DeSantis won’t ‘assist’ in Trump extradition, but he can’t stop it

Steven Lemongello and Skyler Swisher
Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed “Florida will not assist in an extradition request” from New York for former President Donald Trump, but the U.S. Constitution and state law don’t allow him to stop it.

And Trump’s attorney said the former president was planning to turn himself in after his indictment Thursday by a Manhattan grand jury.

Under Florida law, a governor can review an extradition request, but that wouldn’t give DeSantis the power to block it, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vows to keep restaurants open during COVID-19 at a news conference on Dec. 15, 2020, at Okeechobee Steakhouse in West Palm Beach, Florida. DeSantis vowed “Florida will not assist in an extradition request” from New York for former President Donald Trump — who has been indicted — but the U.S. Constitution and state law don’t allow him to stop it. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS)

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”If Trump decides to fight extradition, it is going to be a ministerial matter for the governor,” he said. “Conceivably, the governor could slow it down, but he cannot stop it.”

In a tweet, DeSantis wrote that Trump’s indictment in the Stormy Daniels hush money case was a “weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda.”

He added the state would not help in the extradition request “given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda,” referring to liberal billionaire George Soros.

His statement has changed from his remarks at an event in Panama City on March 20, when DeSantis said he had “no interest in getting involved” in the case that apparently stems from allegations that Trump paid hush money to Daniels in 2016 to cover up an affair.

Trump, a resident of Palm Beach since 2019, has called the investigation a “witch hunt” carried out by his Democratic enemies.

His lawyer, Joe Tacopina, told NBC News on Thursday that Trump would voluntarily go to New York and surrender if indicted. An arrest is expected next week.

Trump could decide to fight to stay in Florida, but the law only allows a governor to investigate an extradition request from another state. While such a review could delay extradition, Article IV, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution requires states to honor the extradition requests of other states.

No matter what DeSantis does, he still finds himself in a difficult position, Jewett said.

“As Trump’s presumed chief rival, he doesn’t want to do anything that helps Trump win,” Jewett said. “But on the other hand, as he discovered within the past couple of weeks, if he doesn’t give a full-throated defense of Trump, he not only gets attacked by Trump, but he gets attacked by a lot of the Trump supporters.”

He added, “If Trump argues that DeSantis should do more, and then he doesn’t because he can’t, a lot of Trump supporters might not be paying attention to those details. They’ll just be paying attention to the top charge that DeSantis is disloyal.”

Trump has been repeatedly attacking DeSantis as “disloyal” for months because of the Florida governor’s own potential presidential ambitions, which would potentially place the two in opposition for the GOP nomination in 2024.

The indictment will probably only help Trump more in the GOP primary, Jewett said.

“At least in the short run, I think that the Republican base will rally around former President Trump,” Jewett said. “They’ll feel like he’s being unjustly prosecuted. And I think it’ll help his poll numbers. I think (the threat of indictment) helped his poll numbers over the last couple of weeks.”

At the event on March 20, DeSantis went into detail about the allegations against Trump. “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,” DeSantis said.

“The Trump team, and a lot of his supporters, took that as quite disrespectful,” Jewett said.

Trump railed against DeSantis in a social media post that same day, writing “Ron DeSanctimonious will probably find out about FALSE ACCUSATIONS & FAKE STORIES sometime in the future, as he gets older, wiser, and better known.”

Other Florida Republicans wasted no time in defending Trump.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, one of Trump’s earliest political allies, wrote on Twitter, “Corrupt NY Attorneys are following through on their political vendetta against President Trump. They are choosing to waste time attacking a conservative when America has bigger problems to fix.”

U.S. Rep. Cory Mills, R-Fla., called the indictment “a clear witch hunt to distract and help a failing Biden in his attempt to remain in the Oval Office.”

Mills was elected in November, replacing U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., who didn’t run for reelection after her district was redrawn to make it more Republican.