() — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, now officially a presidential hopeful, is no longer tiptoeing where former President Donald Trump is concerned, nor is he being coy about his plans to push the limits of the powers of the Presidency like never before if win the White House.
DeSantis — whose campaign raised $8.2 million in the first 24 hours, according to a spokesperson — filled the hours after his rocky campaign launch on Twitter by taking his message to the familiar comforts of the conservative airwaves where, in a dozen interviews, has attacked Trump as fiscally irresponsible and a supporter of amnesty for undocumented immigrants. DeSantis said the mitigation policies of the Covid-19 era when Trump was in power “destroyed the lives of millions of people.” He also told Fox News that his “day one” priority would be fire the former president’s handpicked FBI director, Christopher Wray.
Trump “is a different guy today than when he was running in 2015 and 2016,” DeSantis told conservative Tennessee broadcaster Matt Murphy, adding: “I don’t know what happened to Donald Trump.”
The sharpening of attacks on Trump — whose endorsement DeSantis once sought and campaigned for in his 2018 gubernatorial race — comes after months of subtle innuendoes at the former president’s White House run. Throughout Trump’s four years in office — of which DeSantis served nearly two years in Congress and two years as a closely aligned governor — and in the years since, the Florida Republican has never before launched such direct and the man he now hopes to supplant as leader of the Republican Party.
Now DeSantis is making the case that he is best suited to deliver on promises that Trump himself failed to deliver.
To do this it will be necessary to push the limits of the Executive Branch like never before, DeSantis has suggested in multiple interviews in the last 24 hours. He told conservative radio host Mark Levin that he had studied the “leverage points” of the US Constitution and that he would use his insights to exercise the “real scope” of presidential power.
“You have to know how to use your influence to advance what you’re trying to achieve,” DeSantis told Twitter CEO Elon Musk during their conversation on the day of his presidential bid launch.
Trump has hit back at these missives, mocking the rulings that marred the Florida Republican’s entry into the race and suggesting that DeSantis is not ready for the Oval Office.
“‘Rob’ DeSanctimonious and his poll numbers are dropping like a rock. I’d almost be inclined to say record drops,” Trump posted on Truth Social on Thursday. “The question is whether Rob is young, inexperienced and naive, or more worryingly, whether he’s a fool with no clue what he’s doing. We already have one of those in office, we don’t need another. We need WIZARD”.
DeSantis and the Republican Party
DeSantis’ vision for the executive branch is apparently at odds with the Republican Party’s traditional adherence to the principles of government with limits. Many Republicans often accused former President Barack Obama of unconstitutionally extending his powers, and DeSantis himself wrote an entire book in 2011 based on that perception. But it’s an approach that Republican voters have come to expect from their elected leaders in the years since Trump emerged and dispensed with the rules of government.
It’s also in keeping with how DeSantis has managed out of Tallahassee. As governor, DeSantis has systematically strengthened the governor’s office and stretched his constitutional powers in a way that no previous executive has done. He seized control of the state environmental protection agency, deployed the state police force in novel ways, created a law enforcement team to monitor voting, removed a democratically elected local prosecutor, and orchestrated the takeover of a small liberal arts college.
DeSantis has treated previously independently run state bureaucracies as extensions of his executive offices. She has supplied state regulatory boards with like-minded political appointees, who have followed her lead in banning gender-affirming care for minors and expanding restrictions on school lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity. He has punished Disney, the state’s tourism powerhouse and his flagship company, for defying him with those restrictions, forcing state lawmakers to approve a new congressional map drawn up by his office.
“I may have gotten 51% of the vote, but that entitles me to 100% executive power, and I’ve decided to use that to advance conservative principles,” DeSantis said at an event in Wisconsin on May 6.
In his latest book, “The Courage to Be Free,” DeSantis described his extraordinary use of state power as deliberate and tactical. He wrote that before taking office he had studied an “exhaustive list” of the governor’s constitutional authority and that he would use “every lever available to advance our priorities.”
“What I was able to bring to the governor’s office was an understanding of how a constitutional form of government works, the various pressure points that exist, and how best to harness authority to achieve substantive political victories,” he wrote.
Now, DeSantis’s initial message to Republican voters is that he would bring that methodical precision to the White House in a way that previous executives — including Trump — have failed.
“Presidents have not been willing to exercise the power of Article Two to discipline the bureaucracy,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis’ promises if he becomes president
Among his top priorities, DeSantis said, would be “reconstitutionalizing” the federal government, something he described as a plan to “discipline bureaucracy” and agencies that he says are “detached from constitutional accountability.”
It would break the long-standing tradition of government institutions like the US Justice Department operating independently of the president, embracing a philosophy Trump often governs by but has never articulated so succinctly.
“Republican presidents have accepted the cant that the Department of Justice and the FBI are, quote unquote, independent,” DeSantis said. “They are not independent agencies. They are part of the executive branch. They answer to the president-elect of the United States.”
DeSantis also touched on the issue of pardons when asked if he would consider the cases of those facing charges related to the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the United States Capitol, as well as whether he would pardon Trump if he were impeached. federally.
It said it would examine all cases of “unfavorable treatment based on politics or militarization.”
At the same time, DeSantis said that pardons would be considered individually, not necessarily an entire group.
“We’re going to apply relief as appropriate,” DeSantis said. “It will be done on a case-by-case basis.”
Those remarks drew immediate rebuke from the Democratic Party, warning in a news release that DeSantis was “spending his first day as an official presidential candidate pledging to consider pardons for some January 6 insurgents and convicted felons who attacked law enforcement.”
In his private address to donors, Desantis has pointed to the fact that Trump may not later seek another term if elected. Since launching his candidacy on Wednesday, DeSantis has laid out more publicly why that should give Republicans pause.
“I understand, and all your listeners should understand,” DeSantis said on Levin’s show, “that if we do everything right, if we’re disciplined, if we’re as strong as anyone could be, it still takes a two-term project.”
— ‘s Jeff Simon and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.