Reporting on Friday shows a top advisor for President Donald Trump's re-election campaign caught on tape in November bragging of the Republican Party's history of voter suppression—and promising to go on the offensive in 2020.
The revelation came from the Associated Press in a report Friday on comments by Trump re-election advisor Justin Clark at an event in Madison, Wisconsin.
"Traditionally it's always been Republicans suppressing votes in places," said Clark. "Let's start protecting our voters. We know where they are... Let's start playing offense a little bit. That's what you’re going to see in 2020."
In an audio recording obtained by the AP, a Trump reelection adviser tells Wisconsin Republicans that the GOP has "traditionally" relied on voter suppression. He later said he was referring to false allegations that the party has used such tactics. https://t.co/3tzZ1s3Ps1— The Associated Press (@AP) December 21, 2019
AP reported that Clark's remarks show the Republican Party determined to use relaxed civil rights regulations to their advantage:
The roughly 20-minute audio offers an insider's glimpse of Trump’s re-election strategy, showing the campaign focusing on voting locations in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which form the the so-called "blue wall" of traditional Democratic strength that Trump broke through to win in 2016. Both parties are pouring millions of dollars into the states, anticipating they’ll be just as critical in the 2020 presidential contest.
Republican officials publicly signaled plans to step up their Election Day monitoring after a judge in 2018 lifted a consent decree in place since 1982 that barred the Republican National Committee from voter verification and other "ballot security" efforts. Critics have argued the tactics amount to voter intimidation.
One Wisconsin Now deputy director Mike Browne expressed his outrage over the remarks and the alleged strategy.
"The strategy to rig the rules in elections and give themselves an unfair partisan advantage goes to Donald Trump, the highest levels of his campaign and the top Republican leadership," said Browne. "It's clear there's no law Donald Trump and his right-wing machine won't bend, break, or ignore to try to win the presidency."
Dan Froomkin, editor of Press Watch, said that Clark's comments showed that the GOP plans to go beyond suppressing the vote and "will now supplement with aggressive voter intimidation at polls."
Clark told AP that he was speaking in jest about a Republican history of voter suppression. But elections observers weren't buying it.
"This should be one of those things that Democrats never stop talking about," said Media Matters editor-at-large Parker Molloy. "This is a scandal. "
HuffPost senior enterprise editor Nick Baumann wasn't suprised at the content of the remarks but rather at the fact they were made in the first place.
"This seems like a noteworthy admission of something many people believe to be true but few people involved acknowledge," said Baumann.
Progressive advocacy group For Our Future Wisconsin treated the report as a call to action.
"Fight back by voting," the group tweeted.