The commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said he is “deeply troubled” that Attorney General Pam Bondi thought he would not pursue investigations into potential criminal activity related to last week’s elections.
In a letter Monday to Bondi, Commissioner Rick Swearingen wrote that his office was working with the secretary of state and local, state and federal agencies to vet complaints and that a “preliminary inquiry” had already been initiated before Bondi ripped him on Sunday for failing to pursue undefined allegations of election “fraud.”
“I am deeply troubled that you think I have announced that FDLE would not be pursuing any investigations or inquiry into the conduct of elections officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties (or any other county) that may rise to criminal conduct during the 2018 election,” Swearingen wrote. “I have made no such announcement.”
On Sunday, Bondi’s office released a two-page letter rooted, at least in part, in Gov. Rick Scott’s controversial statement Thursday night that he was asking the FDLE to investigate irregularities in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Scott is locked in a fierce election battle to try to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, while also teaming with Bondi and other members of the state Cabinet to oversee the FDLE.
Bondi wrote in her letter Sunday to Swearingen that she was “deeply troubled” and that his “duty is not limited to investigating allegations made by the secretary of state.”
Bondi also said FDLE had pointed to a lack of a written complaint in deciding not to pursue an investigation. In his letter Monday, Swearingen chalked that up to “confusion” by the media, as state law requires a written order from the governor in cases where a state employee faces suspension or removal for misconduct.
Scott and his Republican supporters have repeatedly argued that there has been “rampant fraud” and efforts to steal the election in the two heavily-Democratic counties, charges that have been repeated in a number of lawsuits --- and rebutted by Democrats.
U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., in a media conference call hosted Tuesday’s by Scott’s campaign, talked about ballots being counted after the election and said the Republican governor will win the Senate contest if “only the legal ballots” are counted. Otherwise the race will become “mired in corruption and deceit,” Rooney said.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday called in a tweet for Nelson to concede, as “the characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to ‘find’ enough votes, too much spotlight on them now!”
A day earlier, Trump tweeted “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,” Trump tweeted. “Must go with Election Night!”
On Tuesday, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Krista Marx was critical of the allegations of corruption, as she heard Scott’s request that state and local law enforcement are needed to secure voting equipment and ballots in Palm Beach County.
"Other than hearsay, there has not been any suggestion … there hasn’t been any finding by any court, or even any pleading that there’s anything untoward or that nobody is properly doing their job, that there’s anybody improperly doing their job,” Marx said.
--- News Service senior writer Dara Kam contributed to this report.