May 23, 2022

‘Fact-Checking’ Dinesh D’Souza’s ‘2000 Mules’

The controversial film makes some incendiary claims about the 2020 election. Here’s a look at both sides.

“Never in U.S. history has a presidential election been as thoroughly corrupted by coordinated fraud across multiple states as we now know took place in 2020.”

That’s the bold charge leveled by conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza toward the end of his film on the 2020 election of Joe Biden over Donald Trump. And, having watched the film, we think it delivers the goods. As the New York Post’s Miranda Devine writes: “The data pattern is unmistakable, as D'Souza shows a spider web of routes taken by various mules between NGOs and drop boxes. For each of the 2,000 mules the average number of drop box visits was 38, with an average five ballots deposited per visit. That’s 380,000 suspect votes.”

Remember: Only 43,000 votes decided the election in the three battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin. And this process of “ballot trafficking” was crucial to the Democrats’ razor-thin victories those three states, as well as Pennsylvania and perhaps Michigan.

Are there more questions to be answered? Sure. For example, who are these 2,000 mules, and why hasn’t law enforcement begun tracking them down and questioning them? And which organizations were these mules shuttling back and forth between for their supplies of ballots? It would seem easy enough to have named some of these nonprofits in the film using cellphone geolocation, but D'Souza doesn’t. And where are the whistleblowers among them? Surely one or more of these folks can be made to sing if granted immunity from federal election fraud charges.

These holes have prompted criticism from the Right, including from Eli Lake and Erick Erickson.

D'Souza is also guilty of some sloppiness and some unforced errors. In one section, he uses a map of downtown Moscow to show some geolocation coordinates while talking about a ballot drop box in Gwinnett County, Georgia. The discrepancy has nothing to do with the point that’s being made, but the Left had a field day with it. In another section, Engelbrecht and cyber analyst Gregg Phillips give the impression that they validated their use of geolocating data by helping to solve a 2020 murder mystery in Atlanta. They didn’t. Again, that’s an unforced error, an unnecessary attempt to embellish.

But you be the judge: Here’s the film in its entirety, and here’s a “Fact Focus” conducted by the Associated Press, and here’s a rebuttal to the AP’s critique.

The AP, in the above-mentioned fact-check, had this to say: “A film debuting in over 270 theaters across the United States this week uses a flawed analysis of cellphone location data and ballot drop box surveillance footage to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election nearly 18 months after it ended.”

The first thing that jumps out at us is the “18 months” non sequitur. It seems remarkably defensive. Who on earth cares if the analysis took place 18 days or 18 weeks or 18 months after the election? The only question that matters is: How reliable is the analysis?

The AP called it a “flawed analysis of cellphone location data,” but if this means of identification is so flawed, someone had better tell Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts, in the 2018 Carpenter v. United States decision, had this to say about the level of precision tracing afforded by pinging a cellphone using geofencing technology: “Accordingly, when the Government tracks the location of a cell phone, it achieves near perfect surveillance as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone’s user.”

And, again, when the average number of drop box visits by these 2,000 mules was 38, with an average five ballots deposited per visit, we aren’t talking about an incidental movement somewhere in the vicinity of a drop box. We’re talking about coming to common-sensical conclusions about repeated activity that can’t be explained any other way. Or at least wasn’t explained in any other way by the legions of “fact-checkers” shrieking “Nothing to see here!”

The AP says, “Cellphone location data … is not precise enough to confirm that somebody deposited a ballot into a drop box, according to experts,” but instead of providing its readers with an evidence-based analysis of just how precise this data is, their lazy assessment leaves us to believe that it’s simply unreliable.

On top of this cellphone data, the film’s analysis often included a videotape overlay of what was happening at the drop box at the exact times when these mules were there. This video surveillance was obtained by True the Vote through public records requests. So if a mule’s phone says he’s near a particular drop box at, say, 3:12 a.m., and there’s videotape clearly showing a man stuffing multiple ballots into that same drop box at 3:12 a.m., we’d say that’s pretty solid evidence, no?

“A video of a voter dropping off a stack of ballots at a drop box is not itself proof of any wrongdoing,” claims the AP, “since most states have legal exceptions that let people drop off ballots on behalf of family members and household members. For example, Larry Campbell, a voter in Michigan who was not featured in the film, told The Associated Press he legally dropped off six ballots in a local drop box in 2020 — one for himself, his wife, and his four adult children.”

Fine, Larry Campbell dropped off multiple ballots for his family members. But did it take him 38 trips to do it? Because, again, that’s the average number of drop box visits made by these mules.

The strength of D'Souza’s film is the electronic record it reveals and relies upon. Cellphone data is like digital DNA, because each phone has an utterly unique identifier. (A mule might be able to claim that he wasn’t near a particular drop box at a particular time, but he can’t claim that his cellphone wasn’t there at that time.)

Perhaps the worst part of the Associated Press’s “fact-check” is its outright refusal to acknowledge even a whiff of suspicious behavior amid all the data and footage presented in “2000 Mules.” Is there really nothing to see here?

In light of what we’ve seen, we think the AP’s “fact-check” is itself in need of a fact-check.


July 24, 2023: The Wall Street Journal editorial board explores the frustrating legal path chosen by True the Vote regarding the claims made in the movie. It’s leading to real legal trouble in Georgia, where the Journal says “officials sued the group for ignoring a subpoena for substantiation of its claims.” True the Vote asked to withdraw its complaint after the subpoena arrived, which is odd for a group that says an election was stolen. Then there are the issues with the basic facts in the case, which the Journal lays out before concluding: “Four million minutes of tape, and no clear shot of illegality. If activists want to double-check voter lists and surveillance videos, go ahead. But if they take liberties with facts and refuse to help law enforcement, what game are they really playing?”

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