The news broke over the weekend that a criminal indictment of former President Donald Trump might be imminent — mostly because Trump broke the news himself.
Soon after that, Trump’s team began pressuring other Republicans to speak up for the former president and call the prosecution illegitimate.
“It has been over 24 hours and some people are still quiet. History will judge their silence,” the “Trump War Room” Twitter account posted over the weekend. This was positioned specifically as a shot at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely expected to declare his own candidacy for president sometime this spring.
Ron DeSantis and His Trump Problem
Trump has been bashing Ron DeSantis regularly for months. Which derisive nickname he chooses to use for the governor has become a matter of considerable debate. Yet Trump allies are calling for DeSantis to strongly rebuke the prosecution, or possibly to use his powers as Florida governor to somehow shield Trump from arrest.
DeSantis did finally speak up Monday, and he very much threaded the needle. He was sure to bash the Manhattan prosecutor, Alvin Bragg, at length. But he also did not directly defend Trump, and he used the phrase “porn star hush money payments” on more than one occasion.
Appearing at a Florida college Monday, Ron DeSantis was asked by a reporter for his thoughts on the possibility of Trump being indicted, and whether he would have any role in extraditing the former president to New York to face the charges.
DeSantis spoke for more than a minute about how Bragg is “a Soros-funded prosecutor,” and bashed him for “weaponizing his office to impose a political agenda on society at the expense of the rule of law and public safety,” previewing a line on urban crime that it is likely he would pursue in a presidential campaign.
He then pivoted to the Trump situation specifically.
“Look- I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair, I can’t speak to that,” DeSantis added, without mentioning Trump’s name specifically, and in comments that caused laughter in the room. He then pivoted to criticizing Bragg, but soon said “going back many many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush money payments, that’s an example of pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office.”
DeSantis added that his office will not be involved in any way in Trump’s arrest or extradition.
“We are not involved in this, won’t be involved in this,” DeSantis said Monday. “I have no interest in getting involved in some type of manufactured circus … He’s trying to do a political spectacle.” The “he” presumably referred to Bragg.
So, while DeSantis did address the situation and did rip Bragg both for his prosecutorial philosophy and for “weaponizing” his office, his comments are unlikely to make Trump World happy.
He did not declare Trump innocent. He invoked the term “porn star hush money payments.” He did not promise to use his office to help Trump or prevent his arrest. In other words, he acted like someone who is Trump’s political opponent, which he likely very soon will be.
The former president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., ripped the statement on Twitter Monday.
“So DeSantis thinks that Dems weaponizing the law to indict President Trump is a ‘manufactured circus’ & isn’t a ‘real issue,’” Trump Jr. said. “Pure weakness. Now we know why he was silent all weekend. He’s totally owned by Karl Rove, Paul Ryan & his billionaire donors. 100% Controlled Opposition.”
Trump’s spokesperson, Liz Harrington, was even tougher on the Florida governor.
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“Are you kidding me? SAY HIS NAME!,” she said. “What a total fraud he is. He takes a dig at President Trump who is being falsely accused and can’t even say his name. It proves DeSantis is totally fine with a third world nation arresting their number one political opposition. Not MAGA!”
Expertise and Experience:
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.