Ron DeSantis is clarifying his controversial remarks about the Russia-Ukraine war from last week after getting pushback even from members of his own party. In his comments to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, the Florida governor had referred to President Biden's policy of aid to Ukraine as a "blank check," and said, "While the US has many vital national interests, becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them." Now, as part of his interview with Piers Morgan (previewed here and airing on Fox Thursday night), he's sounding a bit of a different tune, the New York Times reports. Of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom DeSantis had not mentioned in his remarks to Carlson, "I think he is a war criminal," DeSantis told Morgan. (He also called Putin "basically a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons.")
"I do think that he should be held accountable," DeSantis said. Carlson wasn't impressed, saying in response to the Morgan interview that some people just "repeat whatever childish slogan [the media have] come up with this week," adding mockingly, "Vladimir Putin is a war criminal." DeSantis also said his "territorial dispute" comment had been "mischaracterized." "Obviously, Russia invaded" Ukraine last year, he said. "That was wrong. They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014—that was wrong.” He further explained that he was specifically referring to fighting in "that eastern border region Donbas, and then Crimea, and you have a situation where Russia has had that. I don’t think legitimately but they had. There’s a lot of ethnic Russians there. So, that’s some difficult fighting and that’s what I was referring to."
"It wasn’t that I thought Russia had a right to that, and so if I should have made that more clear, I could have done it, but I think the larger point is, OK, Russia is not showing the ability to take over Ukraine, to topple the government or certainly to threaten NATO," which means there's no justification for further US involvement, he said. "I think [Ukrainians] have the right to that territory. If I could snap my fingers, I’d give it back to Ukraine 100%. But the reality is what is America’s involvement in terms of escalating with more weapons, and certainly ground troops I think would be a mistake." Meanwhile, Donald Trump responded to the part of the Morgan interview in which DeSantis dissed him, saying Wednesday, per Fox News, "He is, for a Republican, an average Governor, he got 1.2 million less Votes in Florida than me. Florida has been successful for many years, long before I put Ron there—It’s amazing what Ocean and Sunshine will do!" (Read more Ron DeSantis stories.)