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Top Democrats, including President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Obama, endorsed Andrew Gillum’s failed Florida gubernatorial bid and hailed him as a man of character before he became embroiled in multiple scandals, the latest being a slew of federal charges related to campaign fraud.
Gillum, who narrowly lost to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in a race that required a recount, was indicted on charges including conspiracy, making a false statement to the FBI, and 19 counts of wire fraud, the Department of Justice 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 the defendants used third parties to divert a portion of those funds to a company owned by Lettman-Hicks, who then fraudulently provided the funds, disguised as payroll payments, to Gillum for his personal use,” a Justice Department press release said.
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Gillum denied wrongdoing in a statement issued by his campaign and published by the Tallahassee Democrat.
“I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people,” Gillum said. “Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal, it is 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 2018 gubernatorial campaign 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 Obama, then-Sen. Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
During an October 2018 campaign event in Tampa, Biden praised Gillum as “one of the most exciting, new, young leaders in the nation” and described the November election as “reclaiming America’s soul, for real.”
Weeks later, just days before the election, Obama delivered a speech in Miami during a campaign event for Gillum, calling it the “most important election of our lifetime.”
“The consequences of any of us staying home really are more dangerous,” he said. “Maybe most of all the character of our country is on the ballot.”
Obama also mocked the Trump administration, saying, “they promised to take on corruption – instead they have racked up enough indictments to field a football team.”
Days before the election, Warren recorded a video endorsement for Gillum describing him as a “terrific candidate” and “the leader the Sunshine State needs.”
After Gillum won the Democratic Party’s nomination in August 2018, Harris tweeted, “He’s a strong progressive leader and will make a great Governor of Florida!”
“We need to do everything we can to elect @AndrewGillum,” Harris tweeted that October. “Call up 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 gubernatorial loss that the former mayor is a “key player in the political revolution we are waging.”
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In 2019, state officials brought 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 methamphetamine. While he denied using drugs, Gillum did admit to struggling with alcohol.
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.