Fact Check of ‘2000 Mules’ Is Heavy on Speculation, Anecdotes, and False Information About Cellphone Location Technology – Opinion

Many were shocked when several states abruptly stopped counting votes on Election Night 2020. The results looked good for Donald Trump. It seemed like every update for Biden was in favor as the night progressed, until he became President-Elect.

While Trump’s campaign repeatedly promised to “release the Kraken” and bring forward evidence of election fraud that would prove that the election was stolen, focusing on electronic voting machines, that evidence didn’t materialize. RedState’s Scott Hounsell pointed out various states and cities – even down to the precincts – that should be investigated, and that information was given to the Trump campaign to no avail.

(READ Scott’s pieces on Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona)

The basis of Hounsell’s “Excuse Me While I Call BS” series was that the supposed results of the 2020 general election were completely incongruent with what had been documented in voter registration data over the preceding four years and with what would be expected given Trump’s performance over Clinton in 2016. Take this example:

Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016, except one county, and he also won another that Clinton had won in 2016. Biden’s enthusiasm levels were less than those of Clinton in PA.  The state in which Trump won 45,000 votes has seen 48,000 Democrats lose to Republicans since 2016. Republicans added 150,000 voters and outperformed minority voters. Trump leads the race by just 110,000 votes.  BS.

While Hounsell wasn’t able at that time to determine what had happened, it seems that Catherine Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips of True the Vote have some evidence, in the form of cell phone location data, ballot drop box surveillance video, and more, to suggest that there was a coordinated effort in key states (those in which a small number of votes could swing the state and, therefore, the Electoral College) to illegally “harvest” ballots by paying “mules” to deposit them into drop boxes throughout the given metropolitan area in the month before the election, in numbers that were small enough to fly under the radar on daily counts yet large enough to change the state’s outcome on Election Night. Filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza took this data and interviewed witnesses to create the documentary “2000 Mules,” in collaboration with Salem Media Group, to explain what True the Vote found.

Not surprisingly, by the afternoon of May 4, before “2000 Mules” premiered at Mar-a-Lago that evening, the so-called fact-checkers were out in force attempting to debunk its claims. PolitiFact and Associated Press are the most prominent, and many local rags have run AP’s, magnifying its reach. PolitiFact’s and Associated Press pieces look almost the same, almost as if coordinated. The “facts” or data they use to attempt to discredit D’Souza, True the Vote, and the film are laughably thin — and some are simply not true.

The Associated Press claims that “2000 Mules” did not prove that “at least 2,000 ‘mules’ were paid to illegally collect ballots and deliver them to drop boxes in key swing states ahead of the 2020 presidential election” mainly because the findings are “based on false assumptions about the precision of cellphone tracking data and the reasons that someone might drop off multiple ballots, according to experts,” but the piece lists a few other areas in which they believe the film perpetuated falsehoods.

Let’s go through the various claims AP believes “2000 Mules” got wrong.

Geotracking/Cellphone Location Data

Gregg Phillips claims that True the Vote has analyzed over a petabyte (11,000 terabytes), of data taken from phones in Phoenix, Atlanta and Philadelphia. This included the period October 1, through Election Day, as well as the period January 6, in Georgia, to cover the Senate race. In Atlanta, the group says that by using that data they identified 242 “mules” who met their criteria (visited 10 different ballot drop boxes and at least five different nonprofit organizations identified as “stash houses) during that time frame. Here’s what the AP had to say about that claim:

[E]xperts say cellphone location data, even at its most advanced, can only reliably track a smartphone within a few meters — not close enough to know whether someone actually dropped off a ballot or just walked or drove nearby.

“You could use cellular evidence to say this person was in that area, but to say they were at the ballot box, you’re stretching it a lot,” said Aaron Striegel, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Notre Dame. “There’s always a pretty healthy amount of uncertainty that comes with this.”

That’s simply not true. According to the author, a phone can be traced reliably in a matter of meters. Depending on what “a few” means in this case, that could be six or nine feet. That’s hardly leaving a healthy amount of uncertainty. Also, we’re not just talking about one visit to a ballot box.

The Washington Post and New York Times both describe cellphone location data in a very specific way. In a May 4, WaPo article, the WaPo stokes fear that the phone records of those who have had an abortion could be used by the Patriarchy to identify such individuals in case abortion becomes illegal in certain states.

Phones can collect precise information about your whereabouts — right down to the building — to power maps and other services. However, some companies may be allowed to share this information with other companies, such as advertisers and anyone else who pays to have it.

On Tuesday, Vice’s Motherboard blog reported that for $160, it bought a week’s worth of data from a company called SafeGraph Providing information about where and how many people visited Planned Parenthood clinics..

A 2019 New York Times series, “The Privacy Project,” revealed a lot about how granular this data can be. In a piece from that project titled “Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy,” Times journalists reported on what they found after analyzing a data file containing 50 billion location pings from 12 million Americans over a several-month period in 2016 and 2017. They state in the introduction (emphasis mine),:

This file contains every piece of information. The precise position of an individual smartphoneMore [the] period.

And, says the Times, this information isn’t generated solely by big tech or government surveillance, and is openly available to anyone who wants to pay for it.

The data reviewed by Times Opinion didn’t come from a telecom or giant tech company, nor did it come from a governmental surveillance operation. The data was obtained from one of many location data companies. Silently capturing precise movementsSoftware was inserted into mobile phones via mobile apps. You’ve probably never heard of most of the companies — and yet to anyone who has access to this data, your life is an open book. They can see the places you go every moment of the day, whom you meet with or spend the night with, where you pray, whether you visit a methadone clinic, a psychiatrist’s office or a massage parlor.

In addition, the AP writer says there are many reasons that people might have been close to a ballot drop box on multiple occasions, since they’re placed in high traffic areas like libraries, government buildings, college campuses, that people frequent. That’s definitely true. Is it true that they go to these places frequently late at night and even during the day? Do they go to other non-profit organizations that are focused on getting out the vote?

In 2021 the Times published a piece titled, “They Stormed the Capitol. Their Apps Tracked Them.” about the January 6 protesters. The article noted that a new piece had been made available since the 2019 article.

This new data was different from the 2019 data that we examined. It contained a surprising piece of information. A unique ID is created for every user who has a smartphone. Because the ID was supposedly anonymous, it made it easy to identify people.We can add the exact same ID to multiple smartphones, so we can quickly access real addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.

These IDs are also known as mobile advertising identifiers and allow companies to monitor people on the web and in apps. The IDs can be disabled or reset by the smartphone owner. We found that the promises of anonymity are a sham. Many companies provide tools that allow users with the data to compare their IDs to other databases.

True the Vote likely purchased the data that contained the mobile advertisement identifier information. This would have allowed True the Vote the ability to determine the actual names, addresses and other details. attached to each potential “mule” device’s owner in seconds, which comes into play with the AP’s next supposed reason that the True the Vote analysis could not possibly be correct:

True the Vote has said it filtered out people whose “pattern of life” before the election season included frequenting nonprofit and drop box locations. But that strategy wouldn’t filter out election workers who spend more time at drop boxes during the election season, cab drivers whose daily paths don’t follow a pattern, or people whose routines recently changed.

It wouldn’t filter them out if the group didn’t also have other information, such as mobile advertising identifiers. True the Vote also has more information than this. For example, the group has chain of custody logs for the ballot drop boxes in question, so they know when election workers visited the drop boxes to collect ballots and can eliminate cell phones at that location at that time from being included in the “mule” category.

Georgia Senate Runoff Gloves

The 2020 Georgia Senate election was particularly interesting because many of those mules who were seen in surveillance video wearing blue gloves (latex) when they approached the drop-off boxes. Gregg Phillips claims this development is due to an arrest of an Arizona woman on suspicion of ballot fraud a day earlier. The FBI also used fingerprint data in the capture.

According to the AP, though, the “mules” were just wearing gloves because it was cold out. As we all use blue medical gloves made of latex to keep warm in winter, it is important to throw these away when you return to your home or car.

It is speculation. It ignores far more likely reasons for glove-wearing in the fall and winter of 2020 — cold weather or COVID-19.

Voting in Georgia’s Jan. 5, 2021, Senate runoff election occurred during some of the coldest weeks of the year in the state, and when COVID-19 was surging. The AP actually documented numerous instances of COVID-cautious voter wearing gloves made from latex and other protective gear to vote in 2020.

The Georgia Senate race was started shortly after the November 18th, 2020 mail ballots were sent. The nighttime temperature on December 23, 2020 and through January 5, 2021 weren’t any colder than the weeks prior, and, in fact, between December 29 and January 3, 2021 the low temperature in North Atlanta was warmer than the historical daily average low.

North Atlanta Temperature History December 2020 SOURCE Weatherspark
North Atlanta Temperature History January 2021 Source: Weatherspark

In the movie, this woman is — whose smartphone seems to “live” in South Carolina according to True the Vote, is shown wearing blue latex medical gloves as she deposits multiple ballots in a drop box in Fulton County, Georgia, in December 2020 . . .

In December 2020, a blue-colored surgical glove is worn by a female to deposit ballots in Fulton County’s ballot drop boxes. SOURCE: 2000 Mules movie. Screenshot

. . . Then, he or she will immediately remove them from the ballot box once they are sealed and place them in the nearby trash can.

Blue surgical gloves are removed by a woman just before being placed in trash near the Fulton County ballot box, GA in December 2020. SOURCE: 2000 Mules movie. Screenshot

It should not get very cold outside.

AP does not comment on why someone would go out at night to place many ballots into the dropbox. I’m sure they will claim that it’s simply a hard-working person who just got off their night shift job and are dutifully taking all of their elderly relatives’ ballots to the drop box. This hardworking individual would also have made at least five trips to identified non-profit organizations that are alleged to be stash houses.

It sounds completely legit.

Photography Ballots/Ballot boxes

According to the AP fact-check:

In a similarly speculative allegation, the film claims its supposed “mules” took photographs of ballots before they dropped them into drop boxes in order to get paid. However, the U.S. has a tradition of voters taking photos of their ballot envelopes prior to submitting them.

Perhaps one of the envelopes. Maybe one of the individual envelopes going into the dropbox. Where is the documentation of AP’s claim that U.S. voters “frequently take photos of their ballot envelopes before submitting them”? It is not possible to link any study or story that supports this claim. However, who snaps photos of the ballots in stacks? But what does this prove to a individual voter? What good is a photograph of the ballot box taken from just a few feet away if it’s used to verify that the voter deposited the ballot?

After he has deposited his ballots in Georgia, a man snaps a picture of the ballot drop box. SOURCE – 2000 Mules movie. Screenshot
Multi-devices within a single car

To rebut the movie’s claim that “In Philadelphia alone, True the Vote identified 1,155 “mules” who illegally collected and dropped off ballots for money,” AP noted that True the Vote wasn’t able to obtain surveillance video in Philadelphia and then added a 200-word speculative story from a Pennsylvania lawmaker:

Pennsylvania state Sen. Sharif Street…told the AP he was confident he was counted as several of the group’s 1,155 anonymous “mules,” even though he didn’t deposit anything into a drop box in that time period.

Street said he based his assessment on the fact that he carries a cellphone, a watch with a cellular connection, a tablet with a cellular connection and a mobile hotspot — four devices whose locations can be tracked by private companies. The number of devices on Street’s person is six. He said that the majority of his trips are with staff who carry two. Street stated that he took the devices with him on his trips to drop boxes and nonprofit offices during 2020’s election season. When he was traveling between the two offices, he drove to one drop box seven to eight times per day.

While his trips to nonprofit offices could meet True the Vote’s criteria for inclusion in the “mule” pool, since we don’t yet know exactly which nonprofit offices in Philadelphia True the Vote was focusing on, we can’t be sure he visited five or more of the targeted nonprofit organizations. What if he visited more than five of the targeted nonprofit organizations? We’re not talking about the Boys & Girls Club here.

In addition, it’s likely that investigators would notice if six devices were traveling together to these various locations then investigate further, and they’d see that the devices were also stopping at legislative buildings and campaign offices. Using the other data, such as mobile advertising identifiers, they’d be able to determine that they belonged to a legislator and not a mule.

The writer should seriously be ashamed that this story — which might or might not have actually occurred — is used in a fact check.

Dropping off Ballots For Family Members

Knowing how startling and impactful surveillance video of numerous people stuffing a handful (or more) of ballots into the drop boxes would be, it’s important for the legacy media to try to explain that.

The AP fact check simply declares that “2000 Mules” didn’t properly account for instances in which someone was dropping ballots off at the drop box for family members, and falsely claims that there was no way match up those voters with the cellphone location data True the Vote possessed. The only “proof” AP puts forth to prove TheyThis is an example of an anecdote. In Georgia, surveillance footage showed one individual depositing six ballots in a dropbox. It was discovered that the man was storing ballots for his own family members.

True the Vote used dropbox surveillance footage to show voters putting multiple ballots in the boxes. This was done in order to strengthen its claims. However, It was impossible to determine if those voters were the same as those whose phones were tracked anonymously.

For example, Larry Campbell, a voter in Michigan who was not featured in the film, told The Associated Press he legally dropped off six ballots in a local drop box in 2020 — one for himself, his wife, and his four adult children.

Saying that “there was no way to tell whether those voters were the same people as the ones whose cellphones were anonymously tracked” is just laughably incorrect. First, the videos are timestamped, and True the Vote has all of the cellphone data for that location at that time, so they are able to determine the device ID’s for each device at that location at that time. You can find out where the device was located before and during the visit to the dropbox. And, using the mobile advertising identifier, they could identify the owner of the phone – and how many family members they have.

We know that True the Vote investigators did look into who the owners of particular devices were, since Phillips mentioned in the movie that the woman in the screenshot above was normally in South Carolina but was a “mule” in Georgia during both the general election and the Senate Runoff.

Some “Mules” Were Also at Antifa Rallies

Here we have another instance in which AP uses speculation as a supposed “gotcha,” but this time they’ve also found a way to insert their political slant into said “gotcha.” To attempt to rebut the claim in the movie that some of the “mules” identified in Georgia were “violent far left actors,” in AP’s words, because their devices “were also geolocated at violent antifa riots in Atlanta in the summer of 2020,” they write:

The anonymized data True the Vote tracked doesn’t explain why someone might have been present at Protest demanding justice for Black victims of the police. There were many possible reasons why the individuals tracked could be violent rioters. However, they could also have been protesters peacefully responding to protests or police and firefighters.

Of course, when AP describes the riots, they’re actually “protests demanding justice for Black deaths at the hands of police officers.” Spare us. And sure, it’s plausible that devices of first responders could be mixed in with the rioters, but business owners? Perhaps, but in my recollection of video footage from the riots, by the time they were getting violent most business owners weren’t anywhere near there. They were the exception to the rule, and those who did not leave their homes in order to protect them buildings were lucky.

Also, they’re again relying on the “anonymized data” trope to make it seem there is no way True the Vote could have determined who owned the device, or that they didn’t. It is possible that they could identify the identity and name of every mule, just as described. They could, for all that we know.

It’s clear that the “fact checks” claiming to debunk the content of “2000 Mules” don’t pass muster, and they certainly don’t contain factual information that could be considered in a courtroom — unlike the information presented in the movie.

(*NOTE: RedState, part of Townhall Media, is owned by Salem Media Group, Inc.)

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