DeSantis steps up attacks on Trump, hitting him on crime and Covid

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida escalated hostilities with former President Donald J. Trump on Friday, arguing that his Republican presidential rival was weak on crime and immigration, and accusing him of caving in to Dr. Anthony S critical decision making during the coronavirus pandemic Fauci.

During an appearance with conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, Mr. DeSantis accused Mr. Trump, the GOP frontrunner, of “moving to the left” on criminal justice and immigration issues after winning over the base of the left in 2015 and 2016.

He pledged to repeal the so-called First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice measure signed into law by Mr Trump in 2018 that expanded early release programs and changed sentencing laws, including sentencing. mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders.

“He signed a bill into law, basically a jailbreak bill,” DeSantis said. “It got dangerous people out of jail who have now reoffended and really, really hurt a number of people.”

This year, The New York Times reported that Mr. DeSantis and his allies viewed the criminal justice bill, which Mr. Trump signed at the behest of his son-in-law Jared Kushner — and immediately regretted it — as a area of ​​political weakness, and which Mr. DeSantis had signaled he would use in the nomination contest. The bill is unpopular with parts of Mr. Trump’s hard core.

But for Mr. DeSantis, attacking Mr. Trump over the First Step Act is potentially complicated. Mr. DeSantis himself voted for the first version of the bill when he was in Congress, and Trump allies have sought to underscore that fact.

“So now Swampy politician Ron DeSanctimonious is pretending he voted for before he voted against,” Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, said in a statement. “He looks like John Kerry. What a fake! He can’t run away from his disastrous, embarrassing, low-energy campaign ad. Rookie mistakes and unforced errors – that’s who he is.

(Mr. DeSantis’ allies note that the version of the bill he voted for was vastly different, and the final version passed when he was no longer in the House.)

When Mr. Shapiro asked Mr. DeSantis about Mr. Trump’s recent criticism that crime had increased under his watch in Florida, the former president’s adopted state, Mr. DeSantis bristled and said said Mr. Trump’s policies had undermined law and order.

Mr DeSantis stepped up his attacks on his former ally, whom he had avoided outright criticism for months, less than 48 hours after he entered the race in a bumpy Twitter event.

And as Mr. DeSantis appears to veer to the right on issues like crime, part of his campaign’s internal strategy is unfolding.

At a fundraising meeting in Miami on Thursday, donors peppered Mr. DeSantis’ top campaign staffers with questions about his policy positions and how they should be presented to other Republicans, a recording shows. Leaked audio uploaded by Florida Politics.

A donor asked about the turn to the right, to which a campaign official finally answered: “We just have to win a primary to be in a general.

Donors and officials also discussed how to talk to Republicans who support abortion rights. (Mr. DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban in Florida last month, which contains limited exceptions, while Mr. Trump has been reluctant to back a federal ban.)

A member of staff offered a possible answer.

“Abortion is safe, legal and rare in Florida,” he said, using a phrase coined by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. “It’s not forbidden,” he added. “It’s limited.”

In his interview with Mr Shapiro on Friday, Mr DeSantis sought to portray himself as unwavering on illegal immigration, saying Mr Trump attacked him for opposing amnesty legislation while he was in prison. in Congress.

He also faulted Mr. Trump for his administration’s handling of the 2020 coronavirus outbreak, particularly the level of influence wielded by Dr. Fauci, the longtime top infectious disease expert and face of the federal government response to the pandemic.

Dr. Fauci, who retired in January, has been a frequent target of Republican attacks on issues including remote learning, stay-at-home orders and vaccination mandates.

“He responded by elevating Anthony Fauci and really handing over the reins to Dr. Fauci, and I think of the terrible consequences for the United States,” Mr. DeSantis said. “I was the leader of this country in the fight against Fauci. We resisted him every step of the way.

He said Dr Fauci should have been fired, but Mr Trump honored him.

“I think the fact that Donald Trump awarded Anthony Fauci a presidential commendation on his last day in office was a blow to the millions of people in this country who have been harmed by Fauci’s lockdowns.” , said Mr. DeSantis.

A day earlier, in a post from Mr. Trump on his Truth Social platform, the former president criticized Mr. DeSantis over Florida’s response to the pandemic. He said even former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York had done a better job of limiting the loss of life to the virus than Mr. DeSantis.

Mr DeSantis called Mr Trump’s claim “very bizarre” and said it suggested he would double down on his shares if there was another pandemic.


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