TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s Republican attorney general, in a Thursday letter to the Justice Department, shot back at California Democrats who urged the DOJ to investigate the state over migrant flights to California and Martha’s Vineyard, contending that the transfers were legal.

California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom and his state’s attorney general have called Florida’s transport of migrants from New Mexico to Sacramento “cruel” and a “political stunt.” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has responded by labeling a decision by Newsom and California Attorney General Rob Bonta to ask federal authorities to investigate both the California and Massachusetts flights “not a legal request” and called their actions a “political stunt.”

Moody on Thursday sent a three-page letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland outlining why he should ignore the request from California officials.

“California’s letter requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate Florida is a ridiculous political stunt,” Moody said in a statement. “Our voluntary immigration relocation program is lawful, and California’s request fails to identify any violation of federal law. As an Attorney General who leads hundreds of highly-qualified lawyers and has led dozens of legal challenges against this administration, it is jarring that California is not competent enough to articulate even a minimal legal basis for its request.”

Moody, in her letter to Garland, also questioned why Newsom and Bonta were only requesting an investigation of the DeSantis administration and not GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott or Democratic New York City Mayor Eric Adams over their migrant relocation efforts.

Abbott has bused more than 20,000 migrants to Democrat-led cities like Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago while Adams has transported migrants to Florida, Texas, Delaware and as far away as China. By comparison, DeSantis in total has flown about 85 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard and Sacramento.

“[Newsom and Bonta] take aim at the State of Florida because Florida’s governor is running for president and is among the front runners to be nominated to run against the current president,” Moody wrote. “The two most senior elected Democrats in California evidently do not believe that the current president can win re-election against Gov. DeSantis. Instead, they hope that DOJ can be improperly utilized, yet again, against a Republican presidential candidate during an election.”

Bonta’s office did not immediately responded to a request for comment. The DOJ declined to comment.

The letter to Garland also revealed that California law enforcement officials have already traveled to Florida to investigate the migrant flights to Sacramento but did not provide any additional details.

Moody’s office did not immediately answer questions as to who California authorities may have talked to or if they came to Tallahassee. Bonta’s office in mid-June submitted a lengthy public records request to both DeSantis’ office and the Division of Emergency Management, which has oversight of the private vendors that have been hired as part of the multi-million migrant relocation program.

The letter from California officials to Garland noted that Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, a Democrat, concluded “that individuals were induced to accept free travel based on false representations that they would be transported from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard and receive housing, education, and employment opportunities.”

Moody, who was reelected last year and is seen as a potential 2026 candidate for Florida governor, has been a steadfast, reliable ally of DeSantis and has endorsed his campaign for president. She has sued the administration of President Joe Biden multiple times over immigration policy and has been as sharply critical of the president.

Florida’s first round of migrant flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last September sparked angry denunciations as well as lawsuits and an investigation by a Texas sheriff and the U.S. Department of Treasury’s inspector general. State legislators tweaked the program earlier this year to undercut one lawsuit from a Democratic state senator who contended it did not properly follow budget guidelines and state policies.

The letter sent last week from California officials to Garland noted that Salazar asserted “that individuals were induced to accept free travel based on false representations that they would be transported from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard and receive housing, education, and employment opportunities.”

Moody said in her letter to the Department of Justice that the state’s emergency management division has stated that all the flights were voluntary and that the migrants gave verbal and written consent and were transported to a third-party charity group in California.

Moody’s office did not immediately respond to questions about whether or not DeSantis’ office requested that the letter be sent to Garland. The attorney general’s office also did not answer a question on whether it requested and received information about the flights before sending the letter to the Department of Justice.

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