Donald Trump raised eyebrows Thursday when he claimed to have “sent in the FBI and U.S. Attorneys” to Florida in 2018 on behalf of Ron DeSantis, who was then running for governor, supposedly ensuring his victory in a tight race.
The former president did not provide evidence for the alarming claim, which was embedded in his lengthy Truth Social screed against DeSantis, now a potential opponent in the 2024 presidential election.
Trump has yet to announce his intention to run for another term. DeSantis has similarly not announced his presidential ambitions, but Trump accused him of disloyalty anyway for not appearing more deferential to Trump.
He likened his endorsement of DeSantis to “a nuclear weapon” and said he “fixed his campaign, which had completely fallen apart.”
Then came the shocker: ”[A]fter 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-Sen. Rick Scott, I sent in the FBI and U.S. Attorneys, and the ballot theft immediately ended, just prior to them running out of the votes necessary to win.”
Sarah Isgur, a Justice Department spokesperson at the time of the 2018 election, smacked down on Trump’s suggestion.
“Never happened,” she tweeted.
DeSantis narrowly beat out the Democratic candidate for Florida governor, Andrew Gillum, in 2018. The margin between the two was around 32,000 votes out of 8.2 million cast, or about 0.4%.
The Washington Post pointed out that the timeline of events around that election does not seem to support Trump’s assertion that he was responsible for all of DeSantis’ political success.
The Associated Press called the 2018 Florida gubernatorial election for DeSantis at 11:27 p.m. ET on the night of Nov. 6, 2018, which was Election Day. The Republicans’ suggestion that Democrats were perpetuating voter fraud was first made in a press conference two days later, The Post reported. And Scott made the accusation; his race was not called until later in the month.
The known extent of FBI involvement in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race was related to alleged corruption during Gillum’s time as mayor of Tallahassee.
Republicans’ voter fraud accusations were also investigated at the time. An audit of how the election was handled in Broward County ― which ran into numerous snafus during the midterms that year ― found that none of the problems were severe enough to affect the results, the Miami Herald reported.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Although it is questionable, Trump’s claim has led to calls for an investigation into whether he abused his power.
Daniel Uhlfelder, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Florida’s attorney general office earlier this year, said he would be filing a complaint with the Florida Elections Integrity Office.
“This seems like a case that Florida’s election police should immediately investigate,” Uhlfelder tweeted.
As Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) put it:
“Donald Trump makes stuff up all the time. But what if Trump is saying in his post is true, then the @TheJusticeDept needs to investigate whether the former president used federal agents to interfere in an election.”