It's surreal that this conversation is even underway, but these are apparently the times we find ourselves in.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said Gov. Ron DeSantis cannot unilaterally block former President Donald Trump from being extradited to New York if he is indicted on criminal charges but said there is room for delay tactics. He responded Sunday on CNN Newsroom to rampant speculation that officials in the Florida county are grappling with the possibility of Trump being indicted by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who is looking into the Trump Organization for possible bank, tax, or insurance fraud.
Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law school professor and an MSNBC opinion columnist, noted the other day that there's "an obscure provision of Florida law that allows the governor, upon receiving an extradition request from another state, to investigate 'whether the person ought to be surrendered,'" which has led to some speculation that Florida's Republican governor, a Trump sycophant, could "play hero with the former president's supporters by dragging his feet" in the event of a Trump indictment.
On CNN over the weekend, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg acknowledged "informal conversations" have occurred between local officials "in case an indictment happens."
He added, in reference to DeSantis, "So that's a conversation we're having: What is the governor's power? And the governor's power to stop an extradition is really nonexistent. He can try to delay it, he can send it to a committee and do research about it, but his role is really ministerial, and ultimately the state of New York can go to court and get an order to extradite the former president."
In his MSNBC piece, Vladeck came to the same conclusion, explaining, "The legal reality is decidedly to the contrary. If Trump is indicted in New York, both the U.S. Constitution and a federal statute dating to 1793 require DeSantis (or the governor of whatever state Trump is in at the time) to hand him over. And if DeSantis still refuses, a 1987 Supreme Court decision makes clear that federal courts can order him to comply. Unlike in cases of international extradition, where treaties often leave significant room for political and diplomatic machinations and maneuvering, the law of interstate extradition is both clear and straightforward."
And while this clarity on the law and criminal procedures is helpful, the fact that this is even being discussed is itself amazing.
As Rachel noted on the show last week, the issue came to the fore in March, when Jane Mayer wrote a piece for the New Yorker, which noted Trump's willingness to "engage in almost unthinkable tactics to protect himself." The article added, "Among his social circle in Palm Beach, speculation abounds that Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, an ally, might not honor an extradition request from New York if a bench warrant were issued for Trump's arrest."
It raises the prospect of a former American president being criminally charged -- something that has never happened before in our history -- and him responding to a possible indictment by trying to hide in Florida, hoping the governor would shield him from having to show up in a New York courtroom.
Politico added last week that the speculation has advanced to the point that the relevant players have considered the fact that Trump will relocate to his New Jersey club over the summer, which may be relevant since Gov. Phil Murphy (D), unlike his counterpart in the Sunshine State, wouldn't have any interest in trying to rescue the former president from prosecution.
Common sense suggests that these remarkable circumstances -- officials having conversations about how best to handle Trump's possible criminal indictment -- might diminish the twice-impeached former president's influence, but as things stand, Trump continues to wield power over the contemporary Republican Party.