Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken heat from some conservatives for taking a bit of a swipe at former President Donald Trump and his potential indictment.
But DeSantis — a likely 2024 GOP presidential candidate — has been in lockstep with other Republicans in his criticism of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, accusing him of "pursuing a political agenda" and branding him "a Soros-funded prosecutor."
The attempt to tie Bragg to the liberal mega-donor George Soros has been an oft-repeated talking point on the right, in an attempt by Republicans to weaken and remove prosecutors.
Few people know this strategy better than Andrew Warren.
In 2020, Warren, a Democrat, won re-election as Hillsborough County state attorney in 2020 with the support of 53% of his constituents. But in August 2022, DeSantis indefinitely suspended Warren because he had indicated that he would not enforce restrictions on abortion and gender therapy. The governor claimed Warren had “flagrantly violated” his oath of office.
Warren's legal efforts to get reinstated have so far been unsuccessful.
Warren said that part of this new GOP script is that Republicans feel freer to go after prosecutors they perceive as enemies.
“This has become part of the authoritarian playbook,” Warren said in an interview with NBC News. “Where rather than solving problems, you’re fanning the flames.”
“In the realm of criminal justice, we have problems that we need to address. How do we reduce gun violence? How do we make our system more efficient and keep our neighborhoods safe? And rather than helping solve those problems,” Warren continued, DeSantis and Trump “are attacking their political enemies with false narratives.”
“That’s something you’d expect to see in Russia. Not in the United States,” he added.
Trump holds rally, lashes out at DA amid possible indictmentMarch 27, 202302:22
Soros supported Bragg’s campaign for Manhattan D.A. through the Color of Change PAC. Warren, in 2020, acknowledged that Soros may have helped his first successful campaign four years before.
“There’s tremendous hypocrisy,” Warren said, pointing to DeSantis’ decision to suspend him because of what the governor claimed was his refusal to enforce laws — while also seeming to suggest that Bragg shouldn’t prosecute any alleged crimes by Trump.
“He was claiming I wasn’t going to prosecute abortion cases and that I wasn’t going to prosecute violations of a transgender law that didn’t exist,” Warren said of DeSantis. “But at the same time he’s … suggesting that the D.A. should not be prosecuting Trump because that crime to him is not important.”
He said Trump and DeSantis attack prosecutors who don't make culture war issues a priority, "but are OK with prosecutors not enforcing the law when it hurts members of their own political party."
Responding to questions from NBC News about Warren’s latest comments, Jeremy Redfern, a spokesman for the Florida governor, said, “Mr. Warren remains suspended from the office he failed to serve.”
DeSantis himself is a former military prosecutor who has commented on selective prosecution.
Although he has consistently taken aim at social justice activists, liberal big-city prosecutors and other elected officials for decriminalizing certain actions through what he considers nonenforcement of the law, DeSantis has walked a fine line in staking out his specific philosophy when it comes to selective prosecution and applying the law equally to public figures, as NBC News has reported.
“While a prosecutor can decline to prosecute cases, such declination must be the result of an individualized determination about the merits of the individual case, not due to a blanket policy of non-enforcement,” DeSantis wrote in his recently released political memoir.
While DeSantis appears to make an implicit distinction between nonenforcement policies related to certain criminal actions and individual cases, he nevertheless is clear that there is a “duty of the prosecutor to follow the law.”
Earlier in his career, when he was a member of Congress, DeSantis introduced a constitutional amendment that would have required that all laws apply to lawmakers the same as they do to other people — a proposal Warren noted is in contrast to how the governor has responded to him and to Trump.
“This is hypocrisy,” Warren said.