Miami’s Republican leaders say they have no evidence to back up the Trump campaign’s baseless allegation that widespread voter fraud in the November election involved Venezuela, Cuba and potentially China — but they haven’t called on the president and his team to stop making the allegations without proof.
During a bizarre press conference on Thursday that followed two weeks of unsupported allegations of voter fraud by President Donald Trump and his allies, the president’s lawyers alleged without providing evidence that vendors involved in U.S. elections used software created in Venezuela with the ability to change votes from one political party to another without a trace.
“What we are really dealing with here and uncovering more by the day is the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba and likely China and the interference with our elections here in the United States,” Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell said at Thursday’s press conference in Washington.
Powell’s evidence: A heavily redacted and unverified affidavit filed as part of a failed legal attempt to halt the certification of the election in Georgia, which was finalized on Friday.
Sen. Marco Rubio and Florida Sen. Rick Scott — Republicans with leadership positions in the U.S. Senate — both said on Friday they have seen nothing to back up Powell and Giuliani’s claims during their press conference, which one former Trump administration intelligence official called in a tweet “the most dangerous 1 hr 45 minutes of television in American history.”
But they did not answer when asked if it was irresponsible for the president’s legal team to make allegations of Venezuela changing votes in the U.S. without showing proof.
“If Cuba, Venezuela, or China had messed with American votes, no one would have screamed about it before or louder than me,” Rubio, the acting chairman of the U.S. Senate intelligence committee who also chairs the Senate subcommittee responsible for Latin American affairs, said in an email.
Likewise, Sarah Schwirian, a spokesperson for Scott — who will lead the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the U.S. Senate — said Scott was unaware of any evidence to back the claim.
“We know there are bad actors in the world that are trying to disrupt our democracy, but Senator Scott has not seen specific evidence related to foreign involvement in the 2020 election,” she said in a statement.
Two years ago, when Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro conducted an election widely regarded as fraudulent, Miami’s Republicans spoke out. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart called the election “a farce” in a May 21, 2018, tweet. A day earlier, Rubio had threatened international action in a tweet: “The dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro has as expected conducted an illegitimate ‘election.’ Maduro claims he received more votes than the total number of people who actually voted. Tomorrow the U.S. & international community will respond as necessary.”
But after Trump’s defeat, Republicans in Washington are mostly silent, under pressure to continue supporting Trump’s positions.
Miami’s three Republicans who will serve in Congress next year, Diaz-Balart, former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and ex-TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar, did not respond when asked if they are aware of any Venezuelan efforts to change votes in the 2020 election and if they agree with the Trump legal team’s baseless claims. All three have made statements following the election indicating support for Trump’s continued legal challenges of President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
Republican criticism of Trump’s refusal to concede the election has been minimal, though more elected officials are beginning to speak out. Even so, Trump continued to look for ways to maneuver, meeting with Republican officials from Michigan on Friday as Trump campaign lawyers tried to have GOP-controlled state legislatures in states like Michigan choose their own group of electors instead of electors that are committed to Biden. Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said after the meeting that “we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, said Trump is trying to influence local officials to change the election results: “Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the president has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election.”
Former GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said Republicans “cannot let the reckless actions by him and his legal team stand” and called on GOP officials to challenge accusations of vote tampering that do not have evidence.
“Republicans have an obligation when the subject is of such importance to challenge demagoguery and patently false statements,” Corker said on Friday.
Powell and Giuliani focused their unfounded claims on Dominion Voting Systems, a Toronto-based company that provides elections services in multiple states, including Georgia, and Smartmatic, a global elections vendor founded 20 years ago in South Florida by two Venezuelan immigrants. Smartmatic provided voting technology for U.S. elections throughout the last two decades, including Los Angeles County in 2020.
Giuliani and Powell said the companies were using software created by the government of the late Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chavez to rig elections. As evidence, Powell referred to a heavily redacted Nov. 15 affidavit filed in a Georgia elections lawsuit brought in federal court by Republican attorney L. Lin Wood. The suit, based on allegations from an unnamed former Venezuelan military official, seeks to declare the state’s elections results deficient.
The official’s name on the affidavit was blacked out but the person claimed to be a “direct witness” to the creation of the Smartmatic voting system, which — the unnamed person alleges — would allow the Venezuelan government to change votes from one party to another without leaving any evidence behind. The person claimed to have visited a high-tech headquarters in Caracas during the 2013 election where votes were transmitted in real time and altered.
Smartmatic’s connections to Venezuelan elections go back to 2004, when it began providing voting machines to the government there. The company’s Venezuela ties were investigated by U.S. officials in 2006 after a voting system purchased by Smartmatic glitched during an election in Chicago.
Smartmatic sold the flawed voting system, called Sequoia, but continued to remain involved in Venezuela’s elections until 2017, when Smartmatic accused Maduro’s regime of adding 1 million votes to the election total to rig the results. Smartmatic then severed its relationship with the Venezuelan government.
On Friday, a spokeswoman for the company, now based in London, told the Miami Herald that its equipment is widely validated, and was created to allow for independent audits.
“Over the last two decades, Smartmatic has registered and counted nearly 5 billion auditable votes without a single spoiled vote or security breach,” said Samira Saba, a Smartmatic spokeswoman. “All claims about the integrity of the system or the accuracy of the results have been dismissed.”
Giuliani and Powell have said that Dominion and Smartmatic are tied together in a conspiracy, but the two companies have noted that they are competitors and do not use each other’s software.
Dominion issued a statement to the Miami Herald Friday saying that “the latest flood of absurdities is deeply concerning, not just for Dominion but also for our dedicated state and local partners and the electoral process on whole.”
The company stressed that votes are counted by local and state election officials, not Dominion. “Dominion did not switch votes, rig elections, or engage in any election fraud. Dominion doesn’t even operate in some of the contested districts, including Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Dane County, WI,” the company said.
The company on its website links to a joint Nov. 12 statement by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency declaring that “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
Trump on Nov. 17 fired the head of that agency, Christopher Krebs, claiming that Krebs had falsely made claims about the election. Krebs had publicly disputed Trump’s claims that the presidency was stolen from him through election software tampering. Following Giuliani’s press conference, Krebs, on his personal Twitter account, called it “the most dangerous 1 hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest.”
Florida Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who escaped communist-controlled Vietnam by boat as a refugee with her parents, said Republicans who refuse to speak out on Trump’s unfounded voter fraud claims are hurting democracy and America’s reputation.
“I did not flee an authoritarian regime to live in another one,” said Murphy, a former Department of Defense national security specialist. “What President Trump and his allies are doing is nothing more than desperately trying to subvert the will of the American people with baseless claims of voter fraud. As a former national security specialist, I can say without a doubt that Trump allies like Senator Rubio are allowing themselves to be used as pawns to destabilize our democracy and tarnish America’s reputation abroad. It’s dangerous, and it’s sad.”
Miami Herald reporter Aaron Leibowitz contributed to this report.