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Ron DeSantis Says Trump January 6 Charges Would Not Be Good For Country

Ron DeSantis said charges against Donald Trump over his election subversion, culminating in the deadly January 6 attack on Congress, would not be good for the country.

“I hope he doesn’t get charged,” the Florida governor told CNN in a much-trailed interview on Tuesday. “I don’t think it’ll be good for the country.”

Earlier in the day, Trump seized the news agenda when he said he had been told he was a target of the investigation by the special counsel Jack Smith into his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, and had been told to appear before a federal grand jury in Washington DC on Thursday.

Trump already faces 71 criminal charges, over hush-money payments and his retention of classified information.

But he still leads DeSantis by around 30 points in polling regarding the Republican presidential primary while DeSantis reportedly experiences fundraising problems and staff changes.

Still, when asked on CNN if Trump should be held accountable for his election subversion, culminating in the incitement of the deadly January 6 attack on Congress, DeSantis declined a chance to hit out at his rival.

“So here’s the problem,” he said. “This country is going down the road of criminalising political differences. And I think that’s wrong.”

The Florida governor went on to repeatedly namecheck the state-level indictment of Trump in New York over his hush-money payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims an affair, and the investigation of links between Trump and Russia during the 2016 election, which closed in 2019.

“As president,” he said, reaching for a Republican talking point, “my job [will be] to restore a single standard of justice, to end weaponisation of these [federal] agencies.”

He added: “This country needs to have a debate about the country’s future. If I’m the nominee I will be able to focus on President [Joe] Biden’s failures, then I’ll be able to articulate a positive vision for the future.

“I don’t think it serves us good to have a presidential election focused on what happened four years ago in January and so I want to focus on looking forward. I don’t want to look back, I do not want to see [Trump charged], I hope he doesn’t get charged. I don’t think it’ll be good for the country. But at the same time, I’ve got to focus on looking forward and that’s what we’re going to do.”

DeSantis did look backwards to Trump’s election subversion earlier in the day, at a press conference in West Columbia, South Carolina, that was meant to focus on his rollout of a policy regarding the US military but which featured repeated questions about Trump and his extreme legal predicament.

DeSantis said then: “Look, there’s a difference between being brought up on criminal charges and doing things. Like for example, I think it was shown how [Trump] was in the White House [on January 6] and didn’t do anything while things were going on [at the Capitol]. He should have come out more forcefully, of course.”

Nine deaths including law enforcement suicides are now linked to the Capitol riot, which Trump incited in an attempt to block certification of his defeat by Biden and which he did nothing to call off for some hours.

“But to try to criminalise that” inaction, DeSantis said, “that’s a different issue entirely.”

With his announcement of developments in the Smith investigation, Trump had once again hijacked an attempt by DeSantis to reset his campaign make an impact on the campaign trail.

In a statement, Jason Miller, a senior Trump advisor, called the CNN interview “an afternoon hit that nobody will watch” but said: “The real story here is that the DeSantis campaign doesn’t know how to turn things around with their current candidate.”

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