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2024 Election

Ron DeSantis bragged about sending help to Iowa — 10 hours after being told it wasn't needed

DeSantis' June 5 tweet touting Florida's role in the politically important state came after Iowa told his administration its help in the recovery effort of a building collapse was not needed.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — On June 5, at 8:06 p.m., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted that he was sending Florida personnel to assist Iowa with a disastrous building collapse in Davenport.

"We are proud to help the people of Iowa," he wrote, touting his role in helping the first state in the GOP presidential primary calendar.

Yet what DeSantis didn't say — and what NBC News has learned through a public records request — was that more than 10 hours earlier, the mission had been canceled and Iowa had informed the DeSantis administration that its help was no longer needed.

A day earlier, on June 4, the administration of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, sent both Florida and Wisconsin requests for assistance in the recovery effort after the six-story building collapsed, which ultimately left three people dead.

According to public records, Florida was scheduled to send six structural specialists and specialized equipment on June 5.

Demolition begins at the site of a building collapse on June 12, 2023, in Davenport, Iowa.
A six-story apartment building collapsed in Davenport, Iowa, in May.Charlie Neibergall / AP file

Yet early that day, Iowa alerted Florida that it no longer needed help.

“Copy on the mission being canceled,” Erik Sanchez, an emergency response official with the city of Miami, wrote in an email to roughly a dozen emergency management officials the morning of June 5.

The email, which NBC News obtained as part of its records request, was sent at 9:44 a.m. It acknowledged that Florida officials were aware their assistance was no longer needed. 

A second email sent at 1:04 p.m. June 5 by Miami-Dade County Rescue Lt. Jeff Rouse confirmed that Scott County, where Davenport is located, was “rescinding” its request.

“Please immediately notify your personnel not to deploy if they have not already done so,” he wrote.

Yet several hours after both those emails, DeSantis sent his tweet boasting of Florida's role in sending personnel.

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management confirmed that the original request for assistance was to help find three people who were missing after the building collapsed and that the mission was canceled after those people, each of whom died, were found.

“HSEMD learned on the morning of June 5 that the last of the three missing people had been located during the previously late evening/early morning hours,” spokeswoman Lucinda Parker said Thursday afternoon. 

Parker said by email that she was unsure of the exact time the phone call canceling the mission went out, but she said it was made “early that morning.”

In his email on June 5, Sanchez, the Miami official, said two people from Florida had left the state before they got word that the mission had been canceled. 

“I have 2 of my guys already flying out there,” he wrote. “We are in agreement that they will arrive and get in touch with the [point of contact] over there to find out if they have any immediate needs. At that point, if there is nothing else, we will coordinate to bring them back.”

He said a third official “won’t be flying out.”

DeSantis communications director Jeremy Redfern said “you are wrong” when he was asked whether DeSantis or his staff knew the mission had been canceled when DeSantis sent his tweet.

He did not elaborate and referred NBC News to the Division of Emergency Management.

The division’s communications director, Alecia Collins, said two state Transportation Department officials were there and “gave insight” on how Florida responded to the 2021 Surfside condo collapse, in which 98 people died.

Parker, of the Iowa emergency management department, said two Florida officials were there for a “brief time.”

“We reached out to Florida on the morning of June 5 to attempt to stop the deployment, however, two personnel had already been deployed earlier that morning,” she wrote.

Original cost estimates for the mission were $300,000, a number that jumped to $472,431 by June 4.

Two days later, John Kohnke, an official in the office of Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, emailed emergency management officials that reimbursement cost estimates would again have to be adjusted, because the mission was “cut short and/or canceled.”

Parker said Iowa does not yet have a request from Florida for the reimbursement of any costs. Collins said Thursday afternoon that Florida would “request reimbursements.”

She said the state does not yet have a comprehensive cost estimate tied to the early June request.

A day after issuing its first statement, and on the day that Casey DeSantis appeared in the state with the governor, Parker — of the Iowa emergency management department — sent a new statement saying that the two Florida officials who did make it to the disaster zone were there for two days.

Wisconsin Emergency Management said it received its request from Iowa on June 4, for two personnel. Wisconsin deployed a structural engineer and a task force lead with engineering experience, and the pair returned to Wisconsin on June 5.

Iowa has taken center stage for DeSantis’ 2024 presidential campaign. He trails Donald Trump in most public polling by significant margins, and his team is increasingly placing hope on winning Iowa, the nation’s first presidential nominating contest, to help right the ship.

DeSantis has made several stops in the state, one of them in late May for his campaign launch. On Thursday night, his wife, Casey, unveiled the grassroots Mamas for DeSantis group in Iowa alongside Reynolds, the Republican governor.

This story has been updated with additional comment from Parker.