- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2023

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took a swipe at former President Donald Trump’s sordid legal troubles and signaled he will not intervene in an effort to extradite Mr. Trump if he’s charged by a Manhattan district attorney over allegations he paid hush money to adult performer Stormy Daniels.

Mr. DeSantis, a Republican who is considered Mr. Trump’s leading opponent in the battle for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, said he has no plans to get involved if Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg seeks the extradition of the former president, although he said Mr. Bragg’s case appeared politically motivated and “fundamentally wrong.”

“We are not involved in this, we won’t be involved in this,” Mr. DeSantis said during a press conference in Panama City. “I’ve got real issues I’ve got to deal with in Florida.”

Mr. DeSantis distanced himself from the unsavory nature of the charge that Mr. Trump paid $130,000 in hush money to silence Ms. Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

“I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,” Mr. DeSantis said, prompting laughter from the audience. “I can’t speak to that.”

The governor’s response drew a swift and angry response from Mr. Trump, who has increasingly treated Mr. DeSantis as his number-one GOP opponent for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, targeting him with derogatory nicknames and other criticism. 

SEE ALSO: Trump allies turn looming indictment into a loyalty-litmus test for GOP rivals

Shortly after Mr. DeSantis’ press conference, Mr. Trump reposted photo first circulated earlier this year that the original poster claims is Mr. DeSantis at a party drinking alcohol with high school girls he taught years ago at a boarding school.

“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!,” Mr. Trump posted on his Truth Social media site. 

Mr. DeSantis said Mr. Bragg, a Democrat elected with the help of liberal megadonor George Soros, has used his office to lower penalties for serious crimes, while choosing, “to go back many, many years to try to use something about porn star hush money payments.”

Mr. DeSantis did not speak Mr. Trump’s name during the press conference, but said Mr. Bragg’s case against him is “an example of pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office.”

Mr. DeSantis responded to questions about Mr. Bragg’s case amid calls by Trump supporters that GOP leaders unite behind the former president in condemning the prosecution.

Among declared and potential GOP candidates, only Mr. DeSantis is competitive with Mr. Trump in 2024 polling.

SEE ALSO: Sen. Mike Rounds chalks up DeSantis’ Ukraine comments to ‘primary politics’

Some surveys have shown Mr. DeSantis, who has not officially jumped into the race, leading Mr. Trump in early voting states. Mr. Trump has targeted Mr. DeSantis as an opponent, tagging him with derogatory nicknames and other criticism.

The governor could play a role in the Bragg case if Mr. Trump, who lives in Palm Beach, is indicted but refuses to turn himself in to New York City authorities. In that instance, Mr. DeSantis could intervene to block Mr. Trump’s extradition, but the governor suggested he won’t step in.

“I have no interest in getting involved in some type of manufactured circus by some Soros DA,” Mr. DeSantis said. “He is trying to do a political spectacle, he’s trying to virtue signal for his base. I’ve got to spend my time on issues that actually matter to people. I can’t spend my time worrying about things of that nature so we are not going to be involved in it in any way.”

Mr. DeSantis said “the real victims,” of Mr. Bragg are the ordinary citizens who have to live with Mr. Bragg’s liberal policies “that ignore crime and empower criminals.”

He touted his own efforts to combat Mr. Soros’s money and liberal criminal justice agenda.

In August, he removed Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren after accusing Mr. Warren of refusing to prosecute serious crimes.

“Soros district attorneys are a menace to society and I’m just glad I’m the only governor in the country who has actually removed one from office during my tenure,” Mr. DeSantis said.

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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