Erie Postal Worker Did Not Admit “Fabricating” Story But Admits Project Veritas Affidavit Was Inaccurate
To their credit, Project Veritas has released the full raw audio of the interrogation of Erie, Pennsylvania postal worker Richard Hopkins. I have listened to that audio. The tl;dr:
I have listened to this. The Washington Post inaccurately reported that Hopkins "fabricated" the statement. He did, however, admit that many of the statements in the Project Veritas affidavit were assumptions. And the claim that the interview was coercive is misleading, IMO. https://t.co/BwqGkh5Pe7
— Patterico (@Patterico) November 11, 2020
The Washington Post article on this is rather outrageously false:
A Pennsylvania postal worker whose claims have been cited by top Republicans as potential evidence of widespread voting irregularities admitted to U.S. Postal Service investigators that he fabricated the allegations, according to three officials briefed on the investigation and a statement from a House congressional committee.
Hopkins most certainly does not admit “fabricating” anything in the interview. Instead, he admits that he signed a document prepared by Project Veritas’s lawyers that had some inaccuracies and assumptions. The interview, by the way, is not in the slightest bit coercive. The Project Veritas claims that it was are based on isolated comments taken out of context. The interview is very friendly and non-coercive.
Overall, my impression is that Hopkins sounds like a nice fellow. He heard something that bothered him, he came forward, and he is overwhelmed by the attention. He definitely was not that careful about making sure every single aspect of the affidavit he signed was accurate.
Here is the full audio:
I encourage anyone truly interested in this to listen to the full two hours. I am not going to summarize every single aspect of it but give you the gist of it and my impressions.
Here are the details:
The main questioner, Russell Strasser from the USPS Office of Inspector General, is friendly from the get-go. He tells Hopkins he believes what he is saying. However, he is concerned that there might have been some exaggeration. He emphasizes that he wants to make absolutely certain that what Hopkins is saying is “1000% correct” so that the version of events Hopkins gives is an unassailable truth that nobody can attack.
Strasser gives Hopkins his rights, explaining that every American citizen is entitled to those rights. Strasser is an effective questioner because he looks to build a rapport with Hopkins and does not try to get aggressive with him or intimidate him. Strasser discusses their shared history of military service (Hopkins was a Marine and Strasser was in the Air Force). Hopkins acknowledges that the interview is purely voluntary and not the product of coercion.
Hopkins basically makes two allegations.
First, he alleges that mail carriers were instructed to collect ballots that were mailed after November 3, up to and including Friday, November 6, and told to give them to the closing supervisor. It never comes up in the interview, but this is probably an attempt by USPS to comply with the order from the Pennsylvnia Supreme Court, left in place for now by the United States Supreme Court, that ballots received by November 6 would be counted if postmarked by November 3, or if it was not clear they had not been mailed by November 3. Hopkins may not have known about that order and appears not to have understood why collecting those ballots was not nefarious.
Second, Hopkins alleges that he overheard a conversation between the postmaster of the local office, Rob Weisenbach, and a “Daryl” in which they discussed ballots. The precise language that Hopkins claims he overheard is the subject of a lot of the questioning, but the upshot is that the conversation was somewhat vague, but that Hopkins concluded from the conversation that it was about backdating ballots (though he never heard the term backdating used).
Here’s a snippet from the first time he gives the exact conversation he heard:
HOPKINS: And I overhear something about “the fourth ballots that they’re picked up, that were picked up on the fourth.”
STRASSER: So you heard the words “fourth ballots” or?
HOPKINS: “The ballots picked up on the fourth.”
STRASSER: Ballots picked up on the fourth. That’s what you heard?
STRASSER: OK. And then?
HOPKINS: And then I heard them say that one of them was marked the fourth and the rest were the third. That’s the only words that I can remember specifically out of that conversation. Soon as I heard that, I popped my head out.
He says he looked at them and they walked away.
Strasser takes Hopkins out to the area where he overheard the conversation. Strasser speaks in a normal tone and confirms that Hopkins cannot hear every word he is saying in a normal tone. Hopkins admits he could not hear every word of the conversation. When they return to the room in which the interview was taking place, Hopkins notes that supervisors had been out there during Strasser’s and Hopkins’s visit to that location, and Strasser says he had not realized they would be.
Strasser assures Hopkins that Hopkins is “allowed to be passionate” about his concerns. Hopkins says he voted for Trump but otherwise voted libertarian and does not really care who won. If Biden won, he would laugh. He just wanted to make sure there was an investigation. He had hoped to remain anonymous.
Hopkins says that he was concerned enough that when he delivered a ballot that he had picked up on the fifth of November, he secretly wrote “11/05/20” on the back of the envelope to memorialize the fact that he had actually picked it up on the fifth. After mail carriers collected ballots after the fourth, they were told by a “Stephanie” to turn them into the closing supervisor, and that every vote had to count. Hopkins told a fellow postal employee “Zonya” about the conversation he had heard, and then he went to Project Veritas because he had heard they were good on such matters.
He discusses specifics again at 36:14 in an exchange with Postal Inspector Charles Klein:
KLEIN: OK. You didn’t work on the fourth.
HOPKINS: No. That’s why the fourth’s thing, overhearing the fourth thing.
HOPKINS: I know I heard the fourth, and I know that I heard one ballot was marked the fourth. That’s the only thing I — can be very specific at this point, right now, ’cause it’s been —
HOPKINS: You’re making me question myself at this point.
KLEIN: You know what? I’m supposed to do that.
In context, Klein is not saying “I’m supposed to make you take this back” but “I’m supposed to make you think very hard about what you actually know.”
The things you have heard Strasser and Klein say in snippets in a recent Project Veritas video, that he is trying to scare Hopkins or twist him, are all taken out of context. Strasser has a way of speaking where he says things like: I’m not trying to insult you but I’m trying to insult you. I’m not trying to scare you but I am trying to scare you. It’s impossible for me to explain how it doesn’t come across as intimidating in the context of the full interview, but it just doesn’t. You have to listen to the whole thing to understand. Strasser is very sympathetic, positive, supportive, and friendly throughout. He does at times warn Hopkins of some of the trouble he could get himself into — such as if he collected the GoFundMe money pursuant to deception — but it is in the context of saying things like: I don’t believe you have been deceptive; you have said you made some assumptions; I will make sure everyone understands that and that you were never trying to lie.
The words Hopkins overheard are repeated at 38:57 – 39:19:
HOPKINS: I heard, specifically what I heard was “fourth ballots picked up.” And then I heard them saying something about po– the markings being on the third. One was the fourth. That’s it. And that’s when I poked my head out and went “What?” I actually said: “What?”
Then, Hopkins says, Weisenbach saw Hopkins, and Weisenbach and Daryl walked away.
You can tell that Hopkins is not terribly clear about the precise words he overheard.
Agent Klein asks Hopkins what really stung him — the conversation or the fact that they were collecting ballots after the third. At that point Hopkins admits, on his own, that it was an assumption he made that they were talking about backdating ballots:
KLEIN: What stings you hard? This conversation you heard or what they’re doing by sort of segregating the ballots the way they’re doing?
HOPKINS: The, I would say the conversation; the fact that I heard that they’re, you know, based on my assumption on what I could hear was that they were postmarking them on the third that were picked up on the fourth and that, immediately, ’cause I mean they’re making this big deal about picking up these ballots. I’m not alone in feeling that’s weird.
HOPKINS: ‘Cause that was —
KLEIN: Can I tell you you’re not alone in feeling that way.
HOPKINS: That was a red flag for me.
I’m going to give you one last section where they discuss the wording of the overheard conversation. I’m not giving you a transcript because the post is getting long, this excerpt is rather long (three minutes), and YouTube is having troubles, making this post difficult to write. But the point here is that they specifically drill down on words used and not used, and Hopkins says he remembers the words “dated the third but one was for the fourth.” From that, he logically assumed they were talking about backdating postmarks. He admits that was an assumption. He didn’t hear the whole conversation. “Ballots picked up on the fourth, all but one was postmarked, marked the third, except for one which was marked the fourth.” He heard the word “postmarked” used once, at the end: “one was postmarked the fourth.” He very clearly says he never heard the word “backdate” used. 1:06:23 – 1:09:49:
I want to get to the part of the conversation where they go through the Project Veritas affidavit paragraph by paragraph. Hopkins explains the parts that are wrong and he and the agents settle on alternate language that is more accurate.
Here is the original affidavit:
BREAKING: Here is the signed affidavit from Erie, Pennsylvania @USPS Whistleblower Richard Hopkins that is now in the hands of Sen. Lindsey Graham and the Senate Judiciary Committee. #ExposeUSPS pic.twitter.com/mi993k9CAJ
— James O'Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII) November 8, 2020
They go through this paragraph by paragraph, and Hopkins agrees to the following.
PARAGRAPH THREE: They jump head at first to paragraph three, which is really at the heart of the allegations. Hopkins agrees that it contains a significant amount of interpretation, and that if it were going to reflect facts that were 1000% accurate, it should be amended. Hopkins acknowledges that it was written up Veritas’s lawyers and that he would not swear to that paragraph today.
Later they decide to go paragraph by paragraph, starting with the first paragraph.
PARAGRAPH ONE: The facts contained within the affidavit dated 11/6/20 need clarification and should be amended for accuracy.
PARAGRAPH TWO: No changes.
PARAGRAPH THREE: Steph, not Rob, ordered the ballots delivered to the closing supervisor, and Hopkins does not know what happened to the ballots after that. From the conversation he heard between Weisenbach and Daryl, his logical assumption is that they were discussing backdating ballots, but never heard that word (backdating).
PARAGRAPH FOUR: He saw Weisenbach and Daryl having a discussion. He is not sure he heard the words “messed up.” From the words he overheard, his logical assumption was that they were backdating ballots. His impression was that only one ballot collected on the fourth was postmarked on the fourth. (His account of the specific words he heard has already been discussed above at great length.)
PARAGRAPH FIVE: As a carrier it was his responsibility to pick up all mail including ballots, but he had a concern that ballots were not being placed in the mail stream. They were to be given directly to the closing supervisor, and he did not know what happened to them after that. He is not certain that it was Weisenbach that specifically gave this direction, although Weisenbach is the postmaster.
Rather critically, he acknowledges that the sentence beginning “moreover” which accuses Weisenbach of backdating ballots should be removed entirely. “That should be removed, totally.”
1:44:02 – 1:45:24:
In approving the further clarification that this sentence should be removed entirely, Hopkins volunteers: “Because that is a little excessive . . . I wasn’t paying that much attention to what they were telling me . . .” He says he didn’t expect any of this shit; he’s just a dude.
PARAGRAPH SIX: He says that following his logical conclusions, he felt he had no other recourse other than to make this public, although he has no physical evidence of such actions. His assumptions motivated him to make his concerns public. At this point, notably, Hopkins makes the following comment about the assumptions he made:
1:49:33 – 1:50:14:
STRASSER: My assumptions motivated me to make my concerns public. Fair?
HOPKINS: I always think that of that word “assumptions” and I think of “ass of you and me.” So that’s why I’m sitting here thinking, this really does make me feel like an asshole.
STRASSER: It’s a situation that is universal. OK?
If you listen to these snippets out of context, of course, it sounds like they are putting words in his mouth, when in fact they are trying to fairly summarize what he has told them in a way that he agrees is accurate. Again, listening to the entire recording can answer some of the objections that partisans might want to raise in a knee-jerk fashion. I will pay no attention to drive-by sneering from people who have not listened to the whole thing.
PARAGRAPH SEVEN: Hopkins objects to the word “interrogated.” Hopkins volunteers: “I wouldn’t say you guys interrogated me.” He notes that the Project Veritas lawyers wrote the affidavit and says he guesses that is a term they use. “I would like to fix it because I feel bad.” Strasser says if they change that word, people will really think the agents are trying to put words in his mouth. But Hopkins is pretty insistent that he did not feel he had been “interrogated.”
1:52:38 – 1:54:06:
At the end, Hopkins reveals to them that he has been recording them. Strasser says he is not going to tell him to turn off the recorder, and jokes that now he has to sound official. (In truth, he sounds the same, and explains it’s a joke.) Strasser says he does not plan on administering a polygraph because he believes Hopkins.
In summary: This interview was not coerced, and Hopkins has freely recanted the most significant parts of his affidavit. Although Hopkins never admits to fabricating anything — and articles alleging that he did are outrageously false — he significantly undercuts the most explosive allegations in the Project Veritas affidavit, revealing them to be assumptions.
In short, everyone on both partisan sides of the issue — Big Media and Project Veritas both — is getting this wrong.
Shocking, I know.