Donald Trump sits opposite Russian President Vladimir Putin during lunch at the Elysee Palace, Paris, France, Nove mber 11, 2018 (Guido Bergmann/Bundesregieriung/Getty)
Facing defeats in US Senate races, Donald Trump repeats his lie about “voter fraud”, hoping to halt a recount in Florida.
While Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in last Tuesday’s elections, Republicans held on to a narrow majority in a far more favorable Senate battleground.
But days after the election, Democrat Jon Tester narrowly kept his Montana seat, and on Monday Kyrsten Sinema became Arizona’s first woman Senator, edging Republican Martha McSally.
And in Florida, which the GOP’s Rick Scott thought he gained last week from Democrat Bill Nelson, a hand recount is underway with the margin just over 12,000 votes among millions cast
That raised the possibility that the GOP, after initial declarations that it had repulsed a Democrat “Blue Wave”, might gain only one seat with a runoff on November 27 in Mississippi — small consolation for a projected Democrat swing of 38 seats in the House, seven Governor’s posts, and hundreds of State Legislature victories.
With Scott’s camp insisting that the Florida recount should be ended — and with a similar situation in the Governor’s contest, where Ron DeSantis has a 33,000-vote lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum — Trump reacted on his return from a troubled France trip.
The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2018
Despite a wave of conspiracy stories on right-wing sites, Florida authorities and law enforcement have said there is no evidence of fraud or improper conduct in the recount.
But the Scott camp, leading Republicans, and Trump are hoping for a repeat of the 2000 Presidential election, when a recount was halted in Florida — amid claims of improper ballots taking votes from Democrat Al Gore — and handed the White House to George W. Bush. Lawyers are filing complaints; Scott’s allies are holding news conference calls with journalists and speaking on favorable cable outlets, denouncing the Democrats; and party officials are encouraging demonstrators to gather at recount sites.
On Monday the chief state judge in Broward County, the center of the recount, told lawyers to “ramp down the rhetoric” and take any accusations of electoral fraud to the police.
“We need to be careful what we say,” Judge Jack Tuter said. “These words mean things these days, as everybody in the room knows.” He refused a request by Scott, the current Florida Governor, to order county police to impound voting machines and ballots when they are not in use.
But the invocation may have little effect. The Trump-supporting conspiracy site InfoWars is featuring a video coment by Roger Stone — a veteran of the 2000 Bush-Gore recount and a 2016 Trump campaign staffer under investigation in the Trump-Russia inquiry:
I have never seen anything as brazen, as outrageous, as one-sided as the process that’s going on in Broward County.
The Republican National Committee sent an e-mail to supporters late Monday with the subject line “FW: STOLEN?” and an image of Trump’s tweet declaring fraud.