2000 Mules - An Examination of Documentary Fraud
Released on May 20th of 2022, 2000 Mules is a political documentary film by Dinesh D’Souza. Dinesh touts the film as containing proof of widespread election fraud in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The primary claims in the film involve supposed ballot harvesters, referred to as “mules”, who would collect and drop off large numbers of purportedly illicit ballots at various ballot drop boxes in order to influence the outcome of the election on behalf of Democrat party operatives. What we will examine in this article are specific claims made in the film rather than offering a review of the film as a whole, as I feel doing so is unnecessary given the numerous inaccuracies and outright lies presented in the film. My analysis will focus primarily on the main source of information in the film, an organization called True the Vote, founded by Catherine Engelbrecht in 2010. Gregg Phillips - former head of the Mississippi Department of Human Services – also features prominently in the film alongside Engelbrecht in presenting True the Vote’s claims regarding election fraud.
Claim 1 – That some of the “mules” identified by True the Vote via cellphone geotracking were also present at “Antifa and BLM riots.”
This claim is plainly unverifiable, if not outright false. For this claim, Phillips cites data from an organization called the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project or ACLED, stating that “dozens and dozens and dozens of our mules show up on the ACLED database.” As ACLED themselves told NPR reporter Tom Dreisbach, Phillips’ claims regarding ACLED and its data are false. Indeed, ACLED even states that they never had any contact with the makers of 2000 Mules. While Englebrecht tried to backtrack on behalf of Phillips, stating that Phillips was referring to another organization, it is an undeniable fact that Phillips was referring to no organizations besides ACLED in the film. Phillips plainly states in the film at ~28:18 “There’s an organization that tracks the device I.D.’s across all violent protests around the world.” Then seconds later, at 28:30, Phillips made the previously quoted statement regarding dozens of “mules” showing up on the ACLED database. It is abundantly clear that Phillips was referring to no organization other than ACLED. When Englebrecht was pressed by NPR for an answer regarding what organization Phillips was referring to, if not ACLED, she would not provide an answer.
Even if Phillips had such cellphone data (and it is not at all clear that he does) it is not explained how Phillips or True the Vote effectively concluded that the “mules” they identified are also violent rioters. These purported individuals could have simply been business owners, random individuals from the area, peaceful protesters or persons providing aid incorrectly identified as rioters, etc. At no point does Phillips offer any actual evidence that he has identified any mules as also being rioters.
Claim 2 – That the “orange dots” seen in a map graphic represent drop box locations.
At ~30:38, a graphic is presented purporting to illustrate the pattern of life of one particular mule in Atlanta, Georgia. Phillips claims this individual went to “28 drop boxes” in one day. Phillips himself states the orange dots are supposed to represent drop boxes.
There is just one small problem with this statement – the orange dots rarely, if ever, actually align with any drop box locations in Atlanta, as pointed out by Twitter user @AngryFleas and expounded upon by Philip Bump in the Washington Post. Angry Fleas even included a link to a Google map of absentee ballot drop boxes in Atlanta so you can double check their work for yourself. Frankly, it appears that many drop box locations illustrated by Phillips in the film are simply fabricated. If Phillips and the others involved in producing 2000 Mules cannot even be bothered to draw an accurate map and to get the locations of ballot drop boxes correct, it calls into question the veracity of any claims made in the film.
Additionally, as Bump pointed out in the above Washington Post article, at least one other map shown in the film appears to be a rotated and heavily stylized map of Moscow in Russia. This same map is used to illustrate data from Phillips’ analysis of geolocation data in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Credit for this spot goes to Twitter user @teamphil. According to another user cited by Phil, it appears the map is actually part of stock footage offered for use by Adobe.
The only reasonable explanation for this is that the production team for 2000 Mules was flagrantly incompetent. If the producers of the film couldn’t be bothered to use a map of their own making and of the actual location they were discussing in their graphics instead of map - pulled from stock footage - of a city over 5000 miles away, one wonders what other errors were made due to simple apathy and sub-standard production work.
Claim 3 – That Phillips’ and Engelbrecht’s data analysis aided in the identification of two shooters in a cold case killing in Atlanta.
This subject is brought up in the film as a way to demonstrate how True the Vote can verify the integrity and accuracy of its analysis. Phillips and Engelbrecht, prompted by Dinesh, claim that their analysis of cellphone geolocation data from the time and general location of a shooting in Atlanta that killed a young girl named Secoriea Turner resulted in the shooters being caught. This claim is undeniably false and has absolutely no basis in material reality. True the Vote admitted to NPR (in the same article by Dreisbach linked above) that they contacted law enforcement no less than two months after the two suspects in the killing were arrested by Georgia based law enforcement. And as found out by NPR, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation itself stated in no uncertain terms that they did not receive information regarding the shooting from True the Vote. Even the attorney for Turner’s family stated they had never heard of the investigation supposedly conducted by Engelbrecht and Phillips.
Further, Engelbrecht claims at around 33:34 that the case was “ebbing on cold case status”, yet one of the suspects was arrested less than two weeks after the shooting, having turned himself in after learning that a warrant was out for his arrest. A cold case is one in which active criminal investigation has stopped due to a lack of evidence. That simply did not happen in the case of Secoriea Turner’s shooting, nor was it even remotely close to occurring.
Claim 4 – That surveillance video of ballot drop boxes show mules stuffing boxes with illicit or illicitly gathered ballots.
Absolutely no evidence is offered in support of this claim and the people in the videos are not identified. Phillips and Engelbrecht make baseless readings into what the people seen in the videos are actually doing – including claiming that a voter standing in line to vote in person was concerned about another individual who was dropping off ballots – yet do not identity these people, nor do they present any interview footage or other evidence that they followed up with these individuals to corroborate their theories regarding the individual’s behavior. The closest thing to such an interview that’s presented in the film is an interview of a supposed mule by Gregg Phillips, the same man whose other fraudulent claims I’ve already documented above. The mule’s identity is concealed apart from their ostensibly being female, and no corroborating evidence is offered to support the supposed mule’s claims.
And of course there is the simple fact that in many states there is no requirement for ballots to be dropped off by the voter themselves. Even in Georgia, a state focused on in the film, ballots from physically disabled voters may be dropped off by family members or household members. Voters confined to hospitals may have their ballots returned by either the delivering registrar or absentee ballot clerk. This issue is brought up and discarded in one sentence by Dinesh at 47:55 and not expounded upon any further. Instead, Dinesh states in a conclusory fashion regarding the surveillance video being played alongside his commentary that “these are fraudulent votes.” The videos shown also never display the same individual dropping off ballots at more than one location.
Given that True the Vote’s geolocation and video analysis was the backbone upon which the film’s claims regarding election fraud was built, I feel little need to continue, having thoroughly broken said backbone by demonstrating that Engelbrecht, Phillips, and True the Vote as a whole are highly unreliable sources of information, if not outright frauds. To conclude, I will offer links to several comprehensive fact checks of the film, the veracity of which any believers in Dinesh are certainly welcome to challenge to the best of their ability, though I suspect they will find such an effort futile.
A post by Election Law Blog containing the bulk of an NYT article on the film, wherein it's revealed that John Fund - one of the interviewees in the film who supports claims of voter fraud - has stated of Engelbrecht that he "...would not give her a penny..."
An article by Georgia Public Broadcasting, which explains that some of the individuals identified in surveillance footage of ballot boxes were investigated, and found not to have been engaged in illegal ballot harvesting or the casting of illicit votes. It also explains that True the Vote is resisting a subpoena by the State Election Board for the evidence of voter fraud they claim to have, something one would expect them not to do if the evidence actually exists.
A lengthy post on the film by FactCheck.org
An analysis of the film by the AP, a non-partisan news outlet.
A fact check by Reuters, another non-partisan news outlet.
Thanks for reading, and you can find me on Twitter @SocialActuality.
Update 6/12/2022 - Added link to GPB article and made minor grammar correction.