Associated Press, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 248

Associated Press

Donald Trump returning to Iowa, where he may find remorseful independent voters

Iowa independents who helped Donald Trump win the presidency see last year’s tough-talking candidate as a thin-skinned chief executive and wish he’d show more grace.

Unaffiliated voters make up the largest percentage of the electorate in the Midwest state that backed Trump in 2016, after lifting Democrat Barack Obama to the White House in party caucuses and two straight elections. Ahead of Trump’s visit to Iowa Wednesday, several independents who voted for Trump expressed frustration with the president.

It’s not just his famous tweetstorms. It’s what they represent: a president distracted by investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and a court battle over his executive order barring refugees from majority-Muslim countries at the expense of tangible health care legislation and new tax policy.

“He’s so sidetracked,” said Chris Hungerford, a 47-year-old home-business owner from Marshalltown. “He gets off track on things he should just let go.”

And when he does spout off, he appears to lack constraint, said Scott Scherer, a 48-year-old chiropractor from Guttenberg, in northeast Iowa.

“Engage your brain before you engage your mouth,” Scherer advised, especially on matters pertaining to investigations. “Shut up. Just shut up, and let the investigation run its course.”

Scherer said he would vote again for Trump, but pauses a long time before declining to answer when asked if he approves of the job the president is doing.

Cody Marsh isn’t sure about voting for Trump a second time. The 32-year-old power-line technician from Tabor, in western Iowa, says, “It’s 50-50.”

“People don’t take him seriously,” he said.

Unaffiliated, or “no party” voters as they are known in Iowa, make up 36 percent of the electorate, compared with 33 percent who register Republican and 31 percent registered Democrat. Self-identified independents in Iowa voted for Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 13-percentage-point margin last year, according to exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks

They helped him capture 51.8 percent of the overall vote against Clinton.

Nationally, exit polls showed independents tilted toward Trump over Clinton by about a 4-percentage-point margin in November, but an AP-NORC poll conducted in June found that about two-thirds of them disapprove of how he’s handling his job as president.

In North Carolina, Republican pollster Paul Shumaker says he has seen internal polling that has warning signs for his state, where Trump prevailed last year. Independent voters are becoming frustrated with Trump, especially for failing so far to deliver on long-promised household economic issues such as health care, said Shumaker, an adviser to Republican Sen. Richard Burr.

Inaction on health care and any notable decline in the economy will hurt Trump’s ability to improve his numbers with independents, with broad implications for the midterm elections next year, Shumaker said. At stake in 2018 will be majority control of the House. A favorable map and more Democrats up for re-election make the GOP more likely to add to its numbers in the Senate.

“How the president and members of Congress move forward and address the kitchen-table issues facing the American voters will determine the outcome of the 2018 elections,” he said.

In Iowa Wednesday, Trump will be rallying his Republican base in Cedar Rapids.

Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence attended Republican Sen. Joni Ernst‘s annual fundraiser, where he talked about job growth and low unemployment since the start of the year, although economists see much of it as a continuation of Obama policies.

Trump has only been in office five months.

It’s a message the Republican establishment is clinging to, especially those looking ahead to 2018.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, installed last month to succeed new U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, said last week of Iowa voters: “I think they are confident that President Trump and this administration are doing the job that they said that they would do, going out there and making America great again.”

But Trump has to worry about people like Richard Sternberg, a 68-year-old retired high school guidance counselor from Roland, in central Iowa, who voted for Trump. But is Sternberg satisfied? “Not completely.”

He is bothered by Trump’s proposed cut to vocational education, an economic lift for some in rural areas.

“We, especially in Iowa, need those two-year technically trained people,” Sternberg said.

More broadly, Trump needs to act more “presidential,” he said.

“Trump speaks before he thinks,” Sternberg said. “He doesn’t seem to realize what the president says in the form of direct communication or Twitter carries great weight and can be misconstrued if not carefully crafted.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Capitol Hill buzz: Marco Rubio joke-investigates Ivanka Trump hug

Sometimes all you can do is surrender to Twitter.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio probably started out his day Tuesday thinking about paid family leave, child care tax credits and other deep issues. But when Twitter went wild over an awkward photo of him leaning in for a hug with Ivanka Trump when she arrived for a Capitol Hill meeting, Rubio was smart enough to play along.

The photo, taken by an Associated Press congressional reporter with an iPhone, appears to show Trump declining to hug Rubio back as the two greet one another just outside the Capitol.

Twitter users dissected the seemingly awkward moment endlessly. They compared Rubio to Ralph Wiggum from “The Simpsons” when he doesn’t get a Valentine’s Day card, and to Dr. Evil from “Austin Powers” asking his son for a hug.

Rubio responded in a series of joking tweets late Tuesday, announcing that he would be investigating what he termed the “alleged failed hug.”

“We believe we have our own unclassified photographic evidence that will shed greater details on this incident,” the Republican senator said, adding, “We are also attempting to acquire multi-angle video which we believe will provide greater insight into this important matter.”

Rubio then posted a blurry photo, taken at a different moment, showing Trump’s hand on Rubio’s shoulder as he smiles. “New photo emerges providing more insight into alleged failed hug. (Faces blurred for security purposes),” was the accompanying caption.

Several minutes later that was followed up by another photo showing Trump with her hand on Rubio’s shoulder, and the caption “BREAKING NEWS: Additional photo from moments right after today’s alleged failed hug provide new details to this developing story.”

Trump herself joined in Tuesday evening, tweeting: “Anonymous sources say @marcorubio planned the alleged failed hug. I have no comment (but I would have hugged him anyway!)”

She then added: “Fake news! Marco is an excellent hugger.”

The Associated Press stands by its photo.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Trial date set in murder-for-hire case of law professor

One of the men accused of killing a Florida State University law professor is heading to trial.

WCTV reports a judge on Tuesday set a January trial date for Sigfredo Garcia, who authorities say gunned down Daniel Markel in his garage nearly three years ago.

Three people were charged with killing the law professor and Toronto native, who was known internationally.

Katherine Magbanua pleaded not guilty to a charge of helping to orchestrate the plot and is awaiting trial.

A third defendant, Luis Rivera, has already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Rivera got seven years added to a 12-year sentence he was already serving in federal prison for an unrelated charge.

Police say the killing was sparked by a bitter divorce and family squabbles.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Cuba rejects new U.S. policy, saying pressure will not work

Cuba’s foreign minister has rejected President Donald Trump‘s new policy toward the island, saying “we will never negotiate under pressure or under threat” and refusing to return U.S. fugitives who have received asylum in Cuba.

In a hard-edged response to the policy announced Friday, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said from Vienna Monday that Trump’s restrictions on transactions with the Cuban military would not achieve their objective of weakening the government. He said they would instead create unity behind the communist leadership.

He described fugitives such as Joanne Chesimard, a black militant convicted of the murder of a New Jersey state trooper, as political refugees who had received asylum from the Cuban government and would not be returned because the U.S. has no “legal or moral basis” to demand their return.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Rick Scott tries to lure ‘upset’ Connecticut firms

Florida’s governor says there are “a lot of business people upset” in Connecticut and he’s hoping to persuade them to move to the Sunshine State.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott met Monday with community and business leaders in Norwalk. He made a similar trip in 2015 to lure Connecticut business to Florida as part of an “economic development mission.”

Scott’s visit comes as health insurer Aetna Inc. considers relocating its long-time headquarters from Hartford.

Scott says he would “love every company in Connecticut” to think about moving to Florida, where he says taxes and regulations have been cut since he first took office.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s spokeswoman says “it’s no wonder” Scott would look to Connecticut and be “envious” of its’ high quality of life, good schools and skilled workforce.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Fact check: Donald Trump keeps much of Barack Obama’s Cuba policy

President Donald Trump’s announcement that he’s “cancelling” his predecessor’s policy toward Cuba is a good deal less than meets the ear.

Trump’s move, announced Friday in Miami, actually leaves in place most of the important elements of President Barack Obama’s moves to open relations with the island.

And while his policy has the stated aim of helping the country’s nascent private sector, it contains a measure that could damage thousands of small-business people who host, feed and transport independent American travelers to Cuba.

Trump’s policy keeps a U.S. Embassy open in Havana and allows U.S. airlines and cruise ships to continue service to Cuba. Cuban-Americans can still send money to relatives and travel to the island without restriction. U.S. farmers can continue selling their crops to the Cuban government.

The new policy aims to starve military-linked businesses of cash by banning any U.S. payments to them. It pledges to help the entrepreneurial class that has grown since President Raul Castro enacted changes after taking office a decade ago.

“Effective immediately, I am canceling the previous administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump said. “We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security and intelligence services that are the core of the Castro regime.” He promised, “concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country’s great, great future.”

The policy will undoubtedly reduce the flow of cash to GAESA, the military-linked conglomerate that operates dozens of hotels and other tourism-related businesses. But those businesses host hundreds of thousands of Canadian, European and Latin American tourists a year, and do unfettered business with corporations from around the world, reducing the impact of any U.S. cutoff.

Weakening the impact further, Trump’s policy carves out exceptions in the military ban for airlines, cruise ships, agricultural sales and remittances.

The policy also allows Americans to continue patronizing state-run hotels and other businesses that are not directly linked with Cuba’s military and state security services. And, of course, nothing prevents the Cuban government from simply moving revenue over to the military or state security, a vulnerability in the policy that the White House has not addressed.

The policy risks harming independent business people by restoring a requirement for most American travelers to visit Cuba as part of tightly regulated tour groups. The Cuban government has traditionally steered those tour groups to state-run business, meaning the majority of American travelers to Cuba will probably no longer be able to patronize private restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and taxi drivers.

Private entrepreneurs say Americans represent a disproportionate share of their revenue because they spend more than other travelers for high-end services that badly run state-operated business typically cannot provide.

Trump also demanded the return of U.S. fugitives including Joanne Chesimard, a black militant convicted in 1977 of the murder of a New Jersey state trooper.

“The harboring of criminals and fugitives will end,” Trump said. “You have no choice. It will end.”

Many of the high-profile fugitives in Cuba are black or Puerto Rican militants who were offered political asylum by Fidel Castro during the 1970s and 1980s.

Cuba has repeatedly said it will not renege on the promise of the former president, who died in November.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

Bernie Sanders says man ID’d as shooter was on campaign

Virginia shooting suspect James T Hodgkinson

Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders says the man authorities identified as opening fire on the Republican congressional baseball practice had apparently volunteered on his presidential campaign.

Sanders, of Vermont, says in a statement: “I am sickened by this despicable act.”

He says that “violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”

He paid tribute to Capitol Police for their response to the shooting, and said his “hopes and prayers” are with House GOP Whip Steve Scalise and others who were wounded.

Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential election.

He adds in his statement that “real change” can only come through nonviolent action.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Top House GOP leader shot at congressional baseball practice

A top House Republican, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, was shot Wednesday at a congressional baseball practice just outside of Washington, officials said. Several other people were also believed to have been hit, according to a lawmaker who witnessed the shooting.

Scalise, the House majority whip, was in stable condition at George Washington University Hospital, according to one congressional aide. His injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

President Donald Trump said he was “deeply saddened by this tragedy” and was monitoring developments.

The shooting occurred at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, where lawmakers and others were gathered for a morning practice. Alexandria police said a suspect was taken into custody and “not a threat.”

Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Mich., said Scalise was at second base when he was shot.

“I was looking right at him,” Bishop told Detroit radio station WWJ. “He was a sitting duck.”

Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, said two law enforcement officers were believed to be among the others shot.

Brooks said that Scalise, 51, was down on the ground with what Brooks described as “a hip wound.” The Alabama lawmaker said he colleague “crawled into the outfield, leaving a trail of blood.”

“We started giving him the liquids, I put pressure on his wound in his hip,” Brooks said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan‘s office said Scalise’s wounds were not believed to be life-threatening and that a member of the security detail was also shot.

Scalise is the No. 3 House Republican leader. He was first elected to the House in 2008 after serving in the state legislature.

Katie Filous was walking her two dogs near the field when she heard “a lot of shots, probably more than 20.” She said the shooting “went on for quite a while.”

Filous said she saw the shooter hit a uniformed law enforcement officer, who she said was later evacuated by helicopter. She said the officer had gotten out of a parked car, drawn a handgun and shouted something to the gunman, who then fired.

Rep. Jeff Duncan said in a statement that he was at the practice and “saw the shooter.”

“Please pray for my colleagues,” Duncan said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Congressional Democrats — incl. 9 from Fla. — sue Donald Trump over foreign payments

Democratic lawmakers are suing President Donald Trump over foreign money flowing into his global business empire.

Almost 200 senators and representatives are plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging Trump is violating the so-called emoluments clause of the Constitution. It’s being filed early Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the lawmakers said.

Among the U.S. Reps. from Florida who have joined the suit are Ted Deutch, Kathy Castor, Val Demings, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson.

The plaintiffs argue they have standing to sue because the clause says only Congress may approve foreign gifts and payments.

“The framers gave Congress a unique role, a unique right and responsibility,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who helped organize the lawsuit.

Although Trump turned over control of his real estate development, management and marketing company to his adult sons and a senior executive, he did not divest from it. That means he stands to benefit financially from the Trump Organization’s profits, including from foreign governments.

Since he’s become president, the Trump Organization has secured dozens of potentially valuable patents, including in China, and collected fees from lobbyists working for Saudi Arabia and other countries using his properties.

The new suit — the third of its kind — says the full scope of foreign payments to the Trump Organization cannot be known because the president has not made public his tax returns.

Earlier this week, two Democratic attorneys general filed a similar claim. Days after Trump’s inauguration in January, a liberal-funded government watchdog filed an emoluments lawsuit. A restaurant group and two individuals in the hotel industry later joined as co-plaintiffs.

Trump and the Justice Department have called these lawsuits baseless. They argue the clause isn’t intended to prevent normal business such as hotel payments and real estate transactions.

Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, said he and Blumenthal have amassed the “greatest number of congressional plaintiffs on any lawsuit against a president.” He said they’re taking the action “not out of any sense of pleasure or partisanship but because President Trump has left us with no other option.”

Ahead of the filing, only Democrats were asked to sign on, but Blumenthal and Conyers plan to send letters to their Republican colleagues Wednesday asking them to join the effort.

Cuba hardliners, U.S. defenders battle over new Donald Trump policy

Cuba’s best friends in the U.S. used to be a smattering of Washington policy wonks and leftists who sent donated school buses and computers to the communist-led island.

Five months into the Trump administration, Cuba has a new set of American defenders: a coalition of high-tech firms, farming interests, travel companies and young Cuban-Americans thrown into action by the looming announcement of a new Cuba policy. On the opposite side, hardline members of Miami’s Cuban exile community who suddenly have a direct line to the White House through Cuban-American Republican members of Congress and the administration.

President Donald Trump planned to announce the new policy on Friday in Miami but had not yet decided all the details, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations.

The U.S. Embassy in Havana will remain open, but Americans can expect actions by the Departments of State, Treasury and Homeland Security to ban U.S. trade with any Cuban entity linked to the military. Also planned: a reduction in the number of categories for which Americans do not need U.S. government licenses to go to Cuba. The U.S. will demand greater internet access and the release of prisoners and return of American fugitives in Cuba. President Barack Obama’s repeal of the special Cuban immigration privileges known as wet-foot/dry-foot will not change, the official said.

“If this were a traditional policy environment, we’d be having great success,” said Collin Laverty, head of one of the biggest Cuba travel companies and a consultant for U.S. corporations seeking business in Cuba. “We’re certainly winning the debate for public opinion and in foreign policy circles, but unfortunately it appears that it’ll come down to a backroom political deal between the president and Cuban-American members of Congress.”

The most prominent figures still seeking a reversal in the opening are Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, both Cuban-Americans. The Trump government wants to maintain good relations with both Rubio, who sits on the Senate committee investigating Trump’s relations with Russia, and Diaz-Balart, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Laverty is one of the most prominent figures in the new pro-Cuba lobby, which has been furiously tweeting and writing letters to the White House in a last-minute rush to sell the Trump administration on the benefits of the friendly relations established by President Barack Obama on Dec. 17, 2014. A particular focus is saving Obama’s easing of U.S. travel to Cuba, which tripled the number of American travelers to the island and pumped tens of millions of dollars into the island’s private hospitality sector.

“Thousands of Americans are visiting Cuba and fueling the fastest growth in its private sector since 1959,” CubaOne, a group of young pro-engagement Cuban-Americans, wrote in an open letter to Trump Monday.

After months of public silence, Airbnb last week released a report on its activities in Cuba, which have put $40 million into the hands of private bed-and-breakfast owners since the online lodging giant became the first major U.S. company into Cuba in the wake of Obama’s declaration of detente. Google, which installed servers on the island to speed Cuban internet service last year, spoke out for the first time Monday in favor of maintaining relations.

“Google has played a formative role in the first chapter of Cuba’s connectivity story, but this is just the beginning,” Brett Perlmutter, head of strategy and operations for Google Cuba, said at a conference in Miami on Monday. “Connecting Cuba will require an entire ecosystem of players … It will also require the US maintaining a policy that allows telecommunications firms work in Cuba.”

Even the Cuban government is getting into the game, with high-ranking diplomats tweeting pro-engagement articles and foreign correspondents given a series of interviews with officials from the powerful, secretive Interior Ministry about the new era of U.S-Cuban cooperation in areas such as human trafficking, drug smuggling and the prosecution of fugitives.

Two officials told The Associated Press that they were now in regular contact with the FBI, DEA and other U.S. law-enforcement agencies, sharing information about investigations that cross jurisdictions.

“The start of direct relations between the agencies has already shown results,” Lt. Col. Yoandrys Gonzalez Garcia, head of the Cuban National Police, told the AP. “Going back now would send a bad message to delinquents and criminals that there can be impunity.”

Those messages are scoffed at by many members of South Florida’s Cuban-American exile community, who call for starving Cuba of funds in order to topple its communist government and bring capitalism and multi-party democracy to the island. While most Americans support closer relations with Cuba, Cuban-Americans’ ability to influence Florida’s 29 electoral has long given them heavy influence over American policy.

“We’re confident that the president has listened to us. We’re confident that it will be a step in the right direction,” said Marcell Felipe, president of the Inspire America Foundation, an anti-Castro group that has been running ads on Spanish-language stations in Miami urging Cuban-Americans to demand a hardline policy from Trump.

He said he agreed with pro-engagement forces that their efforts were likely in vain.

“The real question to them there is, ‘Why is it that we have an inside line to the White House?” Felipe said. “It’s because we have the votes.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons