Photo by Meredith Hill, myfloridahouse.gov
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a conservative watchdog group, filed an ethics complaint Thursday against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for discussing classified information regarding Russian election interference.
Though it remains unclear whether Nelson's comments were based on actual evidence, FACT
is now seeking to launch an ethics investigation into Nelson's off-the-cuff remark earlier this month that Russians have "penetrated" some county election systems in Florida.
"[The Russians] have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about," Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times
on Aug. 8. "We were requested by the chairman and vice chairman of the intelligence committee to let the supervisors of election in Florida know that the Russians are in their records."
The following day, the Department of Homeland Security told the Times
that it had also not seen "any new compromises by Russian actors of election infrastructure."
Under federal law, "Senate rules and Federal law prohibits Members from publicly disclosing classified information."
FACT's complaint reads, "If Nelson's statements are false, he disseminated false information on an issue of serious public concern over the authority of the Senate simply for political purposes."
Nelson has so far declined to elaborate on his previous comments.
Gov. Rick Scott, who's running against the three-term senator in the November general election, has managed to seize on Nelson's possible political gaffe. Earlier this month, Scott demanded that Nelson provide proof of his claim that Russians penetrated some counties' voting systems.
"Either Bill Nelson knows of crucial information the federal government is withholding from Florida election officials, or he is simply making things up," Scott's campaign said in a prepared statement to CNN
. "Did Nelson illegally release some classified information? Or did he make this charge of Russian penetration up?"
Read the full complaint here
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