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Ely theater counters insurrection hearings with pro-Trump film

Multiple candidates are scheduled to speak at Saturday screenings, including the Ely mayor and a candidate for St. Louis County sheriff.

Ely watertower and business district
An Ely theater is showing “2000 Mules,” a film that claims to uncover voter fraud that influenced the 2020 election. Two candidates and the Ely mayor are scheduled to speak during the two screenings.
File / Duluth News Tribune
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ELY — As testimony regarding President Donald Trump's pressure to overturn the 2020 election is considered in federal congressional hearings, a theater in Northeastern Minnesota will host a widely debunked film about voting and the 2020 presidential election.

Ely’s Historic State Theater will be the site Saturday morning for two showings of “2000 Mules,” which purports to uncover rampant voter fraud that influenced the election. State attorney general candidate Doug Wardlow, St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office candidate Chad Walsh and current Ely Mayor Roger Skraba are scheduled to address audiences at the screenings, according to a flier promoting the event.

“I believe Joe Biden won the election. I’m not doubting that,” Skraba told the News Tribune. “The reason I want to get behind this ‘2000 Mules’ is it brings into question our election integrity. It needs to be discussed. It’s not perfect.”

Skraba is running to represent District 3A in the Minnesota House.

Wardlow and Walsh did not return attempts to reach them, and the nonprofit organization that operates the theater of the same name also did not return News Tribune inquiries.

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Tickets are $12, above the usual $5 ticket price at the theater. Skraba said the screenings are not being used as a fundraiser for his campaign. It's unclear who is profiting from the screenings.

Wardlow is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Attorney General Keith Ellison. Wardlow has made voter fraud a pillar of his campaign, aligning himself with the My Pillow magnate, Mike Lindell, whose high-profile stunts have repeatedly sought to discredit Biden’s election.

Wardlow said on his website if elected he’d create an election crime prosecution unit to go after fraud. Both Wardlow and Skraba have expressed disdain with how the state’s absentee ballots weren’t required to include witness signatures during the COVID-19 pandemic election of 2020, but neither seems to offer any tangible evidence of voter fraud within the state.

In fact, Skraba praised Ely’s own election history, saying recounts have historically reproduced results almost exactly aligned with election-night vote counts.

“We’ve had recounts within the last 10 years in Ely … there was no change,” Skraba said. “When the system is used properly it works fantastically.”

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Tuesday’s hearing is the select committee’s fourth in a series that aims to demonstrate the former President Donald Trump's role in the attack.

One of a handful of Iron Range mayors to endorse former President Donald Trump in 2020, Skraba began his career in public office as a Democrat.

He said he’s only watched parts of the Jan. 6 hearings and challenged the makeup of insurrectionists. When explained that Jan. 6 insurrectionists have been proven to be made up of far-right militia such as Proud Boys and Oath Keepers along with Trump supporters, Skraba falsely countered by saying the Federal Bureau of Investigations was involved in the plotting.

Biden won the 2020 presidential election by 7 million popular votes and more than 70 electors.

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National coverage of the film “2000 Mules” often refers to its claims as speculative and lacking proof. Some claims made in the film have also been debunked during the bipartisan congressional investigation. Notably, Trump’s former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr discredited the claims made in the film.

The congressional hearings have featured compelling testimony and featured evidence of a planned insurrection. So far, Trump administration figures, members of the U.S. Capitol Police, federal- and state-level Republicans, election officials and election-day poll workers have testified, with several affirming the integrity of the 2020 election.

“I don’t want information to be suppressed,” Skraba said of the film. “I look at it as freedom of speech.”

Brady Slater is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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