DeSantis opens new front in abortion wars: The Note

Florida Gov. DeSantis has taken the abortion fight to newly aggressive fronts.

August 05, 2022, 6:09 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

If conservatives were going to retrench after this week's vote in Kansas, the governor of Florida did not get the memo.

And if Republicans were supposed to wait on former President Donald Trump to signal any 2024 intentions, that same man is writing a different ticket on that, as well.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking the fight over abortion rights to a provocative and newly aggressive front with his move to suspend an elected prosecutor even before he does or doesn't prosecute individuals accused of violating the state's new abortion ban.

"You have neglected your duty and you are displaying a lack of competence to be able to perform those duties," DeSantis, R-Fla., said during a Thursday news conference called to suspend Andrew Warren, the Hillsborough County state attorney.

PHOTO: Rep. Charlie Crist answers a question while participating in a conversation forum at the Spectrum Bay News 9 studios in St. Petersburg, Florida, Aug. 3, 2022.
Rep. Charlie Crist answers a question while participating in a conversation forum at the Spectrum Bay News 9 studios in St. Petersburg, Florida, Aug. 3, 2022.
Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via Zuma Press

Warren has been elected twice in the Tampa-based county and also emerged as a high-profile critic of DeSantis over COVID restrictions, as well as prosecutions of protests. In case the politics of the moment might be lost, the announcement was previewed the night before by DeSantis' spokeswoman, who Wednesday night promised a development that would provoke a "liberal media meltdown."

Warren tweeted that the "political stunt is an illegal overreach that continues a dangerous pattern by Ron DeSantis of using his office to further his own political ambition."

Media reaction notwithstanding, DeSantis' likely Democratic opponent this fall, Rep. Charlie Crist, called it the move of a "wannabe dictator." The Democratic National Committee called it "fundamentally un-American" to "overturn the will of Florida voters."

His announcement came as a range of nationally prominent conservative voices -- though not DeSantis himself -- convened in Dallas for the Conservative Political Action Conference. Trump is scheduled to deliver the closing address there on Saturday, after a campaign rally Friday in Wisconsin.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Negotiating the release of basketball star Brittney Griner could be treacherous territory for the Biden administration.

A Russian judge on Thursday sentenced the athlete to nine years in a penal colony after she was convicted of smuggling and storing illegal drugs. Only minutes afterward, the president issued a statement condemning the ruling and the detention of both Griner and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine charged with espionage by Russian authorities.

"It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates," Biden wrote. "My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible."

PHOTO: Brittney Griner sits inside a defendants' cage during the reading of the court's verdict in Khimki, Russia, Aug. 4, 2022.
Brittney Griner sits inside a defendants' cage during the reading of the court's verdict in Khimki, Russia, Aug. 4, 2022.
Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

A call last week between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, about a potential prisoner swap didn't yield a resolution. In a Russian readout of the call, officials called for negotiations to take place behind closed doors.

The demands of Russian officials could be steep. They could attempt to use Griner's imprisonment as a bargaining chip on issues beyond a prisoner swap, such as sanctions or policy pertaining to the war in Ukraine.

In the shadow of a foreign policy win for the Biden administration (the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri), Griner's sentence presents an enormous challenge on the world stage without any clear solutions.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

In less than two weeks, Wyoming voters will conclude their referendum on Republican Rep. Liz Cheney's future in the House as she digs in on her anti-Trump stance in the lead-up to primary day.

The latest example of Cheney's "no regrets" approach to her political moves came in the form of a one-minute ad featuring her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served in the George W. Bush administration.

PHOTO: Rep. Liz Cheney, Vice Chairwoman of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, delivers closing remarks during a prime-time hearing in the Cannon House Office Building on July 21, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Liz Cheney, Vice Chairwoman of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, delivers closing remarks during a prime-time hearing in the Cannon House Office Building on July 21, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

"In our nation's 246-year history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump. He tried to steal the last election using lies and violence to keep himself in power after the voters had rejected him. He is a coward. A real man wouldn't lie to his supporters," the former vice president says in the ad.

It remains to be seen whether the resoluteness of the Cheney legacy falls on deaf ears -- already, a majority of pro-impeachment Republicans have either lost their primaries or chosen to retire. In Wyoming, Trump won by a landslide in 2020, earning 70% of the vote.

The Aug. 16 primary is sure to be an uphill battle for Cheney, but it may not signal the end of her political career.

"Liz is fearless. She never backs down from a fight. There is nothing more important she will ever do than lead the effort to make sure Donald Trump is never again near the Oval Office. And she will succeed," the elder Cheney says in the ad.

According to Cheney's campaign, the ad will run "statewide and across all online and streaming platforms on Friday."

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

11. That's the percentage of Americans who said they were following updates regarding monkeypox very closely, per a May survey from YouGov/The Economist. Thirty-three percent said they were paying some attention, but the majority of Americans (56%) said they weren't following it closely. On Thursday, U.S. health officials declared monkeypox a public health emergency, freeing up additional resources for vaccines and other treatments to help control the virus' outbreak, so it's possible Americans will start paying more attention. But as FiveThirtyEight's Alex Samuels writes, it could be that most Americans aren't that worried about monkeypox.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" on Friday morning begins with monkeypox. Professor Lawrence Gostin, a public health consultant who has advised the White House on the virus, explains the challenges of containing the disease. And, ABC News legal analyst Channa Lloyd describes the federal charges being brought against the officers involved in the shooting of Breonna Taylor. Then, ABC News' Josh Margolin reports on what Alex Jones' week in court could cost him in damages. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS WEEKEND

  • President Joe Biden signs two bipartisan bills at 1 p.m. ET that will help hold those who commit fraud under COVID-19 small business relief programs accountable.
  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a press briefing at 2 p.m. ET.
  • Donald Trump holds a rally Friday night in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
  • ABC's "This Week" Roundtable: Co-Anchor and ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl, former New Jersey Gov. and ABC News Contributor Chris Christie, Democracy for America CEO and ABC News Contributor Yvette Simpson, Executive Editor of The Associated Press Julie Pace

Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back next week for the latest.

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