Richard Hopkins, the Erie postal worker who accused his supervisors of tampering with ballots in a sworn affidavit—then recanted, then recanted his recantation—admitted to Postal Service investigators that the right-wing disinformation group Project Veritas wrote the sworn affidavit he signed, which was then provided to the Trump campaign.
Project Veritas posted two-plus hours of recorded audio of the interview between Hopkins and two investigators from the USPS inspector general’s office to YouTube on Wednesday, after previously posting deceptively edited clips portraying the investigators as intimidating Hopkins. Another portion of the interview was not recorded, according to the Washington Post, which first reported the news.
Hopkins had previously claimed that he heard supervisors talking about illegally “backdating” mail-in ballots to November 3 so they would be accepted and counted. The Erie postmaster denied that in a Facebook post over the weekend. In the recording of the Monday meeting, investigators asked Hopkins if he stood by his claims that supervisors were backdating ballots.
“At this point?” he asked. “No.”
Hopkins’ story has fueled conspiracy theories about mail-in voting in Pennsylvania. The state accepted mail-in ballots through November 6, though ballots received after Election Day were segregated pending further legal action. Officials were not allowed to begin counting mail-in ballots until last Tuesday, creating the mirage of a huge early Trump lead due to the divide between in-person voters and people who voted by mail.
President-elect Joe Biden won the state and currently holds a lead of more than 50,000 votes. Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar said earlier this week that just 10,000 of the state’s mail-in ballots arrived after November 3, a number too small to affect the outcome of the race. After election day, the Erie County Board of Elections received 129 mail-in ballots that were postmarked November 3, but just two of those ballots were processed through the Erie postal facility, according to an analysis by the Erie Times-News.
Even though Hopkins recanted, President Donald Trump has insisted his original story was accurate.
During the interview, federal agents reminded Hopkins—who described himself as a libertarian who voted for Trump, but someone who ultimately didn’t care who won the election and just wanted it done right—that his cooperation with their investigation was voluntary and asked if he had a personal attorney; Hopkins said he did not, but that Veritas had one on retainer “in case there’s anything that happens.”
"I just need to make sure of that because you did [have a lawyer], I would make whatever efforts possible to have that person here," one agent said. When pressed for specifics about what he heard about supposedly backdated ballots, Hopkins could only say “what I assumed I overheard” was two supervisors talking about a ballot that was postmarked on November 4 and that they walked away when they saw him.
Hopkins also said the affidavit “was written up by Veritas' lawyer,” and backed away from statements in it, saying it was a lot of “lawyering.” He added that he was in “so much shock I wasn’t paying that much attention to what [Project Veritas] were telling me.” In a statement emailed to the Post, Project Veritas said the “affidavit was drafted with Mr. Hopkins’ input and requested revisions.”
After Democrats on the House Oversight committee said Tuesday that Hopkins had recanted his allegations, Hopkins disputed in a Wednesday interview with Project Veritas that he had done so.
“I'm kinda pissed,” he told Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe. “I feel like I just got played."
Hopkins’ affidavit has been cited in a federal lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania, and Attorney General Bill Barr cited his allegation in a memo to prosecutors authorizing them to investigate voting irregularities before the results of the election were certified, a reversal of long standing precedent.
The USPS has suspended Hopkins without pay pending the results of the investigation. A GoFundMe set up for him, which collected more than $136,000, was shut down by the crowdfunding site earlier this week.