'Sad And Pathetic': Newsom Rips DeSantis For Using Human Beings As 'Pawns'

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said the state was seriously considering potential kidnapping or other criminal charges against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and his administration after more than a dozen migrants were flown to Sacramento earlier this month.

Sixteen migrants from Venezuela and Colombia were taken from Texas to New Mexico and then flown to the California capital Friday, with a second flight carrying 20 migrants arriving Monday. The effort sparked an immediate backlash in California, with state Attorney General Rob Bonta calling the flights “state-sanctioned kidnapping” in the guise of public policy.

NBC News’ Jacob Soboroff asked Newsom about his recent comments calling his fellow governor “small and pathetic” and if the state was seriously considering an investigation into the matter.

“I think I’ve been generous, ‘small and pathetic.’ Very generous. He’s just weakness masquerading as strength,” Newsom replied in the interview, set to air Thursday. He then tore into what he said was an effort to draw attention at the expense of people seeking asylum protections:

“Let’s level set. Here’s a governor from the state of Florida that is using taxpayer money and he had to go to another state to find people under false pretense. I don’t think this. I know this.

“I talked to the migrants. [They] lied to them, took them into another state by bus, and then took them on a chartered flight to Sacramento, lying to them that they had help on the other side, knocked on the door and they left these migrants right there on the steps. What kind of human being does that?”

DeSantis’ office has said the migrants who flew to California all went willingly, rebutting claims they were lied to or flown to the state under false pretenses.

But Newsom said in the interview that the state would continue to gather evidence in the matter and hold those involved to account.

“This is California, fourth or fifth largest economy on planet Earth,” he said. “We mean business. And so Ron DeSantis should know that. And everyone that’s been part of this. They may have more direct accountability and culpability, should know we mean business. And we’re not backing away from getting the facts and holding those accountable if they broke the laws of the state of California.”

DeSantis, who is seeking the 2024 Republican nomination for president, has relished in the transfer of asylum seekers to Democratic states and announced millions in funding to relocate other migrants. He is set to visit Sacramento later this month for a presidential fundraiser.

Human rights groups have roundly criticized the migrant relocation effort as inhumane.

“If human beings are used as pawns for a guy’s political advancement, that’s pretty sad and pathetic,” Newsom added Thursday. “And so I take this very seriously.