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In rare criticism, Ron DeSantis says Trump should have responded 'more forcefully' on Jan. 6

DeSantis spoke shortly after Trump said he has been notified that he is the target of an investigation by a grand jury examining the Capitol riot and efforts to overturn the election.
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that former President Donald Trump should have done more on Jan. 6 when a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

At a news conference in Columbia, South Carolina, DeSantis was asked by a NBC News reporter whether Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, were wrong.

"I think it was shown how he was in the White House and didn’t do anything while things were going on. He should have come out more forcefully," DeSantis said of Trump, his chief opponent in the GOP primaries.

Trump said Tuesday that he had been notified he is the target of an investigation led by a federal grand jury examining the Jan. 6 riot and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. DeSantis' comments marked rare criticism of his handling of the Capitol riot.

"But to try to criminalize that, that’s a different issue entirely, and I think that we want to be in a situation where, you know, you don’t have one side just constantly trying to put the other side in jail. And that unfortunately is what we’re seeing now," he added.

The House Jan. 6 committee that investigated the attack on the Capitol focused one of its public hearings on the 187 minutes between the “Stop the Steal” rally where Trump encouraged supporters to “fight like hell” at the Capitol and his tweet asking for calm. The hearing included testimony that Trump ignored pleas from both aides and family members who wanted him to stop the insurrection and that he sat in a private dining room next to the Oval Office watching Fox News during the riot.

Reached for comment about DeSantis' remark, Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for Trump, referred to his tweet earlier in the day blasting DeSantis.

"A disqualifying take from an unserious candidate in the last throes of his failed candidacy," Cheung said on Twitter.

Asked at the news conference about Trump's suggestion he is likely to be indicted in special counsel Jack Smith's probe into Jan. 6 and efforts to overturn the election, DeSantis said that while he hadn't seen the news yet, "I think what we’ve seen in this country is an attempt to criminalize politics and to try to criminalize differences."

Trump already faces two indictments: one from a New York City grand jury centering on allegations that he made hush money payments to two women during his 2016 campaign and the other a federal case stemming from his handling of classified documents after he left the White House.

In his remarks Tuesday, when he laid out his policy proposal on reshaping the military, DeSantis also said that as president he would end the "weaponization" of federal agencies. He compared Trump's treatment to that of Hunter Biden, who reached a plea agreement last month with a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney and is expected to plead guilty to two federal misdemeanor counts of failing to pay his taxes.

"We look at institutions, unfortunately, like our own FBI and Department of Justice and we’ve seen the politicization of those institutions. We’ve seen them be weaponized against Americans," DeSantis said. "Hunter Biden, he would have been in jail if he were a Republican, and we all know that."