Law enforcement officers reportedly escorted a top Trump campaign official in Pennsylvania out of a satellite election office at Philadelphia City Hall on Tuesday after he was allegedly seen recording video and taking pictures inside one of the voting booths. The official was described as being “disruptive” when he was asked to leave.
Politico reported Thursday that incident occurred just prior to Tuesday evening’s presidential debate, during which President Donald Trump directed his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.”
Per the report, James Fitzpatrick, the Pennsylvania director of Election Day operations for the Trump campaign, was escorted out of the City Hall offices by deputies of the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office. Election aides and officials from the sheriff’s office told the outlet that Fitzpatrick was seen “recording video on his cellphone” and became “disruptive and refused to leave when asked.”
Teresa Lundy, the head of communications for the Sheriff’s Office, described Fitzpatrick as being “irate” during the incident.
“He was taking pictures and photos while inside the booth, being irate,” said Lundy. “He was also being disruptive. … He wasn’t there to be a poll watcher because poll watcher certificates weren’t issued.”
Trump addressed the encounter during Tuesday night’s debate, erroneously claiming that election officials had refused to grant access to a legitimate “poll watcher.”
“Today there was a big problem. In Philadelphia, they went in to watch. They’re called poll watchers, a very safe, very nice thing,” Trump said. “They were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia.”
But Fitzpatrick was apparently not an approved poll watcher and the City Hall offices don’t qualify as a voting location because people can only request or hand-deliver mail-in ballots.
“We don’t give someone a poll watcher certificate to watch somebody fill out their ballot at their kitchen table,” Al Schmidt, a Republican and one of the city commissioners who run elections, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Trump campaign reiterated the president’s position, baselessly contending that city officials were complicit in a broader scheme to avoid accountability.
“Philadelphia election officials are intentionally avoiding accountability and hiding their voting system, as made clear by officials repeatedly denying Trump Campaign observers access to several satellite voting locations in the city,” Thea McDonald, a spokesperson for the president’s campaign, said in a statement to Politico. “President Trump is fighting for Philadelphia’s voters and a system that protects every single one of their valid ballots.”
The Inquirer also reported that at least one other person claiming to be a Trump campaign poll watcher was prevented from entering a satellite election office in West Philadelphia on Tuesday.
[image via BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images]
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