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In Jan. 6 hearing, former AG Barr discredits ‘2,000 Mules’ voter fraud film

PolitiFact | A documentary alleged massive voter fraud in the 2020 election. Barr said the documentary does not prove its claims.
In this Oct. 15, 2020, file photo, then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks during a roundtable discussion in St. Louis.
In this Oct. 15, 2020, file photo, then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks during a roundtable discussion in St. Louis. [ JEFF ROBERSON | AP ]
Published Jun. 16

Former Attorney General William Barr denigrated evidence of voter fraud presented in the documentary “2000 Mules” as “singularly unimpressive” during his interview with House committee investigators looking into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

The film from right-wing filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza tried to make the case that massive fraud took place in the 2020 presidential election. Specifically, it argued that 2,000 people collected 400,000 illegal votes and delivered them to vote drop-boxes in key states that went for Joe Biden.

As Barr detailed in the second House Jan. 6 hearing this month, D’Souza’s documentary does not prove its claims.

Former President Donald Trump embraced many conspiracy theories to explain his election loss — voting machines in Venezuela, a suitcase of ballots smuggled in Georgia — that were debunked almost as quickly as he made them. The claims in “2000 Mules” are relatively fresh since the film debuted in theaters in May 2022, with clips still spreading across social media.

As the hearing opened, vice chairperson Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., quoted a New York Post editorial — typically a conservative newspaper — that said Trump “clings to more fantastical theories, such as Dinesh D’Souza’s debunked ‘2,000 Mules,’ even as recounts in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin confirm Trump lost.”

The committee then played video of Barr disparaging the movie and taking aim at the film’s reliance on cell phone data.

Related: Jan. 6 hearings: What we've learned and what's next

Research by Texas-based True the Vote, a national organization that has spread misinformation about voting in the past, claimed to show that certain people repeatedly passed by certain drop boxes. These repeat visits, they argued, revealed a set of delivery runs.

Barr said the data revealed nothing at all.

“If you take 2 million cell phones and figure out where they are physically in a big city like Atlanta or wherever, just by definition, you will find many hundreds of them have passed by and spent time in the vicinity of these boxes,” Barr said.

Drop boxes are placed in busy places to make voting convenient. Inevitably, many people will pass by drop boxes several times. Barr said one firm told him that a single one of its trucks would account for six cell phone signals near one drop box or another.

This wasn’t just Barr’s take. State officials said cell phone data showing 279 cellphones tracked multiple times within 100 feet of an absentee drop box was not evidence of a crime, Georgia Public Radio reported.

The documentary also used video footage to show the people delivering ballots to drop boxes. Barr said the photographic evidence was “lacking.”

“It didn’t establish widespread illegal harvesting,” Barr said.

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In 31 states, someone other than the voter — often a family member or designated person — is allowed to return a completed ballot on behalf of another voter, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some states only allow the voter to return the ballot, while others do not explicitly specify who may or may not return a ballot on behalf of a voter.

Barr said that without evidence that the vote was coerced, or filled out by someone other than the voter, courts have no reason to discard a ballot as illegal.

If there had been a scheme employing people to collect ballots, it would likely have come to light by now, Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist, told PolitiFact in May.

“There would be a paper trail and social media trail, and there would be some witnesses out there to verify this was going on,” McDonald said.

Staff writer Grace Abels contributed research.

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