Jun 10, 2023 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis and Pence circle the wagons around Trump after indictment

Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis delivers remarks June 9, 2023 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis delivers remarks June 9, 2023 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Greensboro, N.C. — In their first remarks since former president Donald Trump's federal indictment, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former vice president Mike Pence rushed to defend their rival.

Why it matters: It foreshadows a tightrope that the other candidates running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination will walk through the primary season.

  • Trump gained momentum politically and raised over $4 million in the first 24 hours after news of his Manhattan indictment.

What we're watching: Speaking at the North Carolina Republican Party convention on Friday, DeSantis wondered if there is "a different standard for a Democrat secretary of state versus a former Republican president?” in reference to Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.

  • “There needs to be one standard of justice in this country. Let’s enforce it on everybody,” he said.
  • "You can’t have one faction of society weaponizing the power of the state against factions that it doesn’t like.”

Pence, speaking to a smaller group at the same convention on Saturday, demanded that Attorney General Merrick Garland explain to the American people "why this indictment went forward."

  • He went on to say that the former president is facing "an unprecedented indictment by a justice department run by the current president" in an effort to highlight what he sees as unequal treatment by the justice system.

The big picture: They are among a crowded GOP field — including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) — who are unwilling to condemn Trump after a 37-count indictment over his handling of classified documents.

  • Only former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have criticized Trump's conduct.

Go deeper:

  1. Why Trump can legally run for president despite indictments
  2. U.S. secrets were everywhere at Trump's club
  3. Special counsel: "We have one set of laws in this country"

Go deeper