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Top Democrats, including President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Obama, endorsed Andrew Gillum’s failed bid for Florida governor and hailed him as a man of character before he was embroiled in multiple scandals, the latest being a slew of campaign-related federal charges. fraud.
Gillum, who narrowly lost to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in a race that required a recount, has been charged with conspiracy, misrepresentation to the FBI and 19 counts of wire fraud, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
Gillum, who was once mayor of Tallahassee, is accused of acting in concert with associate Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks to solicit funds using false representations and promises.
“The indictment further alleges that the defendants used third parties to divert a portion of these funds to a company owned by Lettman-Hicks, which then fraudulently provided the funds, disguised as payroll payments, to Gillum for personal use,” a Justice Department statement said. statement said.
ANDREW GILLUM, BEATEN FLORIDA CANDIDATE, JOINS TAUT AS POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AMID RENEWED ETHICS ISSUES
Gillum denied any wrongdoing in a statement released by his campaign and released by the Tallahassee Democrat.
“I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and I continue to fight for the people,” Gillum said. “Every campaign I’ve run has been run with integrity. Make no mistake, this case isn’t legal, it’s political.”
Gillum’s claim that the indictment is “political” is curious, given that the charges were brought by Biden’s DOJ. While Gillum’s failed gubernatorial campaign in 2018 received massive donations from billionaires like George Soros and Tom Steyer, he also received political firepower with endorsements from Biden and other top progressives like then-Senator Obama. . Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
At an October 2018 campaign event in Tampa, Biden praised Gillum as “one of the most exciting new young leaders in the country” and described the November election as “reclaiming the soul of America, for real”.
A few weeks later, days before the election, Obama gave a speech in Miami at a campaign event for Gillum, calling it “the most important election of our lifetimes.”
“The consequences of all of us staying at home are really more dangerous,” he said. “Perhaps it’s mostly the character of our country that’s on the ballot.”
Obama also mocked the Trump administration, saying “they promised to tackle corruption – instead they racked up enough indictments to field a football team.”
Days before the election, Warren recorded a video endorsement for Gillum describing him as a “tremendous candidate” and “the leader the Sunshine State needs.”
After Gillum won the Democratic Party nomination in August 2018, Harris tweeted, “He’s a strong progressive leader and will make a great Governor of Florida!”
“We must do everything we can to elect @AndrewGillum,” Harris tweeted in October. “Call your friends in Florida. Knock on doors. The stakes couldn’t be higher.”
After Gillum lost the gubernatorial election, Harris complained that he would have won had it not been for “voter suppression”.
Sanders, who campaigned for Gillum in Orlando and Tampa, tweeted after Gillum’s loss as governor that the former mayor is a “key player in the political revolution we are leading.”
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In 2019, state officials filed an ethics complaint against Gillum after finding probable cause that he committed ethics violations by accepting gifts from lobbyists in 2016.
In 2020, Gillum entered rehab after police found him unresponsive in a Miami Beach hotel room with two other men, where officers found what they believed to be crystal meth. Although he denied using drugs, Gillum admitted to having struggled with alcohol.
TAUT News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.