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DeSantis joins Trump in call for reform at FBI, DOJ

By Sarah May
|
April 9, 2023

In the wake of his recent indictment, former President Donald Trump called for the FBI and the Justice Department to be defunded, and according to the Daily Mail, he has found an ally for that position in the form of Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The governor's comments came during a speaking engagement at Hillsdale College in Michigan on Thursday during which he emphasized the need for accountability on the part of the federal agencies, whether through legislative or budgetary means.

“Power is going to accumulate”

Amid news that Trump's poll numbers continue to surge despite the criminal charges against him, DeSantis told the assembled Hillsdale audience that he agrees with the former president about defunding the aforementioned agencies over what he referred to as the weaponization of the legal process.

DeSantis went so far as to suggest that if he occupied the Oval Office, he would not hesitate to cut the budgets of the FBI and DOJ, as the Mail noted.

“If you never hold them accountable through the legislative process, either through law or through budget, of course, power is going to accumulate there,” DeSantis opined.

Taking issue with the commonly articulated argument that the agencies must be given a wide berth so as to maintain their independence, DeSantis added, “No, they are executive branch agencies that report to the elected president of the United States” and that the commander in chief should not be afraid to “hold those agencies accountable.”

Echoes of Trump

The remarks from DeSantis were similar in tone to arguments lodged by Trump on Wednesday in the aftermath of his Tuesday arraignment in a Manhattan court room.

As The Hill reported, Trump took to this Truth Social platform to decry what he described as the “weaponized” nature of federal law enforcement.

“REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS SHOULD DEFUND THE DOJ AND FBI UNTIL THEY COME TO THEIR SENSES,” wrote Trump.

The former president continued, “THE DEMOCRATS HAVE TOTALLY WEAPONIZED LAW ENFORCEMENT IN OUR COUNTRY AND ARE VICIOUSLY USING THIS ABUSE OF POWER TO INTERFERE WITH OUR ALREADY UNDER SEIGE ELECTIONS!”

Republican dilemma

As The Hill reported separately, calls to defund such as those floated by Trump and DeSantis have placed fellow Republicans in D.C. on the horns of a dilemma in that it serves as something of a contradiction to the tough-on-crime image they wish to portray ahead of the 2024 election.

Washington University political science professor Steven S. Smith told the outlet, “Trump is creating problems for Republicans everywhere. It's almost impossible to see anything good from this kind of comment coming for the Republicans.”

“The idea that they would get on the opposite side of law enforcement agencies from where they have traditionally been is only going to make them look radical and foolish in the eyes of many of the voters they absolutely need: suburbanites and exurban voters who are already showing disdain for Trump-supporting Republicans,” Smith added.

The Hill also quoted a Senate aide on the Republican side who declared that Trump's idea would get nowhere in the upper chamber, noting with regard to the concept of using appropriations processes to influence the FBI and DOJ, “I understand the former president is frustrated, but that's not going to happen.”

Chairman's counterpoint

However, that is not to say that the former president's idea has no support at all on Capitol Hill, with House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (OH-04) recently signaling his openness to the possibility, as The Hill further noted.

Speaking to Fox News host Maria Bartiromo last weekend, Jordan said, “We control the power of the purse, and that's, we're gonna have to look at the appropriations process and limit funds going to some of these agencies, particularly the ones who are engaging in the most egregious behavior.”

Asked directly by Bartiromo if he was referring to the FBI and DOJ, Jordan answered in the affirmative.

Though House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA-20) has paved the way for Jordan to probe whether federal funding played a role in Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg's investigations of Trump, it appears – at least for now – that any prospect of defunding agencies in the manner suggested by the former president and DeSantis has long odds, indeed.