Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 303

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

Jack Latvala files bill to create regional transit authority for Tampa Bay

Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala has filed legislation (SB 1672) that would create the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority, consisting of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties,

The board would consist of 13 members, three of whom would be selected by the Governor. The Senate President and Speaker of the House would get two selections. The four counties would select one representative; there would be one representative from the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA). They would serve two year terms, for no longer than three terms.

According to the bill’s language, the authority is charged with developing a regional transit development plan “that provides a vision for a regionally integrated multimodal transportation system.”

The authority would have the ability to employ an executive director, an executive secretary, its own legal counsel and legal staff, technical experts and engineers.

The wheels for such an agency have been in motion for months, ever since Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long began speaking about of combining the transit agencies of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties for a “Regional Council of Governments.” Recently the two agencies signed a local operating agreement.

The Tampa Bay Partnership has also made it a priority to impress upon state legislators that there is a need for regional transportation governance in the Tampa Bay region.

There is no companion bill yet filed in the Florida House.

2017 Legislative Session preview: Sewage, transportation, beer issues face Tampa Bay

As the gavel falls Tuesday on the 2017 Legislative Session, several key issues face Tampa Bay’s legislative delegation.

With 40 official members, the Tampa Bay Area Legislative Delegation — sometimes known by the not-so-attractive acronym BALD — represents a vast region of eight different counties.

Among the significant topics BALD is looking to see some action:

Transportation

With lawmakers hailing from areas as disparate as Lakeland, Trilby and Longboat Key, no issue has the delegation more unified in getting something accomplished than transportation.

While the ideal bill would include lots of money to fund a regional transportation entity (think TBARTA but with money attached), it’s likely to come in smaller increments.

That could include the creation of a multicounty Metropolitan Organization (MPO).

Also a regional center for transit operations and a regional transportation study.

Another priority will legislating ride-sharing, with bills already moving smoothly through committees in both the House and the Senate.

Frustrations in Tampa with the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission — which had many lawmakers clamoring for its dismantling — will be an animating factor.

Ride-sharing

“Local regulations at best have been problematic and dysfunctional, and have not been helping to foster and grow the local economy, and that’s why we need a statewide regulation,” said Bob Rohrlack, President/CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce on a recent call with the group Floridians for Ridesharing.

With that, Rohrlack blamed “the status quo” (predominantly the taxicab industry) for putting up roadblocks to protect, and not grow, markets.

“The local regulations penalize entrepreneurs. That’s something that none of us should be accepting,” he said.

Sewage

After the city of St. Petersburg’s wastewater issues last summer, South Pasadena Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters sponsored two separate bills to appropriate funds for the St. Pete inflow abatement program and sanitary sewer improvements.

Peters and St. Petersburg Senator Republican Jeff Brandes have also filed legislation to incentivize local governments and private utilities to dedicate more resources to improving their sewage infrastructure.

Craft breweries

South Tampa Sen. Dana Young and Clearwater’s Jack Latvala are teaming up on craft brewery legislation.

The bill pushed by the two Bay Area Republicans would give smaller craft breweries, those producing less than 7,000 kegs a year and without a current distributor agreement, the ability to move product through other craft breweries.

However, don’t mark this one as a surefire winner just yet.

The Florida Beer Wholesaler Association was successful in denying relatively simple legislation legalizing 64-ounce growlers, mostly due to concerns the craft beer industry was encroaching on the power of major distributor. Mitch Rubin, the executive director of the group, is making similar complaints about Young and Latvala’s new legislation.

Enterprise Florida

The Tampa Bay Area Legislative Delegation is as seemingly split on this as the rest of Tallahassee.

However, it is good to note that two of the Bay area’s most prominent House members agree — Speaker Richard Corcoran and House Minority Leader Janet Cruz from Tampa.

It should also be noted there a lot of lip service given to the fact that the Tampa Bay Area Delegation makes up nearly 25 percent of the entire Legislature, yet the group rarely acts as a single unit, unlike their South Florida brethren.

Earlier this month, Manatee County Senator Bill Galvano said there was too much parochialism in the past, especially when it comes to local governments wanting to help out other governments in the 2.9 million universe known as the Tampa Bay area.

“I don’t know if we can get there,” he admitted. “It’s a real challenge, getting the mindset that you may have to ante up in your community for a regional plan that’s not going to impact your community for maybe one, two, three or maybe four years.”

James Buchanan – son of Vern – launches campaign for House District 71

James Buchanan, the son of Sarasota area Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan, has filed to run for the House District 71 seat in 2018.

The 35-year-old is the founder of James Buchanan Realtywhich specializes in residential, luxury, waterfront, condominiums, commercial, and land real estate.

“I’m running because as a small business owner with deep roots in our community, I want to be a voice for those conservative principles,” he said in a statement. “I understand firsthand how decisions made by government can affect local businesses ability to grow and create jobs. I also know that a healthy and vibrant economy is the key to addressing many of our other critical priorities, like great schools for our children or a secure retirement for seniors.”

Buchanan is a graduate of FSU with a dual degree in Finance and Entrepreneurship. He received a MBA from USF in Tampa.

House District 71 is currently occupied by Republican Jim Boyd, who is term limited out next year. Bradenton attorney Will Robinson has already filed to run for the seat.

“There is a wave of conservatism sweeping our country and our state and it is more important than ever that we have business-minded, community leaders in elected office who will honor their campaign promises and pursue conservative solutions to our state’s challenges,” Buchanan said.

District 71 encompasses Bradenton, Palmetto and parts of northern Sarasota County.

Charlie Crist fields questions for nearly four hours at his first town hall meeting

In the weeks since Donald Trump and the Republican Party have taken complete control control of Washington D.C., congressional town hall meetings around the nation have been marked by vitriol, confrontation and anger.

Those elements were decidedly not present at Charlie Crist’s town hall meeting held on Saturday at the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus. Instead, it was a veritable love fest, with the mostly liberal crowd calling on Crist to hold the new regime accountable, as well as asking him to help guide them on what they could do to slow down the Trump administration.

“It’s not Democrats, Republicans or independents,” the freshman U.S. Representative said when asked who could bring the greatest pressure on Trump and the GOP agenda. “It’s Americans on Americans, encouraging these people in Washington to get to the truth. The more you do it, the more it’s going to happen.”

The St. Petersburg Democrat showed Springsteenian stamina in his first town hall, taking questions for nearly four hours before a crowd that started out over 500 people strong.

As he said last weekend in a community in South St. Petersburg, Crist wants an independent, 9/11-style commission to investigate the ties between the Trump administration and Russian officials. He said former Secretary of State Colin Powell would be an ideal personality to lead that panel.

He received a standing ovation when he said that he has called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign after it was reported that he met with Russian officials after saying he had not done so during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing. But Crist said it was important “not to take the eye off the ball” on what was really important.

“The real issue to me in this whole Russian imbroglio, if you will, is what did they do? What did they hack? What did they cyberattack? And why did they do it? And who did they do it for? And who did they talk to about it before it was done?” he asked.

Crist said he was angered by the reports because he “loves democracy,” and what happened in this case “has the opportunity to shatter the very foundation of American democracy.”

Crist also announced that his first major piece of legislation he soon will be filing involves a measure to protect Social Security. He said his legislation would in part raise the cap on earnings that are taxed. Currently, earnings up to $118,500 are taxed for this purpose. Crist’s 13th Congressional District it should be noted,  has always been considered to contain one of the highest concentration of senior voters in the nation.

The other component of his bill would be to eliminate taxation on citizens beginning to cash in on Social Security benefits.

“The hard part is getting these things because we’re putting them in the same bill,” he said.

Members of the audience filled out question forms beforehand, and were given a number that was then announced in no particular order by a Crist staffer during the meeting.

That seemed to be working well enough, but nearly two hours into the town hall, Dr. David McKalip said he’d had enough. The Tea Party activist and St. Petersburg neurosurgeon interrupted the proceedings to say that it was time to interrupt the one-sided nature of the questions being asked,d before asking Crist to please “repeal Obamacare.”

As he continued speaking, the crowd began jeering loudly, yelling at him to “ask your question!”

McKalip said insurance rates had skyrocketed since the ACA officially went into effect in 2014, mentioning the deleterious affect it has on his patients.

Crist never directly responded, instead passing the microphone to the next woman scheduled to ask a question. She began by giving an impassioned defense of the ACA.

Always lauded for his skills as a retail politician, Crist was at his zenith in terms of people pleasing throughout the meeting, though sometimes in an over the top fashion. When a Clearwater resident introduced herself by saying she had just recently relocated from northern Illinois, Crist responded by saying, “Welcome to Heaven.”

When St. Petersburg resident named Cuthbert Hutton asked a question about Trump stripping down the EPA, Crist got a bit corny.

“Mr Hutton is it? So when you speak, people listen,” he quipped, invoking the not-so-recent television ad tagline. He then assured Hutton that he would do “everything in my power to make sure that budget, that has to be approved by the House and the Senate, before it goes to the president’s desk, is one that reflects your wishes. Because you’re my boss. Literally.”

When Seminole resident Randy Wright began his comment about preserving the Affordable Care Act by mentioning that Crist used to be Insurance Commissioner in Florida, Crist interrupted him.

“Education Commissioner, ” he said.

“Not Insurance Commissioner?” Wright responded.

“Hell no,” Crist fired back, eliciting a wave of laughter.

And at one point he gave Pinellas resident Tracy Crabtree his card with his personal cell phone numbers, which he then had her read aloud.

Another citizen who left a bit disgruntled was Beverly Young, the widow of the late C.W. Bill Young, the Republican who held the CD 13 seat for over forty years before his death in the fall of 2013. Young said that she was disappointed with Crist’s dealings with veterans in Pinellas County.

Florida Competitive Workforce Act now has 36 co-sponsors

Although it may be difficult to believe now that same-sex marriage is the law of the land, the fact is that it’s still legal in most states to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations.

It’s legal to discriminate against the LGBT community in Florida, which is why for the past several years there has been an attempt to include sexual orientation and gender identity to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992. The effort failed each time.

But now a coalition advocating for the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) says that they have 36 co-sponsors of the legislation going into the 2017 regular Florida Legislative Session beginning next week. That’s the highest number of legislators co-sponsoring the bill precedent the start of Session in the history of the proposed legislation.

The FCWA is being sponsored in the Senate by Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens (Senate Bill 666) and in the House (Bill 623) by St. Petersburg Democrat Ben Diamond and Titusville Republican Rene Plasencia.

The announcement was made Friday by Florida Competes, a coalition of 10 Fortune 500 companies, 30 large corporations, and more than 450 small businesses.

“As we continue to grow and diversify our Florida economy, we need to use every tool in our toolbox to ensure that we attract and retain the best and brightest workforce,” said Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young. “These common sense anti-discrimination measures position Florida to effectively compete on the national and global stage.”  

“Discrimination of any kind must not be tolerated, which is why I am proud to co-sponsor the Florida Competitive Workforce Act,” said Sen. Bobby Powell, a West Palm Beach Democrat. “Our state must be a welcoming place for all who choose to work, live and visit. This is common sense legislation that not only small business owners and major Fortune 500 companies support, but all Floridians who believe that no one should be fired from a job or denied housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“The strong bipartisan support of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act shows that the issue is simply good public policy,” said Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe Gruters. “It sends a strong message to businesses who are looking to expand in, or relocate to Florida, that their employees will be afforded the same basic rights.”

The following members of the Florida Legislature have joined the FCWA legislation:

Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation)

Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee)

Sen. Gary Farmer (D-Ft. Lauderdale)

Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami)

Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah)

Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast)

Sen. Bobby Powell (D-West Palm Beach)

Sen. Kevin Rader (D-Boca Raton)

Sen. José Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami)

Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg)

Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando)

Sen. Victor Torres (D-Orlando)

Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa)

Rep. Bruce Antone (D-Orlando)

Rep. Daisy J. Baez (D-Coral Gables)

Rep. Lori Berman (D-Lantana)

Rep. John Cortes (D-Kissimmee)

Rep. Nicholas Duran (D-Miami)

Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Ft. Myers)

Rep. Joseph Geller (D-Dania Beach)

Rep. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota)

Rep. Bill Hager (R-Boca Raton)

Rep. Kristin Jacobs (D-Coconut Creek)

Rep. Evan Jenne (D- Hollywood)

Rep. Chris Latvala (R- Clearwater)

Rep. Amy Mercado (D-Orlando)

Rep. Alex Miller (R-Sarasota)

Rep. Mike Miller (R-Orlando)

Rep. Kathleen M. Peters (R-St. Petersburg)

Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo)

Rep. Sean Shaw (D-Tampa)

Rep. Emily Slosberg (D-Delray Beach)

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando)

Rep. Richard Stark (D-Weston)

Rep. Clovis Watson, Jr. (D- Gainesville)

 

Jeff Brandes and Kathleen Peters file legislation to limit the release of sewage discharges

Following the dumping of millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, Clam Bayou and other waterways by local governments in 2016, two state lawmakers filed legislation Thursday to incentivize local governments and private utilities to dedicate more resources to improving their sewage infrastructure.

St. Petersburg state Senator Jeff Brandes and Pasadena Representative Kathleen Peters‘ bill (SB 1476) creates within the state Environmental Regulation Commission, the Blue Star Collection System Assessment and Maintenance Program to limit the unauthorized releases or spills of treated or untreated wastewater and the unauthorized discharge of pathogens. 

“This legislation gives utilities an incentive to improve their infrastructure assets and prevent harmful discharges into our waterways,” said Brandes. “With this bill we are able to recognize those utilities that implement industry best practices and encourage continued upgrades to limit future discharges.”

“I have given my commitment to working on solutions for Florida as they relate to our sewer systems,” added Peters. “I believe this bill is a first step to ensure our public and private utilities are operating optimally state wide and an effort to prevent another storm from resulting in more overflows or dumping.”

Certification under the program requires a utility to engage in detailed assessments of their sewer infrastructure, reinvest resources into maintenance, identify strategies to improve infrastructure to meet state requirements, as well as several additional requirements. To incentivize participation in the program, the department may reduce penalties for a future sewer overflow based on a utility’s status as a Certified Blue Star Utility. The bill allows financially constrained counties to apply grants to implement the requirements of the Blue Star certification. The bill also authorizes existing grant funds to assess the vulnerability of wastewater infrastructure to identify needed improvements to prevent future discharges and overflows.

Peters has also filed legislation requesting $5.5 million for sewer improvements in St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach. Of that, $3 million in state funding would be earmarked for St. Petersburg to smoke test sewer pipes for leaks, install and seal manholes, among other work. The remaining $2.5 million would go to St. Pete Beach for the engineering, construction and permitting of the city’s sanitary sewer system. There is no Senate companion for that yet.

Sewer systems in South Pinellas were the focus of extensive news coverage last year after the repeated sewage discharges into Tampa Bay by local governments. St.Pete’s sewage system discharged more than 200 million gallons of waste into waterways, roadways and neighborhoods in the over the past two years.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has pledged to spend $304 million to fix the city’s sewers by 2021.

Ted Deutch and Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen urge President Trump to create a strategy to combat anti-Semitism acts

Acts of anti-Semitism are up radically this year. Since January 1, there has been an estimated 100 bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers around the nation, and last week 170 headstones were tipped at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis and 100 more vandalized at a cemetery in Philadelphia.

On Thursday, the co-chairs of the congressional Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism delivered a letter to President Trump calling on him to prepare and implement a comprehensive strategy to combat anti-Semitism.

“If 100 branches of any institution in this country – any religious site, any business, or God forbid any school – were targeted by bomb threats in such a short period, there should be public outcry and it should rise to the highest levels of concern,” said Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch said. “A threat to the Jewish community, or any religious community, is a threat to us all. When Jewish institutions and schools are targeted, and when terrorist chat rooms on the internet pick up on targeting Jews, we must take action. With my fellow Co-Chairs, we are asking the President for a more comprehensive federal response.”

Deutch and Miami Dade Republican Illeana Ros-Lehtinen are among the group of eight House members who co-chair the committee.

Among the proposals that they’re calling for include creating a national reporting center for abusive online dialogue and creating a mechanism led by the Attorney General to bring all relevant federal agencies to protect Jewish communities and prosecute the criminals.

See the text of the letter below:

Dear Mr. President:

As the Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism in the U.S. House of Representatives, we thank you for beginning your address to Congress this week by standing against anti-Semitism and condemning the recent threats against Jewish institutions. We stand ready to work with your Administration in combating anti-Semitism across our country and around the world. With this goal in mind, we write to urge you to operationalize your statement by taking key actions against anti-Semitism in our country. We believe that your Administration should prepare and implement a comprehensive, inter-agency strategy for detecting, investigating, prosecuting, and preventing crimes motivated by anti-Jewish bias while deterring future attacks against Jewish sites.

As you know, since January 1, there have been an estimated 100 bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers (“JCCs”) and Jewish schools in five waves at 81 locations in 33 states. We have also seen significant desecration of Jewish cemetery sites in the St. Louis and Philadelphia regions and other incidents of vandalism and harassment of Jews. These threats are unacceptable in our country.

We are pleased that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is conducting an analysis of these threats and working with non-profit organizations to ensure that JCCs are properly briefed on security and reporting procedures in the event of an attack. We appreciate Attorney General Sessions’ commitment to investigating and prosecuting all instigators of these crimes targeted against Jewish communities.

As Members of Congress invested in the protection of Jewish communities and combating anti-Semitism at home and abroad, we respectfully encourage you to consider the following specific proposals to improve our government’s response to anti-Semitism:

1. Ensure that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has access to the necessary resources and information to fully investigate alleged anti-Semitic crimes and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice. 

The Department of Justice should encourage local law enforcement agencies to accurately and promptly report data. Some of these local agencies have historically under-reported or failed to report cases to federal counterparts.

2. Ensure that a mechanism exists to coordinate inter-agency detection of and response to new anti-Semitic crimes. 

As anti-Semitic incidents increase in prevalence and complexity, there should be improved interagency coordination to detect and respond to new crimes. A coordination mechanism would help ensure all tools are utilized to protect Jewish communities and prosecute the criminals. Similar to the interagency task force you proposed for dismantling criminal cartels, this instrument, led by the Attorney General, could bring together the Departments of Justice – including the FBI – Homeland Security, Education, and State, and the Director of National Intelligence, to help synchronize governmental responses to anti-Semitic threats. Particularly with recent public reports that these threats may be originating overseas, we must engage all agencies responsible for our nation’s security from threats emanating at home and abroad. The range of participating agencies can also improve classification of and responses to attacks, and ensure Jewish communities are fully briefed and prepared to respond appropriately to threats and attacks.

3. Evaluate growing anti-Semitism online, particularly incitement to violence, and devise a comprehensive policy response. 

Any policy must respect our Constitutionally-protected right to free speech with the need to address incitement to violence and targeted cyber-attacks on Jews. This could be accomplished by creating a central national reporting center for online abuse, or by directing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to prepare a report on all online hate crimes, similar to the 1993 report “The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes.”

We look forward to working closely with you on our shared goal of combating anti-Semitism and ensuring the safety and security of Jewish communities across our country. We would like to respectfully request a response highlighting your government-wide plan for addressing anti-Semitism and how Congress can help fill any existing gaps in the government’s authorities to respond effectively.

Kathy Castor says Jeff Sessions should resign

Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor joins the chorus of Democrats who are calling for the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions following published reports surfacing that he met twice with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential campaign last year.

The former Alabama senator had said as recently as last month that he had not done so.

“Lying to a congressional committee while you are under sworn oath is illegal,” Castor said Thursday morning. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions should resign and at the very least must recuse himself from the investigation into illegal collusion between Vladimir Putin, the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. President Trump’s failure to release his tax returns (unlike any other presidential candidate or President) continues to be a cloud over his Administration.”

“An open and transparent review of his tax returns could answer questions related to whether or not he or his company have ties to Russia,” she added.

Shortly before Castor released her statement, her fellow Democratic colleague across Tampa Bay, Charlie Crist, was also calling on Sessions to resign.

“As the former Attorney General of Florida, I find Attorney General Sessions’ actions inexcusable, and call for his immediate resignation,” Crist said. “How can we have faith that the duties of the office of the Attorney General will be carried out when the chief legal officer of the country doesn’t tell the truth under oath to the United States Congress.”

At his Senate confirmation hearing last month, Sessions denied ever having met with Sergey Kislyak, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during the presidential campaign. However, a report in The Washington Post said that Sessions had met with him twice during the presidential campaign.

Sessions said Thursday that he would consider recusing himself from any investigation that the Justice Department could be conducting related to any ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Charlie Crist calls for Jeff Sessions to resign after reports of meeting with Russian ambassador surface

St. Petersburg Democratic Representative Charlie Crist is calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, a day after published reports surfaced that Sessions met twice with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. during the president campaign last year, and yet said last month that he had not done so.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that one of the meetings between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race. Sessions did not disclose those meetings during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he was asked about ties between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.

“As the former Attorney General of Florida, I find Attorney General Sessions’ actions inexcusable, and call for his immediate resignation. How can we have faith that the duties of the office of the Attorney General will be carried out when the chief legal officer of the country doesn’t tell the truth under oath to the United States Congress,” said Crist. “It is clear that we need to establish an independent, 9/11-style commission to investigate this administration’s Russian connections. The American people demand answers, and we have a responsibility to get to the truth of this Russian imbroglio.”

Crist had previously said that there should be a 9/11-style commission to investigate potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Earlier on Thursday, the man Crist lost to in the race for U.S. Senate in 2010, Marco Rubio, would not even go as far as to say that Sessions should recuse himself from any investigations regarding the potential Russian-Donald Trump campaign connection.

“We’re not at that stage yet,” Rubio said speaking with Steve Inskeep Thursday morning on NPR’s Morning Edition. “Let’s take this one step at a time, but this is certainly a relevant story. I want to learn more about it, and I want to learn more about it, and I want to hear from him directly.”

Marco Rubio not ready to say Jeff Sessions should recuse himself regarding Russian meetings

Marco Rubio wants to know more about why Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to disclose that he met twice with the Russia’s U.S. Ambassador during the presidential campaign.

Despite that, the Florida senator isn’t willing to say that he should recuse himself from investigating ties between Donald Trump‘s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.

Not yet anyway, despite the fact Sessions said in his Senate confirmation hearing last month that he’d never met any Russian officials during Trump’s campaign.

“We’re not at that stage yet,” Rubio said speaking with Steve Inskeep Thursday morning on NPR’s Morning Edition. “Let’s take this one step at a time, but this is certainly a relevant story. I want to learn more about it, and I want to learn more about it, and I want to hear from him directly.”

The Florida Senator went on to say that “in the interest of fairness, and in his best interests, should potentially ask someone else to step in and play that role. Again, we’re not there yet, but we could be, and so we just need to start thinking about those things.”

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that one of the meetings between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

Sessions himself told NBC News today that if it were appropriate, he would recuse himself. However, Sessions insisted that he had not met “with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign.”

Two House Republicans — Utah’s Jason Chaffetz and California’s Kevin McCarthy, said on Thursday that Sessions should recuse himself from any investigation regarding the Russians.

“I’m not interested in being part of a witch hunt, but I also will not be a part of a cover-up,” Rubio told NPR, adding that “Nobody has been tougher on the Russia issue than I have, I believe, and I will continue to be.”

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