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Dinesh D’Souza

Youtube Screenshot

Right-wing pundit, conspiracy theorist, and liar Dinesh D’Souza is releasing a new movie, 2000 Mules, based on false claims about the 2020 election. The movie was made in partnership with conservative media giant Salem Media Group and True the Vote, a Texas-based group that has been pushing conspiracy theories around election fraud and dodging claims of intimidating voters since at least 2012.

D’Souza and True the Vote have promoted the film by claiming it uncovers an army of unidentifiable operatives secretly packing ballot boxes in swing states during the 2020 election. They allege to have proved this activity through geolocation evidence that shows, as The Washington Post put it, “some people may have been near drop-box locations on a given day.” The movie also claims to show individuals dropping more than one ballot into ballot boxes, a common occurrence in 2020 as collecting and submitting multiple people’s ballots was legal in some form in all the states discussed in 2000 Mules.

The claims made in the trailer have been debunked by experts. The Washington Post explained how the geolocation data used by True the Vote has no way to be verified as geofencing data typically only pinpoint a person within approximately 30 feet. The Post article went on to suggest the group likely cherry-picked data based on its predetermined theory.

A fact check by the Associated Press also showed that True the Vote’s research was based on “faulty assumptions, anonymous accounts and improper analysis of cellphone location data, which is not precise enough to confirm that somebody deposited a ballot into a drop box, according to experts.” And beyond the questionable data in this instance, multiple reviews conducted in the past two years have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud occurring during the 2020 election.

High-profile right-wing influencers and politicians have latched onto this farcical theory and have heavily promoted 2000 Mules through social media channels and on radio shows and podcasts. Former President Donald Trump released the movie’s trailer at his April 23 rally in Ohio and issued a statement praising D’Souza’s work and claiming the movie “proves the 2020 Election was Rigged and Stolen.”

Dinesh D’Souza is known for his books and movies, primarily based on conspiracy theories and falsehoods. He pleaded guilty to violating campaign laws in 2014 and was pardoned by Trump in 2018. He has previously released five right-wing conspiracy-based movies. The latest, Trump Card, was released in 2020 and included “racist dog whistles, low-production-value historical re-enactments, and interviews with a dizzying, dubious array of subjects,” according to the AV Club.

True the Vote was founded in 2009 by Catherine Engelbrecht, who won the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011 for her work with the group. More recently, True the Vote was sued by a high-profile donor, who had donated $2.5 million to the group’s election fraud investigation, saying the group did not spend the money as it said it would. Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips, who has falsely claimed to have evidence of voter fraud in the 2016 election, have taken credit for the research behind the film and have presented their “findings” at a hearing by Wisconsin’s Campaigns and Elections Committee and in other public interviews.

D’Souza secured some right-wing pundits like former Trump adviser and current Newsmax host Sebastian Gorka, right-wing commentator Charlie Kirk, and talk show host Dennis Prager to appear in 2000 Mules. All three of them have shows hosted by Salem Media Group.

Here are some examples of right-wing media figures – including some of those who appear in the trailer – who have promoted the movie through their own channels:

  • Charlie Kirk partnered with D’Souza to provide exclusive showings and had D’Souza on The Charlie Kirk Show to promote the movie.
  • Sebastian Gorka aired the trailer during his show, The Gorka Reality Check, on Newsmax.
  • Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, who also appears in 2000 Mules and also has a show hosted by Salem Media Group, tweeted his support for D’Souza’s project by sharing WND’s article on the movie titled “Miranda Devine: 'The most compelling evidence' of 2020 vote fraud.”
  • Miranda Devine wrote a column in the New York Post covering the movie and appeared on Fox News’ Fox & Friends where she pushed the false “mules” conspiracy theory and pointed to D’Souza’s movie as evidence.
  • Right-wing site Breitbart published an article covering the release of the movie’s trailer. The piece was titled “Trump Reveals Trailer of Explosive ‘2000 Mules’ Ballot Harvesting Documentary at Ohio Rally.”
  • The Gateway Pundit published an article promoting the release of the movie titled “Dinesh D’Souza Releases Movie Poster for ‘2000 Mules’ on 2020 Election Fraud — Premiere Dates Announced — May 2 thru May 7.” The site later suggested the leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was timed to suppress D'Souza's film.
  • Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield called D’Souza’s trailer a “bombshell” during the January 31 edition of his show Stinchfield.
  • OAN has heavily promoted the film, and one host even claims to be traveling to Mar-a-Lago for its premiere.
  • Buck Sexton invited D’Souza to promote the film on his show Hold the Line.
  • QAnon-affiliated Matrixxx Groove Show had D’Souza on as a guest to promote the movie.
  • Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne, who has heavy ties to QAnon shows and influencers, has promoted the film on his Telegram channel.

On April 30, D’Souza shared a video to his YouTube channel outlining the many ways people can watch 2000 Mules, including in over 300 theaters across the U.S. and a virtual premiere following which the movie will be hosted on a Rumble-owned site. D’Souza went on to claim:

We're releasing this movie in a very novel way because we're in an age of censorship and so the normal places that I put movies, which is you find them in Apple iTunes and Amazon Prime -- no, this movie is not going to be available in those ways.

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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