Former President Donald Trump described in great detail Thursday night how he purportedly delivered a 2018 election win to now-Gov. Ron DeSantis by sending FBI agents to stop “ballot theft” in a major Florida county.
But officials on Friday indicated that the former president’s account was a fabrication.
“Never happened,” former Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur tweeted Friday.
Her comment on Twitter was in response to Trump’s statement about the Florida elections that year.
“[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-Senator Rick Scott, I sent in the FBI and the U.S. 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 wrote.
The new claims, which he did not support with any evidence, were accompanied by scathing remarks blasting DeSantis — referred to by Trump as “Ron DeSanctimonious” — at a time when the GOP governor and potential 2024 presidential candidate is garnering praise from right-leaning media outlets for his resounding re-election victory on Tuesday. The New York Post, in Trump’s former hometown, declared the Florida governor “DeFuture” of the Republican Party, and called Trump its past.
Trump’s statement about the 2018 gubernatorial contest also raised serious questions about whether he might have used federal agents to intervene in an election. The bar for the FBI to get involved in election tabulation is enormously high, and there are strict guidelines prohibiting the FBI’s presence inside voting locations.
The FBI field office in Miami referred inquiries about Trump’s post to bureau headquarters in Washington, which declined comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in Miami did not respond to requests for comment.
The Broward County elections office also did not respond to a request for comment, but a spokesman disputed Trump’s account in a statement to the Tallahassee Democrat.
“The Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office has no documentation of any federal law enforcement presence during the 2018 elections,” Ivan Castro, spokesman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, told the newspaper. “Also, to clarify, there is no evidence of corruption during the 2018 election cycle in Broward County.”
DeSantis declared victory on election night in 2018, but the race underwent an automatic recount since his margin of victory over Democrat Andrew Gillum was less than 0.5%.
Trump, in his Thursday statement, accurately noted how DeSantis surged ahead of frontrunner Adam Putnam in the 2018 primary after getting his endorsement.
In the state’s Senate race that year, Scott’s victory over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson was also subject to an automatic recount. When Scott’s lead began to narrow into recount territory, he said he was concerned about “rampant fraud.”
“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the people of Florida,” said Scott, who at the time was governor.
That’s also when Trump tweeted, “Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott!”
State election officials said at the time there was no evidence of any voter fraud.
At the local level, an audit of the 2018 election in Broward County found that the election was a mess, but made no mention of any fraud or federal involvement.
“We conclude that the November 2018 election was not efficiently and effectively conducted. Backlogs in processing and tabulating Vote-By-Mail ballots delayed election results” and recount “results were submitted late and rejected by the State,” the audit found, calling for various reforms.
On Thursday, Trump made clear he was outraged that DeSantis has refused to say he won’t run for president in 2024 if Trump does. Trump has repeatedly teased a 2024 presidential run, and recently said he will make a big announcement on Tuesday night, without offering additional details.
“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,” Trump said in Thursday’s statement. “Ron DeSanctimonious is playing games!”
Ryan J. Reilly, Michael Kosnar, Ken Dilanian and Ali Vitali contributed.