What Donald Trump's Indictment Means for Ron DeSantis — and Other GOP Presidential Contenders

Some political experts have noted that Trump's ongoing legal issues could serve as a distraction — both for him and for voters — heading into the next election

Rift Between Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump Spills Into Public View
Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty; Chip Somodevilla/Getty

When news of Donald Trump's indictment broke, Ron DeSantis was quick to weigh in on the historic moment: "The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American," he tweeted Thursday evening.

The Florida governor went on to falsely accuse the Manhattan district attorney of being backed by Democratic mega-donor George Soros, adding, "Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda."

Despite DeSantis' tweets, Trump is unlikely to face extradition, given that his attorney has already told multiple media outlets that the former president plans to "face" the charges in an arraignment expected next week.

Of course, if federal authorities ever did seek to extradite Trump, they could do so without asking permission of Florida's governor (the FBI, for instance, served a search warrant on Trump's Mar-a-Lago property last year, which is in South Florida, without seeking assistance from DeSantis).

DeSantis — a Harvard Law graduate who previously served as a special assistant U.S. attorney in Florida — is undoubtedly aware that federal authorities are unlikely to seek Trump's extradition from Florida. But making the vague promise not to assist federal agents comes at an opportune time for the governor, who is said to be considering his own run for the White House.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer.

As some political experts have noted, the Manhattan indictment could boost support for Trump among his base, as it fuels his persistent claims of a "witch hunt" against him.

But in the long term, the indictment signals other looming legal troubles ahead for the former president, who is also being investigated for more serious charges by authorities in Georgia and with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The many investigations could, as political science professor Dr. Trey Hood III previously told PEOPLE, prove to be "somewhat of a diversion from a campaign" for Trump.

And with Trump's attention focused on his legal issues, many are wondering if another Republican might seize the moment.

Many of the other GOP contenders for president have also weighed in on Trump's indictment, all of them backing the former president against what they have called a "weaponization of the legal system" and a "political prosecution."

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson — who has not yet announced but is said to be considering a presidential bid of his own — took a somewhat different approach, releasing a statement calling Trump's indictment "dark," but hedging his words with a plea to "wait for the facts."

"While the grand jury found credible facts to support the charges, it is important that the presumption of innocence follows Mr. Trump," Hutchinson said. "We need to wait on the facts and for our American system of justice to work like it does for thousands of Americans every day."

Hutchinson continued: "Donald Trump should not be the next President, but that should be decided by the voters."

Related Articles