(NewsNation) — A Florida prosecutor who was suspended by the state’s governor for allegedly refusing to prosecute violations of abortion laws says Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision is an attempt to overturn an election.
In announcing the suspension of Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, DeSantis on Thursday said prosecutors in the state should be enforcing the laws equally. Warren, speaking Thursday on “Dan Abrams Live,” said his suspension is an unlawful overreach by DeSantis.
“This is a flagrant violation of one of the most fundamental values in our democracy,” Warren said. “What he’s trying to do here is to overturn a free and fair election. This is about the governor suspending democracy.”
Warren, who was elected twice to serve in the Tampa post, was one of 90 prosecutors across the country who vowed not to prosecute those who seek or provide abortions after the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. Florida imposed a 15-week ban earlier this year.
“When you flagrantly violate your oath of office, when you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty, you have neglected your duty and you are displaying a lack of competence to be able to perform those duties,” DeSantis said at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Warren refuted the assertion that the pledges he signed were commitments to not pursue cases. He emphasized that prosecutorial discretion allows for cases to be evaluated on their merits.
“What I’ve said is that I’m going make sure I’m using resources to promote fairness and safety,” Warren said. “If using resources to prosecute someone for having an abortion … is not a good use of resources, that’s not where we’re going to put them.”
Under Florida law, the governor has the authority to suspend public officials for wrongdoing that includes neglect of duty, incompetence, malfeasance, drunkenness or commission of a felony. DeSantis has suspended other officials, including former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, faulting him for his handling of the Parkland school shooting.
DeSantis was flanked by law enforcement officials who hailed his decision, taking aim at Warren and prosecutors in cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Orleans. District attorneys in cities across the country have come under fire from critics who contend their liberal-leaning philosophies are leading to crime surges.
At least three legal challenges have been filed against Florida’s 15-week abortion ban, which remains in effect. It includes no exceptions for rape or incest.
Warren claims the governor’s office gave him no advance notice of his suspension, and an armed deputy showed up to his office Thursday to remove him.
“I was trying to figure out what country I was in,” Warren said of the encounter. “That’s not the way our country, state and this county work, that the governor gets to decide who is in elected office.”