DeSantis tells Trump to ‘fight on,’ takes aim at science and has beef with John Roberts


Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a new conference on the surge in coronavirus cases. | Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Updated


TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday told a private gathering of political donors and corporate executives that he has urged President Donald Trump to “fight on” to overturn November’s election results.

In wide-ranging remarks made in person behind closed doors at a meeting of the Associated Industries of Florida, DeSantis dismissed the risks of the coronavirus, contradicted science and targeted U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. He also defended Trump’s attempt to fight the results of the election.

“I told the president to fight on,” DeSantis told the group gathered at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes resort hotel in Orlando, according to a recording of the speech obtained by POLITICO. “In reality, none of this stuff has succeeded yet. Time is running out.”

DeSantis, a Republican, has been one of Trump’s staunchest allies. Days after the election, in an appearance on Fox News, he suggested that the Republican-controlled Legislatures in Pennsylvania and Michigan should overturn results in those states. He has said little about the election since.

On Thursday, however, the governor predicted that the “crazy stuff” sought by Democrats would be “dead on arrival” in Congress given the party’s slim majority in the House and the prospect of Republicans retaining control of the Senate after a Georgia run-off vote in January.

Given the likelihood of a congressional impasse, DeSantis predicted that President-elect Joe Biden will use executive orders to carry out his agenda items, including on climate change, an issue that DeSantis said was not a major issue for voters. Republican attorneys general will fight those orders in the courts, he said.

The Republican strategy will be similar to what Democrats did to Trump, whose executive orders were challenged in an effort to “delay, delay, delay” his agenda for months and years, DeSantis said. But Biden will be forced to argue his case to federal judges that Trump put on the bench.

“I think you are going to see a lot of battles in the courts over the scope of executive power,” said DeSantis.

He also decried the “crazy rulings” of Roberts, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by George W. Bush in 2005. Without offering specifics, DeSantis said certain opinions would be used by the “other side.”

DeSantis defended his response to the coronavirus pandemic, during which he has resisted imposing state-level restrictions on gatherings and mask-wearing. Florida has reported more than 1 million cases as of this week.

“We have, I think, really saved the livelihoods of millions and millions of students, parents, workers, business owners by approaching this in an evidence-based way and a way that focused on facts not fear, and in a way that was more moderate,” said DeSantis.

He said Florida’s unemployment rate — currently at 6.5 percent — isn’t likely to drop much further before travel begins to resume from other parts of the country and the world.

DeSantis also took shots at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its “ridiculous” studies on the Covid-19 outbreak, which he said were more about “affirming” the positions of “bureaucrats” than science.

He questioned the need for contract tracing, saying most people are either infected in their homes or medical authorities can’t figure out the source of infections.

People can engage in most outdoor activities, including sports, because the virus doesn’t spread at such events, DeSantis told the group. He insisted that Trump’s huge rallies did not contribute to the spread of Covid-19, countering a Stanford University study released in late October that traced 30,000 cases and hundreds of deaths to Trump rallies.

Loyalty to Trump helped propel DeSantis to victory in 2018. DeSantis is weighing a 2024 bid for president himself, but Trump is telling supporters that he might run again.

DeSantis is among a handful of 2024 aspirants invited by Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel to the party’s winter meeting in January in Amelia Island, Fla. McDaniel is attempting to establish some independence from Trump as he prepares to exit the White House.

Matt Dixon contributed to this story.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report misstated the year John Roberts was confirmed to the Supreme Court. He began his tenure in 2005.

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