Interviews

DeSantis: Unlike media, public isn't preoccupied with Russia

Florida Republican congressman says press, White House leakers have agenda

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 30, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: We have got Representative Ron DeSantis joining us now of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

How big of a deal right now to you, Congressman, is this ongoing debate about what Jared Kushner knew and when he knew it? I mean, other White House officials have said they don't see anything untoward or unusual going on here. Other administrations have had back channels to the Russians in the Kennedy days to the Soviets. So, why are they making a big deal of this?

What do you say?

REP. RON DESANTIS, R-FLORIDA: Well, I think it does tend to undercut the narrative about there being collusion during the campaign, because, if that were the case, you would have had a channel established already. And that had been the main media narrative.

So, now we're talking about, during the transition, where it would certainly be appropriate for the incoming administration to develop relationships with other countries. So, the fact that a back channel was discussed, in and of itself, is not improper at all.

I think it would be -- the media would have to produce some evidence that somehow there was something improper that was discussed. And, of course, like a lot of these stories, they're puffed up. There's a lot of smoke. But when you push aside the smoke, you don't really see the fire.

And I think this is a case where we don't have any fire. Maybe there is. But I haven't seen it.

CAVUTO: It's interesting, too, when you go back in history, Congressman. You know this far better than I that it's not unusual since the Russians and/or Soviets in their older days were always a source of concern.

Every time a new president took over, there were sort of secret communications, some well-known, others less well-known, for each side to get to know the other. I think that was the case with John Kennedy, a new, young president coming in.

So, ironically, it was his younger brother Bobby Kennedy would assume the role of attorney general, who played that go-between. We still don't know the degree to which he did and what was outright legal by today's standards vs. what's going on here.

But does it make you uncomfortable if there were? In other words, the two sides are talking. Or, historically, is that what has been done between these superpowers?

DESANTIS: Well, clearly, you have had back channels not only between the U.S., Russia, U.S., Soviet Union.

President Obama had established back channels with Iran, which is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. So, the fact of a back channel without more, to me, is not troubling.

Now, there are reports that there was discussions about using the Russian communications equipment, which would be odd. And I would want to know whether those are true. I think there have been reports that say actually that wasn't something that was suggested by Kushner or other Americans.

So, we will see.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: By the way, you mentioned an important point there, that some of these leaked reports, information are later revealed to be untrue or very distorted.

And that gets back to the leaks themselves, how reliable they are. Many in the media don't waste a nanosecond in getting them out there. And I think they're big enough, I can see that. But they're not adequately checked out.

DESANTIS: Well, it's a double whammy, I think, because the leakers may have an agenda, but then the media, look, they have an agenda with this story.

I mean, they have been running with it. And they package the leaks that they do get in a way to try to raise suspicion. It's heavy on innuendo.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Well, they hinted at that at the press conference, Congressman, where they said, well, you know, your trip was all over the front page. You're making a big thing out of one tweet, referring to Sean Spicer and one isolated incident that was taken out of context.

But they're right it was on the front page every day, but it was negatively portrayed on the front page. Even the opening of this in Saudi Arabia, where the president scored a better than $100 billion worth of deals.

I'm not an apologist for him. He doesn't want to come on this show. So, I have no axe to grind here. But the administration does have a point in that context. What coverage they get is disproportionately, overwhelmingly negative.

DESANTIS: No, absolutely right.

You had CNN and NBC -- Harvard said this, not exactly this a fountain of Trump apologists -- they said 93 percent of the coverage was negative. And, look, every politician is going to get negative coverage, particularly a Republican president.

But I think it's gone so above and beyond. And I think this Russia story has been something that the media desperately wants to be a major scandal. The problem is, is that, to this day, we still don't have evidence that any crime was committed at all.

But yet we continue to kind of discuss it. So, my hope is, is that if they're going to do some shakeups in the White House, that they do, do this idea of a war room, where they're kind of segregating the Russia response, and then have the rest of the White House communications team and particularly the president really push the legislative agenda, because I can tell you, Neil, down here in Florida, people want to see health care, taxes.

They want to see us get stuff done. They're not preoccupied with Russia in the same way that the elite media is.

CAVUTO: Congressman, thank you very, very much. Good seeing you.

DESANTIS: Thank you.

CAVUTO: All right.

END

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