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Political Notebook: Arizona AG lacks election evidence from 'Mules' movie

Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix last year.

A weird thing happened after the movie “2000 Mules” made a big splash this spring, claiming to have documented fraud in the 2020 election in Arizona and other states.

The makers have not provided their evidence to investigators, most recently in Arizona.

Axios Phoenix reported that the movie’s makers, a group called True the Vote, refused multiple requests from the (Arizona) attorney general’s office to provide evidence or data supporting the ballot-harvesting allegations it made” in the movie.

“We have continually asked for information that has not been provided,” Ryan Anderson, a spokesperson for the AG’s office, told Axios.

In response to the story, True the Vote’s Gregg Phillips told the Arizona Sun Times that the group had turned over the requested evidence, but that the Attorney General’s Office “did nothing except send weird letters. And in the end it became clear, all they were ever trying to do is discredit us.”

The fiasco in Phoenix is the latest in a series of setbacks that have occurred when the movie’s allegations have been tested in real life, even by potentially sympathetic officials, like Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican.

The movie, directed by Dinesh D’Souza, uses cellphone geolocation data to argue that “mules” hired by Democrat-supporting nonprofit organizations dumped fraudulent ballots into drop boxes. It has been broadly criticized for making claims that far outstrip its evidence.

In Georgia, a Republican-majority state elections board looked into an election-fraud claims made by True the Vote but dismissed them. They also asked to speak with a whistleblower whom D’Souza claimed to have consulted, but that whistleblower was never made available.

In May the Yuma County sheriff rejected D’Souza’s claim that his movie had led to an investigation in Yuma County.

“These ongoing investigations are not related to or inspired by any movie or celebrity figure,” Sheriff Leon Wilmot said, as reported by the Arizona Mirror.

In mid-August, Phillips, one of the leaders of True the Vote, claimed to have uploaded some of the group’s materials to a new website.

“Within a few days it was attacked by Chinese hackers — not just attacked but stripped,” he claimed Aug. 16.

At the same presentation, he and Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote also declared it was “the end of Mules.”

“End Scene, we’re done. It’s time to move on,” Engelbrecht said, adding that her focus is on the midterm elections this year.

This month, the publisher of a book version of the movie recalled the book from stores citing an unspecified “publishing error.”

Viva Coffee closes

A Tucson coffee shop that became a hub of conservative gatherings in recent years is closing.

Viva Coffee House, 9136 E. Valencia Road, hosted events in 2020 and 2021, in part in response to government mandates related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It came to prominence because of the activities of Kelly Walker, who became known around Tucson when he protested pandemic mandates at a September 2020 Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Walker was the shop's main promoter, but his in-laws, Cheryl and Rick Dunker, say he never owned it. Walker established a series of events called Freedom Talks that featured, among others, Dinesh D’Souza and other nationally known speakers.

In an email Thursday, Cheryl Dunker blamed Walker for the shop’s demise, saying they tried to keep it open but could not overcome unpaid debt.

“Unfortunately, our coffee house was used and abused by Kelly Walker to serve his needs,” Dunker wrote. “He left us with a mountain of debt, which he never disclosed to us, and a horrible reputation during his claim of ownership.”

“We were looking forward to rebranding and serving our community properly without all the drama Kelly laid at our feet,” she went on.

Walker disputed the Dunkers' version of events on the Viva Coffee House Facebook page and on Instagram. He said he was an owner of the business from the beginning and had a plan to rescue it with a new partner

"When the economy went south, this Biden economy, it was just too much," he said. "The combination of hyper inflation with the cost of goods going up and less profit, fuel prices, our numbers dropped and our expenses went up."

Walker described a confrontation that took place in July, in which he said the Dunkers had the locks changed while he was out, and an armed security guard pushed him away.  

Walker is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 15 on misdemeanor trespassing charges for a Sept. 2, 2021, incident in which he and two other men went to Mesquite Elementary School in the Vail district to confront a principal over a quarantine requirement. They were carrying zip ties and Walker threatened to make a citizens’ arrest.

Supervisors add Juneteenth holiday

Pima County employees will now get an extra day off for Juneteenth.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors added the holiday Tuesday in a 4-to-1 vote.

Supervisor Steve Christy said during the meeting that he voted against the extra holiday because he wanted to wait until a compensation study being done by a firm the county hired in July is completed. It could take about eight months to complete.

“There’s been no cost analysis,” Christy said during the meeting about adding another day off for about 6,400 people the county employs

The Biden Administration approved Juneteenth as a federal holiday in June 2021.

Like Cesar Chavez Remembrance Day, county employees can take a day off anytime during the month of the holiday.

Juneteenth marks the date the last slaves were freed in Galveston, Texas, in 1865.

“I am proud that Pima County employees now will have the opportunity to honor and celebrate Juneteenth as a holiday in June every year,” District 5 Supervisor Adelita Grijalva said in a news release. “Pima County residents have celebrated Juneteenth for 52 years as a community and the passing of the Juneteenth holiday in Pima County is long overdue.”

Contact columnist Tim Steller at tsteller@tucson.com or 520-807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter

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