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Charlie Crist to hold first St. Petersburg fundraiser of 2017 Saturday

This weekend, Congressman Charlie Crist will be back on home turf for one of his first Florida fundraisers of 2017.

The afternoon reception, scheduled Saturday from 5:30 – 7 p.m., will be at the home of Crist’s sister, Dr. Elizabeth Crist Hyden, at Casa Las Brisas, 515 Brightwaters Blvd, NE in St. Petersburg.

Supporters of the freshman St. Petersburg Democrat include Palm Harbor Attorney Fran Haasch as honorary chair, with a tentative host committee including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Janette and Tom Carey, Gordon Chernecky, Susan and Bob Churuti, Aubrey Dicus, Watson Haynes, Paul Jallo, Katharine and Joe Saunders, Kent Whittemore and Emory Wood.

A spot on the guest list will cost $500; $2,700 to be a host. Co-hosting the event will set supporters back $1,000. RSVPs are through Evan Lawlor at Evan@CharlieCrist.com or (202) 741-7215.

Crist – who represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District – has begun fundraising for a re-election bid in 2018, starting with a Washington D.C. fundraiser Jan. 3, the day he officially became part of the 115th Congress.

Philip Levine announces final term as Miami Beach mayor, to launch statewide listening tour

Philip Levine will not be seeking another term as mayor of Miami Beach.

In a video “state of the city” address released Thursday, Levine talked about how he “rolled up his sleeves and got to work” on such issues as sea level rise, traffic congestion, the Zika virus and lower property taxes.

With that, Levine adds that this will be his last term as mayor.

“Now I look forward to ways of how best to serve my community and my state,” he says in the nearly 3-minute video. “How to make Florida a 21st-century leader in the world economy.”

Levine, an entrepreneur in the cruise industry and media, was first elected to office in 2013. As a multimillionaire, many insiders speculate Levine — as a popular South Florida municipal leader — would possibly seek higher office.

Levine adviser Christian Ulvert says: “Over the coming months, Mayor Levine will travel across Florida to listen to Floridians on how best to serve the state he loves. He will be making a final decision on his plans for continued public service in the spring.”

The video is also available on YouTube:

Case dismissed: Dan Raulerson to remain in House

A Tallahassee judge has tossed out a lawsuit over the use of “Wite Out” on state Rep. Dan Raulerson‘s re-election filing paperwork.

In an order issued Wednesday, Circuit Judge Charles W. Dodson dismissed the case brought by Jose N. Vazquez Figueroa, the Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Raulerson last year for the House District 58 seat.

Dodson ruled he did not have jurisdiction to decide the matter and threw out the suit “with prejudice,” meaning Vazquez can’t refile it.

Raulerson’s lawyer, Emmett Mitchell, had argued in a Tuesday court hearing that the judge couldn’t decide the case because the House of Representatives is the sole judge of its membership under the state constitution.

Dodson dismissed the case against Raulerson, a Plant City Republican, as well as the other defendants: Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer; Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state’s chief elections officer; and Kristi Reid Bronson, records bureau chief for the Division of Elections.

Vazquez had faulted them for allowing Raulerson to run in the first place. He said Raulerson never should have qualified because his notary had incorrectly used “correction fluid” on his filing paperwork.

The state’s notary manual says no correction fluid of any kind is allowed on notarized documents.

Vazquez had argued the notary “improperly completed” Raulerson’s paperwork by whiting out the date on her notarization of his financial disclosure, changing it from an April to a June date.

In a brief phone interview Wednesday night, Vazquez – who had represented himself – said he will appeal the decision and is considering filing a separate election fraud case against the notary.

A farewell address, a news conference and White House change

The outgoing president somberly ruminated about the fragility of democracy and earnestly implored Americans to reject corrosive political dialogue. Fourteen hours later, the incoming president staged a defiant and frenetic news conference at his gilded New York City tower, dismissing critics, insulting reporters and likening the country’s intelligence officers to Nazis.

President Barack Obama‘s farewell address in his hometown of Chicago on Tuesday night and President-elect Donald Trump‘s news conference Wednesday morning offered a study in presidential whiplash, giving the country a striking look at how the White House will change next week.

“Historians are going to look at this period of Obama’s farewell and Trump’s press conference — they’re almost companion pieces in different styles,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “Everyone says that Obama and Trump are 180 degrees different and you can see why.”

The difference in ideology, of course, has been no secret. Trump campaigned on undoing nearly all of Obama’s major policies. But the back-to-back moments in the spotlight illuminated differences in tone and style that left little doubt Americans face a change unlike any in recent memory. It’s a coming shift — from reserved to aggressive, from controlled to wildly unpredictable, from cautious to unfiltered — that left some Americans pining for the Obama era before it had officially ended, and others embracing as refreshing an incoming president far less concerned with conforming to past notions of what is “presidential.”

“They say it’s not presidential to call up these massive leaders of business,” Trump told a crowd in Indianapolis in December after he negotiated a deal with an air-conditioning company to keep jobs in the state, a move many economists derided as unworkable national economic policy. “I think it’s very presidential. And if it’s not presidential, that’s OK. That’s OK. Because I actually like doing it.”

For weeks, voters have wondered if Trump would adjust his improvisational style to conform to the rigid and weighty responsibilities of the White House. Past presidents have described walking into the Oval Office for the first time as president as a sobering experience that makes clear their role as caretakers of the country’s historic legacy.

But in the weeks since his surprise victory, Trump has shown few signs of that transformation. Already, his early actions have broken decades of diplomatic protocol, tested long-standing ethics rules, flouted convention on press access, and continued his combative, deeply personal style of attack on Twitter and in person.

On Wednesday, he suggested leaks from the country’s intelligence agencies were “disgraceful” and likened the behavior to actions by “Nazi Germany.” He also battled with individual reporters — calling a CNN correspondent “rude” and “terrible,” and derided the network as “fake news.”

Obama included media criticism in his speech as well, though in his own way.

“Increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there,” Obama said.

Brinkley, the presidential historian, noted that the shift from Obama to Trump isn’t the first time Americans have faced a major change in the presidency. President Dwight D. Eisenhower‘s farewell address in January 1961 was aired on television in black-and-white while the inaugural parade of President John F. Kennedy a few days later was broadcast in color for the first time by NBC, providing a symbolic generational shift from the black-and-white 1950s to the technicolor 1960s.

“That is child’s play compared to the stark differences of the cerebral Obama being replaced by the in-your-face Trump,” he said.

Trump’s eagerness to shred the unwritten rules of presidential communication makes his news conferences more lively, if somewhat chaotic. Trump dropped a series of personnel and policy news almost in passing, naming his nominee for the Department of Veterans Affairs, revealing the timing of the announcement of his Supreme Court nominee and offering half-formed plans for repealing the health care law.

In another break from protocol, Trump refused to release his tax returns and argued that his victory showed that Americans don’t care about the issue. “You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK? They’re the only ones who ask,” he said.

Trump is betting both that Americans are craving that sort of change and that there are few political drawbacks to his disrupter approach to the presidency. It’s far too soon to test that theory.

On Wednesday, he spoke dismissively about South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former Republican primary rival who is now in position to hold up Trump’s legislative plans in Congress.

Obama, in his farewell address in Chicago, was true to his calibrated approach. He thanked Americans for making him “a better president” and a “better man” and included his trademark oratory that clearly aimed for history.

He made only one reference to Trump and gently pushed back when the crowd began to boo at the mention of the incoming president. “No, no, no, no, no,” Obama said. The “hallmark” of the nation’s democracy was “the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next,” he said.

Nearly 90,000 people have signed Tim Canova’s petition to stop Sabal Trail Pipeline

A large protest is being planned this weekend at the Suwannee River State Park against the construction of the Sabal Trail Pipeline. Activists fear that the $3.2 billion, 515-mile natural gas pipeline that is intended to run through North Florida into Central Florida will create a huge environmental calamity and contaminate the state’s drink water supply.

Construction on the pipeline began in November and is scheduled to be completed and operating by this summer. But not if citizens concerned about the impact on the state’s water supply and endangered species are successful in getting the government to stop it.

That’s what happened last month in North Dakota, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blocked the continuing construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, where thousands of activists had descended in near freezing temperatures to stop the project from advancing.

Also helping to organize against the Sabal Trail pipeline is Tim Canova, the Nova Southeastern law professor who ran an insurgent campaign against Debbie Wasserman Schultz last summer before falling short in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.

In his role as the head of the political action group Progress For All, Canova announced a petition drive last month to oppose the pipeline. More than 89,000 signatures have now signed on to petition at Change.org.

“It’s not a question of if this pipeline will leak, but when,” Canova wrote to members last week. “And when it does, it will undoubtedly pollute one of the world’s largest aquifers which provides 60 percent of drinking water to the nation’s third most populated state. “

Canova says that when he began querying members of Progress For All on what was the top issue that they cared about, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership topped the list. But following right behind was opposition to fracking and the pipelines used to transmit natural gas through fracking.

The petition now has 89,390 signatures, which Canova says will soon be collected and shown to Florida Senator Bill Nelson.

Local bans against hydraulic fracking have been passed in 80 Florida cities and counties, and GOP state Senator Dana Young from Tampa and Democrat Gary Farmer from Fort Lauderdale are proposing legislation in the upcoming session to ban the practice throughout the state.

Donald Trump denounces ‘disgrace’ of reports of Russian ties to him

A defiant President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday adamantly denied reports that Russia had obtained compromising personal and financial information about him, calling it a “tremendous blot” on the record of the intelligence community if such material had been released.

The incoming president, in his first news conference since late July, firmly chided news organizations for publishing the material late Tuesday night. After weeks of scoffing at reports that Russians had interfered in the election, he conceded publicly for the first time that Russia was likely responsible for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” he said and quickly added that the United States is hacked by other countries as well, including China.

Trump’s extraordinary defense against the unsubstantiated intelligence report, just nine days before his inauguration, dominated a highly anticipated press conference in which he also announced a new Cabinet member, detailed his plans to disentangle himself from his sprawling global business empire, gave his outlook on the future of the “Obamacare” health care law and said he would soon nominate someone to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

“I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out. I saw the information, I read the information outside of that meeting,” he said, a reference to a classified briefing he received from intelligence leaders. “It’s all fake news, it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen,” Trump said in a news conference that saw him repeatedly joust with reporters. “It was gotten by opponents of ours.”

Asked about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump boasted that it is an improvement over what he called America’s current “horrible relationship with Russia” and did not criticize the Russian leader for any interference in the election.

“If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks, that’s called an asset not a liability. I don’t know if I’m going to get along with Vladimir Putin — I hope I do — but there’s a good chance I won’t.”

Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer also denounced the report about Russia’s influence on Trump, and the incoming president said it never should have been released. He thanked some news organizations for showing restraint.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press on Tuesday night that intelligence officials had informed Trump last week about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had obtained compromising personal and financial information about him. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not allowed to publicly discuss the matter.

Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the intelligence community’s findings last week, the official said.

Media outlets reported on the document late Tuesday and Trump denounced it on Twitter before his news conference as “fake news,” suggesting he was being persecuted for defeating other GOP presidential hopefuls and Democrat Hillary Clinton in the election.

The dossier contains unproven information about close coordination between Trump’s inner circle and Russians about hacking into Democratic accounts as well as unproven claims about unusual sexual activities by Trump among other suggestions attributed to anonymous sources. The Associated Press has not authenticated any of the claims.

Only days from his inauguration as the nation’s 45th president, Trump announced that he would nominate David Shulkin to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, elevating him from his current role as VA undersecretary.

He promised that a replacement for the health care overhaul would be offered “essentially simultaneously” with the repeal of Obama’s signature health law — something that would be virtually impossible to quickly pass given the complexity of the policy changes. Republicans agree on repealing the law but nearly seven years after its passage have failed to reach agreement on its replacement.

Trump has repeatedly said that repealing and replacing “Obamacare” was a top priority, but has never fully explained how he plans to do it. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that the House would seek to take both steps “concurrently.”

Turning to his plans to build a border wall along the southern border, Trump said he would immediately begin negotiations with Mexico on funding his promised wall after he takes office. He again vowed that “Mexico will pay for the wall but it will be reimbursed.” Trump recommitted to his plans to impose a border tax on manufacturers who shut plants and move production abroad. While the tax policy could retain jobs, it would also carry the risk of increasing prices for consumers.

Trump also said he would probably name his choice to fill the vacancy left by the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia in about two weeks after the inauguration.

And he announced his plans for the future of the Trump Organization, bringing to the podium attorney Sheri Dillon of Morgan Lewis, who worked with the Trump Organization on the arrangement.

Dillon said the Trump Organization would continue to pursue deals in the U.S., though Trump will relinquish control of the company to his sons and an executive, put his business assets in a trust and take other steps to isolate himself from his business. She said Trump “should not be expected to destroy the company he built.”

The move appears to contradict a previous pledge by the president-elect. In a tweet last month, Trump vowed to do “no new deals” while in office.

The lawyer said Trump would donate all profits from foreign government payments to his hotels to the U.S. treasury.

And pushing back against some ethics experts, Dillon said the so-called emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution does not apply to foreign payments to Trump’s company. While some ethics officials have said that foreign leaders who pay for rooms and services at his various hotels would run afoul of the constitutional ban on foreign gifts or payments to the president, Dillon referred to it as a “fair-value exchange.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Randi Weingarten doesn’t share Jeb Bush embrace of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary

Though education was rarely discussed by Donald Trump on the campaign trail, at the top of his list of priorities was to spend $20 million on school choice, which would come from “reprioritizing federal dollars.” In picking Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos to serve as his Education Secretary, he made it clear that intended to make school choice and voucher plans for low-income families a focal point of his education agenda.

And Jeb Bush has been effusive in praising the selection every step of the way.

In November, the former Florida Governor described DeVos as an “outstanding pick” for to lead the Department of Education. In December, he said he was “so excited” when talking about her at the National Summit on Education Reform, sponsored by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which he founded and chairs and on which DeVos serves as a board member.

Now, just before her confirmation hearing was set to take place (since postponed until next week), Bush is back again, penning a letter to the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where DeVos will appear next week. In the note, he praises her as a “champion of families, not institutions.”

“For her, local control of education decisions means local control,” he wrote. “She trusts parents to choose what is in their unique child’s best interests, and she believes in providing every parent with the resources to pursue those decisions.”

DeVos is a leader in the movement to privatize the U.S. public-education system but has quickly become a lightning rod in the education world since her nomination by the president-elect.

One of her biggest critics is Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the one-million-member-plus union that endorsed Hillary Clinton in November’s presidential election. She says that DeVos simply doesn’t believe in public education.

“These are the schools that 90 percent of children go to,” Weingarten told FloridaPolitics on Monday afternoon. “The job of an education secretary, not a lobbyist, but an education secretary, is to strengthen and improve public schools. Her entire ideology, her zealousness, her lobbying for the last two-to-three decades has been to undermine public education.”

Weingarten said that was most evident in the past year in Michigan, where she says DeVos “fought aggressively against the consensus” that the establishment in Detroit had envisioned recreating a public school system.

One of DeVos’ various groups, the Great Lakes Education Project, supported an A-F accountability system that the state created for Detroit. But POLITICO reports that the group fought back hard against a proposed Detroit commission focused on improving both charters and traditional schools, contending it would be beholden to the city’s mayor and school district officials.

“Her antipathy towards public schools is something that she has worn proudly on her sleeve,” says Weingarten.

Bush’s embracing of DeVos isn’t just turning off officials with the teacher’s unions. As quickly became apparent on the campaign trail in early 2015, the one-time presidential candidate’s support for federal Common Core standards was a big turnoff for some conservative groups.

Jane Robbins, a senior fellow with the American Principles Project in Washington, penned a column on the Townhall website calling DeVos selection “Jeb’s Revenge.”

“Jeb Bush and his ideological compatriots, including DeVos, advance what could be called a “government-foundation cartel” model of educational policy-making,” Robbins wrote. “Private foundations funded by wealthy individuals (who themselves may be dilettantes with no real experience in education) contribute ideas, and frequently personnel, to the government to achieve their policy goals.”

Robbins went on to say Bush “surely believes she’ll use the stratagems the cartel has employed for so long to impose its own vision of what American education should be. DeVos must instead assure the grassroots that she’ll use her new position to eliminate federal interference and truly return education policy to the states. Trump was elected to achieve that goal, not to install Jeb’s agenda. He should make sure DeVos understands that.”

Weingarten criticizes Bush’s education policies in Florida, saying he became obsessed with high stakes testing.

“Look at what Jeb Bush did, and all the work that was promised, by Jeb Bush, by George W. Bush, to have funding going into reading or any kind of investment to actually ensure that high standards were realized,” she says. “None of that materialized in Florida.”

Weingarten adds: “What happened instead was this competition amongst schools, this corporatization among schools, and this disruption which created huge anxieties amongst parents, teachers and children which cut the funding in so many different places and which created these restaurant-like reports cards from A to E or F that reduced everything to testing. Teachers were subjected to test based evaluation as opposed to other kinds of evaluation, and you see fewer people going into teaching and lack of joy in schools throughout Florida, and where superintendents rose up against it, parents rose up against it, and people have been fighting it, tooth and nail.”

DeVos confirmation is now scheduled to take place January 17.

Marco Rubio grills Rex Tillerson on Russia: Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s concerns regarding Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin took center stage in Senate confirmation hearings Wednesday when he grilled Rex Tillerson over whether the secretary of state nominee believes Putin is a war criminal, and whether he believes Putin was directly involved in cyber attacks to affect the 2016 American election.

Tillerson said he was not willing to call Putin a war criminal without having more information, all but visibly infuriating Rubio.

However, the nominee of president-elect Donald Trump did say that the reports he has read on Russian cyber interference attempts with the American election are “clearly troubling” and that the assumption that Putin was involved is “a fair assumption.”

Rubio’s entire time questioning Tillerson focused on Russia. He began by questioning Tillerson about the reports that Russia ran a broad hacking campaign and then leaked the gleaned information to harm Democrat Hillary Clinton‘s candidacy and to forward Trump’s. When Tillerson first demurred about whether he believed Putin was directly involved, Rubio pressed, pointing out that the Exxon-Mobile CEO’s long, personal relationship with Russia and direct dealing with Putin, and demanding to know if  he had an opinion that Putin most likely would have been involved.

“I think that’s a fair assumption,” Tillerson finally responded.

Next, Rubio turned to a bill that he and a bipartisan coalition of senators rolled out Monday, which would impose a variety of sanctions on Russia for the  election campaign hacking, and for other Russian international aggressions in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere. Would Tillerson advise the president to sign it?

Tillerson declined to say, noting he would need to know all the facts.

Rubio grew frustrated. He pressed if Tillerson would support sanctions against any country involved in cyber attacks on the United States.

Again, Tillerson said he would need more information, and that the full circumstances would have to be considered.

When Tillerson mentioned trade considerations, Rubio responded, “What’s troubling about your answer is the implication that if there is a country that we’re trying to improve relations with or have significant economic ties with, you may advise the president not to impose sanctions on that country or individuals in that country, out of concern that it may damage our relations with them, on a cyber attack, which is a direct attack on our electoral process.”

Rubio asked Tillerson if he would advise Trump to appeal Obama’s executive orders to sanction Russia over the cyber attacks. Tillerson said he would have to look at it and consult with others in the administration. Ultimately, Rubio got him to say he would not automatically support such sanctions against Russia.

Then came the show-stopper.

“Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?” Rubio asked.

“I would not use that term,” was Tillerson’s first response.

Rubio then went on a roll, describing reports of the Russian military targeting civilians in Syria, killing thousands, and in Chechnya, killing hundreds of thousands. Tillerson said he would want to have more information. Agitated, Rubio, interrupted him saying, “Mr. Tillerson, what has happened in Aleppo is in the public domain. The videos and the pictures are there.” But Tillerson persisted, saying he would want full classified briefings before advising the president.

“There is so much out there, it should not be hard to say that Vladimir Putin’s military has conducted war crimes,” Rubio responded. “I find it discouraging, your inability to cite that.”

Finally, Rubio asked Tillerson about political prisoners in Russia, and the deaths and disappearances of political dissidents. “Do you believe that Vladimir Putin and his cronies are responsible for the murder of countless dissidents, journalists and political opponents?”

Again, Tillerson demurred.

“I look forward, if confirmed, to being fully informed. But I am not willing to make conclusions based only on information that is publicly available or publicly reported,” Tillerson said.

 

Blaise Ingoglia, Christian Ziegler introduce new plans as Florida GOP chair race approaches

As the race for Republican Party of Florida chair heads into its final days, Blaise Ingoglia and Christian Ziegler are proposing new plans to try to persuade fellow executive members to vote for them this Saturday.

Ziegler is the 34-year-old Sarasota County Committeeman challenging Ingoglia’s re-election bid. He introduced a new website called The GOPExchange, a place Ziegler says where County Republican Party leaders can securely browse and download previously developed resources and used by other county parties to help support their efforts to fundraise, communicate, get out the vote and promote elected officials after they’ve taken office.

Ziegler says if elected to lead the party, he’ll lead a team of individuals who can field custom design requests from counties and help execute these materials to fit their individual county best.

“The goal of this cost-cutting and time-saving resource isn’t just to help strengthen our county parties, but to also free up our County Party Leaders by taking them away from the computer and putting them in the most valuable place they can be — in their community,” he wrote in an email statement to committee members Tuesday.

Last week Ziegler announced that, as chair, he would institute the Florida GOP Republican Party Platform Educational Series” during its Quarterly Meetings to help educate and “give us the tools necessary to become experts on the official principles & policies of the Republican Party.”

Ziegler says that he would welcome guests from conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the CATO Institute, the American Enterprise Institute and others to take a deep dive into issues regarding the constitution, immigration, education, health care, national security and other matters.

“The goal would be to read through the platform, listen to an expert explain the importance of that portion of the platform, host a Q/A & debate session at the end of the class and leave that session with a deep understanding and talking points about a portion of the platform,” he writes.

Meanwhile, Ingoglia has offered up his own series of proposals and proposed four different programs Wednesday. They are:

1 — Trump Republican Clubs — Noting how many new voters who jumped on the “Trump Train” and registered as Republican back in the spring, Ingoglia says the job of the RPOF is to keep them involved with the party by forming these clubs. “If we can keep these new voters engaged and voting each election cycle, we will be an unstoppable force,” he says.

2 — Florida GOP University — Ingoglia says that while he’s expanded training over the past two years, there are some Republicans who can’t attend the quarterly meetings where they’ve taken place. That’s why he’s proposing what he calls “Florida GOP University” to bring that training to local Republican Executive Committee members in their individual counties.

3 — RPOF Enhanced Training — Ingoglia says he’ll have at least 7 training seminars planned for the RPOF’s first quarterly meeting.

4 — Republican Business Council — This is a plan to get more small business people involved with local REC’s. “The RPOF will encourage and help local parties set up “Republican Business Councils” in your counties under a club charter,” Ingoglia writes. “These “luncheon clubs” will be a good resource for future local fundraising,” he writes in bold italics.

The two men will face each other in the election slated for this Saturday at the Rosen Centre in Orlando.

Marco Rubio, bipartisan group of Senators, throw down gauntlet on Russia

As new allegations arise charging details of Russian interference in the American presidential campaign, Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio joined a bipartisan group of senators to unveil a bill calling for comprehensive sanctions on Russia for cyber intrusions, aggression, and destabilizing activities.

Rubio, a Republican, was joined by Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, Arizona Republican John McCain, New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, and Ohio Republican Rob Portman in announcing the “Countering Russian Hostilities Act of 2017.”

The bill is far sweeping in its directives, including imposing specific sanctions on Russia, codifying executive orders issued by President Barack Obama, authorizing a campaign by the Department of Homeland Security to educate the public about cybersecurity, identifying Russian government-controlled media and the American companies that advertise with them, and developing campaigns to counter “fake news.”

The bill explicitly states that Russian President Vladimir Putin orchestrated an influence campaign to affect the 2016 American elections; and also addresses Russian activities in attempting to influence elections in other countries; and Russia’s invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, and its operations in Syria and elsewhere.

The move, introduced Tuesday evening, may become a Senate gauntlet throw-down to President-elect Donald Trump‘s reluctance to criticize Russia or express serious concerns about the election influence allegations. Rubio, McCain, Graham, the Democrats and many of the other senators signed on as co-sponsors already have spoken out forcefully about Russia’s activities. That criticism is reinforced by statements made by each of the co-sponsors in a news release they jointly issued, though none of them explicitly criticize Trump.

The bill had entered the Senate before new allegations emerged on CNN Tuesday evening and the internet site BuzzFeed.com published a dossier floating around Washington D.C. claiming that Russia not only gathered and leaked embarrassing and harmful intelligence on Democrat Hillary Clinton but also collected and is holding embarrassing and damaging intelligence on Trump.

“Vladimir Putin is not an ally of America, and he only understands strength, not weakness in the form of unilateral concessions. These two facts are important to remember as a new president takes office,” Rubio stated in the release. “I will continue working with our bipartisan coalition to pressure Putin and his corrupt regime until Russia changes its behavior.”

“Every American should be alarmed by Russia’s brazen attack on our democracy,” McCain stated.

“The facts are clear, and it’s time to act. America must stand united in sending a strong message to the Kremlin that this attack on the foundation our democracy will not go unpunished,” Shaheen stated.

 

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