DeSantis selects a Matt Gaetz ally who is embroiled in controversy as his new public safety czar
Ron DeSantis of Florida speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Gage Skidmore

Former U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe -- an ex-law partner of Rep. Matt Gaetz -- has been named Florida's new "public safety czar" by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis said what one might expect in giving Keefe his sendoff, as reported by the Tallahassee Democrat.

"I am proud to appoint Larry Keefe, the former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida, to serve as public safety czar as we take key steps to protect Florida taxpayers from bearing the burden of reckless immigration policies," the governor said. "We will continue to hold the federal government accountable for refusing to enforce the immigration laws of this country."

Keefe, who was appointed U.S. attorney by Donald Trump and was asked to leave when President Joe Biden took office, sounded the same theme:

"As a former U.S. attorney, I saw illegal aliens that would get deported and come back, and then get deported and come back in an endless cycle," Keefe said. "The states, including Florida, bear the brunt of this cycle.

"He went on to say that over coming weeks and months, "our state agencies will be addressing the impacts illegal immigration has had on our state. I want to thank Gov. DeSantis for appointing me to lead these efforts."

Gaetz worked for about a decade at Keefe, Anchors & Gordon, the firm for which Keefe remains a partner. As U.S. attorney, Keefe was embroiled in controversy over the access he provided Gaetz, prompting a profane tirade for then-Attorney General William Barr. Here's how that unfolded, as reported by Politico:

"Keefe looked to open a wide-ranging probe into voter fraud in Florida just before Biden was sworn in as president. The Public Integrity Section at the DOJ's headquarters thought the scope of the proposed investigation was too broad, prompting Keefe to turn to Gaetz, who in turn took Keefe's concerns to Trump.

"'I said to him that an appreciation for the Keefe position on venue would give good U.S. attorneys in every capitol city the necessary jurisdiction to root out fraud,' Gaetz said. 'I also shared with President Trump that Keefe had faced substantial resistance from the Department of Justice.'"

Trouble ensued when Trump then told White House counsel Pat Cipollone to pass Gaetz's message on to then-Attorney General William Barr, Politico reported, adding that when Barr learned of Gaetz's conversation with Trump, he was "incensed."

"If I ever hear of you talking to Gaetz or any other congressman again about business before the Department, I am going to f*cking fire your ass," Barr told Keefe.

Gaetz claimed to know nothing about the heated exchange.

"I am unaware of any discussion Barr had with Keefe," he told POLITICO, "but I did get a message from Keefe subsequent to my meeting in the Oval wherein Keefe said he was not going to be able to discuss these matters with me, and I got the sense that the politics of the Department of Justice were such that they did not want U.S. attorneys looking for election fraud in this type of very proactive way."