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Editorial: Collapse of fake vote-fraud case shows the dark forces behind Trump's big lie

Editorial: Collapse of fake vote-fraud case shows the dark forces behind Trump's big lie

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Verifying the Nov. 6 election result

A canvas observer photographs Lehigh County provisional ballots as vote counting in the general election continued in Allentown, Pa., on Nov. 6. Then-President Donald Trump’s campaign filed a number of lawsuits across six battleground states as he tried to upend the 2020 election. Judges uniformly rejected his claims of vote fraud.

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

U.S. Postal Service investigators have now confirmed that a Pennsylvania mail carrier’s much-publicized claim of witnessing mail-in ballot fraud didn’t happen — as the mail carrier himself earlier admitted — undermining a key allegation that top Republicans have been making for months in support of former President Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen election.

This can’t be said enough: Those claims, which continue today, are baseless, bogus and an affront to democracy. And the story of mail carrier Richard Hopkins shows how this misinformation isn’t just an honest mistake but a coordinated campaign of deliberate lies spun by right-wing activists and promoted by top Republicans.

Hopkins, a postal worker in Erie, claimed shortly after the Nov. 3 election that he overheard the local postmaster scheming to “backdate” mail-in ballots that came in late, so they could be counted as valid votes. This allegation dovetailed with Trump’s corrosive lies about nonexistent mass ballot fraud. Project Veritas, a right-wing media trolling organization famous for trying to foist lies on the public (and often having those lies blow up in its face), publicized a sworn affidavit signed by Hopkins attesting to the claim.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a top Trump supporter, cited Hopkins’ claim in calling for a Justice Department investigation of that and other allegations of fraud, which Trump Attorney General William Barr dutifully launched. It ultimately found no signs of widespread voter fraud, anywhere, infuriating Trump.

The new report confirms that, in an interview with federal agents soon after he made his allegation, Hopkins “revised his initial claims, eventually stating that he had not heard a conversation about ballots at all — rather he saw the Postmaster and Supervisor having a discussion and assumed it was about fraudulent ballot backdating.”

Read those words carefully: With zero evidence or even indication, he “assumed” fraud in the election. This neatly summarizes the entire basis of the continuing campaign by Trump and his supporters to cast Joe Biden’s presidency as fraudulent. No state election official or judge has come anywhere near validating that delusion.

The new report on Hopkins provides further details that spotlight the bad faith behind this campaign of lies, including the fact that the affidavit he signed making the original allegations was written by Project Veritas. At least Hopkins hasn’t let his celebrity in right-wing circles go to waste: He has raised more than $236,000 on a Christian fundraising site which, according to The Washington Post, falsely describes his retracted claims.

Trump, in his now-suspended Twitter account, once called Hopkins “a brave patriot.” The record now suggests that Hopkins was actually either an amateur con artist or the patsy of the professional con artists at Project Veritas, or both. These are the kinds of people who have sought to undermine America’s democracy. To borrow the Trumpian phrase, these are the real enemies of the people.

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