DeSantis Suspends Florida Prosecutor For Saying He Will Not Restrict Abortion And Gender Therapy

MIAMI — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday suspended Tampa’s top prosecutor after the Democrat publicly said he would not enforce a new state abortion restriction or a possible law banning surgery for transgender children.

Flanked by state and territory law enforcement officials who are fellow Republicans, DeSantis said at his news conference that Hillsborough County Attorney Andrew Warren neglected his official duties and essentially used a governor’s veto power by expressing his refusal to sue those who violate them. laws to be prosecuted with which he does not agree.

“If you blatantly violate your oath of office, if you put yourself above the law, you have violated your duty,” DeSantis said. “You have neglected your duty and you show a lack of ability to perform those duties.”

Warren, who became one face of progressive criminal justice reform after first taking office in 2016 and considering running for Florida attorney general in 2022, DeSantis accused of political stance, suggesting the governor was motivated by his reelection campaign and his potential bid for the White House. House in 2024.

“Today’s political stunt is an illegal oversight that continues a dangerous pattern of Ron DeSantis using his office to further his own political ambition,” Warren said in a written statement, accusing DeSantis of ignoring the will of Mr. the voters who elected him prosecutor. “The people have the right to choose their own leaders — not to be dictated to by an aspiring presidential candidate who has shown time and again that he feels responsible to no one.”

An adviser to Warren who was not authorized to speak publicly on his behalf said Warren was caught off guard by DeSantis’ announcement and by local law enforcement officials who dismissed him as mild-mannered on crime as he stood next to the governor at the press conference in Tampa. .

Warren was removed from his office by deputies, according to the adviser and another expert source who described him as “angry and loud”.

Warren’s team says he justify resisting Florida’s new abortion law DeSantis has signed because it violates the law: a constitutional state privacy provision previously protected by the state’s Supreme Court against abortion rights. The new law is being challenged in court.

The high-profile political dynamic was telegraphed a day earlier by DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw, who hyped the upcoming announcement on social media. The governor’s office also issued a statement to conservative media calling Warren a “Soros-backed” accuser, a reference to progressive financier George Soros, whom Warren acknowledged in 2020 may have had his first successful election campaign four years earlier. had helped.

Warren was elected in 2020 with more than 53% of the vote, or 370,000 votes, in Hillsborough County. Hillsborough, a Democratic stronghold, has a Republican sheriff, Chad Chronister, who joined other colleagues in destroying Warren at the DeSantis press conference.

The suspension is a sequel to DeSantis’ exercise muscle power, which Democrats and other critics routinely describe as dictatorial. More popular among Florida Republicans than former President Donald Trump, DeSantis has encountered little resistance from the GOP-led legislature, although his office is a relatively poor record defending laws he signed.

The Florida Constitution gives a governor the right to suspend state officials for “misdemeanor, misdemeanor, dereliction of duty, intoxication, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or committing a felony.”

DeSantis’ to orderhowever, did not cite specific cases where Warren refused to do his job. Instead, according to the DeSantis order, Warren’s “general refusal” to enforce Florida’s new abortion restrictions or future restrictions on issues related to surgery or toileting for transgender people violated the state constitution.

Under state law, the Florida Senate can decide whether to remove Warren from office for the remainder of his term. The chamber is run by the same Republicans who passed the abortion bill that Warren opposed.

DeSantis cited two letters signed by Warren along with other prosecutors from across the country: a June 24, 2022, joint statement in support of abortion rights and a June 2021 letter condemning attempts in a number of states to restrict access to gender-affirming health care for transgender people.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal protections for abortion rights, DeSantis signed new legislation that limits abortions in Florida to 15 weeks, regardless of whether the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. The law is being challenged in court. The DeSantis Administration is taking executive action to: Ban menopause-related therapies for minors and Medicaid recipients. State lawmakers are expected to raise the issue at the next legislative session this spring.

Another Florida District Attorney, Orlando Area Attorney Monique H. Worrell, joined Warren in signing the letter supporting access to gender-affirming care, but she did not sign the joint statement on abortion. A DeSantis spokesperson said Worrell will not be suspended for the time being because the proposed restrictions on surgery for transgender children are not yet a matter of state law she would ignore.

Shortly after taking office in 2019, DeSantis issued his first suspension by temporarily removing Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel from office over his office’s treatment of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, which left 17 dead and 17 injured. . Israel was subsequently removed from office by the Florida Senate.

DeSantis’ predecessor as governor, current Senator Rick Scott, had refused to suspend Israel. Scott also had a different reaction to leading another Orlando-area prosecutor, Aramis Ayala, when she refused to prosecute death penalty cases, including one against an accused police killer: Scott simply assigned those cases to other prosecutors rather than to suspend her. Ayala is now a candidate for Attorney General.

DeSantis will be re-elected this year. Polls show he is leading his top potential Democratic challengers, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Representative Charlie Crist, who will face each other in a primary on Aug. 23.

Both Crist and Fried have made abortion rights a pinnacle in the primaries and have made statements indicating that Warren’s fate is now also a campaign issue.

“He’s doing this because he wants to be a dictator, not a governor of Florida. However, this is not how it works. This will backfire,” Fried said in a statement, referring to Tuesday’s vote in Kansas to protect abortion rights. “We just saw it in Kansas. Florida is a pro-choice, pro-democratic state. If this continues, Florida residents will end it by November.”

CORRECTION (August 4, 2022, 2:32 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article contained a misstatement when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the state’s abortion bill. It was before the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, not after.

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