In a recent interview with CBS News, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis avoided directly addressing the latest criminal charges against former President Donald Trump. Instead, he emphasized that it should ultimately be the voters who decide whether Trump’s legal woes disqualify him from running in the 2024 presidential race.
DeSantis, who has been grappling with a lagging campaign, refrained from explicitly defending Trump but voiced his belief that some of the charges were unjust. Specifically, he criticized the New York charges related to a hush-money scheme involving adult film actress Stormy Daniels, which are being investigated by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. DeSantis suggested that these charges were politically motivated.
The Florida governor also shared his concerns about the potential repercussions of allowing prosecutors to render someone ineligible to run for office if they are indicted. He cited the danger of allowing political indictments such as the one he believes was carried out against Trump. DeSantis explained, “I mean, I think Bragg was political. You have these other—these people. So, that would just give any prosecutor the ability to— to render someone ineligible. So, I’ve not said that.”
DeSantis, setting his sights on the future, pledged that if he is elected, he will “clean house” and put an end to what he perceives as the “weaponization” of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Justice Department under President Joe Biden’s administration. He emphasized the importance of ensuring that these institutions stay within their proper boundaries.
The Florida governor’s visit to Iowa provided an opportunity to discuss various aspects of his presidential campaign. In an interview with CBS News’ @edokeefe, DeSantis delved into his plans for economic growth and addressed the controversy surrounding Florida’s new black history curriculum.
However, DeSantis notably avoided commenting on the superseding indictment against Trump in the classified documents case. This indictment alleges that the former president ordered the deletion of a computer server containing incriminating security camera footage at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Simultaneously, Trump’s lawyers were engaged in discussions with special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecutors regarding a potential indictment related to Trump’s attempts to undermine the 2020 election.
DeSantis’ approach to Trump’s legal challenges has mirrored that of his Republican rivals in the 2024 race. Most candidates, including DeSantis, have been reluctant to openly criticize Trump for spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election or attempting to overturn the results. DeSantis had previously expressed his hope that Trump would not face charges in the investigation into the Capitol insurrection, stating, “I don’t think it’ll be good for the country.”
Unfortunately for DeSantis, recent polling data indicates that he is significantly trailing behind Trump, with a double-digit gap between the two candidates. The governor’s struggling campaign faced further setbacks when it was confirmed earlier this week that a third of the campaign’s paid staff had been laid off as part of a “reset” effort.
In his ongoing bid for the presidency, DeSantis remains cautious about directly engaging with the mounting legal troubles surrounding Trump. Instead, he continues to prioritize appealing to voters and emphasizing his plans for economic growth and policy reform. As the 2024 race progresses, it remains to be seen how DeSantis’ approach to Trump’s legal challenges, and his overall campaign strategy, will shape his chances in the highly competitive field.