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Andrew Gillum is a "stone cold thief," Trump said on Fox News last night

Screenshot 2018-10-30 10.12.38
President Donald Trump called Andrew Gillum a "stone cold thief" during an interview on Fox News on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.

President Donald Trump called Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum a "stone cold thief" during an interview on Fox News last night, telling host Laura Ingraham that the Democratic nominee shouldn't be allowed to run for governor.

"Here's a guy that, in my opinion, is a stone cold thief, and his city, Tallahassee, is known as the most corrupt in Florida, and one of the most corrupt in the nation," Trump said.

Trump justified calling him a "thief," which he first did on Twitter on Monday, by bringing up the Hamilton ticket that was likely given to Gillum by an undercover FBI agent.

"The FBI offered him tickets at $1800 a piece and he took 'em," Trump said. "He took a trip with the same FBI agent. I guess he was posing as a developer or something. The man stone cold took this stuff. I don't even think he should be allowed to continue on with the race."

Trump also wondered how Gillum could be polling so well, saying that Gillum would turn Florida into Venezuela and that Gillum's Trump-endosrsed opponent, Republican Ron Desantis, is a "very good person."

"He's a disaster, and how he's even close to being tied is hard to believe," Trump said of Gillum.

You can watch the interview here.

With just a week left until the election, and Gillum continuing to hold a narrow lead in the polls, the rhetoric from Trump and his supporters has been heating up.

During a Monday press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump's "thief" tweet by saying Gillum "is under FBI investigation."

And former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani took to Twitter at 2:22 a.m. today to bash Gillum and the "sickenly (sic) biased" press.

The Florida governor's race might be the biggest race of the midterms, but there's a special reason why Trump is so interested in the outcome.

DeSantis only made a name for himself by frequently appearing on Fox News to defend Trump, and DeSantis did little to win the Republican primary besides receive Trump's endorsement.

If DeSantis loses, the effect on the 2020 presidential race will be "big time, big time," Former White House political strategist Steve Bannon told the Times before a speech to Republicans in Tampa last week.

"If Rick Scott was not governor, it would have been very hard for us to win Florida" in 2016, Bannon said.

Bannon, a right-wing firebrand, respected how formidable Gillum has been as a candidate, saying that "DeSantis is in the fight of his life."

"I think it’s going to come down to the wire on the last day," Bannon said. "Gillum’s proven that he’s a very tough competitor. … They may have miscalculated at first how tough Gillum was going to be. Gillum at the top of the ticket has made the Senate race more competitive and I think it’s made some of these House races more competitive."

Times staff writer William March contributed to this report.