The feud between Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump has spilled into public view, but one political insider sees a chance for the Florida governor to steal some of the former president's thunder.
DeSantis criticized the former president's response to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and NBC News reporter Mark Caputo explained to MSNBC's "Morning Joe" how that signals a shift in the political dynamic between the two top contenders for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
"I think at this point, and notice how I said 'at this point,' Donald Trump is still the center of gravity of the Republican Party around which others revolve," Caputo said. "He's got so much weight that he could kind of crush DeSantis in that. However, as time goes on and DeSantis becomes more popular in the GOP, things could change. A week is a lifetime in politics, and we're talking about 2024."
Trump has privately groused to allies that DeSantis hasn't publicly pledged that he won't challenge Trump for the nomination, and he appeared to take a swipe at the governor, but his guidance of Florida through the pandemic has won him many fans within the GOP.
"There is an interesting every evolution that happened around DeSantis," Caputo said. "He got elected in 2018 and took office in 2019, and around March 2020, the pandemic happened, and he was a subject to a lot of criticism from the national news media and from a lot of experts and, at first -- things changed with the delta variant in August -- but what you saw up until August of 2021 was DeSantis became more and more powerful with the base as he resisted more and more of the experts in of the media and what Democrats said he should do with mask mandates, later with vaccine mandates, and so he sort of grew into that role."
"DeSantis has a real kind of 'take on all on all comers' sensibility to him, he kind of can get in a fight on an empty room," Caputo added. "The base loves that."
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The Department of Justice has two new investigatory avenues to pursue after indicting eleven Trump supporters for seditious conspiracy for their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"The most interesting aspect of the recent indictments of 11 people accused of involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on charges of seditious conspiracy isn’t who has been charged — but who might be charged next," former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade wrote for MSNBC.
The former U.S. Attorney wrote that it is "likely that prosecutors aren’t done yet."
McQuade explained that the indictments help prosecutors move up to the higher people behind Jan. 6 and may result in cooperation agreements.
"Working up the chain of organized criminal conduct is part of the standard Justice Department playbook. Lower-level offenders can provide leads to higher-level offenders in two ways. One way is through the investigation of simpler crimes. For example, prosecutors may find ample evidence that a particular subject unlawfully entered the Capitol on Jan. 6. If prosecutors can also demonstrate probable cause that the person used his cellphone as a so-called instrumentality to commit the crime, a search warrant can be obtained for the contents of his physical device. A phone may contain evidence of criminal conduct, and it can also provide links to other offenders. Access to phones is particularly valuable in cases in which, as here, the defendants are alleged to have used encrypted messaging applications, such as Signal, to communicate, making it impossible for investigators to obtain the content of incriminating text messages through the normal route — from the service providers," McQuade wrote.
She also explained the indictments may make it more likely suspects with "flip" and testify against other co-conspirators.
"Another way lower-level offenders can lead to evidence against more serious offenders is through cooperation. Defendants who are charged with crimes and are likely to face conviction can often help themselves by sitting down with prosecutors and providing debriefings of everything they know. Prosecutors refer to this process as 'flipping' a defendant from the defense side to the prosecution team. If that information is valuable, prosecutors will ask the court to reduce the cooperator’s sentence. Cooperators can provide verbal testimony, as well as point investigators to documents and other witnesses who can corroborate their stories. Cooperators can even voluntarily share the contents of their cellphones, providing access to encrypted messages that prosecutors may have been unable to obtain in the absence of probable cause that they used the phones as instrumentalities for the crime," she explained.
The evidence obtained from this methodical approach can be "devastating."
"The recent charges indicate that this methodical approach has yielded results. The indictment includes verbatim quotations from encrypted text messages among the Oath Keeper defendants, and they are devastating," she wrote. "The content of other text messages appears throughout the indictment. No evidence is more powerful than the incriminating words of a defendant himself."
Read the full analysis.
In an interview with host Molly Jong-Fast on the Daily Beast podcast "The New Normal," former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara explained that, to the best of his knowledge, Donald Trump and those closest to him have not been approached by the House committee investigating the Jan 6th insurrection -- but then explained how the public will know when the pressure may be truly on.
According to the former Justice Department official, the committee has gathered a tremendous amount of information and testimony, but to all appearances have yet to approach the former president or members of his family.
“It’s odd to have allowed all this testimony to be collected, all these documents to be subpoenaed and compiled, and they don’t look like they’ve done any of these interviews. And maybe there’s some reason that I’m not aware of that I can’t think of,” he told the host before adding "I don’t know why that hasn’t happened.”
He did note that Trump, and those close to him, have a distinct habit they fall back on when the pressure gets to them and they panic.
"When you go and you approach people you want to interview about what you might expect them to have done, people who are very mouthy like the Trump folks, they get up in arms, they send letters, they try to quash, they get very upset and they blab about it," he added.
You can listen here.