Gov’s press secretary filed U.S. Justice documents June 6 on foreign connections going back to 2018

DeSantis says media outlets are attacking her

By: - June 8, 2022 8:33 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, in a photo on her website related to Mikheil Saakashvili, who served as president of the country of Georgia in 2004 to 2013. Credit: Pushaw website.

Gov. Ron DeSantis defended press secretary Christina Pushaw on Wednesday following Pushaw’s U.S. Justice Department filing on June 6, 2022, four years after she began “unwritten and informal” work with a major political figure in the country of Georgia.

DeSantis called the situation a “totally ridiculous smear piece” during press conferences in Fort Myers Beach and West Palm Beach, with a more in-depth discussion in the latter press conference.

“I am not deterred by any smear piece from these legacy media outlets. The only reason they’re attacking her is because she does a great job and she’s very effective of calling out their lies and their phony narratives,” DeSantis said Wednesday.

Pushaw has an active online presence on Twitter, and often uses the platform to criticize media reporting on the DeSantis administration and other state coverage, among other topics.

DeSantis continued Wednesday:

“And so, whenever they’re smearing somebody, you know that person is over the target. And so, they’re scared of that. I would be much more concerned with my press secretary if the Washington Post was writing puff pieces about her, then I would think something was wrong.

“So, the thing people need to understand about these legacy D.C., New York, outlets is we don’t care what you think anymore. We know you peddle narratives. We know you lie. We know you don’t care about the facts. So, you can try to smear me and anyone in my administration all you want to. All that’s going to do is embolden us to continue moving forward for the people of Florida.”

The Post reported that Pushaw “belatedly” registered information with the Justice Department about her work for the former president of Georgia, Mikeil Saakashvili, from 2018 to 2020.

The Florida Phoenix reviewed the documents required under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA, at the U.S. Department of Justice’s website.

The documents show that “Saakashvili is currently incarcerated as a political prisoner in Georgia.”

FARA file on Pushaw

According to the FARA files, Pushaw stated:

“My work for Mikheil Saakashvili was strictly related to increasing his international profile in an effort for him to re-enter Georgian politics at some future date,” according to the FARA file.

The filings show that Pushaw’s arrangement with Saakashvili was “unwritten and informal.”

However, Pushaw received $25,000 during this time for “compensation/living expenses” — $10,000 on Oct. 28, 2018; $10,000 on Aug. 30, 2020; and $5,000 on Oct. 31, 2020, the file reports. During this time, she stayed “rent-free in an apartment in Tbilisi owned by an associate of Saakashvili.”

She described her duties with the former-Georgia president as follows:

“During this relevant period of time, I assisted Mikheil Saakashvili with outreach to Georgian, E.U., and other international media, experts, and policymakers, including U.S. persons and entities.

“My work for Saakashvili included perception management, public relations, and preparation and dissemination of informational materials to an international audience, including U.S. persons and entities.

“In consultation with Saakashvili, I drafted a number of memos to update the above mentioned persons and entities on the Georgian political situation before, during, and immediately after the 2018 and 2020 elections, when I was working in Georgia on behalf of Saakashvili.

“In consultation with Saakashvili, I drafted op/eds and placed them in various English-language publications, including U.S. publications.”

Her filings feature op-ed materials, including a Fox News opinion piece from 2018 titled: “Ex-Georgian President: Mr. Trump, Putin does not bluff but you have the upper hand — use it.”

Another article was a Washington Post opinion piece from 2019 called: “The oligarchs are suffocating what’s left of democracy in Eastern Europe.”

In addition, Pushaw stated: “My activities on behalf of Saakashvili occurred between 1/2018 – 11/2020. By 12/2020, all of my activities and efforts on behalf of Saakashvili terminated and have not continued to the date of this filing.”

More about Saakashvili

The filings also include a summary about Saakashvili that states:

“Saakashvili served as president of Georgia from 2004-2013. He left Georgia in 2013 and became a citizen of Ukraine shortly thereafter. Saakashvili is no longer a Georgian citizen but has remained an influential figure in Georgian politics.

“He is associated with the largest Georgian opposition political party, United National Movement (UNM). UNM was the leading party in the United Opposition, a coalition that challenged the ruling party in the presidential election of 2018 and the parliamentary election of 2020.”

The New York Times reported on his arrest in October 2021, noting that: “Mr. Saakashvili led the first wave of anti-authoritarian street uprisings in the former Soviet Union, called color revolutions, and he governed Georgia as president from 2004 until 2013, a period that included a brief war with Russia. In the politics of the former Soviet states, he was aligned with movements resisting Russian influence.”

The Times reported that Saakashvili lived in exile of Georgia for eight years before secretly returning last year and subsequently being arrested for doing so.

Pushaw has openly discussed her time in Georgia on Twitter, and in March referenced what she called “her former boss, who was the president of Georgia.”

There are many instances on her Twitter feed in which she speaks candidly about living in Georgia and discussing the country’s politics.

On June 4, she tweeted: “I do not miss Georgian politics and will never get involved in anything related to that ever again. But I sometimes do miss Georgia and hope to go back for a visit one day.”

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.