After days of intense pressure from allies of Donald Trump to weigh in on the former president's looming potential indictment for allegedly orchestrating hush money payments during the 2016 election, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) finally broke his silence on Monday. The governor offering a superficially enthusiastic defense of the man currently leading the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination race — which DeSantis is widely expected to join in the coming months.
Asked during a press conference on his thoughts regarding the "rumored Trump indictment" and his possible role in helping extradite the former president to Manhattan where the charges would be filed, DeSantis lambasted the potential charges as "politicized prosecution" from "Soros-funded prosecutor" Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. But in defending Trump from Bragg's "weaponizing" agenda, DeSantis made sure to remind listeners several times over just what it is that Trump has been accused of, telling the press "I don't know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair."
"If he chooses to go back many, many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush money payments, that's an example of pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office, and I think that's fundamentally wrong," DeSantis added, hammering home the unseemly context for Trump's alleged criminality.
The 'tweaks' were noticed
Reporting on DeSantis' "first comments about the likely pending indictment," longtime New York Times Trump reporter Maggie Haberman characterized the governor's invocation of Trump's payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels as "tweaks" to the former president's "personal conduct," writing that DeSantis "twisted the knife regarding the actions over which Mr. Trump is likely to be indicted," even while trying to present himself as "above the fray."
In The Washington Post, writers Amy Wang and Hannah Knowles placed DeSantis' comments in the broader context of how the presumptive candidate has handled the more bellicose attacks from the former president, saying the Daniels reference was one of the "many subtler shots DeSantis has taken at Trump while refraining from direct criticism of the politician who helped him become governor."
The 'weasel approach'
"You're better than this," longtime Trump ally and former White House adviser Steve Bannon complained to DeSantis during the Monday morning taping of his "War Room" podcast. "That was a weasel approach and don't throw that thing in about the porn star. Don't need to hear it from you."
"DeSantis is the Trojan horse we thought he was," added fellow MAGA figure Mike Lindell.
The former first son, Donald Trump Jr, was even more incensed at DeSantis' remarks, tweeting that they were "pure weakness" from a man "totally owned by Karl Rove, Paul Ryan & his billionaire donors."
Trump himself briefly weighed in on DeSantis' comments, posting — and then quickly deleting — and then reposting a slightly updated message on his Truth Social network that claimed "Ron DeSanctimonious will probably find out about FALSE ACCUSATIONS & FAKE STORIES sometime in the future, as he gets older, wiser, and better known, when he's unfairly and illegally attacked by a woman, even classmates that are 'underage' (or possibly a man!). I'm sure he will want to fight these misfits just like I do!"