The FBI has, in very direct terms, essentially refuted a claim from Donald Trump that he dispatched federal law enforcement agents to secure a win for Ron DeSantis in the 2018 elections in Florida, where the prominent Republican was running for what became his first term as governor.
Trump had explicitly claimed he sent personnel with the FBI and federal prosecutors’ offices, but a request under public records laws for records held by the FBI and potentially relating to such a move has, according to the agency, turned up absolutely nothing. Although others also made a push for similar materials, the newly reported repudiation came in response to a records request made at NBC News. “In a letter dated March 6 and received this week by NBC News, the FBI wrote that it had searched its Central Records System but was “unable to identify records” in response to a reporter’s Freedom of Information Act request seeking any records related to Trump’s claims,” according to the news outlet.
The idea, of course, of Trump potentially having sent agents to Florida to essentially meddle with the local electoral process as DeSantis and other Republicans prominently sought state and federal office mirrored what Trump eventually tried to do after the 2020 presidential race in pressuring personnel across the federal government, even including the vice president, to act. Trump has been consistently and only increasingly antagonistic towards DeSantis, who could soon be running for president in the GOP primary, although he’s yet to announce a campaign. DeSantis, though, sailed to re-election to a second term with a leading margin of nearly 20 percent, way larger than the leading margin of under half a percentage point by which he won the election over Democratic contender Andrew Gillum in 2018.
Trump’s claims about intervening in Florida’s elections that year were long dubious, in part because of timing. By a point identified in reports when Rick Scott, who won a race for Senate that year, started complaining about the electoral process in a southern Florida county Trump also referenced, the Associated Press had already called the race for governor that year for DeSantis. A media call, of course, isn’t binding, but it’s indicative of the general direction of the particular election. DeSantis had also already declared victory.