Officials don’t explain Trump claim of ‘watching’ governors

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Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP, Pool

Gov. Steve Sisolak gives an update on the state’s COVID-19 response, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Fri, Oct 9, 2020 (1:56 p.m.)

Federal officials are not offering any explanation for President Donald Trump's comments this week that he has federal law enforcement “watching” the Democratic governors of Nevada and New Mexico.

Trump said in interview Thursday on the Fox Business Network that when it comes to the upcoming election, “there's bad things happening out there" and “that there are ”cheaters" and “con men” in Nevada. Trump, who has engaged in a months-long effort to sow doubt about the integrity of the election, falsely stated that Nevada doesn't have any signatures on its ballots and then claimed he had law enforcement watching Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak.

“We have law enforcement watching him, very strong. U.S. Attorney is watching him, very strongly. The U.S. Marshal is watching," Trump said.

He went on to say, “In New Mexico, a state that I think we can win, we have the U.S. Marshal and the U.S. Attorney watching them.”

The president did not explain what he meant. Jennifer Kelly, a regional White House spokeswoman, declined to comment.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Nevada referred questions to the U.S. Department of Justice. Matt Lloyd, a Justice Department spokesman, referred questions to the White House, saying, “We don't speak for the president.”

Messages left with the public affairs office of the U.S. Marshals were not returned.

Sisolak's office did not respond to a message seeking comment. But the governor on Twitter said, “Glad I have your attention, Mr. President. Get a #COVID19 stimulus package passed and signed. Americans are hurting and they need relief. ”

He added: “P.S. - Don’t worry about our elections. We have professionals for that.”

A spokeswoman for Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the president’s comments are harmful to the election process and questioned why U.S. Marshals, which are the law enforcement arm of the federal courts, would be involved at all.

“We have no knowledge of the U.S. Marshals having any involvement in our elections,” spokeswoman Nora Sackett said in an email. “There would be no reason for them to be. Our elections are secure."

Sackett said, "The president’s comments are obviously harmful. The president is a liar. He displays a criminal disregard for this country’s free and fair elections and is only seeking to sow distrust in the voting process.”

Other federal law enforcement authorities on Monday said they are stepping up their vigilance of any possible civil rights violations related to the Nov. 3 election by establishing an FBI command post in Albuquerque and assigning a prosecutor from the U.S. attorney’s office to monitor complaints or threats.

Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver attended that announcement and expressed appreciation that federal authorities are putting extra resources toward safeguarding the integrity of the election.

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Associated Press writer Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, N.M. contributed to this report.

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