The FBI has said it can find no records related to former President Donald Trump’s assertions in November that he “sent in the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys” 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 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.
The FOIA request was submitted a day after Trump on Nov. 10 described how he delivered a 2018 election win to now-Gov. Ron DeSantis by having the FBI intervene to stop election fraud in Broward County.
Trump issued the statement at a time when DeSantis, a Republican and potential presidential candidate, was garnering praise from right-leaning media for his resounding re-election victory last 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 said on his social media platform, Truth Social.
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Trump’s claims, which he did not support with any evidence, 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 election tabulation is exceedingly high, with strict guidelines prohibiting its presence inside voting locations.
In the immediate wake of Trump’s statement, the FBI and the Justice Department declined to comment, but a former official later indicated on Twitter that Trump’s account was fabricated.
“Never happened,” former Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur tweeted the morning after Trump made his 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 assertions.
“There was no broad allegation that the election was being stolen from Ron DeSantis in favor of Andrew Gillum. I know because I was on the ballot in 2018,” Fried wrote in a Nov. 14 letter to Garland. Gillum was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018 who ultimately lost the race to DeSantis.
The Justice Department and Trump’s press office, as well as a representative for the former president, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Trump’s statement in November did accurately describe how DeSantis surged ahead of his primary opponent, Adam Putnam, after he got Trump’s endorsement for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
DeSantis went on to declare victory in the general election on election night in 2018, but the race underwent an automatic recount because his margin of victory over Gillum was less than 0.5%.
State elections officials later said they found no evidence of election fraud in 2018, although an audit in Broward County concluded the election was “not efficiently and effectively conducted.”
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 any federal law enforcement presence during the 2018 elections."
As part of its FOIA request, NBC News asked the FBI to expedite its search for records. The FBI later 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 exist possible questions about the government’s integrity which affect public confidence."