Donald Trump Archives - Florida Politics

Jeb Bush, Mark Cuban: Donald Trump dragging down GOP, billionaires

President Donald Trump‘s performance in the White House will make it harder for Republicans — and billionaires — in the coming elections, two of his most prominent critics said Saturday.

Billionaire businessman Mark Cuban and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush lashed out at the Republican president during separate remarks at a summer festival in New York City’s Central Park.

Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, said he may challenge Trump in 2020.

“If he lasts four years, I’ll be there to kick his (butt),” Cuban declared as the young New York crowd roared. “We’ll see. I’m not making any proclamations yet.”

Cuban also warned that Trump “might ruin the path” for another billionaire outsider to run for president in the future.

“He’s not setting the best example,” Cuban said.

After six months in office, Trump and his party have failed to enact any major legislation. His poll numbers are near historic lows and an investigation into Russian interference in the last election is focusing on his closest aides and family members.

Energized Democrats hope they can capitalize on the GOP’s political struggles in next year’s midterm elections when the House majority is at stake.

Bush, a regular target of Trump’s personal attacks during the 2016 Republican primary election, said he would not run for president again. He also tried to distance his party from the new president, noting that Trump was registered as a Democrat in recent years.

“He’s not really affiliated with the party, just to be clear. He’s Trump,” Bush said, speaking less than a mile from Trump Tower.

Bush also lamented the rise of celebrity politicians — Cuban, among them — as he pondered the future of the GOP.

“We may have really talented people that are really good on TV being our leaders for a while until we sort things out,” Bush said, noting that Cuban was on Saturday’s speaking program. “Ideas and policy really matter. It’s not just about personality.”

He said Republicans have “a huge opportunity” with control of the White House and both chambers in Congress. Should the GOP squander that, he said, Republicans may struggle in 2018 and 2020.

Despite the criticism, Bush said he’s rooting for Trump to succeed.

“I find him deeply troubling in a lot of ways. But I pray for him every night. And I pray for our country every night,” Bush said. “I care about my grandkids.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump legal team looking to investigate Robert Mueller aides

President Donald Trump’s legal team is evaluating potential conflicts of interest among members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team, three people with knowledge of the matter said Thursday. The revelations come as Mueller’s investigation appears likely to probe some of the Trump family’s business ties.

Attorney Jay Sekulow, a member of the president’s external legal team, told The Associated Press that the lawyers “will consistently evaluate the issue of conflicts and raise them in the appropriate venue.”

Two people with knowledge of that process say those efforts include probing the political affiliations of Mueller’s investigators and their past work history. Trump himself has publicly challenged Mueller, declaring this week that the former FBI director would be crossing a line if he investigated the president’s personal business ties.

Mueller and congressional committees are investigating whether the president’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 election. While Trump has assailed the probes as a partisan “witch hunt,” the investigations have increasingly ensnared his family and close advisers, including son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.

As the investigations intensify, Trump’s legal team is also undergoing a shakeup. New York-based attorney Marc Kasowitz, whose unconventional style has irked some White House aides, is seen as a diminishing presence in the operation, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Mark Corallo, who has been working as a spokesman for the legal team, is no longer part of the operation, according to those familiar with the situation. They insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Ryan Torrens, political outsider running for Attorney General, says he’s what Florida Democrats need

Consumer protection attorney Ryan Torrens is quite aware that he’s not an established political presence, but he says that should be an argument for his fledgling candidacy to become Florida’s next Attorney General.

“Look, I get it,” the 32-year-old told an audience who gathered Friday morning at Tampa’s Oxford Exchange to hear the Hillsborough County resident speak as part of the Cafe Con Tampa lecture series.

“I’m young. First-time candidate. A lot of people look at me and think, ‘Can he really win this thing? He’s never run for office before. He’s been practicing for five years? Come on.””

The answers are hard to dispute.

“In the Democratic Party in Florida, what we’ve been doing the last 20 years isn’t working.”

Torrens says he’s offering something different. Energy, passion, new ideas and the fact that he is decidedly not a politician, which he has surmised during his brief time as a statewide candidate is something that voters are hungry for.

A fifth generation Tampa native with Cuban roots, Torrens became the first (and still only) Democrat to file for Attorney General two months ago. Former Hillsborough County judge Ashley Moody and Jacksonville state Representative Jay Fant have filed to run in the GOP primary.

Under previous AG’s like Charlie Crist and Bob Butterworth, the position as Florida’s top cop was about being a consumer advocate for the people, something that Torrens says has been missing under Pam Bondi’s direction.

“A lot of people think it’s like the state attorney prosecuting murders and things like that,” he says of the AG’s job description.”That’s really not what the Attorney General does. If I’m Attorney General, I’m supposed to fight for all the people of Florida, and not simply take big contribution checks from companies and give them a pass.”

Working on the opioid epidemic he says will be a top priority in his administration, and if elected, he says he’ll sue the pharmaceutical companies for their role in perpetuating the crisis.

“They need to be held liable,” he says, “and we could use those proceeds from a settlement or a verdict to help get treatment from those who are currently suffering.”

That’s not such a radical idea, as attorneys general in Ohio and Mississippi have already done so.

Torrens recently outed himself as being a recovering alcoholic, and said that experience allows him to identify with  Floridians working through their own addictions.

Referring to the controversy over the recent “school of hope” education bill, he talked about the state constitution, which says that the state must adequately fund public schools.

“I would like to see if the AG could possibly file a lawsuit against the Legislature, for not adequately funding the public schools, and fulfilling its constitutional obligation,” he said.

Torrens also says he’ll go after predatory student lenders and abusive debt collectors. But he insists that he’s not some “left-wing radical” who wants to pick on Wall Street.

“When I talk all over the state with Democrats and Republicans they want the same thing, which is, they need to follow the same rules.”

A political science major at the University of Tampa, Torrens sounds like an analyst when he told the crowd he understands that it’s been the Democratic party’s arrogance that led to the election of Donald Trump last November.

“They feel that the Democrats are not speaking to them. That we make promises that we’re going to fight for working class people, but we’re a bunch of hypocrites because we get into office and we don’t really fight for them,” he said, adding that “we have a  tendency sometimes to talk down to working class people and they feel like we’re trying to dictate to them how they need to live their lives.”

Torrens will certainly be an underdog to the Republican nominee if makes it that far next year when it comes to fundraising. He announced that he had raised a little more than $22,000 after two months on the campaign trail recently.

Fant raised over $79,000, and Moody more than $600,000 between her own campaign and her political committee.

Dolphins fan Marco Rubio ponders a Tom Brady-free NFL

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a lifelong fan of the Miami Dolphins, has grown weary of watching the New England Patriots rack up Super Bowl wins while his team watches from afar.

Operating on the theory that misery loves company, he tried Thursday to sell a fellow Patriot antagonist on a plan he’s cooked up to sideline New England’s star quarterback, Tom Brady.

New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, selected by President Donald Trump to be ambassador to the United Kingdom, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing. Rubio’s a member of the panel. And before he quizzed Johnson on issues like counterterrorism and Brexit, the senator got the other important business out of the way.

First, because the Jets and Dolphins are rivals — both are in the NFL’s AFC East division along with the Patriots — Rubio cleared a few things off his chest.

“Support for your nomination due to your relationship with the New York Jets is painful and difficult, but I’m willing to do it for the good of the country,” he told Johnson as laughter filled the crowded committee room.

Rubio quickly pivoted to the more dastardly, common enemy: Brady. The 39-year-old signal caller has five Super Bowl rings and is a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Patriots have collected eight consecutive AFC East titles, while Miami hasn’t even won a playoff game since 2000.

“I think you and I agree the country would be well-served if a certain Thomas Brady were nominated ambassador to Brazil,” Rubio told Johnson. “Perhaps that could be arranged before September of this year,” which is the start of the NFL’s regular season.

Brady is married to Brazilian-born supermodel Gisele Bündchen.

“I don’t know why people are laughing,” Rubio said, trying to keep a straight face. “I’m very serious.”

Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts tossed cold water on the scheme. President Donald Trump and Patriots owner Robert Kraft are close friends, he said.

“So I don’t think there’s any chance of Tom Brady leaving the country until he’s won at least two or three more Super Bowl championships,” Markey said. “At that point, it’s whatever he wants.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Dennis Ross blasts GOP Senate in wake of ACA debacle

A day after an attempt by Senate Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act crashed and burned, Lakeland GOP Congressman Dennis Ross blasted members of his own party, saying he’s “sick of the excuses.”

“The Senate has failed the American people and abandoned voters who were promised that they would repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare. The House did its job. We honored our pledge and passed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare in early May. There is no need to sugar coat this: I’m very upset with the Senate,” Ross said Wednesday.

Referring to the fact that Congress has been in session for nearly seven months with little to show for their efforts, Ross said both he and the American people “are sick of the excuses from Senators.”

Like Rand Paul, Ross says he doesn’t understand why 52 GOP Senators were willing to vote on a bill to straight up and repeal the ACA in 2015, but now suffer from cold feet now that they know Barack Obama isn’t going to veto that bill.

Regarding the upcoming August summer break, Ross says that the Senate should stay in the nation’s capital for “all of August, September, October and however long it takes to pass legislation that repeals and replaces Obamacare.”

“If they don’t repeal and replace Obamacare, like they promised and were voted to do, they are going back on their word and have some serious explaining to do when they go back home and face those who sent them to Washington to protect and help them. They will be held accountable,” Ross vowed. “When premiums and deductibles continue to skyrocket, when more and more insurers flee the exchange, when increased health care taxes and mandates shut down local businesses and leave Americans with nothing to keep their families afloat, the Senate will be taking the blame. Not the House, and not the President.”

POLITICO reported Wednesday that Texas businessman Doug Deason, a backer of President Donald Trump, said he and other major GOP donors were warming to the idea of funding primary challenges to senators who had opposed the health care bill.

In a text message referring to three senators who played a role in sinking the bill — Susan Collins, Jeff Flake and Shelley Moore Capito — Deason ripped “the spineless Republican members from Maine, Arizona and West Virginia who seem to believe that Obamacare is actually succeeding.”

Ross was an enthusiastic supporter of the American Health Care Act, the GOP House bill to repeal the ACA which was not very popular with the public. As Senior Deputy Majority Whip, his job was to corral the votes to support the measure, which was no easy feat. “If we don’t pass this out of the House, this is the beginning of the end for us as a Republican Party,” Ross told the Tampa Bay Times Alex Leary back in May.

The Lakeland Republican has not faced a serious challenge in his Polk/Hillsborough/Lake County seat since being elected in the Tea Party-wave election of 2010. Five Democrats and one Republican have filed to run against him in 2018.

Rick Scott to Congress: ‘Do your job,’ repeal and replace Obamacare

On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott was in Jacksonville for a job creation event. But national stories involving the President crowded out the gaggle.

The big story: the subject of the stalled out movement to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

In recent months, Scott has played a pivotal role in attempts at healthcare reform, but to no avail so far. Multiple trips to Washington D.C. and meetings with the President and his staff have borne no policy fruit. Scott even went so far as to appear with VP Mike Pence in Jacksonville, as Pence attempted to sell the House version of healthcare reform.

Despite hiccups in the process, Scott reiterated his commitment to “repeal and replace,” and urged Congress to follow through.

“Obamacare’s a disaster,” Scott said, noting that prices for healthcare had “skyrocketed” since the ACA passed earlier this decade.

“Congress has got to do their job. They’ve got to repeal Obamacare. They need to replace it with something that’s going to drive the price of healthcare down, because that’s the big problem. That’s Congress’ job and I know the President’s focused on that, and it’s my expectation that they get it done,” Scott said.

“You need to repeal it and you need to replace it,” Scott said. “No one’s going to have access to good healthcare if costs keep going up, and that’s what’s happened.”

Scott noted that he predicted this fate for Obamacare as far back as 2009.

“The problem with healthcare is government involvement has caused costs to go up,” Scott said, limiting affordability of treatment for individuals, employers, and even the government itself.

“What’s happened with Obamacare is that no one can afford it,” Scott added.

Scott’s visit to Jacksonville included the gaggle, held at a company called Florida Forklift which opened a new Jacksonville facility on the Eastside. He followed that up with an 11:30 engagement at Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

Analysis: Donald Trump unlikely to avoid blame for health care loss

It was a far cry from “The buck stops here.”

President Donald Trump, dealt a stinging defeat with the failure of the Republican health care bill in the Senate, flipped the script from Harry Truman’s famous declaration of presidential responsibility and declared Tuesday, “I am not going to own it.”

He had tweeted earlier, “We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans.”

This is the same president who thundered night after night on the campaign trail that it would be “so easy” to repeal and replace the Obama health care law on Day One of his administration.

Try and tweet as he might, Trump can’t now avoid a share of the blame for the stall-out of that repeal effort.

It’s a president’s burden to shoulder the nation’s problems whether they are inherited or created in real time. Barack Obama took office with the American economy facing its worst crisis since the Great Depression. John F. Kennedy accepted responsibility for the failure of the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, ordered on his own watch.

“That’s the nature of being elected president: You own the policies, the economy and the government,” said presidential historian Julian Zelizer, a professor at Princeton University. “You own the positives and negatives of the job whether you think it’s your fault or not. You live in the White House: You can’t disassociate yourself from what happens if you don’t like it.”

Trump took office armed with Republican control of both houses of Congress and an ambitious agenda that would begin with the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. Six months later, the collapse of the GOP plan was a sharp rebuke for the president, who was unable to cajole or threaten Republicans to stay in line and who exerted little of his diminished political capital to see through a promise that had been at the core of his party since Obamacare became law seven years ago.

The president’s disjointed support for the health care plan did little to persuade Republicans to support it, and the fact that his approval ratings had dropped below 40 percent didn’t help either.

Trump never held a news conference or delivered a major speech to sell the bill to the public. He never leveraged his popularity among rank-and-file Republican voters by barnstorming the districts of wavering GOP senators. And he never spearheaded a coherent communications strategy — beyond random tweets — to push for the plan.

“The best way to motivate members is talk to their constituents and at no point did he try to talk to Americans about health care reform in any sort of serious way,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who worked on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign. “His attention seems to drift with whatever is on cable news on any given moment as opposed to what is on the Senate floor any given week.”

Sounding almost like a bystander during his brief Oval Office remarks Tuesday, Trump six times expressed “disappointment” that the Republican effort had failed. And he insisted the fault rested with Democrats and suggested Obamacare should be left to fail on its own.

“I’m not going to own it,” Trump insisted. “I can tell you that Republicans are not going to own it.”

Democrats blasted Trump’s blame game, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer saying his refusal to accept responsibility demonstrated “such a lack of leadership.”

“That is such a small and petty response,” Schumer said. “Because the president, he’s in charge. And to hurt millions of people because he’s angry he didn’t get his way is not being a leader.”

Despite Trump’s efforts to shift blame across the aisle, the White House made little effort to court Democrats.

Instead of initially pursuing an infrastructure plan — which would have likely received support from unions and blue-collar workers, making it hard for Democrats to oppose — Trump opted to tackle the far more polarizing issue of health care first. He outsourced most of the work to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

It became a strictly Republican effort which, due to the party’s slight advantages in the House and Senate, had little margin for error. And it was conservatives from Trump’s own wing of the Republican party who thwarted him.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus defied him and ignored his Twitter threats. The two senators who withdrew their support Monday night, effectively killing the bill, didn’t even give the White House a heads-up before announcing their decisions. And even though Trump allies have threatened to aid primary challengers to a pair of on-the-fence senators — Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada — the Republicans did not cave, potentially setting a worrisome precedent for the White House as it tries to move ahead with the rest of its stalled agenda.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump adviser, believes that both Congress and the White House share blame after seemingly forgetting that “opposition parties pass press releases that get vetoed, while governing parties pass bills in which every paragraph gets scrutinized.”

“I hope the president learns that do something really, really big, you need to be disciplined and focused and sort out your communications program,” said Gingrich. “So far, they are clearly not capable of doing that.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Republican anti-Donald Trump group launches new Vladimir Putin ad

The Stand Up Republic campaign run by two former Republican insiders has come out with another internet video ad blistering President Donald Trump‘s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ad produced by Florida Republican operative Rick Wilson.

The ad begins with unflattering pictures of Putin and Trump with the declaration, “When America is under threat, we come together,” and concludes with a pitch for people to support the Russian sanctions measure Senate Bill 341, passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. Senate but languishing in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The ad comes from Stand Up Republic, the 501 (c) (4) committee established at the beginning of this year by former conservative independent presidential and vice presidential candidates Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn, who both had longtime ties with the Republican Party. It was produced by Intrepid Media and Wilson, the Republican operative behind last year’s #NotTrump campaign.

As Putin’s picture appears, the text quotes the Washington Post, “An unprecedented and largely successful destabilizing attack on American Democracy,” and the narrator declares, “American intelligence confirms that Russia tried to manipulate our elections, and Putin ordered it.” As Trump’s picture appears, the text reads, “Trump White House Protecting Russia on Sanctions,” as the narrator declares, “President Trump refuses to stand up.”

It then notes the Senate passed SB 341 by a 97-2 vote, as the narrator says, “But Americans are calling for Action.” And then she declares, “It’s the Constitutional duty of House Republicans to defend the nation.”

Steve Webb: Run, John Morgan, run — no, not for that

Dear John Morgan:

All kinds of Florida Democrats are enthused that you will follow your successful campaign to expand legal medical marijuana with a 2018 campaign for governor.

You could self-finance, and the party sorely needs to concentrate its fundraising down ballot. You have name recognition, but it doesn’t carry the baggage of a government record. You aren’t timid, and at this point, we hunger for boldness to oppose a mess in Tallahassee, you could argue has been the template for the mess in Washington.

But stop, for a minute, and turn the question that justifies your running on its head. How are you any more qualified than Rick Scott or Donald Trump to run a government? In 2018, this question is important because Scott wasn’t qualified and still isn’t. Ditto Trump.

We lose the “amateur hour” argument if you are the candidate. It will be similar to waging the argument four years ago that the best way to turn the corner on four terms of Republican governors was to elect the third-term guy to a fifth.

However, Florida has a constitutional office you are highly qualified for, and frankly, the office begs even more for a change in direction. Florida has a bad governor, but it has an even worse attorney general. Pam Bondi should not be able to name her successor.

How did Bondi become the state’s chief lawyer? Not from a legal record. She functioned largely as a telegenic spokeswoman for the Hillsborough state attorney’s office, then parlayed a gig as one of Roger Ailes‘ blonde expert witnesses into her election campaign. She won, frankly, because losing is what we Democrats were doing in 2010.

Once in office, Bondi turned the Office of the Attorney General into a small-town law firm for mostly out-of-state interests. Clients who had put up a retainer when she was a candidate found her a less-than-energetic protector of consumers, investors or residents impacted by mistreatment of our natural resources. One client in particular — the Republican Attorney Generals Association — found her to be a much more enthusiastic co-plaintiff than a prosecutor. She led Florida into federal suits that on the surface stood outside or even in conflict with the state’s interests. The most famous involved the Affordable Care Act, and a 2012 image lingers of her and Scott confusedly having to abandon their victory lap news conference when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA.

But you and I both know that wasn’t Bondi’s most ridiculous co-plaintiff move. That would be one of the times when she signed the state of Florida on to stop other states from adopting standards Florida has itself adopted, sometimes introduced. I would love to see an accounting of how much taxpayer money she wasted pursuing various suits at the behest of the RAGA, how much she spent on outside attorneys to accomplish tasks she ignored while servicing her out-of-state clients, and how often the suits have ended poorly — losses, but also an increased acrimony among the states involved and a belief among large segments of Florida that Bondi is anyone’s lawyer but ours.

In addition, a state’s best government oversight is a strong attorney general, and Bondi has never challenged her party’s excesses. An attorney general who took the state and federal Constitutions seriously would have blocked the legislature from defying the Fair District amendments in the 2011 redistricting. The resulting litigation has ended up costing taxpayers more than $20 million. In 2015, Scott used taxpayer money to fly to and purchase radio advertising in Kentucky on the eve of their gubernatorial election, where he warned voters Democrat policies would allow Florida to steal all their jobs. The best you can say about her own ethical decisions is that she broke no criminal laws.

An attorney general who represented the people against the government would tell both Scott and the legislature that they were on their own passing HB 7059 the way they did. Such an AG might even act as plaintiff’s attorney if the government and legislature refused to fulfill voter-approved constitutional amendments.

I know it would be difficult to take what, on the surface, is a supporting role in changing Florida. It wouldn’t have to be. You would be a crusader, dragging Florida’s official legal presentation back into the sunshine.

In contrast, you might make a lousy governor. Your success has come doing a specific set of things, and they might not translate into a position that is administrative, collaborative. Baseball writer Bill James once said of a 70s Red Sox center fielder, that his doubles against Fenway’s wall became routine fly outs in Anaheim.

That might happen to you in the governor’s office.

But do you doubt for a minute that you would thrive as The People’s Lawyer? Please, think about it.

___

Steve Webb is a Lakeland resident and member of the Polk County Democratic Executive committee.

 

Former Florida Trump campaign chair Susie Wiles talks Russia scandal, ABC News story

ABC News reported Saturday evening that Lanny Wiles, the husband of Florida Trump Campaign Chair Susie Wiles, saved a seat for a Russian lawyer at the heart of the current scandal involving Russia, the President’s son, son-in-law, and campaign manager.

“The husband of the former Florida chair of the Trump campaign obtained a front-row seat to a June 2016 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing for Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney who had met with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower eight days prior,” ABC News reported.

“Lanny Wiles saved the prominent seat for Veselnitskaya at the June 14 hearing on “U.S. Policy Toward Putin’s Russia,” ABC News’ report added.

Lanny Wiles told ABC News he had “zero” connection to the scandal. And Susie Wiles told ABC News that it was an “unfortunate coincidence” that this happened while she was working with the campaign.

We caught up with Susie Wiles on Sunday afternoon, and she explained that her husband was doing non-profit work with an American firm involved in Russian baby adoption, but she could not recall the name.

That non-profit asked Lanny to save seats; he did so, not knowing that he was saving the seat for someone who had planted the seeds for international intrigue just eight days before.

Lanny had no clue that said lawyer was involved in what Trump partisans have been calling opposition research, Susie Wiles noted.

And as chair of the Florida Trump campaign, Wiles said the very idea of foreign nationals used for opposition research was “out of the realm of any experience” she had had, and at odds with the very traditional campaign she ran for President Trump down in Florida, one in which there was no Russian involvement.

“This is America,” Susie Wiles said, calling the Russian opposition research “hypothetical.”

“I’ve never seen it. Never.”

Given the nature of Lanny Wiles’ employment with an American non-profit with an interest in adopting Russian babies, we asked Susie Wiles if any Russian money ever had made its way to either of them.

Susie Wiles was emphatic in her answer, indignant at the question.

“I did not and would not participate in something that hurt the campaign, the government, the President, or the country,” Wiles said.

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