Right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza welcomed a special guest to his podcast on Tuesday: former president Donald Trump. The two spent about 20 minutes discussing the subject that has animated them both for the past two years: false claims about rampant ballot fraud affecting the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump has seen D’Souza’s film “2000 Mules.” He held a screening of the film at his Mar-a-Lago event facility. He’s advocated for it regularly, and for good reason. “2000 Mules” purports to show that Trump didn’t lose his reelection bid but, rather, that it was stolen by a network of people shuttling ballots around swing states. The film is entirely unconvincing both in its specific assertions about the number of ballots shuttled (a figure that D’Souza admitted to The Washington Post was essentially a guess) and in its overall methodology. But no one on this planet is less fazed by obviously false claims about voter fraud than Trump.
After declaring that he won by “millions of votes,” Trump praised “2000 Mules” as being particularly useful to his effort to subvert his loss. The film, he said, showed fraud in a “very conclusive way, because you were taking government tapes” as evidence. That is, the film’s claims that a group called True the Vote had compiled geolocation data to show people visiting multiple ballot drop boxes was augmented by video from those drop boxes — and who could argue with that?
One person who could is Mark Andrews.
Here are two stills from “2000 Mules” showing Andrews depositing ballots in a drop box in Georgia before the election that year. As this footage aired, D’Souza spoke in a voice-over.
“What you are seeing is a crime,” D’Souza said. “These are fraudulent votes.”
But it was not a crime. And that’s not just our weighing in; that was the determination of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which investigated Andrews’s behavior and established that the multiple ballots Andrews submitted were simply ballots from himself and his family — fully in compliance with state law.
D’Souza insists that anyone shown on-screen was a “mule,” someone who True the Vote’s crack detective work had identified as visiting multiple ballot drop boxes as well as unidentified left-wing organizations. (Those organizations are unnamed in the film but were named in the first release of D’Souza’s companion book to the movie. That release was pulled from shelves and the organization names removed.) But no evidence is shown in the film to suggest that’s true of Andrews, no evidence of his visiting more than one drop box with video footage or even a map of his activity. (There was one such map in the movie, which True the Vote’s Gregg Phillips admitted to me was fake.)
Nonetheless, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday against D’Souza and True the Vote by attorneys representing Andrews, footage of Andrews was shown as part of 11 different programs as D’Souza and True the Vote promoted the film — including at least three occasions after Andrews had been cleared. (The lawsuit establishes that D’Souza knew that Andrews had been cleared in part because of his conversation with The Post.) A representative for True the Vote told The Post that the organization “is confident that the claims regarding True the Vote in this litigation will be found to be without merit.” D’Souza did not respond to a request for comment.
“Combining junk pseudoscience and excerpted surveillance video of innocent voters,” the lawsuit states near the beginning, “Defendants produced, distributed, and widely marketed 2000 Mules, which they label a ‘documentary’ proving their ‘mules’ theory.”
This is an important point. There’s no evidence at all that any of the video footage used in the film was linked to the purported geolocation analysis.
“Defendants never had any means to connect this video footage of voters such as Andrews with their individualized cell phone geolocation data,” it adds later. “... Moreover, Defendants appear to lack any surveillance footage that actually shows any individual depositing ballots at multiple locations.”
Among the examples of media appearances in which Andrews is put forward as an example of someone casting illegal votes is one featuring True the Vote’s Phillips. Appearing on a show hosted by the right-wing Epoch Times, Phillips introduced the footage of Andrews by saying: “The data itself is immutable. Even if you don’t believe your lying eyes on that, then just go look at the video. ... I can show you the [cellphone geolocation] pings, and then we can show you where he did it again and again and again and again, it really takes an extraordinary person with an agenda that’s probably not America’s agenda to say: ‘I don’t believe that.’ ”
But, of course, he didn’t show any of that, so saying “I don’t believe that” is perfectly warranted. Last week, the office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent a letter to federal authorities suggesting that True the Vote’s activities surrounding “2000 Mules” be investigated. At an event this summer, Phillips and the head of the organization attempted to explicitly close the book on the subject.
Andrews’s lawsuit isn’t just about correcting the record, though. He details the ways in which this false accusation disrupted his life. The lawsuit aims to paint as sympathetic a portrait of him as possible, certainly, but he describes the importance of voting to him and his family having grown up in the Jim Crow South. A technology executive at a Fortune 500 company, he only became aware of his inclusion in the film when a reporter reached out to him about it.
That snippet of his casting his family’s ballots has been clipped and published on social media. The lawsuit details some of the responses it generated:
“Comments on these posts include threats to have the ‘mules’ ‘forcibly amputated from the country and sent somewhere else en masse,’ and proclamations that the ‘mules’ should be arrested, ‘face a firing squad,’ or receive ‘Bullets to Mules Heads.’ Defendants’ followers have also assured ‘mules’ through social media comments that ‘we’re coming after you.’ ”
It further claims that Andrews has installed security cameras at his home and attempted to disguise his vehicle, since it is easily identifiable in footage. In the film, at least, his license plate and face are blurred. When the clip was shown in some media appearances, neither was.
He’s not the only one affected. The claim elevated by the film that people are stuffing ballot boxes — a claim for which, again, no evidence is presented — has led to a rash of encounters at ballot boxes in Arizona. Voters casting ballots have been challenged by self-appointed observers. One group affiliated with the right-wing extremist group Oath Keepers was sued and forced to end its drop-box monitoring effort.
“At all times, Defendants knew that their portrayals of Mr. Andrews were lies,” the lawsuit states, “as was the entire narrative of 2000 Mules. But they have continued to peddle these lies in order to enrich themselves.”
The trailer to the film remains online. In it, you can see Mark Andrews depositing his and his family’s ballots.