Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wouldn’t rule out launching missiles into Mexico to combat drug cartels if he’s elected president, saying that it’s “dependent on the situation.”
In a tense exchange with CBS Evening News’ Norah O’Donnell, the presidential hopeful was directly asked whether he would authorize an aerial attack inside the neighboring country. He began to respond, then pivoted.
“We would use all available — the tactics, I think, can be debated. If you have something you want to accomplish, people would brief you on the different ways you’d be able to do it,” DeSantis said. “So, that would be dependent on the situation.”
It’s the first time DeSantis, the most outspoken 2024 GOP presidential candidate when it comes to using military force at the border, has explicitly said he’d be open to using missiles against the southern neighbor. At the presidential debate in August, he said he would send U.S. special forces over the border — a statement that a campaign spokesperson later eased back to POLITICO.
O’Donnell challenged his response, noting that sending missiles and troops into Mexico is a significant difference in policy compared to only deploying the military to the southern border.
He dodged, asserting that cartels are “overrunning our border” and the president must take lethal action to stop them. DeSantis has repeatedly said he would authorize troops to use “deadly force” against cartel members.
When asked if troops would be allowed to shoot migrants crossing the border, the governor clarified who would be targeted. A woman carrying a baby, he said, would not be the focus.
“There’s not going to be authorization to just shoot somebody like that,” he said. “But when somebody's got a backpack on and they're breaking through the wall, you know that’s hostile intent and you have every right to take action under those circumstances.”
DeSantis served as a military lawyer in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, which has drawn questions as to why the governor has stated shooting people crossing the border wearing backpacks is permitted by rules of engagement.
But taking such action, he said, would prevent future cartel members from crossing into the United States.
Alexander Ward contributed to this report.