Just months after suspending a local prosecutor for saying he would not pursue abortion cases, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is vowing to defy the U.S. Constitution to protect newly indicted Donald Trump from criminal charges by refusing to hand him over to New York state.
“It certainly appears that Gov. DeSantis needs to immediately suspend Gov. DeSantis,” said Andrew Warren, whom the Republican governor removed from his elected position in Tampa’s Hillsborough County last summer and who is now suing to regain his job. “The hypocrisy speaks for itself.”
DeSantis’ pledge likely will be moot in this case, as Trump’s lawyers have indicated he will voluntarily surrender himself for his arraignment next week, but it demonstrates again the likely presidential candidate’s problem as he seeks to woo Trump’s Republican voting base.
“It says that he intends to take a subservient posture to Trump in a primary, where he campaigns on doing Trump’s bidding instead of affirmatively making the case for himself,” said Amanda Carpenter, a former top aide to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. “Ron is creating a problem for himself in the primary, forget the general.”
DeSantis’s press office did not respond to HuffPost queries on the matter.
Both the United States Constitution, in Article 4, Section 2, as well as the Extradition Act plainly say that each state must honor arrest requests from every other state to avoid the problem of criminals fleeing from justice just by crossing state lines.
On Thursday night, two hours after news broke that Trump had been indicted by a New York City grand jury on charges related to his payment of $130,000 in hush money to a porn star just ahead of the 2016 election, DeSantis posted a statement accusing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of a politically motivated prosecution.
“Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda,” he wrote, referring to a common right-wing attack on George Soros, the billionaire liberal donor and philanthropist.
How a Harvard-trained lawyer and a former Navy judge advocate general can simply toss aside his legal and constitutional responsibility puzzled Floridians of both parties.
“What is he going to do? Stand in the schoolhouse door? Be another George Wallace?” wondered one top Republican consultant who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Maybe he can offer Trump safe haven in the governor’s mansion.”
Nikki Fried, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party, said the statement offered yet more proof that DeSantis is willing to flout the law whenever politically convenient. “He never cares what the law or Constitution says. It’s all about the headline,” said Fried, who served on the state’s elected Cabinet during DeSantis’ first term as agriculture commissioner.
Norm Eisen, a former lawyer in the Obama White House who later worked on the House’s impeachment of Trump for extorting Ukraine, said DeSantis had shown a willingness to violate the law multiple times, from his use of taxpayer money to fly asylum seekers from the Mexican border to Martha’s Vineyard to suspending Warren to prosecuting former felons for voting after elections officials had allowed them to register. “He’s not that different in that regard from the man he’s trying to protect,” Eisen said.
DeSantis was attacked as disloyal two weeks ago for failing to support Trump enthusiastically enough after he claimed, incorrectly, that he would be arrested in the hush money case on the coming Tuesday, March 21. DeSantis said he would wait to see what charges were actually filed and that, in any event, he had no familiarity with how one goes about paying hush money to porn actors.
That remark came shortly after his declaration that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a mere “territorial dispute,” which DeSantis reversed himself on less than a week later.
“He got a dose of medicine from the base last time when he said he wouldn’t interfere, so now he’s backtracking, just like he did on Ukraine,” said GOP consultant Sarah Longwell, who added that DeSantis could be putting himself into a “sour spot” with primary voters. “Where a big chunk sees him as insufficiently loyal to Trump while another chunk thinks he’s too sycophantic.”
Even promising to break his oath to protect the Constitution to help Trump, though, does not appear to have curried any favor with the coup-attempting former president, who has been regularly attacking DeSantis for weeks. On Thursday, Trump’s supporting super PAC start running more than $1 million worth of negative ads about DeSantis on national cable networks.
And in a Friday campaign statement citing more than 100 Republican elected officials who criticized Bragg’s indictment, including several Florida House members, both U.S. senators and even state Attorney General Ashley Moody, DeSantis’ vow went unmentioned.
Trump, in addition to the New York indictment, is also facing criminal investigations in Georgia for his attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss in that state as well as by the U.S. Justice Department, which is examining both his Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt as well as his refusal to turn over classified documents in defiance of a subpoena.