hundreds of Republican elected officials began attacking the electoral system, they voted to revoke the certification of the 2020 election. Everyone thought it was a game, he said.
One of the most important groups in the myriad of supporters of electoral lies is True the Vote. This is the group that provided data for the movie 2000 Mules, which allegedly shows massive electoral fraud.
True the Vote, a conservative nonprofit, also provided data to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in 2021, but the agency concluded that there was “no other evidence” that would link the cell phone and geolocation data provided to the collection of votes.
“[F]or, for example, there are no testimonies or names of potential defendants for questioning, “we read in a letter from GBI director Vic Reynold of September 2021 to the Georgian Republican Party and” True the Vote “. “As it exists, the data, while interesting, does not rise to the level of probable cause of the crime,” the letter reads.
At a public meeting in May where several allegations of electoral fraud were discussed, Georgia state electoral commission member Edward Lindsey called on the people who were bringing the allegations to allow an investigation before the allegations were made public.
“I wish that people who just do exercise their right to vote and exercise their family’s right to vote so that no charges are brought against them,” he said.
Last month, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office requested a federal investigation into potential violations of the Tax Code by True the Vote.
Investigators at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Mark Brnovich, Reginald Grigsby, said in a letter that the group had “raised substantial sums of money claiming it had evidence of widespread electoral fraud,” but had not provided any evidence to its office despite publicly pointing out that he shared the information with law enforcement.
In a statement from True the Vote, he called the Arizona Attorney General’s letter “false” and said it “smells of retaliation for AG’s own decision to ignore suspicious electoral activity.”
Two True the Vote leaders were jailed this week after a federal judge in Texas found them to be contempt of court. Group chairman Catherine Engelbrecht and former board member Gregg Phillips were arrested on Monday after defying a court order revealing more details in a civil case involving one of their controversial attempts to uncover alleged fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Attorneys for Engelbrecht, Phillips and True the Vote referred CNN to the group’s statement stating that Engelbrecht and Phillips would be held in prison “until we agree to disclose the name of a person who, in our opinion, was not covered by the terms” of the judge’s warrant.