Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to enter the 2024 Republican presidential primary as a frontrunner in the coming months, responded Monday to former President Donald Trump’s claim that he may be indicted this week.
Instead of directly defending Trump, DeSantis slammed Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is leading the Trump probe, without mentioning the prosecutor by name. He claimed that Bragg is supported by George Soros, a billionaire Democratic donor. “I have not seen any facts yet,” DeSantis said. “And so I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I do know this: the Manhattan district attorney is a Soros-funded prosecutor. He, like other Soros-funded prosecutors, they weaponize their office to impose a political agenda on society at the expense of the rule of law and public safety.”
DeSantis did not mention Trump by name, but briefly touched on the allegation the former President is expected to be indicted for: paying adult film star Stormy Daniels back in 2016 to keep quiet about claims that Trump had an affair with her. “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,” DeSantis said. “I just—I can’t speak to that.”
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Trump responded to DeSantis in a post on his social media site TRUTH Social, writing, “Ron DeSanctimonious will probably find out about FALSE ACCUSATIONS & FAKE STORIES sometime in the future, as he gets older, wiser, and better known, when he’s unfairly and illegally attacked by a woman, even classmates that are ‘underage’ (or possibly a man!). I’m sure he will want to fight these misfits just like I do!”
Trump is currently based in Florida, but he would be charged in New York. Asked if he would be involved in extraditing Trump to New York, DeSantis said, “We are not involved in this, won’t be involved in this. I have no interest in getting involved in some type of manufactured circus by some Soros DA… We’ve got so many things pending in front of the legislature. I’ve got to spend my time on issues that actually matter to people.” (Trump’s attorney said last week the former President wouldn’t resist arrest.)
DeSantis has faced pressure from Trump allies to weigh in since Saturday, when Trump predicted that he would soon be arrested. But his careful comments reflect the fact that the former president’s legal troubles could affect the presidential race; polling indicates that DeSantis is currently the closest to beating Trump for the Republican nomination.
Trumpworld does not seem pleased with DeSantis’ comments.
“Now we know why he was silent all weekend,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted. “He’s totally owned by Karl Rove, Paul Ryan & his billionaire donors.”
“What a total fraud he is,” Trump spokesperson Liz Harrington wrote in a tweet about DeSantis. “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!”
Over the weekend, other Republican presidential contenders came out more forcefully against the expected indictment.
“A Trump indictment would be a national disaster,” said presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy in a statement Saturday. “It is un-American for the ruling party to use police power to arrest its political rivals.”
Ramaswamy then urged DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who he referred to as “GOP donor-class favorites,” to join him “in calling on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to abandon the political persecution through prosecution of the 45th President of the United States.”
Haley hasn’t commented, but at least one other potential 2024 presidential candidate has weighed in. On Saturday, former Vice President Mike Pence, who has recently put distance between himself and Trump, issued criticisms against Bragg similar to DeSantis’ while explicitly condemning a possible Trump indictment.
“I’m taken aback at the idea of indicting a former president of the United States at a time when there’s a crime wave in New York City,” Pence said on ABC’s This Week. “The fact that the Manhattan DA thinks that indicting President Trump is his top priority, I think just tells you everything you need to know about the radical left in this country. It just feels like a politically-charged prosecution here. And for my part, I just feel like it’s just not what the American people want to see.”
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