Republican candidates for top statewide offices in Arizona have said they believe what they saw in the election-conspiracy movie “2000 Mules.”
Now, the state Attorney General’s Office is asking the FBI and IRS for investigations of the group behind the movie, True the Vote, noting that it has repeatedly rebuffed all requests to share the documentary’s alleged evidence and has raised “considerable sums of money” based on claims of having that evidence.
“Given TTV’s status as a nonprofit organization, it would appear that further review of its financials may be warranted,” wrote Reginald “Reggie” Grigsby, chief special agent of the office’s Special Investigations Section.
The film, released in May and thoroughly debunked by experts and media organizations, claims mobile-phone data obtained by the group shows a coordinated effort by hundreds of people around the country — deemed “mules” — to stuff election drop boxes with ballots for candidate Joe Biden in 2020. True the Vote’s representatives said they would use their findings to make elections more secure.
But the moviemakers have since refused to release any of their supposed data to law enforcement groups even after promising to do so, the Attorney General’s Office said in the two-page letter Friday.
Grigsby’s letter accuses True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht and its contractor Gregg Phillips of providing misleading information to his office and other law enforcement groups. He also mentions some of the bogus information the group has previously put out related to the movie, such as the false claims that the group helped solve a murder in Atlanta and break a ballot-harvesting case in San Luis, Arizona.
In sum, the information points to “potential violations” of tax code given True the Vote’s 501(c)3 nonprofit status, the letter states.
True the Vote didn’t respond to an email Friday from The Arizona Republic seeking comment.
Candidates promoted film’s claims
Many Republican politicians have pointed to the movie as proof that fraud caused former President Donald Trump to lose in 2020, despite the lack of verification of any of its claims.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has said the movie’s producer, right-wing activist Dinesh D’Souza, is a “patriot” and that the movie showed how the conspiracy worked.
“There’s no way they can discount what is in this movie,” she said on Newsmax in May. “It is in black and white.”
Lake said in the same interview she believes the May leak of the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was a conspiracy timed to turn the public’s attention away from what she called the “shocking” facts of the movie.
During the only televised debate in the race for secretary of state, Republican candidate Mark Finchem pointed to “2000 Mules” as one example of election fraud, noting that it provided “visual evidence” of ballots being stuffed into drop boxes.
Abe Hamadeh, the Republican candidate for state attorney general, has also portrayed the film as truthful.
“Isn’t it sad that it required a documentary filmmaker to expose the crimes and fraud of 2020?” he told Trump lawyer Christina Bobb in July.
Numerous other candidates and lawmakers have either praised the film or publicly shown interest in it.
In late May, about 200 people attended a presentation on the film at a state Senate committee room by Phillips and Engelbrecht. The event featured a panel of state senators and other politicians, including Congresswoman Debbie Lesko and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb. The next month, Finchem hosted a screening of the film and question-and-answer session in Sedona.
Critics have ridiculed the movie, which claims to have video evidence it never shows and fictionalized some scenes.
Group refuses to share data
Phillips, who claimed publicly — and falsely — in 2017 that “millions” of noncitizens voted in 2016, told the Arizona Senate panel in May that the group turned over a “disk” of its findings to the state.
However, as The Republic reported last monthrecords obtained from the Attorney General’s Office show that officials tried repeatedly to obtain the alleged findings, but True the Vote never followed through.
In Friday’s letter, Grigsby said Phillips’ claim that he turned over the findings was “patently false.”
True the Vote representatives then told the Attorney General’s Office that it turned over its findings to the Phoenix FBI office and that since the FBI now considered the conservative activists’ “informants,” they didn’t think they could give the state the same information. That wasn’t true, either, according to Grigsby.
Phoenix FBI officials told the state investigators that the representatives were not informants and that they had only turned over an audio and video recording of someone alleging ballot harvesting in San Luis.
The group also told another unnamed law enforcement agency that it had turned over its findings to the state Attorney General’s Office, Grigsby reported.
The San Luis case involves real ballot harvesting; the small town’s former major was sentenced to 30 days in jail Thursday for collecting four ballots that weren’t hers. Though the case dealt only with the 2020 primary election, conspiracy theorists have misleadingly tied it to the general election that Trump lost.
Brian Glicklich, a spokesperson for True the Vote, later released a statement from the group criticizing the Attorney General’s Office letter as “false,” adding that it “smacks of retribution for the AG’s own decision to ignore suspicious voting activity.”
The group lost trust in the Attorney General’s Office after dealing with investigators, the letter claims. The letter also included a black-and-white photo of Phillips holding a rectangular object that the organization said was “the hard drive,” apparently referring to the hard drive that investigators said they never received. The organization said law enforcement agencies could obtain the data with a subpoena.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: AZ AG: IRS, FBI should investigate ‘2000 Mules’ makers True the Vote
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