James O'Keefe and Project Veritas settle suit over bogus voter fraud claims cited by Trump campaign

Conservative provocateur James O'Keefe and his former organization Project Veritas have settled a lawsuit filed by a Pennsylvania postmaster after the group spread a Postal Service worker's false claims of voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election.

A lawyer who represented Robert Weisenbach, the Erie postmaster who filed the lawsuit in state court, confirmed that it had been settled on undisclosed terms.

“The only comment I’m allowed to make about it is that the case was filed, was litigated, and settled to the satisfaction of the parties,” attorney David Houck told NBC News.

O'Keefe, who was removed as head of Project Veritas in February 2023, said in a brief statement Monday that he was "aware of no evidence or other allegation that election fraud occurred in the Erie Post Office during the 2020 Presidential Election.”

Protect Democracy, a self-described anti-authoritarian group that was involved in the suit on Weisenbach's side, said in a statement that the case “was resolved in a manner acceptable to all parties.”

Project Veritas did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

O'Keefe and Project Veritas had boosted the claims of Richard Hopkins, a Trump supporter who worked as a mail carrier at the time and claimed that he'd heard Weisenbach make statements about illegally backdating mail-in ballots. Hopkins retracted his statement after Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., cited it in a letter to the Justice Department in 2020.

In a statement O'Keefe and Project Veritas published Monday, Hopkins said he "only heard a fragment" of a conversation between Weisenbach and another supervisor but had "reached the conclusion that the conversation was related to nefarious behavior." Hopkins now says he was wrong.

“As a USPS mail carrier at the time, I was on heightened guard considering many allegations of ‘widespread fraud’ plaguing the 2020 Presidential Election,” Hopkins said in the statement. “As I have now learned, I was wrong. Mr. Weisenbach was not involved in any inappropriate behavior concerning the 2020 Presidential Election. The [Postal Service Office of the Inspector General] investigated and found that neither Mr. Weisenbach nor any other USPS employee in Erie, Pennsylvania engaged in election fraud or any other wrongdoing related to mail-in ballots.

"I apologize to Mr. Weisenbach, his family, the employees of the Erie Post Office, and anyone that has been negatively impacted by my report," Hopkins continued. "I implore everyone reading this statement to leave the Weisenbach family alone and allow them to return to their normal, peaceful, lives.”

Former President Donald Trump, in a tweet a week after the election, called Hopkins a “brave patriot,” and the Trump campaign cited his claims in litigation.

O’Keefe wrote Monday on X that he had "reported that election fraud had occurred in Erie, Pennsylvania during the 2020 Presidential Election," saying the story "was based on Richard Hopkins’ claim that he had overheard Robert Weisenbach, the Erie Postmaster, direct another USPS supervisor to illegally backdate mail-in ballots."

"Mr. Hopkins has since come to learn that he was wrong — neither Mr. Weisenbach nor any other USPS employee in Erie, Pennsylvania engaged in election fraud or any other wrongdoing related to mail-in ballots," O'Keefe said.

The settlement comes at a difficult time for Project Veritas, a right-wing group that laid off employees and suspended operations last year. Hannah Giles, who worked with O’Keefe and was its chief executive, announced in December that she was leaving Project Veritas, writing on X that she had "stepped into an unsalvageable mess — one wrought with strong evidence of past illegality and post financial improprieties." Also in December, a federal judge rejected a First Amendment defense by Project Veritas in connection with an investigation into the theft of a diary belonging to President Joe Biden’s daughter.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com