In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis and veteran GOP operative Roger Stone are among former President Donald Trump’s most outspoken supporters, and neither is shy about downplaying the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, encouraging voter suppression, or promoting the false claim that Trump was the victim of widespread voter fraud in 2020.
Despite their adoration toward their muse, Stone and DeSantis are embroiled in a MAGA civil war. It is delightful to watch, however, you will need a rather large bowl of popcorn.
Stone, a longstanding Trump worshiper and political agitator in this state, has been piling on the pressure on the governor. He’s asked him to audit the 2020 election, which he hasn’t done, and then said this weekend that DeSantis should swear on the MAGA bible, Mein Kampf, not to run for president if he wins reelection even if Trump doesn’t seek another term which he hasn’t done (apologies, the Hitler reference was entirely my input.)
Stone even sent an email to his followers late Monday outlining his grievances with DeSantis. “Let’s just say that in the event that he does not elect to run, let’s just say that Governor Ron DeSantis would not be the candidate I support,” Stone wrote. “Republicans, conservatives and Trump supporters across the nation who are impressed with our governor with his high flying rhetoric, must focus carefully on his public policy decisions.”
When it comes to these and other problems, Stone has openly declared that he would run for governor as a Libertarian candidate if DeSantis does not change his mind. As a response to Stone’s remarks, DeSantis made light of the situation by telling a television reporter that Stone could not run against him because he is “a convicted felon.”
Did you hear the whip crack?
Stone, the self processed political genius, as it turns out, cannot run as a Libertarian since he is now a registered Republican. According to Florida law, you cannot transfer parties to run for office if the election is less than a year away.
“I think the law they changed is quite challengeable,” Stone countered with his political genius response. He also took issue with DeSantis bringing up his federal criminal charges as a result of Robert Mueller’s inquiry, pointing out that Trump later pardoned him of all offenses after first reducing his sentence. That preserves his right to seek for office, he claims.
“The governor is incorrect. I’d say he owes me an apology,” Stone said.
Stone said unequivocally, as he has in past interviews, that he does not believe he can defeat the emerging GOP star. “I have no illusions about my ability to run for governor. I just want Ron to have his rhetoric match his actions.” Stone blasted DeSantis over school mask rules, claiming he should have “fired” school board members who violated the law. He cited the governor’s removal of a South Florida sheriff and election supervisor from office despite the fact that neither had committed a crime.
Governor DeSantis has not responded.
In the 2020 election, there is no indication of massive voting fraud. And Donald Trump won Florida by around 3 percentage points against Joe Biden.
However, Trump’s triumph in the state has not deterred local Republicans from demanding audits. In September, Republicans in Lake County, near Orlando, passed motions urging every state legislator to launch an audit of the 2020 election. MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has likewise promoted the erroneous assertion that Trump won Florida by about three times the number of votes.
This demand for a “forensic audit” and recount of the state’s 11.1 million ballots has left DeSantis in an untenable position, according to Politico. Last year, he argued that Florida was a model for how states should organize elections.
“People are actually looking at Florida and asking the question ‘Why can’t the states be more like Florida? Florida was able to handle 11 million ballots,’” DeSantis said during a news conference last November, adding: “The way Florida did it, I think, inspires confidence. I think that’s how elections should be run.”
DeSantis has been emphatic about the integrity of the Florida vote count.
“What we do in Florida is, there’s a pre- and post-election audit that happens automatically. So, that has happened. It passed with flying colors in terms of how that’s going,” DeSantis said, adding that he thought Florida had a “great election package.”
DeSantis has said that he plans to compete for reelection in 2022. He is also generally seen as a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2024, especially if Trump does not run.
Stone, a former Trump adviser and political strategist, was convicted in 2019 of seven felonies related to the FBI’s investigation into Russian election meddling in the 2016 US election: five counts of making false statements to FBI and congressional investigators, one count of witness tampering, and one count of obstruction of justice. Stone’s sentence was commuted by Trump in July 2020.
Last month, a process server interrupted a radio interview with Stone, the notorious GOP dirty trickster, and longtime Trump adviser.
Former federal prosecutor Ron Filipkowski shared audio from the occasion on Twitter. “While Roger Stone was live on the air this morning with ‘Real Talk 93.3’ (St Louis) doing an interview about the 2024 election, he gets served by a process server with the January 6 lawsuit,” he explained as he posted a clip from Joe Hoft’s show.
While Roger Stone was live on the air this morning with ‘Real Talk 93.3’ (St Louis) doing an interview about the 2024 election, he gets served by a process server with the January 6 lawsuit. (Audio) pic.twitter.com/pnXBPQh3Vn
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) September 15, 2021
When the interview was interrupted, Stone was responding to a question on why he believes it is “imperative” for Trump to run in 2024.
“Hold on a second, I have a process server at my front door about to serve me in the latest lawsuit,” Stone said.
The papers, according to Stone, were for a civil case in the District of Columbia.
“Alright, I have just been served in the January 6th lawsuit — live, right here on your radio show,” Stone said. “This is a big, big stack of papers, which is good, because we’re out of toilet paper.”
Stone also made headlines last month when he claimed that that MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a prominent pro-Trump election truther, is being “stabbed in the back” by those around him, including Lindell’s own advisors and Steve Bannon.
Stone’s comments, made on a far-right QAnon-themed internet program, appear to be an attempt to defend the pillow tycoon, whose credibility in Trumpland is dwindling as he continues to fail to produce hard evidence of 2020 election fraud.
“I think Mike Lindell has done great work,” Stone told the host “The Matrixx” Jeffrey Pedersen, “I think he’s been disserved by some of the people working for him. But he’s got a heart of gold. He’s a patriot. His instinct is absolutely correct. He has produced enormous evidence of irregularities in the election. But the left excoriates him because he has the courage to speak the truth, and then, making it even worse, you have people who are at least allegedly on our side like Steve Bannon, stabbing him in the back, questioning his public credibility.”
Stone did not respond to a request from Salon for clarification on which advisers, other than Bannon, he believes are misleading Lindell.
Stone called Bannon’s alleged betrayal “no surprise to me,” referring to another one of his long feuds with the former CEO of Trump’s 2016 campaign, who testified against him in federal court in 2019.
Florida politics are certainly, at the very least, entertaining.