Former President Donald Trump insists he did not tell Ron DeSantis to stay out of the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race, but indicated the Florida governor's entry would show disloyalty.
During an interview Tuesday on "The Jenna Ellis Show" on American Family Radio, Trump again said he was responsible for DeSantis winning the GOP's 2018 gubernatorial nod over Adam Putnam and then defeating Democrat Andrew Gillum in the general election in Florida.
"I never told DeSantis to stay out. He's gotta do what he's gotta do," Trump said of the 2024 primary race. "I just let people know, because I believe in loyalty, that he was at like 3%, he was dead in politics, he was never going to be in office. He was getting ready to leave the race and he came over and asked whether or not it would be possible for me to endorse him.
"For whatever reason, I did endorse him."
And what if DeSantis enters the 2024 race?
"I call that disloyalty," Trump told Ellis, his former legal adviser. "He's going to have to do what he's going to have to do. But I'm a very big believer in loyalty. If somebody gets you in, be loyal to that person."
Trump said DeSantis "was way behind Putnam," and that the then-president's endorsement allowed the then-congressman to overcome "a 30- or 40-point deficit."
"He [DeSantis] would have dropped out very quickly," Trump said, before adding "he ended up beating a guy [Gillum] he wasn't supposed to beat because of me."
Trump did not address the reports hat he was calling DeSantis "Meatball Ron" in private, Florida Politics reported.
DeSantis, who has not said if he intends to run in 2024, has refused to address Trump's comments.
"I spend my time delivering results for the people of Florida and fighting against [President] Joe Biden. That's how I spend my time. I don't spend my time trying to smear other Republicans," DeSantis said at a Feb. 8 press conference.
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