Remember when Donald Trump intervened in the Florida governor and Senate races by sending FBI agents to stop vote-counting and ensure victories for Republican candidates Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott? Unless you’re Donald Trump, you probably don’t remember anything of the sort.
It’s true that both men won their elections in 2018 — Scott defeated then-Senator (now NASA administrator) Bill Nelson by a respectable 10,033 votes, and DeSantis bested ex-Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum by an even more solid 32,463 votes. Both races were relatively close and, in a preview of the 2020 and 2022 elections, took some time to sort out on account of the number of absentee ballots that needed to be counted properly.
And just like in 2020, longtime Trump associate Roger Stone made noises back then about the election being “stolen” for Nelson and Gillum. At least one unhinged conspiracy theorist showed up at a press conference with a box truck labelled “BALLOTS” to push the idea that Democrats were somehow committing election theft in plain sight. Even that stunt went awry when some of the equally unhinged attendees thought there were actual ballots in the truck.
But in the end, no one stole a thing. When all the votes were counted, Democrats lost fair and square. Perhaps more importantly, no one ordered federal authorities to illegally put their thumbs on the scales of either election.
Four years later, Donald Trump wants someone to think so.
In a bizarre, rambling statement rife with attacks on Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post and Wall Street Journal (both of which blamed him for poor Republican midterm results), the twice-impeached ex-president also lashed out at DeSantis. Trump claimed he “fixed” his gubernatorial primary campaign against Adam Putnam by endorsing the then-largely unknown congressman. He also now says he helped DeSantis and Scott by weaponizing the Justice Department to prevent Democratic votes from being counted.
“I was all in for Ron, and he beat Gillum, but after the race, when votes were being stolen by the corrupt election process in Broward County and Ron was going down 10,000 votes a day, along with now-Senator Rick Scott, I sent in the FBI and the US 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.
What the former president described in his statement would have been a blatantly illegal use of federal authority that could have put anyone who participated at risk of ending up behind bars.
It’s a good thing it never happened. But it’s quite telling that Trump is now saying it did.
The man who has spent the last two years complaining about stolen elections (that weren’t stolen) is now so angry at the possibility that DeSantis, once a reliable ally, might run for president himself that he’s now making up claims about having stolen an election on DeSantis’ behalf.
But why? It’s simple: If there’s anything I’ve learned over seven years of covering Donald Trump, it’s that he needs to take credit for everything in the most overwhelming possible way.
It can’t be that DeSantis just happened to win the 2018 race with Trump’s endorsement. That would have been a normal political debt, but not one so great as to require DeSantis to forever forego his own ambitions.
Instead, Trump has to rewrite history to make it seem as if he moved heaven and earth to create Ron DeSantis out of whole cloth. By claiming that he violated the law to help DeSantis (even though it never happened) he is trying to create a world where everything good that happens to Republicans is his doing.
Unfortunately for him, that isn’t true, either.