- Richard Hopkins, a postal worker in Erie, Pennsylvania told Project Veritas last week that he overheard his supervisors talking about backdating mail-in ballots postmarked after Election Day so they could be counted.
- President Trump and his allies, who have been falsely claiming there was voter fraud in the election, quickly spread the account and included it as evidence in lawsuits and other policy changes.
- But on Tuesday, officials said Hopkins had recanted his statements in a sworn affidavit while speaking to federal investigators.
- Shortly after, Project Veritas posted another video of Hopkins claiming he had not recanted his initial testimony.
- If true, Hopkin’s allegations would not impact the outcome of the election. Officials have said 129 ballots in Erie County arrived after Election Day, and only two were processed in the facility Hopkins worked at.
Erie Post Office Allegations
The Postal Service’s inspector general told Congress on Tuesday that a postal worker in Erie, Pennsylvania who made unverified claims about ballot corruption had recanted his initial allegations in a sworn affidavit.
The original claim was first made in a video posted by Project Veritas, a far-right organization that has been the subject of numerous lawsuits accusing it of engaging in deceptive reporting tactics and coordinated election disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining the voting process.
In the video, the postal worker, who has since been identified as Richard Hopkins, claimed he overheard his supervisor and Erie Postmaster Robert Weisenbach talking about backdating ballots that were postmarked after Election Day so they would appear as though they had been received on time and thus could be legally counted.
Pennsylvania allowed mail-in ballots that arrived up to three days after the election to be counted as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3.
Notably, Hopkins was not named in the video, where his face was blurred and his voice was distorted. After the story started gaining traction, he allowed his name to be attached to the claims, and Project Veritas revealed his identity.
Election officials in Erie county denied the allegations. Erie Postmaster Weisenbach said in a statement that claims made both against himself the Erie Post Office were “100% false” and were “made by an employee that was recently disciplined multiple times.”
But President Donald Trump and his allies who have been claiming, often without evidence, that there was widespread fraud in this year’s election immediately jumped on the story, arguing that his claims were credible because he had given his account in a sworn affidavit.
On Saturday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Sc.), cited the original affidavit — which he also gave to the media —in a letter he sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ) calling for a federal investigation into the matter.
DOJ official said that the claim was one of the cases that Attorney General Bill Barr referenced in an unprecedented memo he issued Monday, authorizing and encouraging federal prosecutors to open investigations into credible allegations of voter fraud and irregularities before election results were certified.
The shocking move represented a reversal of a long-standing policy that prevented the department from launching any election-related investigations before all results were confirmed.
Trump’s campaign also mentioned Hopkins’ testimony in a new federal lawsuit filed against election officials in Pennsylvania on Monday as part of an attempt to prevent them from certifying the states’ election results.
Recanting Reports and New Videos
However, on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Hopkins had told investigators from the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, which had been officially investigating his claims, that the initial allegations he had made about the backdated ballots were not true and that he had signed another affidavit officially recanting his claims.
The House Oversight Committee confirmed The Post’s report in a series of tweets.
“Erie, Pa. #USPS whistleblower completely RECANTED his allegations of a supervisor tampering with mail-in ballots after being questioned by investigators, according to [the Inspector General],” the committee wrote.
“#USPS IG investigators informed Committee staff today that they interviewed Hopkins on Friday, but that Hopkins RECANTED HIS ALLEGATIONS yesterday and did not explain why he signed a false affidavit,” it added.
Shortly after, Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe posted another video of Hopkins denying that he had gone back on his story.
“I’m here to say I did not recant my statements. That did not happen,” Hopkins said, before demanding that The Post retract their article.
The video was flagged by Twitter as a claim about election fraud that is disputed. President Trump retweeted it anyway, calling Hopkins “a brave patriot” and claiming that “more & more people are stepping forward to expose this Rigged Election!”
Breaking Down the Claims
Even if Hopkins’ claims are true, the ballots would not have had an impact on the outcome of the presidential election in Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, election officials said that only 10,000 mail-ballots arrived after Election Day, just a small fraction of the 50,000 votes President-elect Joe Biden won the state by. What’s more, election officials in Erie county also said that only 129 of those late-arriving ballots came from voters in the county.
In fact, according to the Erie Times-News, which reviewed the 129 late ballots with election officials, only two of them were even processed in the facility Hopkins worked in. In a series of tweets, Times-News reporter Matthew Rink, who wrote the aforementioned article, dove even deeper into the veracity of Hopkin’s claims.
“I reviewed all the envelopes of late-arriving ballots Tuesday morning. Only 2 with a Nov. 3 postmark were from the Erie facility. However, 9 others postmarked in Erie had the dates of Nov. 4 or later,” he wrote.
“But let’s say Hopkins is telling the truth,” he continued. “The question then is why would the Erie postmaster and others back-date two ballots and not the other nine without knowing which candidate received any of the votes on those ballots in the first place?”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Erie Times-News) (The New York Times)
Jan. 6 Rally Organizers Say They Met With Members of Congress and White House Officials Ahead of Insurrection
Two sources told Rolling Stone that they participated in “dozens” of meetings with “multiple members of Congress” and top White House aides to plan the rallies that proceeded the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Rolling Stone Report
Members of Congress and White House Staffers under former President Donald Trump allegedly helped plan the Jan. 6 protests that took place outside the U.S. Capitol ahead of the insurrection, according to two sources who spoke to Rolling Stone.
According to a report the outlet published Sunday, the two people, identified only as “a rally organizer” and “a planner,” have both “begun communicating with congressional investigators.”
The two told Rolling Stone that they participated in “dozens” of planning briefings ahead of the protests and said that “multiple members of Congress were intimately involved in planning both Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss and the Jan. 6 events that turned violent.”
“I remember Marjorie Taylor Greene specifically,” the person identified as a rally organizer said. “I remember talking to probably close to a dozen other members at one point or another or their staffs.”
The two also told Rolling Stone that a number of other Congress members were either personally involved in the conversations or had staffers join, including Representatives Paul Gosar (R-Az.), Lauren Boebert (R-Co.), Mo Brooks (R-Al.), Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Andy Biggs (R-Az.), and Louie Gohmert (R-Tx.).
The outlet added that it “separately obtained documentary evidence that both sources were in contact with Gosar and Boebert on Jan. 6,” though it did not go into further detail.
A spokesperson for Greene has denied involvement with planning the protests, but so far, no other members have responded to the report.
Previous Allegations Against Congressmembers Named
This is not the first time allegations have surfaced concerning the involvement of some of the aforementioned congress members regarding rallies that took place ahead of the riot.
As Rolling Stone noted, Gosar, Greene, and Boebert were all listed as speakers at the “Wild Protest” at the Capitol on Jan. 6, which was arranged by “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander.
Additionally, Alexander said during a now-deleted live stream in January that he personally planned the rally with the help of Gosar, Biggs, and Brooks.
Biggs and Brooks previously denied any involvement in planning the event, though Brooks did speak at a pro-Trump protest on Jan. 6.
Gosar, for his part, has remained quiet for months but tagged Alexander in numerous tweets involving Stop the Steal events leading up to Jan. 6, including one post that appears to be taken at a rally at the Capitol hours before the insurrection.
Notably, the organizer and the planner also told Rolling Stone that Gosar “dangled the possibility of a ‘blanket pardon’ in an unrelated ongoing investigation to encourage them to plan the protests.”
Alleged White House Involvement
Beyond members of Congress, the outlet reported that the sources “also claim they interacted with members of Trump’s team, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who they describe as having had an opportunity to prevent the violence.”
Both reportedly described Meadows “as someone who played a major role in the conversations surrounding the protests.”
The two additionally said Katrina Pierson, who worked for the Trump campaign in both 2016 and 2020, was a key liaison between the organizers of the demonstrations and the White House.
“Katrina was like our go-to girl,” the organizer told the outlet. “She was like our primary advocate.”
According to Rolling Stone, the sources have so far only had informal talks with the House committee investigating the insurrection but are expecting to testify publicly. Both reportedly said they would share “new details about the members’ specific roles” in planning the rallies with congressional investigators.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Business Insider) (Forbes)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.