U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, whose Republican campaign for governor is built largely on President Donald Trump‘s endorsement, weighed in on Fox News about today’s Trump’s joint appearance with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
DeSantis was asked about critics who said Trump missed an opportunity to criticize Putin for interfering in the 2016 election, as outlined in Friday’s indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officials by special counsel Robert Mueller.
DeSantis did, in fact, see a missed opportunity.
“In terms of the meddling, I think the point to make, that the president could make very easily, is this happened when Obama was president and one of the reasons it happened, I think, is because people in the Russian government didn’t think Obama would do anything. So Obama’s weakness over eight years, starting with the ‘Reset,’ I think that that did invite Russia to be more belligerent than they otherwise would have if they had someone pushing back,” DeSantis said.
“So I think the president had an opportunity to point that out and say, you know, there’s a new sheriff in town. Because his administration has been tougher on Russia than Obama. For example, we tried to get legal aid to Ukraine so it could defend itself against Russian oppression. Obama opposed that. President Trump supports that. So he’s got a story to tell and I think that he should try to do that.”
DeSantis said the Mueller indictment and a House Intelligence Committee report are “credible” in blaming Russia for interference.
“Putin, if you look at the operation that they did with the spearphishing and the hacking, that was really a third rate operation. It was not sophisticated and I think the House Intel report and the Mueller indictment kind of show that,” DeSantis said.
“But man, what mileage have they gotten out of that and 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 the Intel report and the indictment are credible in terms of assigning blame, culpability to Russia. But at the same time, I don’t think that had anything to do with the fact that he whupped Hillary Clinton. And I also don’t think there was any Trump-Russia collusion. And so there’s just all these issues that have kind of been intermingled by a lot of the people that want to damage him as president.”