In an effort to clarify his earlier remarks that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a “territorial dispute”, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told British journalist Piers Morgan that Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “criminal of war”.
Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and John Cornyn of Texas, who all openly broke with DeSantis after the governor denied more funds for Ukraine, were among those who publicly criticized Governor for his earlier remarks on Ukraine. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is considering a 2024 bid, called DeSantis “naive” about his Ukraine stance.
But in an interview with Morgan that will air this week, DeSantis repeated a characterization of Putin he made in early March: “a gas station with a bunch of nukes.” The two sentences quoted then-Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who once joked, “Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country,” in 2014.
According to Fox News, DeSantis said, “I think [Putin] is antagonistic in the United States, but I think the problem we’ve seen is that he lacks the conventional abilities to achieve his aspirations. The use of domestic energy resources in the United States is something that can be improved. It’s basically a gas station with lots of nukes.
DeSantis has come under increasing criticism from Donald Trump and other Republicans for his remarks about Ukraine and his perceived disloyalty to the former president, who announced in November that he was running for president. DeSantis is expected to enter the 2024 presidential race after the Florida legislative sessions in May.
After the governor said he would not intervene in Trump’s expected indictment in connection with silent money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, Trump fans also turned their attention to DeSantis. DeSantis could interfere with any extradition attempt if challenged under Florida law.
DeSantis remarked earlier this week at a press conference that he has “serious challenges” ahead in the state of Florida. “We don’t participate in it at all.”
But, DeSantis changed his position somewhat following his statements to Morgan. Until this week, he had only marginally responded to Trump’s constant criticism on Truth Social and elsewhere.
DeSantis responded to Trump’s characterization of the Governor of Florida as “Ron DeSanctimonious” by saying, “You can call me whatever you want, as long as you also call me a winner.”
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