Legal experts have reacted to unfounded claims that Donald Trump sent federal agents to stop Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial election being “stolen” from Ron DeSantis.
In a lengthy statement attacking the Florida governor, Trump took credit for helping DeSantis win the 2018 GOP primary over Florida’s agriculture commissioner, Adam Putnam, and the midterm election against Democrat Andrew Gillum.
As well as describing “Ron DeSantimonious” as an “average” Republican who was “politically dead” before his intervention, Trump also claimed without evidence that he stopped DeSantis losing by sending the FBI and prosecutors to stop apparent voter fraud.
“I was all in for Ron, and he beat Gillum, but after the Race, when votes were being stolen by the corrupt Election process in Broward County, and Ron was going down ten thousand votes a day, along with now-Senator Rick Scott , I sent in the FBI and the US Attorneys, and the ballot theft immediately ended, just prior to them running out of the votes necessary to win. I stopped his Election from being stolen,” Trump said.
Reacting to the claim from Trump—who has spent two years pushing false claims the 2020 presidential election was rigged—Barbara McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor and former US attorney, said the remarks from the president need to be taken with a pinch of salt.
“It would really depend on what happened there,” McQuade told Newsweek.
“First, I doubt it’s true. Second, he seems to be saying he sent them to prevent election interference. The Department of Justice can respond to efforts to intimidate or discriminate against voters at the polls on election day, but if this really happened, I’m sure we would have heard about it by now.”
While there had been concerns about allegations of voter fraud in the 2018 Florida Senate recount between Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson—for which the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found no evidence—this is the first time that Trump or anyone else has alleged that voter fraud could have hindered DeSantis’ first gubernatorial election victory.
Reacting to the claim, lawyer Daniel Uhlfelder, who also ran for Florida attorney general as a Democrat, tweeted: “In 2018, Rick Scott defeated Bill Nelson by 10.033 votes & DeSantis defeated Andrew Gillum by 32.463 votes. Trump said tonight that he sent in the FBI and US Attorneys to ensure their victory.
“This seems like a case that Florida’s election police should immediately investigate.”
Trump’s claim came as the former president has fully turned on his one-time ally in the wake of the Republican Party’s poor midterm performance.
Many conservative figures, including those within the GOP, have blamed the failure of Trump’s endorsed candidates for the party still not managing to gain a majority in the House, with the Senate looking like it may remain in control of the Democrats.
As a result, DeSantis has emerged as a potential new firebrand figure to lead the GOP in 2024, resulting in Trump dismissing the suggestion the Florida governor has what it takes to beat him for the GOP presidential candidacy.
Trump also accused DeSantis of “playing games” about his future plans within the party. While Trump is expected to formally announce his intentions to run for the White House again in 2024 in the coming days, DeSantis has given no real sign he will follow suit despite the mounting speculations.
“The Fake News asks him if he’s going to run if President Trump runs, and he says, ‘I’m only focused on the Governor’s race, I’m not looking into the future.’ Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer,” the former president wrote in his statement.
DeSantis and Florida’s Office of Election Crimes and Security have been contacted for comment.