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Tension builds between DeSantis and Trump following Miami arraignment

Supporters of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are hoping former Pres. Donald Trump's legal battles will help close the gap in Republican primary polls.
Posted at 10:44 AM, Jun 15, 2023

As former President Donald Trump headed into a federal courthouse in Miami Tuesday, his political team was discussing another defense strategy from political attacks coming from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis is claiming that a 2018 bipartisan criminal justice reform bill that was signed into law by Trump has contributed to rising crime across the country. It's part of an effort DeSantis is hoping will help weaken Trump's standing as the "law and order" candidate amongst conservative voters.

Steve Cortes, a former Trump adviser turned DeSantis supporter, said on Twitter that it's "time for a law and order leader" the same day of Trump's arraignment in the classified documents case. It's the latest flashpoint in the escalating political tension between the two campaigns.

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Trump's political action committee (PAC) says DeSantis is changing his position on the bipartisan First Step Act. The legislation aimed to address inequities in the criminal justice system for first time offenders with misdemeanors, such as marijuana possession.

It was praised by Republicans and Democrats — and even Kim Kardashian — at the time. It was also one of the driving issues spearheaded by Jared Kushner, a Trump White House adviser and the former president's son-in-law.

While DeSantis is now criticizing Trump for the First Step Act, he actually praised him as a law-and-order president while campaigning for him ahead of the 2020 election.

"We are a law-and-order state and we need a law-and-order POTUS," DeSantis said at a 2020 rally for Trump. "We need the president reelected."

In an interview with conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, DeSantis said he'll repeal the First Step Act if elected president.

"Under the Trump administration, he enacted a bill, basically a jailbreak bill," he said.

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Karoline Leavitt, a spokesperson for the pro-Trump PAC Make America Great Again, said in a statement to Scripps News that "DeSantis ran his campaigns on Donald Trump's America First Agenda" and is on the record praising Trump.

"Now, [DeSantis] is attacking President Trump on those very same issues, proving that he is just another flip-flopping politician who will say whatever it takes to win," Leavitt said.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to surge in Republican primary polls following his federal indictment. A poll conducted by CBS and YouGov has him clearing the field of GOP opponents with 61% support among conservative voters.

DeSantis is in a distant second place at 23%, and all other candidates are polling in the single digits.