DeSantis Steps Up Attacks on Trump, Hitting Him on Crime and Covid

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ramped up his feud with former President Donald J. Trump on Friday, saying his Republican presidential rival was weak on crime and immigration, and that he has made key decisions during the coronavirus pandemic. Accused of assigning Dr. Anthony S. Fauci

In an appearance with conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, Mr. DeSantis accused Mr. Trump, the GOP front-runner, of focusing on criminal justice and immigration issues after winning the party’s base in 2015 and 2016. Gone “to the left”.

He vowed to cancel what was known. First Step ActIn 2018, Mr. Trump signed a bipartisan criminal justice initiative that expanded early release programs and amended sentencing laws, including mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

“He created a bill, basically a jailbreak bill,” Mr. DeSantis said. “It has allowed dangerous people out of prison who have now re-offended and really, really, really hurt a lot of people.”

This year, the New York Times Reported That Mr. DeSantis and his allies saw the criminal justice bill, which Mr. Trump signed at the behest of his son-in-law Jared Kushner — and quickly regretted — as an area of ​​political weakness, and that that Mr. DeSantis had indicated he would use it in the nomination fight. The bill is unpopular with parts of Mr Trump’s hardline base.

But for Mr. DeSantis, attacking Mr. Trump on the first step is potentially complicated. Mr. DeSantis himself voted for an earlier version of the bill when he was in Congress, and Trump allies have tried to highlight that fact.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, said in a statement, “So now the swamp politician Ron DeSanctimonius is claiming that he voted for him before he voted against him.” “He looks just like John Kerry. What a fake! He can’t get away with his disastrous, embarrassing and low-energy campaign announcement. Rookie mistakes and unforced errors – that’s what he is.”

(Allies of Mr. DeSantis note that the version of the bill he voted for was significantly different, and that the final version was passed while he was not in the House.)

When Mr. Shapiro asked Mr. DeSantis about Mr. Trump’s recent criticism that crime has risen under his watch in Florida, the former president’s adopted state, Mr. DeSantis bristled that Mr. Trump’s The policies have damaged law and order.

Mr. DeSantis stepped up his attacks on his onetime running mate, whom he has avoided directly criticizing for months, less than 48 hours after entering the race. A dark episode of Twitter.

And as Mr. DeSantis looks to veer to the right on issues like crime, some of his campaign’s inner strategy is emerging.

At a fund-raising meeting in Miami on Thursday, donors quizzed members of Mr. DeSantis’ top campaign staff about their policy positions and, according to a leaked audio recording, asked them other Republicans. How should it be presented? Posted online Via the website Florida Politics.

A donor raised a question about the shift to the right, to which a campaign official eventually replied, “We just have to win one primary to be in the general.”

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

A staff member offered a possible answer.

“Abortion in Florida is safe, legal and rare,” he said, parroting a phrase coined by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. He added that it has not been banned. “It’s limited.”

In his interview with Mr. Shapiro on Friday, Mr. DeSantis sought to appear adamant on illegal immigration, saying that Mr. Trump had attacked him for opposing amnesty legislation while in Congress. was

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

Dr. Fauci, Jo Retired in January.Issues such as remote learning, stay-at-home orders and vaccine mandates have often been the target of Republican attacks.

“He responded by elevating Anthony Fauci and really handing the reins over to Dr. Fauci, and I think there will be terrible consequences for America,” Mr. DeSantis said. “I was a leader in this country in fighting Fauci. We stopped him every step of the way.

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

“I think the reality is that Donald Trump Anthony Fauci received a presidential standing ovation. Mr. DeSantis said that on Trump’s last day in office, it was a gut punch to the millions of people in this country who were hurt by Fauci’s lockdown.

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

Mr DeSantis called Mr Trump’s claim “absolutely outlandish” and said it suggested he would have redoubled his measures if there had been another pandemic.

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