TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he was happy to see the arrests of violent supporters of President Donald Trump who invaded the nation’s Capitol last week.
“I actually am glad to see some of these people being arrested from the DC thing, because I think the prosecutions will really make a difference,” he said during a news event to tout Florida’s vaccine rollout in The Villages on Tuesday. “I think it was a really unfortunate thing.”
But DeSantis appeared to brush off warnings from the FBI about armed Trump protesters marching on state capitol buildings across the country. Florida law enforcement officials said Monday they were weren’t aware of any credible threats directed toward Tallahassee or elsewhere in the state.
“I don’t know that I’ve got anything specific for it,” DeSantis said when asked about the FBI warning.
“If anything is disorderly, we’re going to act very quickly,” he said. “If there’s any type of disorder, we’ll have the reinforcements there.”
DeSantis, who owes his 2018 win in Florida’s GOP primary for governor to Trump’s endorsement, has danced around the issue of the president’s loss in the November election. For his base, he’s undermined the election’s legitimacy by urging Trump to “fight on,” pushing lawmakers in other states to overturn the voting results and generally avoiding any acknowledgment of former Vice President Joe Biden’s victory.
He said Tuesday that most of the people who attended the president’s rally the day Congress was certifying the Electoral College vote were peaceful.
“Those folks who took it to the violent level, they need to be held accountable,” he said. “It was really, really a sad thing to see.”
DeSantis used the incident to tout legislation that would create harsher penalties for people involved in “riots.” The legislation was proposed last year in the wake of protests of police after George Floyd was killed during an arrest.
“I don’t care why you’re doing it. You’re not doing it here,” DeSantis said. “If you riot, you’re going to jail, and you’re going to have to spend time in jail.”
DeSantis also praised the restraint displayed by Capitol Police officers who tried to hold back the mob last week.
“I can tell you those Capitol Police, on the ground, that was a very difficult situation,” he said. “And they could have done it in a way that you would have had huge number of people die as a result of that.”
He added, “I think those guys deserve a lot of credit in a situation like that, to be able to steer a huge mob of people away from doing a lot of other people harm, so good on them.”
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DeSantis, who served six years in Congress before becoming governor, noted that those officers saved the life of then-Republican Majority Whip Steve Scalise when a gunman opened fire during a Congressional baseball practice in 2017. DeSantis left the practice just before the shooting.
“They saved Steve’s life, and they saved a lot of other lives, so they have my gratitude for that.”