Leaked audio reveals a top adviser to Trump's 2020 re-election campaign said "traditionally it's always been Republicans suppressing votes in places" during an event for Wisconsin Republicans.
The senior political adviser, Justin Clark, told the Associated Press that the remarks were referring to historic, false accusations that Republicans engage in voter suppression tactics.
But in the recording, obtained by a liberal group and provided to the AP, Clark followed up his statement by saying "Let's start playing offense a little bit. That's what you're going to see in 2020."
Clark made the comments alongside a discussion of what Trump's re-election strategy in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania will look like – a "blue wall" of states the president won in 2016.
One of President Donald Trump's top re-election advisers told a group of influential Wisconsin Republicans that voter suppression is "traditionally" part of the party's election strategy in battleground states, the Associated Press reports.
Now, Justin Clark, an attorney and one of Trump's senior political advisers, says he was referring to the historic, false accusations that the Republican Party suppresses votes to win elections.
At a November 21 event meeting of the Republican National Lawyers Association's Wisconsin chapter, Clark spoke for about 20 minutes, and the speech was recorded by a liberal advocacy group and provided to the AP.
"Traditionally it's always been Republicans suppressing votes in places," Clark told the group, which included Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and the executive director of the state's Republican party.
"Let's start protecting our voters," he continued, partly referring to Election Day monitoring of polling places. "We know where they are [...] Let's start playing offense a little bit. That's what you're going to see in 2020. It's going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program."
One of Trump's top advisers discussed how re-election strategy could play out in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncell
The recording was taken at the country club where the event was held in Wisconsin by the liberal group American Bridge and provided to the AP by One Wisconsin Now, a liberal advocacy group based in Madison.
In addition to his comments on voter suppression, Clark expanded on the re-election strategy for the "blue wall" of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which Trump won in 2016. The states are presumed to be critical for the 2020 election, and both parties have spent millions campaigning in the region.
The renewed interest in Election Day monitoring comes after a judge lifted a 1982 decree that barred the Republican National Convention from "ballot security" efforts that Democrats characterized as voter intimidation, particularly of black voters, in that year's New Jersey gubernatorial election. The federal lawsuit claimed the GOP stationed off-duty police in urban polling places with "National Ballot Security Task Force" wristbands, some carrying visible guns.
Clark told the AP that his point was "Republicans have historically been falsely accused of voter suppression and that it is time we stood up to defend our own voters." He said he did not condone anyone's vote being "diluted" and that "our efforts will be focused on preventing just that."
He also made remarks that accused Democrats of "cheating" in rural areas of Wisconsin around mid-size cities like Green Bay, but did not elaborate on how the party cheats, and there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the state. Clark said the campaign would "focus on these places" if they could recruit enough staffers, which is part of Trump's re-election strategy.
The Trump 2020 campaign didn't immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.
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