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DeSantis says Florida will ‘not assist’ in possible Trump extradition after indictment

But the point is likely moot, as officials in New York are preparing for Trump to turn himself in.
 
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to a crowd at Adventure Outdoors gun store, Thursday, March 30, 2023, in Smyrna, Georgia.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to a crowd at Adventure Outdoors gun store, Thursday, March 30, 2023, in Smyrna, Georgia. [ JOHN BAZEMORE | AP ]
Published March 30, 2023|Updated March 31, 2023

Following the explosive news Thursday that a grand jury voted to indict former President Donald Trump in New York, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida wouldn’t cooperate with any potential extradition requests. Trump lives in Florida at Mar-a-Lago.

“The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter.

DeSantis said the “Manhattan District Attorney has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct. Yet, now he is stretching the law to target a political opponent.

“Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda,” the governor added, referencing liberal mega-donor George Soros.

The statement struck a notably more hardline tone than DeSantis’ previous comments, in which he said he would not get involved, prompting fierce blowback from Trump and his allies.

“I’ve got to spend my time on issues that actually matter to people,” DeSantis said last week. " I can’t spend my time worrying about things of that nature. So we’re not going to be involved in it in any way.”

Although DeSantis has not yet announced a presidential run, he is considered Trump’s chief rival for the 2024 Republican nomination for president.

As of Thursday evening, the Associated Press was reporting that New York officials were preparing for Trump to turn himself in, likely making extradition unnecessary. Trump is the first former American president to face criminal charges.

Even if Trump didn’t surrender in New York, it’s unclear whether DeSantis would actually have the power to stop extradition from happening. Although Florida law allows for a governor to investigate demands for extradition, the U.S. Constitution declares that states must cooperate to extradite people charged with crimes in other states.

“He can’t stop it. He can delay it,” said Dave Aronberg, the top prosecutor in Palm Beach County, where Mar-a-Lago is located. If DeSantis refused to sign an extradition order, for example, New York officials could go to federal court to compel him to do so, he said.

Politically, the indictment throws the 2024 presidential race into uncharted waters. Being indicted does not prevent Trump from becoming president, nor would a conviction.

Some GOP strategists have predicted that the indictment could help Trump in the short term as it sucks all the oxygen from other candidates. But longer-term, it could bolster some Republican voters’ inclination toward a new face like DeSantis, who has fostered a brand of having Trump’s beliefs but without the baggage.

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“I think this is going to really fuel a lot of Republicans to get even more involved as a result of what they probably look at as the unfair, unjust political persecution of the former president,” the former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, state Sen. Joe Gruters, told reporters in Tallahassee.

Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau staff writer Ana Ceballos contributed to this report.