Did DeSantis shoot himself in the foot with Trump indictment response?

"DeSantis' statement today was brutal self-inflicted wound, and one not easily recovered from," wrote conservative influencer and avowed DeSantis supporter Mike Cernovich.

Published: March 22, 2023 11:09pm

After former President Donald Trump announced on Saturday that he expected to be arrested this week, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis derided the prosecutor for weaponizing his office, but also flicked a jab at his prospective Republican rival, provoking the ire of many would-be supporters for his failure to take a stronger stand against the systemic threat of selective prosecution.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is investigating Trump over a payment he made to Stormy Daniels in 2016 via his then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen. A potential state felony charge may hinge on Bragg alleging that Trump falsified his business records with the intention of hiding a hush-money payment allegedly illegal under federal campaign finance laws.

DeSantis, upon learning of Trump's possible arrest, excoriated Bragg for misusing his office.

"The Manhattan district attorney is a Soros-funded prosecutor, and so 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," he said at the time. He did not stop there, however, and appeared to jab at the former president.

"I don't know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair — I just I can't speak to that," he said, referencing Trump's alleged illicit activities with Daniels. Trump denies the affair.

While DeSantis did condemn Bragg explicitly, he drew flak from Trump allies, who called on him to take a firmer stance on the matter.

"If I were Governor of Florida, I would not allow any Floridian to be hauled before a Soros-backed prosecutor in a blue city over politics," Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said on Wednesday. "I wouldn't make an exception to not protect the President of the United States."

The lawmaker made the remarks during an appearance on News Nation. He further blasted DeSantis for supposedly jeopardizing the safety of his constituents.

"Ron DeSantis should be standing in the breach to stop any sort of extradition of President Trump from the state of Florida," he continued. "The fact that he’s not doing so puts every Floridian at risk who could be the subject of a false allegation."

The U.S. Constitution does not afford any governor the ability to refuse extradition of an accused criminal to another state. 

Despite the impracticality of Gaetz's proposal, DeSantis' explicit refusal to get involved in the Trump affair drew criticism from even his avowed supporters.

Prominent conservative influencer Mike Cernovich, who up until now has been an enthusiastic booster of a prospective DeSantis presidential candidacy, determined that the Florida governor "missed his moment" by not vowing to thoroughly scrutinize the legality of any extradition requests to protect Trump's rights.

He contrasted DeSantis' handling of the matter with that of declared GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who forcefully condemned Bragg and called on the Florida governor, as well as fellow presidential candidate Nikki Haley, to demand the DA abandon his investigation.

Cernovich characterized the possible Trump indictment as a flashpoint in the ongoing politicization of the justice system, lamenting the current incarceration of many Jan. 6 participants and perceived bias of many D.C.-based judges.

"DeSantis' statement today was brutal self-inflicted wound, and one not easily recovered from," he wrote.

Polling data has largely shown Trump surging ahead of DeSantis and his declared challengers. The RealClearPolitics polling average currently shows the former president with a 14.9% lead over the Florida governor, 43.9% to 29.0%. The pair collectively take the lion's share of the vote, with no other candidate, declared or prospective, earning double digit support.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

The Facts Inside Our Reporter's Notebook

Unlock unlimited access

  • No Ads Within Stories
  • No Autoplay Videos
  • VIP access to exclusive Just the News newsmaker events hosted by John Solomon and his team.
  • Support the investigative reporting and honest news presentation you've come to enjoy from Just the News.
  • Just the News Spotlight

    Support Just the News