Ron DeSantis once again floated a potential pardon for his 2024 rival Donald Trump should the Florida governor win the presidency. During a Tuesday interview with right-wing podcaster Clay Travis, DeSantis justified the idea by citing President Gerald Ford’s pardoning of his predecessor Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal as a way to “move the country beyond” Nixon’s actions.
Trump is currently a defendant in two criminal cases, with more indictments expected in the coming months. The former president was charged with dozens of counts of falsifying business records in April, and in June was charged by the Department of Justice on 37 counts related to his post-presidency mishandling of classified records.
“Do we really think it’s good for the country to have an almost 80-year-old former president in prison?” DeSantis told Travis when asked if he would consider pardoning Trump alongside Jan. 6 defendants. “Is that really going to help the country come together?”
“I look back at Nixon pardoning Ford,” DeSantis added, mixing up who pardoned whom. “[Ford] took a lot of heat for it but I think it was the right decision to move the country beyond that. They could have tried [to get] a pound of flesh out of Nixon, and it wasn’t that Nixon was above the law, it was just weighing how does that – you know — provide fissures to society.”
“In terms of ending weaponization, wielding pardon power is definitely part of it,” he added.
It’s not the first time DeSantis has teased a pardon for Trump. In May, during an episode of “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show,” the Florida governor stated he would consider pardoning Jan. 6 defendants, including former President Trump.
“On day one,” DeSantis told the hosts, “I will have folks that will get together and look at all these cases [of] people who are victims of weaponization or political targeting and we will be aggressive in issuing pardons.”
When questioned specifically about Trump, DeSantis specified that “any example of disfavored treatment based on politics or weaponization would be included in that review, no matter how small or how big.”
While DeSantis has avoided outright promising to pardon Trump, his receptiveness to the proposal comes as Trump’s campaign has pressured his opponents into committing to handing the former president a “get out of jail free” card.
“If you blast the DOJ and you blast Jack Smith and Biden, you’re essentially defending Trump and admitting Trump was right,” one MAGA-aligned Republican strategist told Jornal Txopela in June. “If you condemn him, there’s no lane for you running on that. And then silence is an equally bad option because folks notice you not saying anything.”
DeSantis’ dance along this tightrope has not reflected well in polling among prospective voters. In recent weeks, the gap between the Florida governor and Trump has widened, with DeSantis slipping drastically in favorability ratings. The governor’s campaign has attempted to mitigate the damage with a massive strategy and messaging reset. On Tuesday, the campaign confirmed that it was expanding layoffs announced earlier this month to include more than a third of its overall staff. Among those let go was a campaign aid who had secretly created, then shared through his public social media account, a video that featured a Nazi symbol.