The government watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has unveiled legal action against the Department of Justice in hopes of obtaining any records that may exist that relate to a claim from former President Donald Trump that he committed election interference.
The content of his claim was that he dispatched personnel with the Justice Department to a southern Florida county with the net result of helping secure an election win for Ron DeSantis, who at the time (in 2018) was seeking his first term as governor. It’s unclear Trump’s comments reasonably reflect reality at all, but a previous series of requests CREW made under laws ordinarily mandating the disclosure of certain records to the public went unfulfilled by the department’s leadership. What CREW originally sought included “All records from October 1, 2018 to November 30, 2018 relating to any order, instruction, directive, or proposal” by a series of officials including Trump “to deploy federal law enforcement personnel to Broward County, Florida in connection with the 2018 election.”
CREW made that request last November, and the subsequent legal action in federal court in D.C. was filed this month. Their earlier requests also covered any records that reflected any such actual deployment of staff.
Trump’s claims were part of his broader push to essentially take personal credit for the political success seen by DeSantis, who is a potential challenger to the ex-commander-in-chief in the GOP primary race ahead of 2024. The timeline, though, suggests Trump was lying, because The Washington Post identified a point of emergence for complaints about the handling of ballots in Broward County that was days after the Associated Press already called the gubernatorial race that year for DeSantis. It was a closer race for U.S. Senate that remained under contention. Still, there are possibilities like that Trump nonetheless tried to pressure staff in the Justice Department for action, as he of course did around the 2020 elections.
Trump’s history of false claims about the integrity of the electoral process in the United States goes back well beyond 2020. Meanwhile, Democrats in positions of state power are furthering their efforts to fight back against these threats to electoral integrity. Although Republicans have tried to implement new restrictions on voting in state legislatures, Democrats in states like New Mexico and New York have wheeled out proposals to expand voting rights. In the latter locale, an enacted bill even includes requirements for preapproval by certain state authorities of some changes to the handling of elections — requirements of the sort sought, so far unsuccessfully, in Congress after the Supreme Court dismantled initiatives similar in nature found in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.