DeSantis: 'I Don't Know What Happened to Trump'

Now that he's a candidate, Florida governor starts taking direct shots
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2023 2:15 PM CDT
DeSantis' Digs at Trump Are No Longer Subtle
Then-President Donald Trump listens as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks about the coronavirus response during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in April 2020.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Up till now, most of the criticism of Donald Trump expressed by Ron DeSantis has been indirect, implied, or otherwise deniable as the Florida governor tried to build Republican support without alienating the former president's hardcore supporters. In an interview in March, for example, when asked about the importance of character in a president—an invitation to rip Trump—DeSantis took a long route while not mentioning his rival's name, as usual. "You really want to look to people like our founding fathers, like what type of character, it's not saying that you don't ever make a mistake in your personal life," he said, "but I think what type of character are you bringing?" That was before DeSantis was a declared candidate for president.

Since DeSantis made his announcement this week, CNN reports, his attacks on Trump have included charging that his opponent's COVID-19 response policies "destroyed millions of people's lives." If elected, he said, one of the first things he'd do is fire FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was Trump's choice. DeSantis called Trump fiscally irresponsible and a backer of amnesty for undocumented immigrants. It's a new direction, but the new candidate suggested he's not the one who changed. Trump "is a different guy today than when he was running in 2015 and 2016," DeSantis said in a radio interview. "I don't know what happened to Trump."

DeSantis added, "It seems like he's running to the left and I have always been somebody that's just been moored in conservative principles," per USA Today. But asked Thursday in another interview whether he'd pardon any defendants in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, DeSantis walked the familiar line, suggesting Trump might be covered without mentioning his name. "On Day One, I will have folks that will get together and look at all these cases, who people are victims of weaponization or political targeting," DeSantis said, "and we will be aggressive at issuing pardons." Told that group might include Trump, per CNBC, DeSantis didn't disagree. (More Ron DeSantis 2024 stories.)

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