After igniting a firestorm of MAGA indignation, a Trump campaign aide has deleted a tweet claiming Democrats were “trying to steal the election.”
The tweet from the campaign’s deputy director of communications, Matt Wolking, had gone viral Thursday. Wolking had seized on the emerging news that nine military ballots had been mishandled in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.
Politico reporter Tim Alberta posted a screenshot of the viral tweet before Wolking deleted it:
In an erroneous press release, the U.S. Attorney’s office of the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that all nine discarded ballots were cast for President Donald Trump. It corrected that number down to seven in a subsequent post, later noting that two ballots had been resealed in their envelopes.
The public comments from the federal prosecutor were strikingly inappropriate, according to former DOJ officials, coming in a politically charged matter so close to the election. Announcing for whom the ballots had been cast was particularly inappropriate, they said, since it wasn’t relevant to the mishandling.
Though Wolking took down his incorrect tweet, he claimed in another that the nine mishandled ballots represented “voter suppression” and amplified the tweets of others amid the MAGA-world meltdown.
CNN reporter downplays and dismisses voter suppression targeting U.S. service members https://t.co/b0V2ugFAb4
— Matt Wolking (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@MattWolking) September 24, 2020
An official from Luzerne County detailed how the mistake occurred in a Friday press release, saying that a temporary seasonal contractor “incorrectly discarded” the Uniformed Military and Overseas Voters Act (UMOVA) ballots into the trash. The county elections director discovered the mistake and alerted her superiors; the contractor was dismissed.
The FBI and county DA sifted through three days of garbage, the time the contractor worked on site, and the FBI took possession of the ballots. The county plans to contact the voters to make sure their votes are processed.
Trump kicked off the rightwing outrage earlier on Thursday, calling the discarded ballots a “horror show” on Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade radio show. He had reportedly been personally briefed on the situation by Attorney General Bill Barr earlier in the day.