President Donald Trump told Florida Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis about his new attorney general nominee before he announced the pick to the public, DeSantis said Saturday at a rally in New Port Richey.
DeSantis called Trump "a couple days ago" to talk about the direction of the president's administration, the governor-elect said. During that call, DeSantis asked Trump who would replace Jeff Sessions as the new U.S. attorney general.
Trump gave him the answer, William Barr, before he made the announcement public on Friday.
DeSantis' inside knowledge of the major personnel decision underscores the close ties between DeSantis and the president, who endorsed him before he even announced he would run for the state's highest office.
National media outlets reported that Barr was a leading contender for the job on Thursday, which appears to be around the time of the DeSantis-Trump phone call.
DeSantis heaped praise on Trump's nominee Saturday morning at a 'Thank You' rally in New Port Richey.
"This is a guy who is very, very smart, understands the law," DeSantis told an audience of well over 100 who packed into New Port Richey's Spartan Manor Saturday. "I think that he has the right outlook, and I think he has the backbone necessary to do a good job for the people of this country."
Incoming First Lady Casey DeSantis, Attorney General-elect Ashley Moody, State Sen.-elect Ed Hooper, State Sen. Wilton Simpson, State Rep. Amber Mariano and Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco also made brief remarks at the festive morning event. It was the first stop on DeSantis' statewide "Thank You" tour.
Trump's pick of Barr could prove crucial to his presidency at a time when his campaign's activities are under intense scrutiny by federal investigators. On Friday, court filings by Department of Justice-appointed special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York accused Trump of illegally directing his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to pay hush money to women with whom the president allegedly had affairs. The payments amounted to illegal 2016 campaign contributions, the prosecutors said.
Trump and DeSantis have both long decried the Mueller investigation, which would be overseen by Barr, the former attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, if he is confirmed. The president for months vocally criticized Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe before dismissing the attorney general in November.
Barr, for his part, has questioned the objectivity of the Mueller probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.