Last week, NBC News highlighted a specific plan crafted by congressional Republican leaders: As the Jan. 6 committee’s hearings unfolded, the GOP would focus its attention on entirely different issues and treat the investigation as an irrelevant sideshow, unworthy of ferocious pushback.
Either Donald Trump didn’t hear about the plan, or he decided not to care about it.
We saw some of this last week, when the former president publicly took issue with Ivanka Trump’s committee testimony. Yesterday, as The New York Times noted, the Republican went even further: “He continued repeating his election conspiracies after Monday’s hearing, issuing a rambling 12-page response with a simple bottom line: ‘They cheated!’ he wrote.”
So much for treating the investigation as an irrelevant sideshow.
The full document is online here (.pdf), and those hoping it might include evidence to bolster Trump’s election conspiracy theories will be disappointed. It’s largely just a rehash of discredited nonsense the Republican has tried peddling before.
There was, however, something a little different about the latest written tirade: This one included a bunch of footnotes. In fact, there were 15 footnotes that specifically referenced a movie called “2000 Mules” — described in Trump’s document as a “blockbuster documentary.”
The former president’s timing could’ve been better. Hours earlier, Bill Barr, his former attorney general, was seen literally laughing at the movie. NPR reported:
As NPR’s Tom Dreisbach reported, 2,000 Mules is a documentary film directed by Dinesh D’Souza that alleges it has “smoking gun” evidence of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election in the form of digital device location tracking data. For the film, D’Souza worked with True The Vote, which claimed to have purchased geolocation data from various electronic devices. The group said it used that data to track the movements of people in key swing states around the time of the 2020 election, alleging that the data shows thousands of people making stops at mail-in vote drop boxes. The “mules” in the title refers to the individuals they claim stuffed drop boxes with stacks of completed ballots.
Barr characterized the premise of the film as absurd.
“If you take 2 million cell phones and figure out where they are physically in a big city like Atlanta or wherever, just by definition, you’re going to find any hundreds of them have passed by and spend time in the vicinity of these boxes,” he testified.
The former attorney general added, “The premise that if you go by a box, five boxes or whatever it was, you know that that’s a mule is just indefensible.”
He’s not alone in coming to this conclusion. The New York Times recently characterized the movie as “a Big Lie in a New Package,” noting that even some on the right have expressed discomfort with the project and its conclusions.
The Associated Press said the film is burdened by “gaping holes“; Washington Post analyses characterized its findings as “dishonest” and “misleading“; The Daily Beast said the movie is “stupid“; and Bulwark found it to be so bad that it’s unintentionally “hilarious.”
The Bulwark’s piece added that “2000 Mules” is a “tour de force exploring the limits of how many suckers there are willing to pay for fantasy.”
And yet, when Trump wanted to make the case in support of his conspiracy theory, he referenced the film 18 times — 15 times in footnotes, and three additional times in the body of the text.
Alas, he’s not alone. Assorted far-right members of Congress, including Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, have touted the movie’s claims, and even Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah — who occasionally presents himself as a GOP intellectual — recently voiced support for the conspiracy theories “2000 Mules” espoused.
Any chance Barr’s dismissal will help change some Republicans’ minds?