Donald Trump Archives - Florida Politics

Donald Trump lectures NATO members on cost sharing

The Latest on President Donald Trump’s first trip abroad (all times local):

4:48 p.m.

President Donald Trump is lecturing members of the NATO alliance to pay their fair share on defense during a ceremony at NATO headquarters.

Trump says NATO members must “finally contribute their fair share” and meet their obligations.

The president has been urging NATO leaders to live up to a 2011 decision to increase spending on defense to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2024.

Trump says 23 of the 28 member nations are not paying what they should and he says it’s “not fair” to the people of the United States. He says many of these nations owe “massive” amounts of money from previous years.

The president spoke as the other NATO leaders looked on.

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4:41 p.m.

President Donald Trump is calling for a moment of silence for the victims of the Manchester concert attack.

The president is speaking at a dedication ceremony for a new 9/11 memorial at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

He says that “today is a day for both remembrance and resolve” and that the attack demonstrates “the depths of the evil we face with terrorism.”

Trump has urged NATO members to spend more money on defense.

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4:37 p.m.

President Donald Trump is attending a dedication service for two new memorials at NATO headquarters.

Trump stood on as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg unveiled two sections of the Berlin Wall that divided the German city until 1989.

The pieces, standing together, form a monument that symbolizes the efforts to end the division of Europe.

Trump and Stoltenberg are also unveiling a steel beam from the 107th floor of one of the World Trade Center towers that collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.

It’s a reminder of NATO’s commitment to its collective defense clause — so called Article 5. It has only ever been activated once, after 9/11.

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4:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump is pledging to “get to the bottom” of leaks of sensitive information.

In a written statement Thursday, Trump called recent leaks “deeply troubling.” He said he is asking the Justice Department and other agencies to “launch a complete review of this matter.”

Trump adds that “if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Trump’s comments come amid anger from Britain over intelligence leaks and a decision by Manchester police to withhold information from the United States about the investigation into this week’s bombing.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will make it clear to Trump that intelligence shared between law enforcement agencies “must remain secure.”

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4:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump has arrived at NATO headquarters for an afternoon of meetings with fellow world leaders.

Trump was greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the organization’s new headquarters in Brussels.

Stoltenberg visited the White House last month and touted NATO’s benefits at a joint news conference with Trump.

Trump had previously questioned NATO’s relevance.

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4:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump has done an about-face on NATO, the military alliance he once dismissed as ineffective.

Trump says at a White House news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that the organization is “no longer obsolete.”

As a candidate, Trump said the 28-member organization had outlived its usefulness. Since taking office, he has expressed support for NATO but has reinforced his view that European members must meet a 2014 agreement for member countries to boost defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product within a decade. Just the U.S. and a handful of other countries are meeting the target.

Trump says NATO countries will be more secure and the partnership strengthened if other countries pay their fair share and stop relying on the United States.

He’s set to participate in a memorial dedication and dinner with other NATO member leaders.

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4:04 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says she will press U.S. President Donald Trump on keeping shared intelligence confidential, after leaks from the investigation of the Manchester concert attack.

Speaking to reporters upon arrival at a NATO summit in Brussels, May said that the U.S.-British defense and security partnership is built on trust.

But she says, “part of that trust is knowing that intelligence can be shared confidently.”

She said that when she sees Trump at the summit Thursday she will stress “that intelligence that is shared between law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”

She said the Manchester attack shows why it’s important for the international community and NATO to do more about the fight against terrorism.

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3:59 p.m.

President Donald Trump is on his way to NATO headquarters in Brussels for his first meeting with a group he criticized mercilessly during his campaign.

Trump has rattled the group with musings about pulling out of the pact because other countries aren’t dedicating enough money to defense and called the alliance “obsolete.”

But he’s softened his stance considerably since taking office in January.

Trump is set to deliver remarks at the unveiling of memorials dedicated to the Berlin Wall and one that will serve as a reminder of NATO’s commitment to its collective defense clause — so called Article 5. It has only been activated once, after 9/11.

He’ll also attend a working dinner with other member leaders.

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3:32 p.m.

Several hundred protesters have gathered outside the NATO summit in Brussels to demonstrate against NATO and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The group was tiny compared to the 10,000 demonstrators who came out Wednesday to protest Trump’s visit. But the summit won’t start until late afternoon, so the crowds could still swell.

Security officials have cordoned off a large protest zone outside NATO headquarters. Protesters there are holding banners that say “NATO game over” and “peace.”

At one point, some 50 demonstrators tried to block a road using banners.

Stephanie Demblon of the “Agir pour la paix” pacifist group says Trump “makes people scared” and says he’s “shown over the past months that he isn’t a man of peace.”

The anti-NATO activist says she’s worried that Trump, who criticized NATO during his campaign, is now beginning to see the partnership as “something very useful to his aims.”

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2:09 p.m.

The White House is condemning recent violence in the Philippines by militants linked to the Islamic State group.

In a statement released Thursday, the White House says, “cowardly terrorists killed Philippine law enforcement officials and endangered the lives of innocent citizens.”

It adds that the United States will provide “support and assistance to Philippine counterterrorism efforts.” The statement from the press secretary says the United States is a “proud ally of the Philippines.”

Army tanks packed with soldiers have rolled into a southern Philippine city to try to restore control after militants linked to the Islamic State group launched a violent siege. Thousands of civilians have been fleeing Marawi, a city of some 200,000 people.

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1:38 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says he has a long list of issues to discuss with U.S. President Donald Trump, including the fight against terrorism, the economy and climate and energy issues.

The two leaders are meeting for the first time over lunch at the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium’s residence. They’ll dine on tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, veal filet with potatoes, tri-colored vegetables, and a duo of Belgian chocolate mousse.

The two also shared an intense handshake, gripping each other’s hands so tightly that Trump’s knuckles appeared to turn white.

Macron has been critical of Trump in the past, including denouncing Trump’s musings on abandoning the Paris climate treaty. White House officials say Trump has not made a decision yet about whether the U.S. will fulfill its obligations under the deal.

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1:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump is praising newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron as the two leaders meet for the first time.

Trump and Macron met at the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium’s residence Thursday for a working lunch.

Trump says Macron had an “incredible victory, all over the world they’re talking about it.” He added that the two have a lot to discuss, including terrorism.

Macron has said he expects to discuss defense and security issues during the pair’s first face-to-face meeting. He has been critical of Trump in the past, including denouncing Trump’s musings on abandoning the Paris climate treaty.

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1:19 p.m.

President Donald Trump did not respond to a shouted question about whether the British can trust America with intelligence following a series of leaks blamed on U.S. officials.

British authorities are livid over leaks related to the Manchester concert bombing. They include photos detailing evidence about the bomb used in the attack that were published by The New York Times. It is not clear that the newspaper obtained the photos from U.S. officials.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she plans to raise the issue with President Donald Trump at the NATO summit in Brussels later Thursday.

She says she plans to “make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”

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1:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting with newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron.

Trump and Macron are holding a working lunch at the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium’s residence Thursday.

Macron was elected over far-right opponent Marine Le Pen in the French presidential runoff earlier this month. Trump called him after his victory to congratulate him.

Macron has said he expects to discuss defense and security issues during the meeting. He has been critical of Trump in the past, including denouncing Trump’s musings on abandoning the Paris climate treaty.

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12:43 p.m.

U.S. first lady Melania Trump cheered up children in a Belgian hospital with Dr. Seuss books and crepe paper flowers while her husband met with European Union leaders.

Young patients at the Queen Fabiola Children’s University Hospital used a sketch toy to make a sign reading “Welcome Mrs. Trump.”

The first lady, wearing a knee-length dusty rose leather jacket and skirt, toured the hospital Thursday and joined a group of children making paper flowers, a Belgian tradition. Two of the children sitting with her were hooked up to IVs.

They shared opinions on favorite flowers. The first lady said she likes peonies, tulips, roses and especially orchids.

Mrs. Trump also visited the Vatican’s children’s hospital earlier this week and gave the children Dr. Seuss books.

She’s expected to join the spouses of other leaders in town for a NATO summit for a visit to the Magritte Museum and the Belgian royal palace later Thursday.

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12:31 p.m.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has joined President Donald Trump for the next leg of his trip and is participating in meetings with European leaders.

The composition of the U.S. delegation has evolved over the course of the president’s maiden foreign trip.

Chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon and commerce secretary Wilbur Ross all returned home after the president’s first stop in Saudi Arabia.

And Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump broke off before Trump traveled to Brussels, as previously planned.

The president will be returning to Washington Saturday after nine days abroad.

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12 p.m.

European Union Council President Donald Tusk says talks with President Donald Trump reveal differences on key issues, including how to deal with Russia.

Tusk said Thursday that he was not “100 percent sure” the two leaders have “a common position, a common opinion, about Russia.” But he said that regarding Ukraine “it seems that we were on the same line.”

Trump met with European Union leaders Thursday morning in Brussels.

Tusk also said that “Some issues remain open like climate and trade,” where the EU is pushing for full respect of the Paris Agreement on climate and open multilateral trade deals.

But he insisted there was full agreement on many issues, including “first and foremost, on counter terrorism.”

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11:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump got to meet two European Union Presidents at the same time.

Under the convoluted rules of the 28-nation bloc, Donald Tusk presides over the Council of EU leaders and chairs summit meetings while Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker heads the EU executive.

“You know, Mr President, we have two presidents in the EU,” Tusk said as they started their meeting. “I know that,” Trump said.

Juncker joked: “There is one too much.”

Trump concluded his meeting at the European Union headquarters at about 11:30 a.m. He headed to the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium’s residence where he was set to have a working lunch with newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron.

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11 a.m.

President Donald Trump is speaking with European Union leaders during a meeting in Brussels.

Trump sat down Thursday with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, and other officials.

Trump publicly cheered for the dissolution of the body when the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU last summer.

Trump is in the midst of a nine-day international trip. It is his first foreign trip and has included stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican.

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10:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting with European Union leaders.

Trump arrived at European Union headquarters Thursday morning. He was greeted by the group’s president.

Trump publicly cheered for the dissolution of the body when the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU last summer.

The visit comes as part of Trump’s first international trip. The nine-day tour has included rapturous receptions in Saudi Arabia and Israel, and a polite meeting with Pope Francis in Rome.

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8:30 a.m.

U.S. President Donald Trump woke to a gorgeous spring morning in Brussels — and a huge flag from Greenpeace criticizing his policies.

Around 7 a.m., the environmental group got on top of a construction crane close to the U.S. embassy where Trump stayed overnight and unfurled a huge banner saying “#RESIST.”

Two activists were up in the air to make sure the flag hung straight and would be clearly visible.

Greenpeace has been an ardent critic of Trump’s environmental views on climate change and global warming. Those issues will take central stage at the G-7 summit in Sicily starting Friday.

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6:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump will be in the heart of Europe Thursday to address a continent still reeling from his election and anxious about his support.

Trump is slated to attend his first meeting of NATO, the decadeslong partnership that has been rattled by the new president’s wavering on honoring its bonds.

Trump has mused about pulling out of the pact because he believed other countries were not paying their fair share. He also has so far refused to commit to abiding by Article 5, in which member nations vow to come to each other’s defense.

The president is slated to meet with the heads of European Union institutions after having publicly cheered for the dissolution of the body when the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Joe Henderson: If some Democrats don’t care about ‘issues’ maybe that’s leaders’ fault

Um, Sally Boynton Brown?

If you’re trying to explain why Democratic voters didn’t turn out in sufficient numbers last November to deliver Florida to Hillary Clinton, I suggest a different approach than saying basically “they don’t get it.”

That’s not a direct quote from the newly hired executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, but it is the essence of her intemperate remarks at a progressive caucus gathering in Broward County.

The Miami New Times, on the scene at the event, quoted Brown saying, “This is not going to be popular, but this is my belief of the time and place we’re in now: I believe that we’re in a place where it’s very hard to get voters excited about ‘issues,’ the type of voters that are not voting.”

She was right about one thing: that isn’t popular. In fact, that’s just plain dumb.

First, let’s just say what everyone knows: She is effectively blaming lower-income people and minorities for her party’s problems, as if it’s their civic duty to vote for Democrats.

These are people profoundly affected by the issues of the day, and you can be damn sure they care about those things. If they aren’t voting, it’s because there is a disconnect between them and party leaders.

Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than 330,000 voters in Florida, according to state elections data. There also are about 3.5 million voters unaffiliated to either major party.

With numbers like that, how do Democrats keep losing?

Start with their message — or lack thereof.

Republicans have been consistent about how they want to shape state government: fewer regulations, pro-business, lower taxes, squash any attempt at gun control, charter school expansion.

Republicans repeat those talking points until they’re ingrained in voters’ minds, particularly the independents. It worked well enough to give the GOP and Donald Trump wins in 58 of Florida’s 67 counties last November.

Issues obviously matter to Republicans. Is Brown saying they’re more passionate and responsive than those of her party? If that’s the case, point the finger at the person looking back in the mirror.

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that Democrats approached the last election with a cocksure smugness. They didn’t explain themselves to voters because their attitude seemed to be that no one would be dumb enough to vote for Trump.

Guess what, Dems? There are millions of people right here in Florida who believe all you want to do is take their guns and give their money to someone else. Democrats used to be the party of working people, but now are painted as the playground of Hollywood elite. It’s their own fault.

In the battle for the hearts and minds of the people, Democrats seem to have lost the zest for battling in the trenches.

One stray word from a Democrat about gun control can send the National Rifle Association into rapid response. Democrats have allowed themselves to be pushed, shoved, bullied and ultimately defeated, and yet their response always seems to be “How could you?”

That, Sally Boynton Brown, is the problem that you don’t get. If you want more people to turn out on Election Day for your candidates, they need a better reason than, “It’s your duty to vote for us because we’re not them.”

Joe Gruters makes his pick for House Speaker

Rep. Joe Gruters is backing Rep. Paul Renner to be  House Speaker in 2022-24.

The Sarasota Republican said while he thinks everyone in the running for the position would do a great job, he felt Renner is the best person at this time. Gruters said he’s decided to make his position known because he didn’t want to give anyone false expectations or lead any candidates on.

“Like all my votes in the Legislature, I am committing to the person who I think is the best to lead our class,” he said in a message.

Freshmen House Republicans are scheduled to meet on June 30 to select their class leader and, assuming the GOP maintains its control of the Florida House in the next decade, the likely House Speaker for the 2023 and 2024 legislative sessions.

Last weekend, a majority of GOP freshmen met at the Vose Law Firm in Winter Park. The meeting gave members a chance to hear from four likely candidates — Renner, Byron Donalds, Randy Fine, and Jamie Grant — ahead of the vote.

Gruters’ backing could be a sign of good things to come for Renner, a Palm Coast Republican first elected to the Florida House in a 2015 special election.

Gruters, the longtime chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, was an early supporter of Gov. Rick Scott, a little known Republican candidate for Governor back in 2010. He organized one of Scott’s first rallies in Sarasota, offering up free pie to attendees. Held near a retirement community, the rally attracted about 300 people.

His loyalty to the Governor has continued over the years. In March, Gruters was one of 28 House members who voted against a bill (HB 7005) that would have totally eliminated Enterprise Florida. He also voted against a measure (HB 9) to, among other things, slash funding for Visit Florida. Both bills were sponsored by Renner, and neither cleared the Senate.

Gruters was also an early supporter of President Donald Trump. He was the co-chair of Trump’s presidential campaign in Florida, convinced Trump to put his Florida primary headquarters in Sarasota, and helped build a network of loyalists in all 67 counties. He was one of his staunchest supporters throughout the campaign, often acting as a surrogate.

Gruters, a certified public accountant by trade, has been mentioned as possible contender to replace CFO Jeff Atwater, who is leaving his post to take a job at Florida Atlantic University. He has also been mentioned as one of several Floridians who could be tapped for an ambassadorship or a position within the Trump administration.

Steve Schale: Dear Dems, one 2018 project — Caribbean voters

In my earliest days on the Barack Obama campaign in 2008, one of our first statewide polls showed a weakness with Black voters, at least compared to other states.

It wasn’t necessarily that John McCain was doing better than elsewhere, just that there were more voters on the sidelines. It didn’t take long to figure out the initial weakness was among Caribbean voters, which over time, we were able to address.

A couple of days ago, an old Obamaland friend who was a big part of those 2008 Caribbean conversations, texted me a quick question about the Haitian vote in Florida, and specifically if there was any truth to the chatter, and/or anecdotal evidence that Hillary Clinton underperformed among Haitians.

I had sensed some of the same but honestly hadn’t taken a look at the data yet.

Before starting, it is important to consider there are three significant challenges when thinking about the Haitian, and in a larger sense, Caribbean Black vote in Florida.

First, unlike the vast majority of other states, the Black vote in Florida is not monolithically African-American. Here, a significant share is either Caribbean and/or Hispanic.

The same challenge exists when analyzing the Hispanic vote. On other battleground states, Hispanics tend to be nearly universally Mexican, while here in Florida, both Hispanic and Black voters come from a large mosaic of nationalities.

Secondly, along these same lines, Florida’s voter registration data is woefully overly-generic about the population. When it comes to Caribbean and African-American voters, the voter registration form provides actually just three options: Black, Multiracial or Other. Therefore, it is impossible to solely pull out voters of Caribbean descent. There are some analytic tools, but that is generally built on a model, and as such, isn’t exact (nor available to the public as a whole).

Third, and finally, the census data isn’t a ton better.

The generic census form does not drill down for information on “Black or African-American” residents (it does with certain Hispanics and Asian populations). There are census tools that dig into a nation of origin, but again are sampled and not individual specific.

So, in answering my friend’s query, I came up with what was a (granted, inexact) performance model, yet one I think provides some insight — and in this case, caution for Democrats — or at least cause for more research.

The model: Florida House District 108, the home of “Little Haiti.”

The question — how did Clinton/Donald Trump play both in this district and specifically in the Little Haiti precincts, versus Obama/Romney? For the sake of adding more data, I also looked at Rick Scott in 2010 and 2014.

Understanding the limitations laid out above, here is what the data says.

Obama won the district in 2012 by 90-10, and Clinton won it 87-11 (Interestingly, this shift matches the 2-point margin shift from Obama to Clinton). Also, voter turnout in the seat at large was about the same, at least among Black voters (70 percent in 2012, 70.5 percent in 2016).

On the surface, these are not insignificant changes, but in no way, are the kind of massive shifts we saw in places like Pasco County, north of Tampa, where the change among Republican support was almost 10 points.

But looking deeper, there is more than the story.

First, there were actually 6,000 fewer registered voters in the district in 16 than 12, which a combination of two things: purges of “inactive voters” and at a certain level, some voters not being interested enough to care to keep registration up to date.

As a result, Clinton got 6,000 fewer votes than Obama in the district — while Trump got about the same as Mitt Romney. In other words, Clinton carried the district by 6,000 fewer votes than Obama’s 2012 margin.

The total shift in the vote margin statewide was roughly 180K votes — so just over 3 percent of the full shift from Obama to Trump happened just in this one state House seat — a seat that by comparison only made up 0.6 percent of the entire statewide vote in the presidential election.

Secondly, it gets even more interesting in just the Little Haiti precincts.

So, inside House District 108, during the Obama re-election, voters in the Little Haiti precincts made up just over 17 percent of registered voters, and in the election, just over 16 percent of the actual 2012 voters.

Looking at it another way, turnout among all Black voters in the district was roughly 70 percent in 2012, but within the Little Haiti precincts, was about 63 percent.

My guy won Little Haiti by 92 percent (96-4). Clinton won it by 85 percent (91-6 percent). Honestly, this data point actually surprised me. My hunch going in was Trump might have done better in these precincts than he did districtwide (10 percent).

But here is where the huge red flag shows up. Little Haiti residents in 2016 actually made up a bigger share of registered voters than 2016 — almost 19 percent but saw their share of the district’s actual vote drop to 16 percent. Why? Black turnout was right at 71 percent in the district in 2016, but inside Little Haiti, it fell to 58 percent.

As a result, Clinton carried these 10 precincts by 1,300 votes less than Obama did, or roughly 0.7 percent of the total shift from Obama to Trump — 10 precincts that by the way, make up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the 2016 statewide vote. Why? Simply, Little Haiti voter participation was 13 percent lower than Black turnout districtwide.

While Trump got better margins than Romney did four years earlier, but it had almost nothing to do with more support for him, and almost everything to do with lower participation from people who in 2012 voted for Barack Obama.

It is interesting when comparing Democratic performance in Little Haiti between 2010 and 2014, Charlie Crist did better than Alex Sink, both regarding turnout and performance.

But I suspect, just as we saw overall Black turnout prove to be robust in 14, a lot of that was a factor of voters showing up to protect President Obama. Interestingly enough, Rick Scott put a lot more emphasis on Caribbean voters in 2014 than 2010 so it would be useful to look outside of this one neighborhood to see if the 2014 results hold up elsewhere.

Moreover, Crist’s 2014 strength in Little Haiti doesn’t mean, as 2016 shows, that one can expect 2018 to be the same without work.

Granted, there are lots of reasons to be cautious about reading much of anything into a 10-precinct sample of one state House seat in a state like Florida. However, I do think there is enough to take a longer look at this, overlaying census data with precinct maps throughout South Florida, and comparing the presidential election in precincts with a significant Caribbean population.

My hunch is we would see a lot of the same.

 

Shhhh! Stephanie Murphy seeks to stop presidential leaks to enemies

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy wants to make sure that if a president or any other high official in the administration casually passes along classified intelligence to a country the United States is not happy with, he’ll have to tell Congress about it.

Murphy, from Winter Park, announced Wednesday afternoon she has introduced the Prevention Oversight of Intelligence Sharing with Enemies Act.

It would require the president to promptly notify the House and Senate Intelligence Committees if someone in the administration “intentionally or inadvertently discloses Top Secret information to government officials of nations that sponsor terrorism or, like Russia, are subject to U.S. economic sanctions.”

The bill and a press release announcing it make no specific mention of reports of President Donald Trump seemingly casually shared ISIS intelligence with Russian officials during a meeting earlier this month.

Yet Murphy, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and who has intelligence analysis background as a former U.S. Department of Defense analyst, made her ire clear.

“As a former national security specialist in the Pentagon, I’ve seen the damage our adversaries can inflict when they gain access to our classified information,” she stated in a news release. “When U.S. intelligence falls into the wrong hands, it puts our service members, intelligence operatives, and diplomats at risk and undermines our national security interests around the world.

“Additionally, our allies are unlikely to share highly-sensitive intelligence if they lose confidence in our ability to protect such information,” she continued. “My bill will enable Congress to assess any damage, conduct appropriate oversight, and keep our country safe whenever classified information is intentionally or inadvertently disclosed.”

It’s not the first time Murphy has introduced a bill taking a swipe at Trump’s national security and intelligence handling, nor is it the first time the freshman congresswoman has taken on those issues outside of trump.

Earlier she introduced the Protect the National Security Council from Political Interference Act, gained 183 cosponsors and helped generated a groundswell of public support for Steve Bannon’s removal from the National Security Council.

She also introduced a bill to create an inter-agency unit to oversee intelligence about North Korea, and another that would create a defense commission to deal with security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

In Donald Trump’s private moments, it’s small talk and compliments

What do world leaders talk about when they are alone? Not much, it seems.

President Donald Trump spent part of his two-day visit to Israel with open microphones nearby, giving the world a small glimpse into his private banter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu between official appearances.

They chatted about paint on the walls, their wives and where to stand during a ceremony. And they exchanged compliments — lots of compliments.

This presidential small talk provided just some of the memorable moments of Trump’s swing through the Middle East, the first stop on his first overseas trip as president. There was an awkward Saudi sword dance, an airport selfie with a pushy Israeli lawmaker and a possible snub by Melania Trump.

With Trump now in Rome to meet the pope, here is a look at some of the highlights:

SAUDI ARABIA

—The Orb: While Trump’s speech before Muslim leaders grabbed headlines, the buzz on social media was the image of him, Saudi King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi with their hands on a lighted sphere to mark the opening of state-of-the-art counterterrorism center in the capital, Riyadh. Some joked it looked like the orb from Woody Allen’s 1973 film “Sleeper.”

—Always With the Right: In another widely shared moment on social media, Trump and the Saudi monarch are seen drinking traditional Arabic coffee in small cups. Trump is about to take a sip, holding the cup with his left hand — a taboo in the Muslim world — when Salman explains “with the right hand” in accordance with the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. Trump replies: “Always the right hand, right. Always the right hand.” The video has been viewed more than 184,000 times.

—Sword Dance: Taking part in local customs and traditions is a must for American presidents when they travel the world. On Saturday night, Trump and his entourage were treated to a royal dinner hosted by King Salman. The delegation was greeted to a traditional all-male Saudi sword dance. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Saudi king, Trump swayed side to side and briefly joined the groove.

—Golf Cart View: In another part of town, American country star Toby Keith performed with an Arabian lute player at a free, male-only concert in Riyadh. Keith performed cover songs of American classics and steered clear of performing his ballads “Whiskey Girl” and “Beer for My Horses” since alcohol is banned in the deeply conservative kingdom. In a bizarre moment, Trump caught a glimpse of the concert with first lady Melania Trump when, in a golf cart, they slowly rolled past a screen broadcasting it live.

—Pantsuits and Dresses: Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka, sparked an online sensation when she arrived in Riyadh wearing a long-sleeved, billowy navy dress as her blonde hair blew in the breeze. The hashtag “bint Trump,” meaning Trump’s daughter in Arabic, began trending, with one Twitter user even proposing in an online video. Like other high-level female visitors to Saudi Arabia, Mrs. Trump also did not cover her hair while in the kingdom. For her arrival to Riyadh, she wore a long-sleeved, black pantsuit accented with a wide, gold-colored belt and gold necklace.

—Was It a Bow? Trump accepted Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honor and ignited a debate over whether he bowed to the king. King Salman placed the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud — a gold medal hanging from a long, gold chain — around Trump’s neck hours after he arrived in the kingdom. Trump had to bend down so the king could put the medal around his neck, and that ignited debate over whether he had bowed to the king.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, have all received the award. Republicans — including Trump — criticized Obama for a move during his 2009 visit to Saudi Arabia, interpreting it as an American president subserviently bowing to a foreign dignitary.

ISRAEL

—The Selfie: Israel is known for its boisterous and informal behavior, and Trump got a first-hand taste of this at his airport arrival ceremony. Just moments after he landed, a hard-line Cabinet minister asked Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, one of the most explosive issues in the conflict with the Palestinians. Then, a backbench lawmaker who had not even been invited to the ceremony pulled Trump aside for a selfie. With Trump waiting patiently after a camera glitch, and Netanyahu unsuccessfully reaching out to block the scene from unfolding, lawmaker Oren Hazan snapped the shot that made him famous. “Thank you, Mr. President – it was my pleasure!” Hazan tweeted alongside the picture.

—Speak to the Hand. The selfie was not the only time that Trump was caught off guard. As he and his wife Melania walked on the red carpet, he turned and reached out to grab her hand. The expressionless Mrs. Trump, wearing dark sunglasses, appeared to brush away his hand, raising speculation in local media of a possible first family fracas. It happened again in Rome on Tuesday: as the couple emerged from the plane, Trump waved to the crowd and seemed to look for her hand. She quickly moved it away, raising it to her head to brush her hair aside.

—Budding Bromance: Netanyahu had a strained relationship with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. But he appeared to have an easy rapport with Trump, with the two men repeatedly embracing and professing their deep friendship. At the airport ceremony, Netanyahu playfully warned Trump about the confusing protocol. “What is the protocol? Do you have any idea?” Trump asked. “Who knows?” Netanyahu responded with a smile.

—I Share Your Pain: Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, also found common ground with Mrs. Trump. Speaking to the first couple at the airport, Mrs. Netanyahu complained that they were both victims of an unfair press. “The majority of the people of Israel, unlike the media, they love us so we tell them how you are great and they love you,” Mrs. Netanyahu said. “We have very much in common,” Trump said.

—Home Sweet Home. The Netanyahus hosted the Trumps for a private dinner on Monday that began with a brief tour of their official residence. “Welcome to our palace,” Netanyahu said sarcastically. “It’s something very modest,” his wife said.

The two couples sat at a table as the president signed a guest book. “Thanks to you, we could paint the walls. We got the budget to paint the walls,” Netanyahu said. “All the house is painted for you,” Mrs. Netanyahu added.

Trump thanked Mrs. Netanyahu for arranging a hospital tour with Mrs. Trump, where both women met with a mixed group of Arab and Jewish children. “We kind of make, bring a smile to the children,” Mrs. Netanyahu said. As they all got up to take a picture, Netanyahu boasted that he is serving his fourth term as prime minister and then presented the first couple a gift: a 150-year-old bible.

“It describes what happened here. It all took place here,” Netanyahu said.

“That is really beautiful,” Trump answered.

“It’s a good book. It’s THE good book,” Netanyahu said.

“It’s THE book,” his wife added.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Blaise Ingoglia calls Oval Office meeting with Donald Trump a ‘humbling experience’

Blaise Ingoglia was part of a small group of state party heads who met with President Donald Trump earlier this month to talk about issues important to their communities.

Ingoglia, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a state representative, was one of 10 Republican party leaders, primarily from swing states to meet with Trump and Reince Priebus, the president’s chief of staff, during a meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. The Spring Hill Republican said the president was interested in discussing issues that were important to the states, and wanted to know how the government could help states and local communities.

Ingoglia said the chairs of the Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Michigan Republican parties also attended.

Ingoglia said he talked with Priebus about the Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, which the Trump administration announced Monday it would extend for another six months.

Temporary Protected Status was given to Haitians living in the United States after a 2010 earthquake devastated parts of that country. Haitians granted the protection can live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Haitian participation in the program has been regularly renewed for 18-month intervals and the latest extension expires in July.

The Associated Press reported Haitians nervously anticipated the Trump administration’s decision given the president’s tough stance on immigration, both legal and illegal. Immigration was a top campaign issue and one that’s important to his political base.

Ingoglia said the group also spoke to Trump about economic issues, and the president and Priebus asked questions about how the federal government could do to help communities within the states. Ingoglia said what was impressive is they didn’t care if the issues were Democratic or Republican issues, they just “wanted to reach out to (as many) community leaders as possible.”

Ingoglia helped deliver Florida, a critical swing state, to Trump during the 2016 election. He said the visit to the Oval Office last week was the first time he had spoken to the president since Trump took office.

“It was a little surreal,” he said of his Oval Office meeting. “If you know the president, he’s very welcoming. He likes to talk; he likes to get feedback. It was a very humbling experience.”

__The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permissions.

GOP mocks national Dems for ‘zero chance’ of beating Vern Buchanan in 2018

Though the 2018 congressional elections are still a year and a half away, the news headlines continue to make Democrats believe that 2018 will be a wave election that could see them take over the House of Representatives.

It won’t be easy, even if the daily revelations from Washington continue to chip away at President Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s ratings.

On Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced 20 more congressional districts targeted for recruitment and potential investment, bringing the total to 79 GOP-held districts.

The new list includes Florida’s 16th Congressional District, held for the past decade by Sarasota Representative Vern Buchanan.

Buchanan narrowly defeated Democrat Christine Jennings in his first race by just 369 votes under disputed circumstances in 2006 (Jennings claimed that voting machine problems resulted in some 18,000 lost votes). Since then, however, he’s never been seriously challenged by a Democrat, and his supporters say that will remain the case in 2018.

“The only thing more egregious than Hillary not campaigning in Wisconsin would be if the DCCC spent even just $1 attempting to defeat Vern Buchanan,” scoffs Sarasota County Republican Committeeman Christian Ziegler, who worked as a congressional aide for Buchanan for several years in Washington and Sarasota. “Locally, the Democrat Party lacks grassroots & donor excitement, the party registration isn’t there for them and most importantly, they do not have one credible individual on the bench that would be able to serve as anything more than a ‘paper candidate.”

“The Democrats have zero chance at winning this seat,” adds Sarasota Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters, noting his high re-election margins.

New College of Sarasota political science professor (and Democrat) Keith Fitzgerald says this is the time when the DCCC begins recruiting candidates for the next election cycle. He sees the new list as a sign that they are casting for candidates beyond districts where performance histories would usually suggest they would succeed.

“They want qualified candidates in place in advance of a possible wave election,” he says. “It is too early to say that a wave election is coming, but the early indicators are stronger than they were when the Republicans cleaned house in 2010.”

Fitzgerald is a former state representative who ran and lost a congressional bid to Buchanan in 2012. He says that the new list of DCCC targets (which also includes Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District) are mostly incumbents who normally would be considered safe politically, including Buchanan.

But after a cacophonous two weeks of political news, even some Republicans have invoked the word “impeachment” about Trump’s problems, which led the Justice Dept. to select former FBI Director Robert Mueller last week as a special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between the campaign and Russian officials.

“Rep. Buchanan, supported legislation that would devastate many of his constituents,” says Fitzgerald. If the tsunami comes, there is no telling how far it will roll ashore,” he says. “Representatives who have placed extreme ideology ahead of the health and security of their voters could be swept away.”

Buchanan supported the American Health Care Act earlier this month, which remains extremely unpopular with the American public. The controversial bill, which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, is already being considered dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate, with a Quinnipiac poll showing only 21 percent support in the country.

The Democrats need to flip 24 seats to retake the House.

Florida CD 27 Republican incumbent Illeana Ros-Lehtinen announced earlier this month that after since serving in Congress representing her constituents in Miami-Dade County since 1988, she will not run for reelection next year. The DCCC is hoping to flip that seat, and are hoping that other Republican incumbents will follow suit.

Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in the CD 27 by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016.

Small sinkhole opens outside Donald Trump’s Florida getaway club

A small sinkhole has opened on the road just outside President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The Palm Beach Post reports that the 4-foot-by-4-foot hole was discovered Monday in Palm Beach County just west of one the resort’s entrances. It is near a new water main and isn’t a threat to the president’s property in Palm Beach.

The president has spent seven weekends at Mar-a-Lago since taking office, but it is now closed for the summer. Trump is on a nine-day trip that began in the Middle East and will end in Italy.

Trump bought the club for $10 million in 1985 and has spent tens of millions on improvements. Each of the 500 members pays $14,000 annually in dues. The initiation fee was recently doubled to $200,000.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Martin Dyckman: It’s always about the money

The Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts wrote a powerful case for Donald Trump‘s impeachment, in the style of an open letter to the “Dear Republicans in Congress,” that I was reading to my wife as she prepared breakfast the other morning.

At the part where Pitts asked, “Have you no loyalties deeper than party?” Ivy broke in.

“The money,” she exclaimed.

That nailed it. It is always about the money.

It’s about the campaign money they expect to continue bagging from the Kochs and other oligarchs who embrace the Trump agenda even as they despise the man.

It’s about the money, the great gobs of money that would befall the wealthier classes, the true constituency for most of them, from the sort of tax “reform” they are counting on Trump to sign.

It’s about the money they would gain for themselves from the Trump tax scheme. While the outlines he proposed are strikingly thin, they are enough to show that Congress members themselves would make out better than bank robbers.

The middle class and poor would get essentially nothing. The foregone revenue would take America back to where the oligarchs want it — a sociopolitical stone age, with the new robber barons doing what they want and getting what they want, with only minimal interference, if any, from taxes, regulations or labor unions.

The Congress does not simply represent the Republican Party’s true constituency. It is part of it.

The most recent available figures estimated the average Congressional net worth at around $1 million. To be one of the richest 50 members required a minimum of $7.28 million in net worth. Of those 50, 32 were Republicans.

There are Democrats, no doubt, who would vote for the outrageous Trump tax scheme if they thought their voters would forgive them. Most of the Republicans act as if they don’t have that particular worry.

For the Democrats and the few Republicans who do care to put their country first, the question may well be whether it would be best to be rid of the guttersnipe in the White House sooner or later.

From an exclusively partisan standpoint, it would suit the Democrats to have him still twisting in the ill winds of own making as the 2018 midterm elections approach. This would be better for policy as well, since every Republican Congress member who isn’t totally insulated by gerrymandering would have to worry about casting his or her vote with the extremely unpopular president. And the fact that Trump still refuses to release his tax returns, despite all the promises, raises profound suspicions about any tax legislation bearing his label.

If Trump were dethroned now, whether by his Cabinet or by a late-awakening congressional conscience, the Democrats would be confronting in President Mike Pence someone who has a long-standing and genuine commitment to all the hideously anti-social policies that Trump never shared until he saw them as keys to the Republican nomination. Lacking Trump’s offensive personality, Pence could take America backward even faster and farther than Trump.

The more important issues, though, are the clear and present danger of keeping an uneducated, uneducable and wildly impetuous man-child in proximity to the nuclear codes, the forfeiting of American influence and prestige for which he is responsible, and the disgust that sickens most of us with every new disclosure of his abuses of power and of the foreign influences in his campaign.

Whatever happens in the short term, both political parties should be planning how to never again nominate someone so singularly unfit and dangerous as Trump.

The electoral system was supposed to prevent that — “a moral certainty,” as Alexander Hamilton put it, “that the office of President will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

When Hamilton wrote “seldom,” he was not thinking “forever.”

But the Founders provided for a day when their precautions would fail.

At the outset, the party factions in Congress caucused to nominate their candidates for president. There was never a doubt as to their qualifications. No outsider cracked the system until Andrew Jackson came along, and he was much like Trump, who admires him, in being ill-informed, reckless and ruthless.

Congress, for all its enormous faults, could be an inherently better judge of presidential timber than the present primary election system. But to try to give Congress control of who runs would be a fool’s errand, not to mention unwise.

What Congress should do — what it must do — is to accept the constitutional responsibility the Founders assigned to it in the event of a rogue presidency. It is the fail-safe they wrote into the Constitution.

As Pitts described it to the Republicans, “Your course of action, if you have even a molecule of courage, integrity or country love, should be obvious. Impeach him now.”

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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