Having declared his candidature for president, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is no longer tiptoeing around former President Donald Trump and is making no secret of his desire to exercise unprecedented presidential power if elected.
DeSantis, whose campaign raised $8.2 million in the first 24 hours according to a campaign spokesperson, has spent the hours following his botched Twitter launch taking his message to the familiar comforts of the conservative airwaves, where, in a dozen interviews, he has assailed Trump as fiscally irresponsible and a supporter of amnesty for undocumented immigrants. His “day one” goal, he told Fox News, would be to fire Christopher Wray, the FBI director Trump had nominated. He blamed Wray for the “destroyed millions of people’s lives” caused by Trump’s Covid-19 mitigation policies.
DeSantis told Tennessee conservative talk radio host Matt Murphy that Trump “is a different guy today than when he was running in 2015 and 2016,” adding, “I don’t know what happened to Donald Trump.”
After months of subtle barbs at the previous president’s tenure in office, DeSantis has recently ramped up his attacks against Trump, whose endorsement he had sought and campaigned on in his 2018 race for governor. DeSantis has never before made such a public and direct attack on Trump, the man he now hopes to replace as the leader of the Republican Party, during Trump’s four years in office, during which he served almost two years in Congress and two years as a closely aligned governor.
DeSantis is arguing that he is in a better position than Trump was to fulfil his campaign pledges.
DeSantis has intimated in several interviews over the past 24 hours that doing so will require stretching the limitations of the executive branch like never before. He boasted to Mark Levin, a conservative radio presenter, that he had researched the Constitution’s “leverage points” and would use that information to wield the “true scope” of presidential power.
DeSantis said Twitter CEO Elon Musk, “You’ve got to know how to use your leverage to advance what you’re trying to accomplish.”
In response to these messages, Trump has mocked the hiccups that plagued the Florida Republican’s campaign launch and said that DeSantis isn’t prepared to be president.
The popularity of “Rob” DeSanctimonious has plummeted in recent polls. Trump wrote on Truth Social on Thursday, “I would almost be inclined to say these are record falls.” Is Rob simply a naive young man without much life experience, or is he a complete moron who has no idea what he’s doing? We don’t need another one of those; we already have one in power. It’s time for MAGA.
It appears that DeSantis’ plans for the executive branch are at conflict with the Republican Party’s long-held commitment to constitutional restraint. In 2011, DeSantis published a full book based on the belief that then-President Obama had exceeded his constitutional authority. However, in the years since Trump’s rise to power and abandonment of governmental conventions, this is the approach Republican supporters have grown to expect from their elected officials.
This is consistent with DeSantis’ style of leadership in Florida’s capital. DeSantis, as governor, has expanded the constitutional authority of the governor’s office in ways never before seen. He oversaw the takeover of a tiny liberal arts college, the deployment of state police in unconventional methods, the creation of a law enforcement unit to monitor voting, the removal of a democratically elected local prosecutor, and the removal of the prosecutor himself.
Formerly autonomous state agencies have been regarded by DeSantis as an extension of his own administration. His political appointees have filled state regulatory boards, and they have banned gender affirming treatment for kids and expanded prohibitions on teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. After Disney, the state’s top tourist attraction and largest employer, challenged him on these limits, he retaliated by having state legislators approve a new congressional map he had prepared.
At a May 6 speech in Wisconsin, DeSantis said, “I may have earned 51 percent of the vote, but that entitled me to wield 100 percent of the executive power, and I resolved to use it to advance conservative principles.”
As DeSantis writes in his new book, “The Courage to Be Free,” he used state authority in extraordinary ways on purpose and tactically. His letter to the people stated that he had read a “exhaustive list” of the governor’s constitutional authority before entering office and that he intended to use “every lever available to advance our priorities.”
The knowledge of “the various pressure points that exist and the best way to leverage authority to achieve substantive policy victories” was what he brought to the governor’s office, he explained in an essay.
In his first pitch to Republican voters, DeSantis promised to bring the same level of deliberate precision to the White House that previous leaders, including Trump, had lacked.
Historically, “presidents have not been willing to wield Article Two power to discipline the bureaucracy,” as DeSantis put it. “I’ll walk in here, and we’ll be spitting nails on day one.”
DeSantis has stated that one of his main goals is to “re-constitutionalize” the federal government in order to “discipline the bureaucracy” and “reattach” departments that he claims are “detached from constitutional accountability.”
Although Trump has frequently ruled with this mindset, he has never put it into such clear terms. He would dispense with the traditional practise that federal institutions like the US Department of Justice operate independently from the president.
That the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are “independent,” as DeSantis put it, is a “canard” that Republican presidents have bought into. They’re not totally impartial organisations. They work at the government’s executive bureau. They are responsible to the democratically chosen leader of the United States.
DeSantis also addressed the topic of pardons when asked if he would take into account the cases of people prosecuted in connection with the January 6, 2021, revolt at the US Capitol and if he would pardon Trump if he were to face federal prosecution.
According to his statement, he will investigate any instances of “disfavored treatment based on politics or weaponization.”
The FBI and Department of Justice are now armed. DeSantis said on Thursday’s “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show” that he would immediately convene a team to review pardon requests from people who had been “victims of weaponization or political targeting,” and that the new administration would be “aggressive” in awarding them.
DeSantis added that pardons will be considered on a case-by-case basis rather than for a certain population.
DeSantis has promised “appropriate relief” will be granted. “It will be handled on an individual basis.”
As a result of these comments, the Democratic Party issued a press release criticising DeSantis for “spending his first day as an official presidential candidate promising to consider pardons for some January 6 insurrectionists and convicted criminals who attacked law enforcement.”
Desantis has pointed out to contributors in private that Trump, having served one term already, would be a lame duck president if he were to be reelected. DeSantis has been more open about the reasons Republicans should be concerned about that since he announced his candidature on Wednesday.
In an interview with Levin, DeSantis said, “I understand, and all your listeners should understand, that if we do everything right, if we are disciplined, if we are strong as anyone could be, it still takes a two-term project.”