DeSantis Loses MAGA Support over Staff’s Attacks on Russia Hoax Questions

Adam Glanzman/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s 2024 presidential campaign saw another setback over the weekend as the Republican candidate saw support withdrawn from top America First movement figures such as Mike Cernovich after DeSantis’s staff attacked him and others for asking questions about DeSantis’s position on the Russia hoax.

The incident started with Darren Beattie, a former Trump White House official, tweeting a clip of DeSantis — then a congressman — talking about then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into “Russian collusion” between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian agents.

“Putin, if you look at the operation they did with the spear-phishing and the hacking — that was really a third-rate operation,” DeSantis says in the interview clip, and continues, explaining:

It was not sophisticated. I think the House Intel report and the Mueller indictment kind of show that. But, man, what mileage have they gotten out of that? A lot of that is being driven by the president’s political opponents, both in the Democratic Party and the press — and I think that’s what bugs him about the issue is that it’s used to try to delegitimize his election victory. I personally think that the [House] Intel report and the indictment are credible in terms of assigning blame, culpability to Russia.

DeSantis, for what it’s worth, was responding to an indictment that Mueller had brought against several Russian actors for alleged interference in the 2016 election. This was before Mueller concluded his investigation with a report that ultimately cleared Trump, and it was before the 2018 midterm elections when DeSantis ended up winning the governor’s race in Florida. This interview was conducted well before even the gubernatorial primaries in 2018, where DeSantis won the Republican nomination thanks in large part to Trump’s endorsement of him.

Beattie tweeted the clip with a question, asking if DeSantis still stood by what he said about this narrative in that interview.

DeSantis, then a congressman, was a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPCSI) and helped write the House Intelligence Committee report to which he was referring in the interview.

In response to Beattie’s tweet, DeSantis’s press secretary Jeremy Redfern attacked him — accusing Beattie of being “dishonest.”

Beattie and Redfern went back and forth quite a bit on Sunday evening over the clip in follow-up responses:

That kicked off a broader Twitter war among a number of folks on the right, seeing Cernovich — someone who had previously backed DeSantis — jump in and pressure Redfern for a specific answer on where DeSantis stood on the issue:

DeSantis’s campaign, meanwhile, from its “War Room” account, tweeted out more of the clip of DeSantis on Fox News talking about that as a congressman, and accused Beattie of selectively editing off the end where DeSantis says “at the same time, I don’t think that had anything to do with the fact that he whooped Hillary Clinton and I also don’t think there was any Trump-Russia collusion. So there’s just all these issues that I think have been kind of intermingled by a lot of the people that want to damage him as president.”

DeSantis’s team, meanwhile, also noted in the broader back and forth that DeSantis helped write the HPSCI report in question:

But the nasty infighting between those on the right did not end there. When Cernovich kept pressing the question, DeSantis’s team shot back with personal attacks on him and Beattie.

After all that, Cernovich withdrew previous comments he had made favoring DeSantis in 2024, saying he now disavows those sentiments:

This development comes after brutal headlines and polling continues to show DeSantis stalling out since entering the 2024 Republican presidential field.


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