Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), now a 2024 presidential candidate, didn’t rule out pardoning Jan. 6 rioters and even his biggest political rival at the moment, former President Donald Trump, in an interview Thursday with a right-wing media personality.
Clay Travis, the host of “The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show,” asked DeSantis whether any of the people convicted of a federal offense for storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, deserved to “have their cases heard by a Republican president.” He also asked DeSantis whether he would pardon Trump if he’s convicted of crimes in the numerous investigations he’s facing.
DeSantis didn’t explicitly mention Trump or the Jan. 6 defenders in his response, but said he was open to looking at “any example of disfavored treatment.”
DeSantis said that on “day one” of his presidency, “I will have folks that will get together and look at all these cases ... people [who] are victims of weaponization or political targeting, and we will be aggressive at issuing pardons.”
The governor signaled that he would look into conduct of the Black Lives Matter movement and charge demonstrators who might have committed a crime appropriately. “They don’t get prosecuted at all, that is uneven application of justice,” DeSantis said.
He also accused the left of “weaponizing” the FBI and Justice Department to go after conservative parents and people who are against abortion rights.
“Some of it is the FBI going after parents, going to school board meetings. Some of it’s how they treat a pro-life demonstrator, how they don’t go after people that are attacking pro-lifers,” he said.
The question shows how Jan. 6 pardons will become a litmus test for the 2024 Republican presidential field. Unlike DeSantis, Trump has vowed to pardon “a large portion” of the people convicted of crimes related to Jan. 6. Trump has championed the cause of the more than 1,000 people charged with various crimes related to storming the Capitol to stop the certification of the 2020 election.
Other 2024 candidates seem less open to pardons. In Iowa last week, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley called Jan. 6 a “terrible day” and said anyone caught breaking the law “should pay the price.”
As of late March, more than 500 people have pleaded guilty and more than 400 have received sentences for Jan. 6 crimes.
DeSantis, a former federal prosecutor, was on a conservative media blitz Thursday following the announcement of his presidential campaign last night on Twitter Spaces.