The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The House’s fringe right thinks ‘2000 Mules’ should be taken seriously

It should not be.

Dinesh D'Souza speaks at the American Freedom Tour in Memphis on June 18. (Karen Pulfer Focht/Reuters)
6 min

During Tuesday’s House select committee hearing focused on Jan. 6, 2021, committee member Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) described a meeting at the White House a few days before the riot at the Capitol. A number of members of Congress attended the meeting, including Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). The point of the meeting, Murphy said, was to brief allies on the plan to have Vice President Mike Pence block submitted slates of electors at the joint session of Congress that day.

This was not the only news involving Biggs and Greene that emerged Tuesday. The two members of the right-most wing of the House Republican caucus reinforced their fealty to Trump’s effort to retain power by signing a letter demanding an investigation into purported fraud in the 2020 election.

But not just any purported fraud. According to a copy of the letter obtained by Townhall, Biggs, Greene and nine of their colleagues want an investigation into “potential illegal activities ‘revealed in the documentary film ‘2000 Mules.’ ”


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To be clear, there are no potential illegal activities revealed in conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza’s film. It is centered around the idea that thousands of people were paid to submit ballots in drop boxes in the 2020 election — the titular “mules,” described using a term meant to evoke drug smuggling — but completely fails to provide any evidence to that end. It certainly creates the impression that such activity occurred, which is the point, but that’s by no means the same thing.

I’ve explored that lack of evidence previously, but given the letter that Biggs reportedly took the lead in distributing, it’s worth a recap.

D’Souza, using analysis from a guy named Gregg Phillips, claims that geolocation data place those thousands of people at multiple ballot drop boxes where they deposited several ballots each time. Except that they don’t show any such data or any such movement. At one point, they show a map that purportedly tracks a “mule” in Atlanta — a map that I noted was obviously false and that Phillips said was “not literal.” What’s more, the data couldn’t show drop-box visits, both since it was not precise enough (being apparently based on cell-tower pings and not GPS, among other problems) and because there’s no indication that Phillips even knew where at drop-box sites the boxes were located.

The film relies heavily on surveillance video from drop-box sites to suggest that various actors are engaged in shuttling ballots around, but, critically, zero people are shown depositing ballots at more than one drop box. Only a handful of people are shown depositing more than one ballot, something that isn’t necessarily illegal. (One snippet in the movie shows a man who deposited ballots on behalf of his family, perfectly legally.) At no point is there even an allegation that any of those shown depositing ballots went to X number of other locations to deposit Y additional ballots. It’s all just credited to Phillips’s analysis, as D’Souza explained in an interview.

That’s a problem because Phillips is fundamentally noncredible. In 2016, he announced publicly that he had discovered millions of votes cast illegally, potentially meaning Donald Trump won the popular vote. Trump hastily embraced the claim, of course — but Phillips never provided one iota of evidence … since no such evidence existed. In the film, D’Souza and Phillips purport to show how useful their geolocation data was by implying they helped crack a cold-case murder. But that murder wasn’t a cold case, and it was solved before Phillips’s purported analysis was completed.

The reason for the film is obvious. There is a huge demand for “proof” that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. D’Souza, adept at understanding the right-wing economy, created something to meet that demand. The most obvious tell is the segment of “2000 Mules” that attempts to tally the total number of ballots submitted by the “mules” — ballots, mind you, that wouldn’t even necessarily be invalid even if everything D’Souza claims is true. He takes estimates of mules per state and estimates of average drop-box visits and an estimate of the average number of ballots submitted to figure that hundreds of thousands of votes were cast in this way. Beyond this all, once again, relying on Phillips’s behind-the-scenes magic, consider just the idea that Phillips could know the average number of ballots deposited. He couldn’t! It’s impossible! But D’Souza needed a big number to meet his demand and snooker those who wanted or found it useful to believe his claims.

A group that includes Biggs and Greene, among others.

“The film exposes potentially widespread illegal activities related to the 2020 election by using geolocation information to identify thousands of individuals who delivered thousands of illegally harvested ballots to drop boxes in five states,” their letter falsely asserts. “Collecting and delivering ballots in this manner is a violation of the law in the locations where the activities occurred.” This, too, isn’t true: In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, collecting ballots was not illegal in 2020.

Members of Congress should theoretically know better than to treat “2000 Mules” seriously. Greene has an established track record of credulity on incredible claims, of course, but one would hope that any objective observer should see through what D’Souza offers.

But of course, it’s useful to elevate “2000 Mules” as credible as the House select committee continues to present evidence of how Trump and his allies worked to overturn the election. The most common defense of the former president is that he truly believed the election to have been stolen; by treating things like D’Souza’s movie as credible, the idea that Trump was warranted in that belief is bolstered.

This suggests that Biggs’s letter is offered in bad faith. That he is advocating an investigation simply as a counterweight to reality. That’s probably the case.

After all, consider another revelation from the House select committee last month. On Dec. 27, less than a week after those Republican legislators met with Trump in the White House, there was a different meeting during which acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue recorded telling comments from the president.

The acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, told Trump that the Justice Department wouldn’t overturn election results.

It didn’t have to, Trump replied, according to Donoghue’s notes. Then he added: “just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen.”

The “R. Congressmen” are still at it.