Republican Reverses Course on Giving Donald Trump Millions

A Republican state lawmaker who filed a bill that would have authorized up to $5 million for Donald Trump‘s legal fees is withdrawing the legislation.

Florida state Senator Ileana Garcia, who has endorsed Trump’s presidential bid, said Monday she would withdraw Senate Bill 1740, filed earlier this month, that would have authorized taxpayer money to help Trump with his legal battles. But with only two GOP candidates left in the nomination race, Garcia said the former president could “handle himself.”

“This bill was filed on January 5th amidst a crowded primary, including two Florida residents,” Garcia said in a Monday night post on X (formerly Twitter. Both Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who ended his presidential campaign on Sunday, reside in the Sunshine State.

“My concern was the political weaponization against conservative candidates, and while @JimmyPatronis brought me this bill at a time when all candidates were committing to campaign through the primary, one frontrunner now remains, and he can handle himself,” Garcia said. “I will be withdrawing the bill. SB 1740.”

Newsweek reached out to the Trump campaign via email for comment.

The bill, called “Grants for Victims of Political Discrimination,” aimed to create a “Florida Freedom Fighters Fund” that would provide financial support to Florida residents running for the White House who “face legal, partisan, political attacks by the Department of Justice or state attorneys,” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said.

DeSantis signaled Monday that he would veto the bill should it pass Florida’s GOP-controlled Legislature.

Responding to a report about SB 1740 that said, “Some Florida Republicans want taxpayers to pay Trump’s legal bills,” DeSantis tweeted, “But not the Florida Republican who wields the veto pen…”

Patronis had previously said that Florida needed to create the fund because the presidential candidates from the state were “facing an onslaught of attacks from the federal government.”

“If we can help and support a Florida candidate for the White House, that’s just good from a dollars and cents perspective,” he said.

Republican Donald Trump Millions
Donald Trump addresses a campaign rally on Monday in Laconia, New Hampshire. A Florida bill that would have authorized millions in taxpayer dollars to help Trump with his legal fees has been withdrawn by a GOP state senator.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

SB 1740 faced criticism from both sides of the aisle. Florida’s Democratic Party chair, Nikki Fried, called it a “victim card” and “disgrace,” while Republicans backing DeSantis’ presidential bid questioned why they should be helping Trump with his legal problems, which include four criminal indictments.

“This bill should inflame any Floridian who cares where their tax dollars are going,” Fried said.

“What this shows you is who the Florida GOP is loyal to, because it’s certainly not the people of Florida,” she continued. “They’re quick and ready to dole out up to $5 million for Trump but have yet to put forward a solution to our property insurance and housing crisis, the 4,000-teacher shortage or the crippling costs of health care because the Legislature simply refuses to expand Medicaid.”

Former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis, a vocal supporter of DeSantis, responded to the governor’s tweet about vetoing the bill, asking, “Why should I, as a Florida resident, help pay for Trump’s legal bills when he hasn’t helped pay for mine?”

Ellis, who is among the 18 co-defendants indicted along with Trump in Georgia’s 2020 election interference case, has previously criticized the former president for not helping her with her legal bills in that case.

DeSantis staffer Bryan Griffin applauded the governor’s position, tweeting, “It’s a good thing we’ve got someone to keep reminding the Republican Party what it means to be conservative.”

Even Jaimee Michell, the founder and president of Gays Against Groomers—a far-right group that has accused DeSantis of homophobia, hit back at the the governor’s critics, questioning, “What happened to ‘taxation is theft’ and wanting smaller government? I can’t keep up.”

Ardent Trump supporters, however, slammed DeSantis for saying he’d veto the bill, accusing him of dividing the Republican Party during an election year. Far-right activist Laura Loomer called it “on brand” for DeSantis and warned on X, “We don’t want you.”

Another conservative activist, Jack Posobiec, told the governor that he won’t be tapped as Trump’s vice president and should “stay” in Tallahassee.

“Ron DeSantis does not stand for unity, nor does he care about American people, nor does he care about the people of Florida,” Ben Geller, a pro-Trump strategist, tweeted. “It’s time for Ron DeSantis to resign in disgrace. Governor DeSantis is showing his true colors today now that his career is finished.”

Podcaster Elijah Schaffer wrote on X, “I tried to support Ron for 12 hours – even gave him a compliment. Then he goes and reminds us why he’s never going to be president.”

Newsweek reached out to DeSantis’ office via email for comment.