Former Rep. Scott Taylor is considering a defamation lawsuit against the Democratic Party of Virginia for “slandering, smearing, and lying” about his role in an alleged election fraud scheme during his failed 2018 re-election bid.
The one-term Virginia Republican claimed “complete vindication” after Virginia special prosecutor Don Caldwell, who is investigating election fraud claims against members of Taylor’s former campaign staff, released an update Monday saying he indicted one former Taylor staffer for election fraud but found no evidence — so far — that Taylor directed any illegal activity. Other indictments could still be forthcoming, Caldwell indicated.
“Today serves as a complete repudiation of the smears and lies leveled against me in the campaign last year,” Taylor said in a statement, adding that it is “entirely appropriate” for the state to hold accountable anyone on his staff who did anything illegal.
For Immediate release: pic.twitter.com/mNqUE9RsGh— Scott Taylor (@Scotttaylorva) May 6, 2019
After Democrats later said he had thrown his staff “under the bus,” Taylor suggested he might go on the attack against Democrats who claimed he was under investigation “when they knew this was never the case” and created “ads containing numerous demonstrably false statements.”
Statute of limitations has certainly not run out. We WILL be exploring all legal options. Threshold for defamation against a public figure is disseminating info you knew was false, with malicious intent. @vademocrats @dccc https://t.co/Ui5cVLf4LU— Scott Taylor (@Scotttaylorva) May 6, 2019
(Caldwell was tasked in early August 2018 with investigating the claims of election fraud against Taylor’s campaign staff and whether Taylor had directed or sanctioned such actions.)
“We WILL be exploring all legal options. Threshold for defamation against a public figure is disseminating info you knew was false, with malicious intent,” Taylor tweeted, tagging the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the DPVA.
Taylor lost his re-election bid in Virginia’s 2nd District to Democrat Elaine Luria by 2.2 percentage points and blamed that defeat on negative coverage from the signature forgery controversy.
“Given the positive polling before the petition issue came to light and the close loss we suffered on Election Day, it is clear the millions spent by the dishonest Democrats impacted the outcome of the race,” he said Monday.
Taylor has said since the controversy first surfaced that he did not know his campaign staff had allegedly forged the signatures of dozens — possibly hundreds — of people in Virginia’s 2nd District to help ex-Democrat Shaun Brown get her name on the 2018 ballot as an independent in order to siphon off votes from Luria in the hotly contested race.
But the ex-congressman’s account of his involvement in the ballot petition signature collection appears to have changed since he first distanced himself last August from the decision to use campaign resources to help Brown, who was convicted a few months later for defrauding a federal free meals program for poor children in Southeastern Virginia, onto the ballot. Taylor originally dismissed the notion that he had played a role in hatching the plan to help Brown, saying he was “in D.C. when this stuff happened.”
Caldwell’s update Monday paints a much different picture. Taylor held a meeting in his congressional office in June 2018 and decided to use “available campaign resources to circulate petitions on [Brown’s] behalf,” the special prosecutor wrote, citing cooperation from Taylor and his communications director Scott Weldon.
Taylor’s admitted actions — “circulating petitions in accordance with the law” — do not constitute a crime, Caldwell noted.
The DPVA also claimed vindication from Caldwell’s update, saying that had it not been for a lawsuit the party filed and won against the local election board to kick Brown off the ballot over the forged signature scandal, the whole episode may never have come to light.
“Today’s news from [Caldwell’s office] has made it crystal clear: Scott Taylor’s campaign participated in a criminal forgery scheme to cheat the voters of a district Taylor represented,” DPVA communications director Jake Rubenstein said in a statement.
“We are proud that our lawsuit was able to shed light into this clear attempt to undermine Virginia’s free and fair election process,” Rubenstein said.
Caldwell has indicted one former campaign staffer for Taylor on two counts of election fraud, according to his update. The former staffer has been identified as Lauren Creekmore, Evan Watson of 13News Now reported.
Roll Call reported in late August of 2018 that Creekmore appeared to still be working for Taylor’s campaign more than three weeks after the congressman promised to oust anyone on his campaign team who engaged in illegal activity.
“You have my word that if anyone in my campaign did anything that was wrong, that was illegal, that was inappropriate or something like that, I would fire them in a second,” Taylor said in a Facebook Live broadcast to his supporters on Aug. 6.
Taylor continued to spar online with Democrats on Tuesday, saying that his legal team is “exploring our legal options to make them accountable for their disgustingly defamatory ways.” He also quote-tweeted the DCCC and accused it of “maliciously defaming” him to help Luria win the election.
Election fraud is serious. From day one, I have said anyone who did any wrongdoing should be held accountable. But, @dccc /Dems knew all along, as their lawyer stated it publicly in court, I was not involved in wrongdoing, but spent millions maliciously defaming to win election. https://t.co/bCqsQMhOWv— Scott Taylor (@Scotttaylorva) May 7, 2019
More indictments could be coming for members of Taylor’s former campaign team.
A Richmond judge last year found that four of Taylor’s campaign staffers at the time — Creekmore, Heather Guillot, Roberta Marciano and Robert Catron — filed petition sheets containing “blatant forgeries … such as the signatures of deceased persons” and with “the intent to defraud the Commonwealth and its election officials.”
Caldwell’s investigation is ongoing, he wrote in his update Monday.
“Is there probable cause to believe that violations of Virginia law were committed by one or more persons in the submission of election petitions for Shaun Brown?” Caldwell wrote.
“Based upon the facts that have been developed at this point in time, the answer to this question is clearly yes,” he wrote.