Team DeSantis loses support of MAGA influencers following dust-up over 2018 clip on Russian hacking

July 12, 2023
Ben Marquis

In order for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, he will almost certainly need to attract and retain a sizeable portion of former President Donald Trump's base of support, including voters and supportive influencers.

That already difficult task may have just become even harder to achieve following a Twitter war that involved a prominent member of Team DeSantis getting into an extensive online brawl with a couple of prominent pro-Trump voices, according to Breitbart.

An end result of the dust-up was independent journalist Mike Cernovich completely disavowing everything nice he'd ever said about the Florida governor, who he previously supported to be the GOP nominee, and shifting his support entirely to the former president, who he previously predicted would be unable to win the 2024 general election.

Now and then on alleged Russian hacking

It all began on Sunday when former Trump White House official Darren Beattie shared a video clip from 2018 of then-Rep. DeSantis (R-FL) speaking in a Fox News interview about then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller's indictment of Russian hackers and seemingly lending credence to the prevailing narrative at that time about Russia hacking the 2016 election.

"Putin, if you look at the operation they did with the spear-phishing and the hacking -- that was really a third-rate operation," DeSantis said at that time. "It was not sophisticated. I think the House Intel report and the Mueller indictment kind of show that. But, man, what mileage have they gotten out of that?" he added in reference to Trump's critics.

Beattie asked, "Does Ron still believe in the sham Mueller report and the utterly ridiculous 'Russia hacked the 2016 election' narrative?"

In response to that post from Beattie, Gov. DeSantis' press secretary Jeremy Redfern called Beattie "dishonest" and an hours-long back-and-forth ensued between both of them that soon expanded out to include others, such as Cernovich, in a hotly contested argument over who knew what and when about alleged Russian interference and purported hacking and whether they still believed the same things now as they did then, based on what was known at the time.

Additional facts and context fall on deaf ears

At the same time that all of that was playing out, the DeSantis War Room account also called out Beattie for being "deceptive" in that he appeared to have cut off the clip early just prior to the then-congressman saying something that seemed to undermine the current argument about where DeSantis stood with regard to the alleged Russian hacking in 2016.

The clip began the same but where Beattie's video stopped the extended video continued and featured DeSantis saying, "At the same time, I don’t think that had anything to do with the fact that he whooped Hillary Clinton and I also don’t think there was any Trump-Russia collusion. So there’s just all these issues that I think have been kind of intermingled by a lot of the people that want to damage him as president."

There also followed an attempt by the DeSantis team to provide additional facts and context from around the time into the debate, including that DeSantis helped write the Intel report he referenced or other comments from him that expressed deep skepticism of Mueller and the narratives around Russian collusion and hacking and election interference.

Cernovich takes back everything nice he previously said about DeSantis

Unfortunately, by then, the damage had been done, harsh words had been spoken, personal insults were traded, and feelings were hurt, and the rift between the Trump and DeSantis camps seemingly grew even wider and deeper.

In the end, Cernovich posted a series of tweets that linked to and disavowed previous positive things he had said about DeSantis and negative things he had said about Trump as the increasingly brutal internecine GOP primary battle entered a new phase of ruthlessness that may or may not play to the benefit of the governor.

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