Skip Navigation
Breaking News
Breaking News
from Washington and beyond

Undercover Officers Were Sent to Investigate a Drag Show in Orlando, for Some Reason

Agents in attendance saw nothing lewd to report. The state is trying to punish the venue anyway, amid Gov. Ron DeSantis’s anti-LGBTQ crackdown.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Undercover Florida state agents attended a Christmastime drag show in Orlando to prove that children were being exposed to obscene performances—only to report back that no such thing occurred.

The agents were part of the packed crowd who watched A Drag Queen Christmas at the Plaza Live theater in Orlando on December 28. They recorded the performance on state-issued phones and took pictures of the crowd. Only three minors were in attendance, all accompanied by adults. The agents subsequently reported that nothing indecent had happened during the show, The Miami Herald reported Monday.

“Besides some of the outfits being provocative (bikinis and short shorts), agents did not witness any lewd acts such as exposure of genital organs,” the agents’ report said.

But in February, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation filed a complaint against the nonprofit that runs Plaza Live, accusing the venue of exposing children to sexual content. The complaint seeks to strip the theater of its liquor license, a move that could put it out of business.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been pushing an anti-LGBTQ agenda as he positions himself for what’s anticipated to be a presidential run, had previously warned any venues that hosted the touring show A Drag Queen Christmas that his administration would seek legal action against them. He has also mentioned the possibility of having child protective services investigate parents who take their children to drag shows. A Drag Queen Christmas required individuals under the age of 18 to be accompanied by an adult in order to attend.

DeSantis has also moved to strip the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation and the Hyatt Regency in Miami of their liquor licenses for allegedly allowing children to attend the drag show. The complaint against the Hyatt Regency did not provide any evidence that minors had been in attendance other than one blurry photograph of a person’s face.

Former Florida Democratic legislator Carlos Guillermo Smith told the Herald the agents’ report proves the “moral panic” about drag shows is a “hoax.”

“What you see here is the governor sending in investigators and then dismissing what the investigators have to say because it doesn’t fit into his narrative,” Guillermo Smith said. He noted that the state doesn’t regulate what movies parents show their children.

“It’s more evidence that all of this … is contrived, it’s politically motivated,” he said. “And it’s not about protecting children. It’s part of an ongoing effort to marginalize LGBT people and their allies.”

DeSantis has declared war on anything he deems to be “woke,” particularly LGBTQ rights. He enacted the state’s famous “Don’t Say Gay” law, banned transgender women from playing women’s sports, and vowed to defund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs on college campuses.

He is also part of a larger trend of Republicans demonizing drag queens and trans people. Many on the right say that attacking the LGBTQ community is a means to protect children, but their actions actually put people—including children—at an increased risk of violence.

Trump Is Handling His Potential Indictment With His Typical Sagacity and Grace

New York City officials brace for chaos this week as the former president tries to whip his supporters into a frenzy.

A close-up of President Donald Trump, pointing in the distance.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Gird your loins: Former President Donald Trump hasn’t even been indicted yet, but this week is already shaping up to be chaotic.

Trump predicted over the weekend that he will be indicted Tuesday by a Manhattan grand jury for his role in paying adult film star Stormy Daniels hush money during his 2016 presidential campaign. He urged his followers on Truth Social to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”

New York Police Department officials and officers for the Criminal Courts Building in Manhattan began preparing as early as last week for a possible indictment and arraignment, The New York Times reported. On Sunday, police officials and two public safety aides from the mayor’s office met to discuss security plans in the event of protests.

It’s unclear how many Trump supporters will actually take to the streets on his behalf this time around—though there is an obvious precedent for concern: In 2021, when Trump urged his followers to attend a rally in Washington on January 6, the enormous mob ended up storming the U.S. Capitol.

This time, however, even his staunchest supporters have been more subdued. There have been some calls to action, with the New York Young Republican Club saying it will hold a “peaceful protest” Monday evening in Manhattan. Other groups have urged people to protest outside Mar-a-Lago, creating a protective barrier against any authorities who might arrive to arrest Trump. And there have been some calls online for violence against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is coordinating increased security for himself and one of his top aides.

But the nearly 1,000 arrests made since January 6 seem to have turned off many people from similar unruliness. Those arrested in connection with the January 6 riot have incurred heavy legal fees, and many say that they feel Trump abandoned them. Their experience has likely made more people wary of turning out en masse to face off against law enforcement at the former president’s behest.

Even Ali Alexander, an organizer of the “Stop the Steal” movement that propagated Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was rigged, warned the former president’s supporters to stay away from New York City.

“You have no liberty or rights there,” he tweeted. “You will be jailed or worse.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a big-time Trump toady, has also discouraged protests. “I don’t think people should protest this, no,” McCarthy told reporters Sunday. “We want calmness out there.”

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, another die-hard Trump loyalist, seemed to imply that protests would do no good. “How many Feds/Fed assets are in place to turn protest against the political arrest of Pres Trump into violence?” she tweeted Sunday, spreading a conspiracy theory that the January 6 riot was fueled or set up by undercover law enforcement informants.

Other Trump supporters have cited this conspiracy as a reason to stay away from a potential New York demonstration.

But Greene and other Republicans are still backing Trump. House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan and other GOP leaders are preparing to demand that members of Bragg’s office testify before Congress, Politico reported. Green also called for Bragg to testify, insisting the charges against Trump were “fake” and intended to be “used in Democrat ads.”

Trump will likely keep track of who supports him through the indictment—and wield that on the campaign trail, if he’s able to get there. Over the weekend, members of his inner circle attacked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, considered the favorite to take on Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, for not immediately denouncing the indictment.

Pro-Trump radio host John Fredericks tweeted at DeSantis: “You have to choose between your Wall Street gangster-bankster big donor hedge fund open border benefactors—or us.”

On Truth Social, Donald Trump Jr. told people to “pay attention to which Republicans spoke out against this corrupt BS immediately and who sat on their hands and waited to see which way the wind was blowing.”

DeSantis claimed Monday that Bragg was unfairly weaponizing his office against Trump. But the burgeoning purity test is a further sign of divisions in the Republican Party, as lawmakers struggle to choose between DeSantis and Trump.

Uvalde Cops Admit AR-15 Scared Them From Saving Children

Republicans have consistently downplayed the dangers of the weapon that police fear the most.

Patrick T. Fallon/Getty Images

“You knew that it was definitely an AR. There was no way of going in.… We had no choice but to wait and try to get something that had better coverage where we could actually stand up to him.” This is what Uvalde Police Department Sergeant Donald Page admitted in an interview with investigators after the elementary school shooting that upended the community of Uvalde, Texas.

Last May, an 18-year-old, after shooting his grandmother in the face, infiltrated Robb Elementary in Uvalde, killing 19 kids and two teachers, leaving another 17 injured.

The police response has been criticized as being substantially liable for many of those deaths. Now Texas Tribune reporting reveals that one reason that there was so much maddening footage of the police officers’ inaction, as well as accounts of officers standing around, twiddling their thumbs, and even stopping other parents from taking action in their stead was because the officers themselves were fearful of the shooter’s AR-15.

“We weren’t equipped to make entry into that room without several casualties,” Uvalde Police Department Detective Louis Landry admitted in another investigation interview. “Once we found out it was a rifle he was using, it was a different game plan we would have had to come up with. It wasn’t just going in guns blazing, the Old West style, and take him out.”

The alternative to “the Old West style,” as the world saw, was nearly 400 law enforcement officers responding to a scene that let the shooter roam through the school halls for over an hour and 10 minutes, leading to the third-deadliest school shooting in America.

The Tribune notes that such hesitation in the face of an AR-15 had led police in other shootings—including at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando—to respond less quickly.

Republicans, both in Texas and nationally, have opposed banning or further regulating weapons like the AR-15—even now as police officers themselves admit how dangerous the weapons are. Governor Greg Abbott derided even raising the minimum age to buy assault-style rifles from 18 to 21 years old as “unconstitutional.” Meanwhile, gun trade shows are blithely promoting guns like the “JR-15,” as on-ramp weapons for elementary-aged children.

Naturally, the debate over these weapons should not have progressed to the point where we’re learning something as obvious as: “Look, even the cops understand how petrifying these murder machines are.” If our governing structures were actually responsive to the concerns and fears of the people, one mass shooting would have been enough. The ruthless taking of innocent people—at a mall, the movies, school, the grocery store—should’ve been enough to bring some sort of change.

“(Police) knew the monster behind the door was not the kid. It’s the rifle the kid is holding,” said Jesse Rizo, who lost her 9-year-old niece Jackie Cazares in the shooting. “It’s the freaking AR that they’re afraid of.… Their training doesn’t say sit back and wait.”

If nothing else, the tapes revealed by the Tribune point to a matter of larger importance: Stronger gun regulation would protect police officers (and maybe also make them less reactionary-minded, not having to treat everyone as an existential threat), just as much it would help keep everyone else safer.

Capitol Police Had No Idea Republicans Were Giving January 6 Footage to Tucker Carlson

Repeated requests to review the footage were ignored.

Brent Stirton/Getty Images
Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.

The Capitol Police were blindsided by Republicans’ decision to give security footage of the January 6 attack to Tucker Carlson, the department’s lawyer said Friday. Moreover, Capitol Police’s repeated requests to review the footage before it was released were ignored.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has come under fire for giving Carlson exclusive access to 41,000 hours of security footage from the 24 hours surrounding the insurrection. The Fox News host has used cherry-picked videos to completely sanitize the events of January 6, despite knowing full well himself what actually happened.

The footage “was not previewed with the Capitol Police nor was the Capitol Police informed before that access was granted,” CPD general counsel Thomas DeBiaise said in a sworn affidavit filed Friday.

“Of the numerous clips shown during the Tucker Carlson show on March 6 and 7, 2023, I was shown only one clip before it aired,” DeBiaise said. “The other approximately 40 clips … were never shown to me nor anyone else from the Capitol Police.”

DeBiaise also noted that the police force learned Carlson had gained access to the footage through media reports, not from House Republicans directly.

Both Carlson and McCarthy insisted that the footage was cleared with Capitol Police before it was released. McCarthy also intends to make the January 6 footage available to the defense lawyers for people charged in connection with the riot.

The California Republican insisted the footage was already made available to defendants under former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But a Pelosi spokesperson said she never authorized access to the footage because she felt that wasn’t under her purview, but that of “security officials.”

Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger said earlier this month that once footage is given to lawmakers, he has little control over what they do with it. But he also slammed Carlson’s use of the footage, saying it minimized the violence of January 6 and was “misleading” and “offensive” about the Capitol Police’s actions.

Carlson used the footage to do exactly what people feared: present an alternate version of January 6 that sought to prove the rioters had done nothing wrong. His coverage was so bad that even some Republican lawmakers condemned it.

Democrats Who Pushed for Financial Deregulation Seem to Have No Regrets After Silicon Valley Bank

The Democrats who joined Republicans in rolling back Dodd-Frank seem perfectly fine with their vote, even after SVB’s collapse.

Senator Michael Bennet
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Senator Michael Bennet

Silicon Valley Bank collapsed last week after a massive bank run, spurred in large part by billionaire investor and GOP donor Peter Thiel. Such a collapse could have perhaps been avoided had the massive bank been subject to higher regulation and scrutiny. But not according to the Democratic senators who helped deregulate the financial industry.

The Democratic lawmakers who voted alongside Republicans in 2018 to roll back key Dodd-Frank regulations, ones that would have subjected SVB to greater regulations, seem to have no regrets for having done so.

In total, 16 Democratic senators joined all 50 Republicans five years ago in rolling back the regulations. Thirteen of those Democrats are still serving in office today, and so far this week, none have expressed regret for their 2018 decision. Most have justified their vote as support for smaller banks, skipping over the fact that the bill treated big banks like SVB as smaller than they were.

Senator Michael Bennet criticized SVB but said that he stands by his vote, under the guise of his support for smaller and rural banks.

Senator Tom Carper said Tuesday that at “this moment,” he doesn’t regret the vote, and instead called for hearings to figure out what happened.

Senator Chris Coons avoided directly answering questions from The Intercept about whether he could defend his vote given what is known about SVB now. “And just what is that?” he retorted, before pausing, adding, “Exactly,” as the elevator doors closed on a senator who cinematically refused to answer a simple question.

Senator Tim Kaine justified his vote by saying his “community banks really needed it.”

Senator Angus King told The Intercept that he would’ve voted the same way to help smaller banks and that there were still some regulations in place on SVB.

Senator Joe Manchin said he’s open to “making adjustments” to regulations but emphasized it was not a mistake to vote for the 2018 bill.

Senator Jon Tester pins the blame on the Fed, rather than the 2018 vote, saying they could have “put the same regulation on them that they do JPMorgan Chase.”

In a statement earlier this week, Senator Mark Warner invoked Dodd-Frank as a North Star to “protect depositors and make sure that our financial system remains stable,” but had little to say specifically about SVB’s management—or his own vote to weaken regulation on them. The Lever found that Warner held a fundraiser at SVB CEO Greg Becker’s home in 2016, and he also received $10,000 in donations from SVB’s PAC.

The offices of Senators Gary Peters, Krysten Sinema, Jeanne Shaheen, Debbie Stabenow, and Maggie Hassan—the remaining Democratic senators who voted for the 2018 rollback—did not respond by publication.

At this point, of course, there is no going back. But if these Democrats want to square the circle of purporting to care about smaller institutions while also recognizing where their vote may have fallen short (they don’t even have to admit they were wrong!), they could begin by supporting Elizabeth Warren’s aptly named Secure Viable Banking, or SVB, Act, which would repeal the provisions of the 2018 bill that allowed for banks like SVB to get by without stronger regulation.

It’s just that easy. The layup is there, if these Democrats want to bank it.

Texas GOP Bill Would Ban Students From China and 3 Other Countries From All Public Universities

Texas Republicans are fanning the flames of xenophobia and racism.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Texas State Capitol

Texas Republican lawmakers are under fire for a bill that would ban students from China and three other countries from all public colleges and universities in the state, with many calling the measure racist and xenophobic.

The bill, introduced last week, would prohibit higher education institutions from admitting international students from China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, or any students who are undocumented. It also changes existing law to restrict the definition of a Texas resident. People who received a high school diploma or equivalent in Texas and lived in the state for three years prior to receiving that degree or for the year prior to enrolling in higher education no longer count.

The measure has “little chance of advancing” in the current legislative session, according to the San Antonio Express News, but it has still raised fears as it comes just two months after other Texas Republicans introduced a bill banning citizens from the same countries from purchasing land in the state.

That bill garnered months of backlash. Governor Greg Abbott endorsed the measure, even as local Asian American groups slammed it as racist.

Lawmakers amended the bill earlier this month to clarify that dual citizens and green card holders would still be allowed to buy property. But their attempt to cool the controversy was rightfully called out.

It’s still a fundamentally racist bill as it unfairly targets H1B visa holders, students, and refugees from exercising their full property rights,” the Texas-based Asian American group Rise AAPI said.

Both of these bills are painfully reminiscent of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was enacted in 1882 and restricted Chinese immigration to and rights in the United States until 1943. That measure was a direct result of “yellow peril,” or racist fearmongering about Asian people. The heightened political tensions around race helped set the stage for much broader political scapegoating, when people of color were specifically blamed for issues in American society.

More recently, citizens of Iran and North Korea were targeted for years under former President Donald Trump’s travel ban. (Levels of immigration from North Korea to the United States are, of course, quite low.)

The Texas bills are also coming at a time of increased racial scapegoating. The nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate released a report in October that found Asian Americans are blamed for issues with the economy, public health, and national security.

Trump helped foment a lot of resentment towards China and Asian Americans through his rhetoric around Covid-19, calling it “Kung Flu” and the “China virus.” He and other Republicans blame China for deliberately spreading the coronavirus around the world. Their words helped spur a massive increase in anti-Asian hate in the past few years.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle accuse TikTok of spying on American users for the Chinese government, and the Biden administration has threatened to ban the app nationwide if it is not sold to a non-Chinese entity. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who owns TikTok: Bad actors get hold of private data all the time. China’s just a handy scapegoat.

And in February, Texas Representative Lance Gooden said he felt his Californian colleague Judy Chu needed “to be called out” and that her security clearance should be revoked.

“I question her either loyalty or competence,” he said.

Democrats rushed to Chu’s defense, with Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries calling Gooden’s comments “dangers, unconscionable, and xenophobic.” But Chu herself summed it up best.

I very much doubt that [Gooden] would be spreading these lies were I not of Chinese American descent,” she said on MSNBC.

ICC Issues Arrest Warrant for Putin Over War Crimes in Ukraine

The ICC has issued arrest warrants for the Russian leader as well as his children’s rights commissioner.

Contributor/Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin

On Friday, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin, accusing the Russian president of war crimes in abducting children from Ukraine and deporting them to Russia.

Russia’s government has denied accusations that it has committed such atrocities during its one-year invasion and occupation of Ukraine that has left, according to the U.N., at least 9,000 civilians dead and over 15,000 wounded.

The ICC also issued a warrant for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Putin’s commissioner for children’s rights, on similar allegations.

Enforcement, however, is another thing. The ICC has no police force to carry out such warrants, and defers to the international community to do so.

“The ICC is doing its part of work as a court of law,” said court president Pitor Hofmanski. “The judges issued arrest warrants. The execution depends on international cooperation.”

Meanwhile, Russia is not taking the court’s threat seriously. “The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakhraova on Telegram.

Ukraine also technically does not adhere to the ICC. But since 2015,* it has granted the court ongoing jurisdiction over crimes occurring in the region. There are 123 state party members of the statute overseeing the ICC; the United States is the only North American country not part of the cooperative.

The warrant comes before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s scheduled visit to Moscow next week. Xi’s visit will mark his first visit to Russia since the invasion began, and the first foreign trip he makes since securing his third term as president last week.

While Xi ostensibly plans to visit as a neutral arbiter between Russia and Ukraine, his visit marks a deepening tie between China and Russia. Xi has reportedly spoken to Putin numerous times since Russia began its invasion, but has not even shared a single phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. China is also not among the states who adhere to the ICC.

* This post originally misstated the length of ICC jurisdiction in Ukraine.

Chicago Mayoral Candidate Brandon Johnson Gains Steam With Key Democratic Endorsements

Support for Johnson seems to be growing ahead of the April runoff.

Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johonson speaks holding a mic
Tyger Ligon/Shutterstock
Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson

Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson is surging. Polls are tightening. A broad coalition of labor, women’s rights, and LGBTQ advocacy groups are throwing their support behind Johnson. And this week, he has earned endorsements from Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Representative and Democratic kingmaker Jim Clyburn, and Representative and former opponent Chuy Garcia.

The endorsements come alongside reports indicating growing support for Johnson’s candidacy ahead of the April runoff. A poll conducted this week showed Johnson leading his opponent, pseudo-conservative Paul Vallas, 46–44. The first two polls conducted after the general election last month showed Vallas leading Johnson by 9 and 11 points, respectively. Johnson’s steady rise mirrors his path during the general election, as his performances on the debate stage and on the campaign trail gradually earned him more support.

Johnson’s performance is all the more notable in Chicago, where crime has pervaded as a main issue throughout the entire race. Question after question in debates—whether about transportation, education, housing, and so on—has been framed through the lens of crime. But Johnson has not taken the bait, insisting on reimagining public safety. “This so-called toughness that politicians or insiders have just been recycling over the past 40 years has failed us—in the most dramatic of ways,” Johnson told TNR in January.

Johnson has remained consistent even as national Democrats have taken the bait on right-wing crime narratives. Earlier this month, 33 Senate Democrats and 31 House Democrats, led by Biden himself, voted with Republicans to overturn modest criminal justice reforms in Washington, D.C. Johnson, however, has stuck to his vision to invest in a more holistic approach to public safety: affordable housing, mental health services, year-round youth opportunities, and more. And the message has resonated enough with local groups, from unions to advocacy organizations, to build a wide enough coalition that earned trust from both Sanders and Clyburn.

Vallas, meanwhile, has come under fire for being further right than he lets on. The Chicago Tribune found Vallas’s Twitter account had liked several tweets that “used racist language, supported controversial police tactics like ‘stop-and-frisk’ or insulted the mayor in personal terms.” The Chicago Sun-Times reported Vallas once described himself as “more of a Republican.” And he has also come under scrutiny for his close relationship with the Fraternal Order of Police, as well as his previous role as a school superintendent in Louisiana, during which time he helped flip virtually all schools in New Orleans into charter schools, some of which reportedly discriminate against disabled students.

It is just some two weeks away from the runoff election. If Johnson continues his climb and Vallas can’t find a way to break free from all that plagues his campaign, Chicago voters may yet show America their hunger for a new vision of politics.

Donald Trump Gets His YouTube Page Back, Two Years After Being Suspended for Inciting Violence

2024 is going to be wild.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

YouTube restored former President Donald Trump’s channel on Friday, two years after he used it to help incite the January 6 insurrection.

Trump was suspended from the platform a few days after the riot for posting content that incited violence. YouTube removed some of the videos on Trump’s channel and restricted comments, although the company said it would lift the suspension when it felt “the risk of violence has decreased.” The last video on his YouTube page is a 46-minute speech from December 2020, during which he complained about the “rigged” election.

But as of Friday, Trump’s channel “is no longer restricted and the ability to upload new content is restored,” YouTube’s vice president of public policy Leslie Miller told Axios.

“We carefully evaluated the continued risk of real-world violence, balancing that with the importance of preserving the opportunity for voters to hear equally from major national candidates in the run up to an election.”

Miller said the channel will be subject to all of YouTube’s policies on content moderation. But many social media platforms give leeway to posts they deem “newsworthy,” meaning considered to provide more to public interest than to cause harm.

With the suspension lifted, Trump can now post videos and buy ads ahead of the 2024 election.

Trump has been granted access once more to all major social media platforms, although he has yet to make his grand reentry to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, instead favoring his own Truth Social.

Trump has millions of followers on his mainstream social media accounts, including 2.6 million on YouTube—and that’s less than a tenth of the followers he has on Facebook or Instagram. On Twitter, he has even more.

Experts were already worried that letting him back onto mainstream social networks would increase the flow of disinformation ahead of the 2024 election. OnYouTube, he’ll have greater ability to purchase targeted ads.

Don’t forget, he was suspended from all of these platforms in the first place for sharing false information about the 2020 election and January 6. And prior to his suspensions, he had already gotten reprimanded for sharing misinformation about Covid-19 and election fraud. In fact, misinformation on Twitter dropped 73 percent after Trump was suspended from the platform.

This post has been updated.

Florida Republicans Are Too Afraid to Say Whether They Back DeSantis or Trump

“Do you think I want to talk about that? You think I’m crazy?”

CHENEY ORR/AFP/Getty Images; Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The congressional Florida contingent is sure that the next president will be from their home state, but very few are willing to say outright whether they back Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis.

Politico asked all 22 Floridians on the Hill whether they preferred the former president or the current governor. Most preferred to keep their cards close to their chest.

“Oh, wow. You are really trying to get me into a situation here,” joked Representative Neal Dunn. Dunn said he had made up his mind but wouldn’t share his endorsement because he didn’t want to put a target on his back.

Another Florida Republican, speaking anonymously, said, “Do you think I want to talk about that? You think I’m crazy?”

So far, only Trump has announced that he’s running for president, although DeSantis is expected to announce a run. The latter recently visited Iowa and commented on Fox News about the war in Ukraine—attempts to showcase his appeal in another state and his foreign policy chops, which governors typically don’t worry about.

Both men have demonstrated an ability to hold grudges and to take them out through their politics. Trump in particular is known for turning on a dime against anyone he perceives as an opponent. That includes DeSantis: Trump had backed the governor during his reelection campaign in 2018.

But now that the governor is nipping at his heels, Trump has slammed him as disloyal and nicknamed him “Meatball Ron” and “Ron DeSanctimonious.” Trump’s influence in the Republican Party is declining, but he’s still powerful. The Florida contingent knows better than to alienate him just yet.

DeSantis is less brash than Trump but no less dangerous. The governor has been quietly but steadily cutting back human rights in his state, particularly for women, the LGBTQ community, and people of color. He could easily exact revenge on members of Congress who turn on him, such as by restricting resources for their district.

Only two representatives were open about who they support. Both Matt Gaetz and Anna Paulina Luna backed Trump. Gaetz pointed out that DeSantis has been somewhat closed off and hasn’t tried to build relationships with federal lawmakers.

Senator Rick Scott said he typically doesn’t endorse anyone during the primary, but he similarly noted that he has a more open relationship with Trump.

Overall, the lawmakers were clear on one thing: “The next president will be from Florida.” It doesn’t seem like they really care who the nominee is, so long as it’s someone who will help them complete their political agenda.