Investigative journalism nonprofit Project Veritas on Wednesday released a recording it claims shows federal agents pressuring a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) whistleblower in Erie, Pennsylvania, to go back on his allegations last week that he overheard superiors discussing a scheme to backdate mail-in ballots.
Mail carrier Richard Hopkins last week claimed that he heard a local postmaster at Erie Post Office, Rob Weisenbach, instruct USPS workers to collect mail ballots they receive after Nov. 3 and hand them over to him to be backdated.
Hopkins, 32, who has since been placed on non-pay status by the post office, signed a sworn affidavit, under the penalty of perjury, containing the allegations. It was received by Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Nov. 7.
He said that he is willing to testify under oath that he heard Weisenbach tell a supervisor that he was backdating ballots “to make it appear as though the ballots had been collected on November 3, 2020, despite them in fact being collected on November 4 and possibly later.”
Under state election rules, ballots can be counted up to three days after Election Day as long as they are postmarked as having been sent on Nov. 3.
A USPS spokesman told The Epoch Times it was aware of Hopkins’s claim and had referred the matter to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Office of Inspector General. A USPS Office of Inspector General spokesperson told The Epoch Times via email, “The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General does not comment on ongoing matters.”
Weisenbach did not respond to a request for comment but wrote on Facebook that the allegations were “100 % false” and “made by an employee that was recently disciplined multiple times.”
James O’Keefe of Project Veritas released an audio clip purportedly of an interview between Hopkins and federal investigators, shortly after the House Oversight Committee claimed in a statement on Twitter that Hopkins went back on his allegations of ballot tampering.
The committee said that investigators from the USPS Office of Inspector General had told the committee that the whistleblower had signed a sworn affidavit recanting his claims. The Washington Post published a report echoing similar claims, citing three unnamed officials briefed on the investigation, and the statement.
Hopkins quickly released a video dismissing reports that he fabricated the allegations, saying, “I did not recant my statements, that didn’t happen, that is not what happened.”
Prior to the full release of the audio clip, O’Keefe claimed on Twitter that Hopkins was “coerced” by federal agents in a four-hour interrogation without representation. The watchdog said Hopkins wore a wire during his interview with USPS Office of the Inspector General Agent Russell Strasser, releasing a partial clip in which an agent appears to say that he would deliberately place Hopkins under stress “to make your mind a little bit clearer.”
The Epoch Times has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the recording of the interview.
In according to the recording, Strasser is heard telling Hopkins that he needs his account to be “1,000 percent correct, and 1,000 percent shaved down to only the exact truth.” Strasser suggested using a polygraph on Hopkins, telling him that it’s “more used to get people out of trouble than into trouble.”
Strasser also said that he was going to “do some techniques that may seem silly, but some techniques that help the mind remember.”
Hopkins told Strasser, repeating his ballot tampering allegations, “I’m just saying I heard something about one of the ballots not being marked the fourth and the rest being marked the third. And that’s why I said what I was like, that doesn’t make any sense because this was the fifth that I’m hearing this, okay. And they were talking about stuff on the fourth.”
He added, “Soon as I heard that I popped my head out because it freaked me out. I looked to see who it was. I saw the two of them. And then Rob [Weisenbach] actually looked directly at me and then they walked away.” Hopkins also said that he remembered he was instructed to collect ballots from Nov. 4 to Nov. 6.
After multiple interjections from Strasser over Hopkins’s account, the mail carrier questioned his memory and can be heard saying: “You’re making me question myself at this point.”
“Okay, that’s my, that’s my purpose here. I am not—I am, actually. I am trying to twist you a little bit because in that, believe it or not, your mind will kick in. We like to control our mind and when we do that we can convince ourselves of a memory. But when you’re under a bit of stress—which is what I’m doing to you purposely—your mind can be a little bit clearer and we’re going to do a different exercise too, to make your mind a little bit clearer,” Strasser responded. “But this is all on purpose.”
“You heard words, which you and I both know, probably go together in a very specific sentence. Yes. Right. But the reality of it is I’m shaving away everything down to the narrowest truth, right,” Strasser told Hopkins after he later questioned his memory again. “The reality is, please don’t let me put words in your mouth. The reality is, you heard words, and you assumed what they were saying.”
“My mind probably added the rest. I understand that. I understand how hearsay and listening…,” Hopkins said before he was interrupted by Strasser.
“It’s an assumption. And that’s the important thing. And if we characterize it as this is what I thought those words meant, then there’s no way that huge stones can be logged in. Because that’s very different than saying they said this. Yes. Right. Because we’ve gone from painting a probable to being 1,000 percent in your face. accurate. Right?” Strasser said.
When asked by Strasser whether he believes Weisenbach could have said something different, Hopkins said, “Maybe. It’s possible.”
The USPS, House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), House Oversight Ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.), the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Erie County didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment by The Epoch Times.
A spokeswoman for Republicans on the House Oversight Committee told The Epoch Times via email: “We are monitoring the situation and seeking more information from the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General about these serious allegations. We look forward to learning more as USPS looks into this issue.”
Ivan Pentchoukov and Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.