Trump's 'liberal Jews' comment is denounced, DeSantis calls out McCarthy and more campaign takeaways

"I'm still on the sidelines," said one former top DeSantis donor.

September 18, 2023, 8:03 PM

Donald Trump, not for the first time, sparked criticism on Monday after he posted on his Truth Social platform knocking "liberal Jews who voted against America & Israel."

Elsewhere, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed back on criticism out of Capitol Hill -- and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott weighed in on a new deal to help five American detainees leave Iran.

Those and other updates from the campaign trail, below.

Blowback for Trump

Trump's message about Jewish people came on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It's not immediately clear what caused him to post what he did -- but the denunciations were swift. (His campaign did not respond to a request for comment.)

The American Jewish Committee wrote on X in response that it was "deeply offensive and divisive. As we approach one year until the next election, we urge political candidates from the top to the bottom of the ballot to avoid incendiary rhetoric."

Former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the Pray Vote Stand Summit, organized by the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.. Sept. 15, 2023.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, FILE

"Next time you attack American Jews, think twice before about doing it on one of our holiest days. Your antisemitism is loud & clear," Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., added on the platform, formerly known as Twitter.

This is not the first controversial remark Trump has made about Jewish voters. In 2019, he criticized Jewish people who vote for Democrats, claiming it "shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty" -- apparently to Israel.

DeSantis returns to his House roots

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is fighting to be the main alternative to Trump in the GOP primary. But the former president isn't the only one he's fighting.

DeSantis has come under direct or indirect fire from other pillars of the GOP as his campaign falters in the polls and as Trump solidifies his yawning early primary lead. The governor is defending himself, but surveys of the Republican base suggest he has significant ground to make up in the final months before voting begins.

DeSantis, who served in the House before being elected governor, took on Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Monday.

McCarthy, a Trump ally, had targeted DeSantis in a Sunday interview on Fox News, knocking DeSantis' chances of earning the GOP's presidential nomination.

"Look, I served with Ron DeSantis -- he's not at the same level as President Trump by any shape or form. He would not have gotten elected without President Trump's endorsement," McCarthy said.

DeSantis returned fire Monday, highlighting McCarthy's ties to Trump.

"Donald Trump was instrumental in him earning that speaker's gavel, and they worked hand in glove really throughout his whole presidency. They were on the same team on every major spending bill that came down the pike and they ended up together adding $7.8 trillion to our national debt," DeSantis said at a press conference.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's fall banquet, Sept. 16, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Bryon Houlgrave/AP

Less money, more problems?

DeSantis was also hit with a financial setback on Monday when GOP megadonor and Citadel CEO Ken Griffin said he would not donate to anyone in the party's presidential primary.

Griffin, who has a net worth of roughly $35 billion, gave millions to DeSantis' 2022 gubernatorial bid and said as recently as November said that the country "would be well-served by him as president."

But Griffin told CNBC in an interview that he's unsure if DeSantis will be able to gin up sufficient support to win nomination. (DeSantis' campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Griffin.)

"I'm still on the sidelines as to who to support in this election cycle," Griffin said. "Look, if I had my dream, we'd have a great Republican candidate in the primary who was younger, of a different generation, with a different tone for America. And we'd have a younger person on the Democratic side in the primary, who would have his message for our country."

"I don't know his strategy," Griffin added of DeSantis. "It's not clear to me what voter base he is intending to appeal to."

GOP candidates target Iran deal for detainees

Elsewhere, some GOP presidential candidates were taking aim at the White House's recent deal with Iran to free five Americans from detention in exchange for Washington unfreezing $6 billion in oil revenue.

"It’s no real surprise that weakness arouses evil. Iran thumbed its nose at America by kicking UN nuclear inspectors out of the country, just a few days later," former Vice President Mike Pence said in a foreign policy speech on Monday.

"That is always a bad decision. It raises the price on American heads," South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott added during a campaign stop in Iowa. "Six billion dollars of released funds will only make it far more expensive for every single American who's traveling abroad. It's a bad decision although we do thank God that those folks are coming home."

The White House has defended the agreement as not "ransom" or a "blank check."

ABC News' Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Libby Cathey, Hannah Demissie, Lalee Ibssa, Soo Rin Kim and Will McDuffie contributed to this report.

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