By Roger Roots, J.D., Ph.D.,
Every trial lawyer knows that leading questions can be used to sculpt and shape a witness’s testimony to conform to the lawyer’s narrative. A leading question is one that leads a witness to an answer, by either suggesting the answer or by substituting the words of the questioner for those of the witness. In effect, a questioner—by use of leading questions—becomes the author rather than the receiver of the narrative.
Last week, the world was treated to headlines announcing “Postal worker recanted allegations of ballot tampering” (Washington Post), “Erie postal worker admits fabricating Trump-pushed claims of voter fraud” (TribLive), “Officials: Postal worker recants ballot-tampering claims” (Seattle Times), “Postal worker withdraws claim that ballots were backdated in Pennsylvania” (New York Times), and “Postal worker admits fabricating allegations of ballot tampering, reports say” (msn.com).
The headlines relate to a story of a U.S. Postal carrier in Eerie, PA, Richard Hopkins, who, on November 5 (two days AFTER election day) overheard a discussion by his supervisor about postmarking ballots mailed on November 4th as having been mailed on the 3rd. Another of Hopkins’ supervisors was openly urging all carriers to continue collecting ballots after the election was over as if the ballots were timely postmarked. (PA elections officials were still, at that time, counting votes.)
Hopkins’ supervisor’s instructions were highly illegal (unless there was an intent to strictly separate and exclude the late ballots from valid timely ballots). Nothing in these supervisors’ instructions indicated an innocent intent; indeed, the mere fact that the late ballots were to be packaged separately from ordinary mail—which travels onward from Eerie to Pittsburgh for accurate postmarking—suggests an intent by USPS officials to evade accurate postmarking.
Hopkins himself encountered a late ballot on his route later that day. He took pains to write “11/05/20” on the envelope before depositing it in the ballot bin at the Eerie Post Office. Hopkins also shared his concerns that his USPS supervisors were apparently abetting election fraud with coworkers and then with Project Veritas.
Project Veritas shared Hopkins’ story nationwide, and soon the Trump Campaign—already in high gear to challenge PA election improprieties—obtained an affidavit from Hopkins regarding his account.
Hopkins’ revelations had far-reaching implications. The left, the mainstream news, and the establishment (do I repeat myself) were determined to dampen all claims of election fraud in order to fast-track the coronation of Joe Biden as president. Hopkins’ story threw a bit of a wrench into the mainstream storyline.
In any other year, state and local election officials conduct and administer American elections. But in 2020, the U.S. Postal Service became a major player in the national election (for preposterous reasons which would require another article to recount). The USPS, like all federal agencies, is staffed overwhelmingly by Democrats. By some calculations, some 95 percent of campaign donations over $200 by federal employees go to Democrats. In 2016, the USPS unlawfully gave time off and other benefits to Postal employees who campaigned for Hillary Clinton.
Hours after nationwide publicity about the Hopkins affidavit hit the airwaves, the USPS Office of Inspector General (IG) dispatched a pair of high-level fixers to Eerie. One of the USPS fixers—Russ Strasser—had an extensive military intelligence background and has reportedly posted anti-Trump comments on his social media accounts (now scrubbed).
On Monday, November 9, Agents Strasser and Chris Klein subjected Hopkins to an hours-long interview that can only be described as Kafkaesque. Hopkins, a marine veteran with too much trust in government, turned out to be an easy mark. The agents dominated some ninety percent of the conversation.
The interview began with giggly and girlish tones, as Agent Strasser said he wanted to simply “chat” with Hopkins. Soon, however, Strasser was directing Hopkins to sign a waiver of his Miranda rights and then to read the waiver aloud. The giggly chitchat session was interlaced with solemn reminders of the gravity of the situation. For his part, Hopkins never strayed from his original story: the USPS at the Eerie Station was collecting invalid, late ballots and treating them as if they were timely and valid.
After hours of repeated grilling, however, the agents got Hopkins to admit that he never actually heard the word “backdate.” Hopkins also conceded that he did not actually witness his supervisors doing any backdating of ballots. And was it possible that Hopkins may have misheard things or that there might be an innocent explanation—say, hypothetically, that the supervisor was merely discussing postmarks on the ballots without any intention to comingle those marked “the Third” with those marked “the Fourth”? Hopkins said it was possible.
The fixers moved in for the kill. “Right now, I’m not going to [subject Hopkins to] a polygraph.” “I think we are better off if we do an updated signed statement.” “Are you with me on that?” Agent Strasser and Agent Klein then began drafting an “update” to Hopkins’ affidavit.
Strasser dictated the new wording to Hopkins: “And I think what we need to amend it is ‘from what I heard from the conversation, my logical assumption was that [the Eerie postmaster] was suggesting that they’re backdating ballots . . .” So after hours of manipulation, the agents changed Hopkins’ testimony about witnessing a scheme to backdate late-received ballots to a testimony about Hopkins’ “logical assumption” being that USPS officials were discussing backdating ballots.
The agents must have almost immediately leaked the news of the “updated” statement to anxiously-awaiting Democrats in Congress, or even to The Washington Post. Reporters for The Post began drafting the “Whistleblower Recanted” story within 24 hours of the conversation. Soon some newspapers were even running the story as a “whistleblower lied” tale.
We know of the contours of the November 9 interrogation only because Hopkins himself recorded parts of it on his cellphone. The irreconcilable differences between the audio recording and the press reports don’t seem to have attracted much attention.
Hopkins has now been relieved of his job without pay—for blowing the whistle on an election fraud scheme. Meanwhile Hopkins’ supervisors at the Eerie USPS station continue in their jobs without any apparent punishment or discipline, despite evidence that seems to indicate they helped rig an election by processing invalid late voters’ ballots. And Russ Strasser apparently faces no discipline for his obstruction of justice in the matter.