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DeSantis slams New York DA’s Trump investigation, swipes at Trump himself

Florida’s governor drew laughs bringing up Trump’s alleged “hush money to a porn star.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media in the Florida Cabinet following his State of the State address during a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives on March 7, 2023, at the Capitol in Tallahassee. [ PHIL SEARS | AP ]
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Updated Mar 20, 2023

If former President Donald Trump is arraigned this week in New York on charges tied to an alleged hush-money payment to a porn star in 2016, Gov. Ron DeSantis said his office won’t be involved.

DeSantis on Monday lambasted what he called a “fundamentally wrong” investigation by district attorneys he called a “menace to society,” calling it a “political spectacle” and “manufactured circus.”

But he also managed to squeeze in a swipe at his potential Republican rival for the presidency.

“Look, I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I can’t speak to that,” DeSantis said to laughs from supporters at a news conference in Panama City. “But what I can speak to is that if you have a prosecutor who is ignoring crimes happening every single day in his jurisdiction, and he chooses to go back many, many years ago to try to use something about porn-star hush-money payments, that’s an example of pursuing a political agenda, and weaponizing the office, and I think that that’s fundamentally wrong.”

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Related: No more limited government ideals? DeSantis pitches GOP voters on the power of the state.

The comments came after Trump claimed on social media that he expected to be arrested on Tuesday, and his supporters began calling on Republican figures like DeSantis to decry the investigation. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted Sunday: “Pay attention to which Republicans spoke out against this corrupt BS immediately and who sat on their hands and waited to see which way the wind was blowing.”

DeSantis has not announced his candidacy for president but is considered a likely main rival for the Republican nomination against fellow Floridian Trump, whose main residence is at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.

DeSantis on Monday largely sidestepped direct commentary on Trump or the case itself.

“I’ve seen rumors swirl,” he said. “I have not seen any facts yet, and so I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Instead, like other Republicans, including U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, he deflected his criticism toward Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, saying Bragg’s “high-profile politicized prosecution” was backed by prominent donor George Soros, a frequent target of the right.

“The real victims are ordinary New Yorkers in all these jurisdictions, and they get victimized every day because of the reckless political agenda that these Soros DAs bring to their job,” DeSantis said. “They ignore crime and they empower criminals, and that hurts people. It hurts a lot of people every single day.”

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DeSantis pointed to his own removal of Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, saying, to applause, “I’m the only governor in the country that’s actually removed one from office during my tenure.”

Related: Andrew Warren to DeSantis: Take back your suspension. Governor: No.

DeSantis said he was more focused on “real issues” than the “manufactured circus” of the New York case — words the Trump campaign quickly jumped on.

“So DeSantis thinks that Dems weaponizing the law to indict President Trump is a ‘manufactured circus’ & isn’t a ‘real issue,’” Trump Jr. tweeted. “Pure weakness. Now we know why he was silent all weekend. He’s totally owned by Karl Rove, Paul Ryan & his billionaire donors. 100% Controlled Opposition.”

The Trump-aligned political action committee Make America Great Again Inc. highlighted more than a dozen statements from top Republicans — including Sens. Rick Scott and Josh Hawley and Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene — condemning the investigation in more specific and forceful terms. Scott called for an investigation into the investigation, while Greene said Trump “did nothing wrong.” On the topic of Trump, the committee stated, “DeSantis stands alone.”

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DeSantis said he was unaware of any contact between Florida law enforcement and New York authorities as it related to a possible arrest, extradition or arraignment.

Some Trump supporters have suggested DeSantis could block the former president’s extradition to New York. But Florida law permits the governor only to delay extradition as part of a legal review — which is unlikely, as Trump’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina told NBC News Friday that his team expects to “follow normal procedure” with Trump voluntarily turning himself in.

Related: Trump blasts DeSantis for insurance company ‘bailout’ legislation

DeSantis, for his part, has expressed no interest in slowing the extradition process.

“I’ve got to spend my time on issues that actually matter to people,” he said. " 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.”

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