'Threats Terrifyingly Credible': Trump Administration Sued for Alleged 'Violent' Voter Intimidation

President Donald Trump and members of his administration have been sued for alleged "violent" voter intimidation less than two weeks before Election Day.

Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, a nonprofit group focused on Latino voter rights and participation, filed the suit against Trump, Attorney General William Barr and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf in the U.S. District Court for the Circuit of Columbia on Wednesday. Sara Schwarz and Marla Lopez, two registered voters, were also named as defendants in the lawsuit. They claim they were intimidated by the Trump administration's rhetoric and behaviour.

The group alleges that the Trump administration is attempting to "prevent a free and fair 2020 election" by "threatening eligible voters" in violation of the Voter Rights Act, the Ku Klux Klan Act and the U.S. Constitution.

"Defendants' actions over the past five months make these threats terrifyingly credible," the complaint read. "Defendants have displayed a willingness to use the full force of the federal government to suppress constitutionally protected activity and incite private actors to do the same."

"They have deployed armed federal law enforcement agents to violently suppress peaceful assemblies and publicly encouraged vigilante violence against such demonstrators," it added.

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington, D.C. on October 21, 2020. Tasos Katopodis/Getty

The president has repeatedly lashed out at mail-in voting amid the pandemic, claiming that the practice leaves America vulnerable to voter fraud. Amid fading poll results, the president has also told his supporters that Democrats want to "steal" the election.

During the first presidential debate on September 30, the president urged his base to "go to the polls and watch very carefully" for potential election issues. The statement prompted widespread backlash from his critics, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who accused the president of "intimidating people."

The plaintiffs referenced the incident in their lawsuit. "Activist Trump supporters and white supremacist groups with a history of violence" have been encouraged to serve as "poll watchers" to intimidate voters, the group wrote.

On the second day of early voting in the state of Virginia, a group of Trump supporters staged a rally near a polling station in Fairfax. Gary Scott, the general registrar of Fairfax County, said that "some voters and elections staff, did feel intimidated by the crowd."

Sean Rastatter, a local GOP official, defended the Trump supporters, insisting that there was no "need to feel intimidated in any form."

The Republican National Committee (RNC) and Trump campaign have planned to source 50,000 volunteers to watch the polls in this election cycle, according to the New York Times. Some states have regulations in place to prohibit partisan election monitors, but the RNC has asserted that its poll watchers will abide by state laws and be trained to monitor fairly.

The plaintiff's lawsuit also accuses Trump of refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the election. On October 15, the president said he will accept a peaceful transition of power. However in the same breath, Trump also continued to cast doubt on the integrity of the election process.

To protect voters, the plaintiffs have asked the court to declare that the actions by Trump, Barr and Wolf are in violation of the law. Their lawsuit also seeks an order blocking the administration from sending law enforcement to polling places, from interfering with ballots or mail-in voting and from encouraging supporters to attempt any type of voter intimidation or election interference.

Additionally, the plaintiffs are seeking to prevent Trump from personally using "official White House public communications channels," including his Twitter account, to make certain suggestions or threats concerning the election.

A Yahoo/YouGov poll, conducted between October 9 and October 11 among 1,525 registered voters, found that only one third of Americans believe that the presidential election will be "free and fair." Among those surveyed, 48 percent of Republicans indicated that the election would not be fair, compared to 31 percent of Democrats.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.

Update 10/21, 11:13 p.m.: This article has been updated to provide added context.