Trump spokesperson says armed men outside Florida early voting location were not hired by campaign

National

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Trump campaign spokesperson says two men dressed as armed security guards who set up in a tent outside an early voting location in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, were not hired by the campaign.

Thea McDonald, Deputy National Press Secretary for the Trump campaign, told WFLA: “The Campaign did not hire these individuals nor did the Campaign direct them to go to the voting location.”

Julie Marcus, Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, said the men set up a tent outside an early voting site on Wednesday and claimed to be with the Trump campaign. Deputies with Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office came to the polling place and spoke to the guards, who said they were hired by the Trump campaign and would be out Thursday at the early voting location.

“The Sheriff [Bob Gualtieri] told me the persons that were dressed in these security uniforms had indicated to sheriff’s deputies that they belonged to a licensed security company and they indicated — and this has not been confirmed yet — that they were hired by the Trump campaign,” said Marcus in a video interview Wednesday night.

Marcus, a Republican, is running to keep her seat as supervisor after being appointed in May by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Gualtieri, also a Republican, is running for re-election as well.

“The sheriff and I take this very seriously,” Marcus said. “Voter intimidation, deterring voters from voting, impeding a voter’s ability to cast a ballot in this election is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any way shape, or form. So we anticipated many things going into this election. Not only cybersecurity, but physical security and we had a plan in place and executed that plan.”

The Joe Biden campaign issued a statement against voter intimidation tactics in Florida.

“In the United States of America, we cannot and will not stand for any behavior that could intimidate voters from participating in our democracy. Our country stands for freedom, liberty, and democracy, and these scare tactics have no place in our state. It’s clear that those running scared will try anything in the closing weeks of the election. There are no excuses for this behavior. We are committed to making sure every Floridian can vote and every vote is counted.” 

In the first presidential debate last month, President Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to go to the polls to watch what happens there.

“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully,” Trump said. “Because that’s what has to happen. I am urging them to do it.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri spoke about his plans to thwart any potential voter intimidation on Tuesday. He said he’s been working closely with Marcus to make polling places safe.

“I just don’t want to get too deep into the specifics because we’re trying to balance it,” Gualtieri said. “But I’ll say it’s a combination of uniformed personnel who will be in the area and also we’re gonna use some undercover personnel just to monitor the situation.”

Marcus said Gualtieri plans to have a deputy presence specifically outside the polling place on Thursday. It is illegal in the state of Florida to bring a gun to a polling place, and Gualtieri says intimidation won’t be allowed either.

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