Project Veritas: Did federal agents pressure a USPS whistleblower?
A Michigan Postal worker Richard Hopkins claimed to overhear plans to tamper with mail-in ballots in the hotly-contested U.S. Presidential elections. Now, there are accusations of coercion after he recanted his statement, based on documents supplied by conservative watchdog group Project Veritas.
The Epoch Times reported that the investigative journalism nonprofit Project Veritas on November 11, 2020 released a recording it claims shows federal agents pressuring a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) whistleblower in Erie, Pennsylvania, to go back on his allegations last week that he overheard superiors discussing a scheme to backdate mail-in ballots.
Mail carrier Richard Hopkins last week claimed that he heard a local postmaster at Erie Post Office, Rob Weisenbach, instruct USPS workers to collect mail ballots they received after November 3rd and hand them over to him to be backdated. Hopkins, who has since been placed on non-pay status by the post office, signed a sworn affidavit, sent to Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on November 7th.
Hopkins said that he’s willing to testify under oath that he heard Weisenbach tell a supervisor that he was backdating ballots “to make it appear as though the ballots had been collected on November 3, 2020, despite them in fact being collected on November 4th and possibly later.” Under state election rules, ballots can be counted up to three days after Election Day as long as they are postmarked as having been sent on November 3rd.
Weisenbach did not respond to a request for comment but wrote on Facebook that the allegations were “100% false” and “made by an employee that was recently disciplined multiple times.”
James O’Keefe of Project Veritas released an audio clip alleged to be of an interview between Hopkins and federal investigators, shortly after the House Oversight Committee claimed in a statement on Twitter that Hopkins went back on his allegations of ballot tampering. (The Epoch Times was not able to independently verify the authenticity of the recording of the interview.)
The committee said that investigators from the USPS Office of Inspector General had told them the whistleblower had signed a sworn affidavit recanting his claims. The Washington Post published a report echoing similar claims, citing three unnamed officials briefed on the investigation, and the statement.
Prior to the full release of the audio clip, O’Keefe claimed on Twitter that Hopkins was “coerced” by federal agents in a four-hour interrogation. The activist said Hopkins wore a wire during his interview with USPS Office of the Inspector General Agent Russell Strasser, releasing a partial clip in which an agent appears to say that he would deliberately place Hopkins under stress “to make your mind a little bit clearer.”
However, this is not the first time Project Veritas has used a wire and undercover sting tactics to gather damaging evidence against targets. In 2018, a federal judge issued a crucial ruling allowing the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to gather information on the conservative Project Veritas.
Project Veritas, run by right-wing activist James O’Keefe, organized an intrusion on the union’s Michigan offices in 2017 and sent an undercover mole to access documents and record private discussions. The mole pretended to be a student at the University of Michigan to gain access to AFT Michigan’s offices as an intern. She allegedly used that access to steal documents and spy on employees.
The judge ruled that the AFT could amend its legal complaint against Project Veritas based on the publication of the mole’s doctored videos, granting legal discovery and paving the way for the union to continue to hold Project Veritas accountable to the law.
The subsequent report by the AFT says, in part, “Project Veritas (PV), led by James O’Keefe, has produced a string of fraudulent video products & campaigns that rely on deceptive editing, out-of-context clips and exaggerated and false claims” pertinent in a number of scandals involving liberal media, politicians, and organizations.
Some of these scandals include the Roy Moore sex scandal; accusations that NPR endorsed Shariah law; and the dissolution of the grassroots voter registration organization ACORN. In 2010, O’Keefe himself was arrested on felony charges at the offices of Senator Mary Landrieu for “entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of “committing a felony”.