“I really don’t want to have to end anybody’s life for the good of the people of the United States of America. … But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done,” William Braddock says in the clip.
MIAMI — A little-known GOP candidate in one of Florida’s most competitive congressional seats was secretly recorded threatening to send “a Russian and Ukrainian hit squad” to a fellow Republican opponent to make her “disappear.”
During a 30-minute call with a conservative activist that was recorded before he became a candidate, William Braddock repeatedly warned the activist to not support GOP candidate Anna Paulina Luna in the Republican primary for a Tampa Bay-area congressional seat because he had access to assassins. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who is running for governor.
“I really don’t want to have to end anybody’s life for the good of the people of the United States of America,” Braddock said at one point in the conversation last week, according to the recording exclusively obtained by POLITICO. “That will break my heart. But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done. Luna is a f—ing speed bump in the road. She’s a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood.”
Reached by text message, Braddock refused to say whether he made any threats about Luna to the person who recorded him, Erin Olszewski.
Asked repeatedly via text if he mentioned Russian-Ukrainian hit squads, Braddock wouldn’t give a yes or no answer, saying he had not heard the recording and that it’s “allegedly me … there is no proof of that.” He also suggested the recording “may even be altered and edited.”
“This is a dirty political tactic that has caused a lot of people a lot of stress and is completely unnecessary,” he said.
Olszewski denied editing or altering the recording. She said she made it because she was concerned about Braddock’s “unhinged” dislike of Luna that he had previously expressed. After she made the recording just after midnight last Wednesday, she promptly turned it over to St. Petersburg, Fla., police and gave a heads-up to her friend Luna, who filed a petition for an injunction against Braddock. Luna received a temporary restraining order against him last Friday. Braddock filed to run Monday.
In the recording, Braddock early in the call brought up the alleged assassins. He also made rambling statements about getting financial help from fellow Freemasons or by somehow importing millions of dollars from Malta and Gibraltar.
“I have access to a hit squad, too, Ukrainians and Russians,” he said about three minutes into the call, adding “don’t get caught out in public supporting Luna. … Luna’s gonna go down and I hope it’s by herself.”
Braddock went on to explain that he didn’t think Luna could win in the general election. Luna, an Air Force veteran and former model who went on to become a conservative activist, won a crowded GOP primary in the state’s 13th Congressional District last year but lost the general election to Crist.
“My polling people are going to charge me $20,000 to do a poll right before the primary. And if the poll says Luna’s gonna win, she’s gonna be gone. She’s gonna disappear,” Braddock said in the recorded call, pledging Olszewski to secrecy. “For the good of our country, we have to sacrifice the few. … For the better or the good of the majority of the people, we’ve got to sacrifice the few.”
Later in the call, Olszewski asked what would happen if “Luna is gonna win” and Braddock assured her that wouldn’t happen.
“She’s gonna be gone. Period. That’s the end of the discussion. Luna is not an issue,” he said.
Olszewski pushed him, asking “how do we make her go, though? I just don’t understand that.”
“I call up my Russian and Ukrainian hit squad, and within 24 hours, they’re sending me pictures of her disappearing,” he replied. “No, I’m not joking. Like, this is beyond my control this point.”
Asked if the killers were snipers, Braddock described them as, “Russian mafia. Close-battle combat, TEC-9s, MAC-10s, silencers kind of thing. No snipers. Up close and personal. So they know that the target has gone.”
Olszewski said that threats like the ones Braddock made “you can’t take lightly. Normal people don’t say these things.”
Olszewski called Braddock on one smartphone and recorded video of the call with another, occasionally displaying his name and number on the video to show it was him on the call. POLITICO also obtained a separate recording, a voicemail message, Braddock left with a consultant in which his phone number was identical and voice seemed to match the information Olszewski shot in her video.
In Florida, it’s a third-degree felony to record another person without their knowledge. But Olszewski said that St. Petersburg police told her she had nothing to worry about in recording the conversation and turning it over to authorities. A spokesperson for the St. Petersburg police declined to comment on the recording or whether it was legally recorded.
Braddock, though, indicated he was ready to sue Olszewski.
Olszewski, too, said Braddock sounded dangerous. At one point, Braddock even said he was scared himself.
“Don’t be on the f—ing wrong side of supporting Luna because if you’re near her when the time comes, I just don’t want that to happen to you because you’ve got kids,” Braddock said on the call. “So don’t be associated with Luna under any circumstances. Please. And do not repeat this anybody because both of us will be in jeopardy if you do. I’m not just blowing smoke here. I’m f—ing being dead ass serious and it scares the s— out of me, too.”
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