Trump Lobs Fraud Accusation at Democrats Over Florida Vote Count
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump accused Democrats of fraudulently trying to snatch a Senate seat in Florida’s tight race, without citing any evidence to support his claim, and later questioned whether a new election should be held in Arizona’s too-close-to-call Senate race.
Trump inserted himself into both races, casting doubt on the ongoing vote tallies in those states as well as in Georgia, where thousands of absentee, provisional and other uncounted ballots could shift the outcomes. The Florida race may be headed for a recount and both parties were girding for legal challenges.
In lengthy remarks to reporters and a flurry of tweets written en route to Paris, Trump said Democrats are “miraculously” finding votes in some Florida counties. The Republican candidate for Senate there, Governor Rick Scott, has seen his lead over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson shrink since Election Day.
Trump disparaged top Democratic election attorney Marc Elias, who’s led recount efforts in other states and joined the legal team of Nelson’s campaign, as “their best Election stealing lawyer.”
“Don’t worry, Florida - I am sending much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!” Trump said on Twitter, without elaborating. He later tweeted that the situation “is an embarrassment to our Country and to Democracy!”
Trump also suggested fraud in Arizona, where Democrat Kyrsten Sinema jumped ahead of Republican Martha McSally late Thursday as additional votes were counted.
“Just out — in Arizona, SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH. Electoral corruption - Call for a new Election? We must protect our Democracy!” Trump said in a tweet.
Arizona Republicans filed court challenges against efforts by urban two counties to resolve issues with signatures on mail-in ballots. But the issue was settled on Friday afternoon with an agreement that would give rural voters a chance to fix problems, the Associated Press reported.
Republican control of the 100-member Senate isn’t in doubt, but the races in Florida and Arizona have implications for how easily GOP lawmakers can confirm Trump’s picks for the federal judiciary and top agency positions. If Democrats manage to edge out their Republican opponents in both states, Republicans would have a narrower margin to lose votes of party moderates on potentially contentious nominees.
Send the Lawyers
The White House didn’t immediately respond when asked to explain Trump’s tweet about sending lawyers. Earlier the president said “there could be” when asked by reporters whether he’d direct a federal intervention in the Florida race. He didn’t elaborate on what the federal government could do, but added that “there are bad things that have gone on in Broward County. Really bad things.”
Florida is the definitive swing state in U.S. politics, and it’s not uncommon for major statewide races to be decided by the narrowest of margins. Trump won the state in 2016 by 1.2 percentage points, and Scott’s two races for governor were decided by similar margins.
The state is infamous for its role in the 2000 presidential election, which was won by Republican George W. Bush after a five-week recount drama that awarded him Florida’s electoral votes by a 537-ballot margin over Democrat Al Gore.
The Republican Party on Friday sent an email fundraising appeal under Trump’s name based on the Florida Senate race.
‘Every Legal Ballot’
Nelson also is fundraising for a recount, and said in a statement that “Rick Scott is trying to stop all the votes from being counted and he’s impeding the democratic process.”
“The reason why he feels that way is obvious: we believe when every legal ballot is counted we’ll win this election,” Nelson said.
Boarding Air Force One for France, where he’ll participate in ceremonies to mark the 100th Armistice Day, Trump told reporters that “it always seems to go the way of the Democrats.”
“Now in Arizona, all of a sudden, out of the wilderness, they find a lot of votes, and she’s -- the other candidate -- is just winning by a hair,” Trump said.
On Twitter, Trump also weighed in on the Georgia governor race, where Republican Brian Kemp has claimed victory, even though votes are still being counted and his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams appears to be just shy of enough votes to trigger a recount.
“@BrianKempGA ran a great race in Georgia - he won. It is time to move on!” Trump tweeted.
He followed that with an apparently sarcastic tweet about the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russia has interfered in U.S. elections, including his 2016 victory.
Scott, Florida’s governor, is suing two of his state’s counties -- Broward and Palm Beach -- asking for an investigation of the tens of thousands of votes trickling in days after the election, which have narrowed his lead enough to trigger a recount.
Nelson didn’t concede defeat in Tuesday’s election, even after Scott declared victory, and has called for a recount. Now with two of the state’s most Democratic counties still filing unofficial results, Scott’s lead has shrunk to less than the half a percentage point that would allow for a recount.
Most of the focus had turned to Broward County, a Democratic South Florida stronghold that, mysteriously, according to critics, was still tallying early-voting and mail-in ballots on Thursday. What’s more, there appeared to be an unusual discrepancy of some 25,000 votes between the races for governor and senator, even though they were on the same ballot.
Scott on Thursday night said voters “should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening” in the two counties.
Nelson campaign lawyer Elias said in a conference call with reporters that making sure every vote is counted “is a feature, not flaw, of our democratic system.” He added that there may be two other races beside the Senate contest that may fall within the recount margin -- the elections for governor and agriculture commissioner.
Elias said it isn’t “appropriate” for Scott to initiate a law enforcement investigation into vote counting when the governor is on the ballot as a candidate for Senate. “This is not a Third World dictatorship, we don’t let people seize ballots when they think they’re losing.”
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