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The FBI said it could not find any documents related to former President Donald Trump affirmations in november that he “sent in the FBI and U.S. prosecutors” to stop “ballot theft” in Florida during the 2018 election.
In a letter dated March 6 and received this week by NBC News, the FBI wrote that it had searched its central recording system but was “unable to identify the recordings” in response to the request for a reporter under the Freedom of Information Act seeking to obtain recordings related to Trump’s claims. .
The FOIA request was submitted a day after Trump on Nov. 10 described how he won a 2018 election victory for the current governor. Ron DeSantis by bringing in the FBI to stop voter fraud in Broward County.
Trump released the statement at a time when DeSantis, a Republican and potential presidential candidate, was garnering praise from right-wing media for his resounding re-election victory last year.
“[A]After the race, when votes were stolen by the corrupt electoral process in Broward County, and Ron was losing ten thousand votes a day, along with current Senator Rick Scott, I sent in the FBI and U.S. prosecutors, and the ballot theft immediately ended, just before they ran out of the votes needed to win. I saved his election from being stolen,” Trump said on his social media platform, Truth Social.
Trump’s claims, which he has not supported by any evidence, have raised serious questions about whether he used the power of the presidency to order federal agents to intervene in an election. The bar for the FBI to get involved in tabulating the election is extremely high, with strict guidelines prohibiting its presence at polling places.
In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s statement, the FBI and Justice Department declined to comment, but a former official later said on Twitter that Trump’s account had been fabricated.
“It never happened”, former spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice Sarah Isgur tweeted the day after Trump’s statement.
Trump’s remarks also prompted Nikki Fried, a Democrat who was then Florida’s agriculture commissioner, to ask U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the claims.
“There was no general allegation that the election was stolen from Ron DeSantis in favor of Andrew Gillum. I know because I was on the ballot in 2018,” Fried wrote in a November 14 letter to Garland. Gillum was the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate who ultimately lost the race to DeSantis.
The Justice Department and Trump’s press office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Trump’s statement in November accurately described how DeSantis edged out his main challenger, Adam Putnam, after winning Trump’s endorsement for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
DeSantis continued to declare victory in the general election on election night in 2018, but the race suffered an automatic recount as its margin of victory over Gillum was less than 0.5%.
State election officials later said they found no evidence of voter fraud in 2018, though a verification in Broward County concluded that the election was “not conducted effectively and efficiently”.
After Trump’s comments in November, a spokesperson for the Broward County Elections Office told the Tallahassee Democrat that the office had “no documentation of federal law enforcement presence in the 2018 election.”
As part of its FOIA request, NBC News asked the FBI to expedite its search for documents. The FBI then agreed to do so, writing in a letter in February that the request warranted the expedited search because it involved a “matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there are possible questions about the integrity of government that affect public confidence”.