WASHINGTON — As President Donald Trump’s campaign continues its wild attempts to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory through a series of tenuous lawsuits, it was confronted on a call with the media on Tuesday with reports that one of its witnesses who had alleged ballot tampering had recanted his story.
What followed was several seconds of silence.
Then the campaign offered without evidence that perhaps the witness had been doxed — and that he wasn’t a big part of the case anyway.
The response is in line with the Trump team’s broader strategy of rejecting signs that the election was fairly decided while clinging to often flimsy or nonexistent evidence of voter fraud in support of the claim that the president did not lose.
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Three members of Trump’s campaign who are leading efforts to challenge election results in Michigan — which Biden won by roughly 146,000 votes — held a call with reporters on Tuesday night to announce an as-yet-unfiled lawsuit challenging their observers’ access to oversee ballots in the state. But at the conclusion of the call, a reporter with the New York Post asked the campaign about its reliance on an affidavit from a United States Postal Service worker who has since recanted his story, according to the Washington Post and the House Oversight Committee.
Richard Hopkins, the USPS employee, had told Project Veritas, an incredibly dubious organization that has frequently edited misleading videos and statements to benefit conservatives, that he had overheard the postmaster in Erie, Pennsylvania, tell a postal supervisor to backdate any ballots that came in after Election Day as if they had been received on time to be counted. Hopkins was not named in the initial Project Veritas video and his image was blurred, but the site later revealed his identity with his permission, the organization said.
On Monday, however, the Erie postmaster, Robert Weisenbach, posted on Facebook that Hopkins’ allegations were “100% false” and “made by an employee that was recently disciplined multiple times.” And on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Hopkins had told the USPS’s Office of Inspector General that his story was not true and that he had signed a new affidavit recanting his earlier story. The House Oversight Committee also tweeted Tuesday that the inspector general's office had informed committee members that Hopkins had signed the sworn affidavit that his earlier story was not true. After the Post story was published, Hopkins posted a video denying that he'd recanted his story.
Republicans had already run with Hopkins’ statement. Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, has tweeted repeatedly about his allegations. Sen. Lindsey Graham has asked the Justice Department to investigate his claims. And Trump’s campaign included some of Hopkins’ now-rescinded testimony in a court filing on Monday asking the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to delay the state from certifying its election results.
Asked Tuesday night whether it had any comment on Hopkins rescinding his claims, the campaign initially had no answer, leaving the line silent for multiple seconds.
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, then spoke up, telling reporters that he found it “notable” that most news outlets had not run with Hopkins’ claims in the first place. “The fact that he is newsworthy now is questionable,” he said.
Murtaugh then went on to say that Hopkins had “named names” in his original claims to Project Veritas and that he had “described explicitly what he experienced,” ignoring that now the postal worker has reportedly said it never happened.
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“We do not know what kind of pressure he is under since he made those public statements,” Murtaugh said, noting that some of the campaign’s own attorneys were doxed on Twitter on Tuesday.
A member of Trump’s campaign legal team then chimed in that Hopkins’ allegations had only made up “one paragraph” of more than 240 in the Monday filing.
This story was updated after Hopkins posted a video saying he did not recant his story.