Donald Trump Archives - Florida Politics

Evoking slain son, John Kelly defends Donald Trump on condolence calls

He started by describing the reverent handling of America’s war dead, bodies packed in ice and shipped home in the dark to Dover Air Force Base.

From that opening, White House chief of staff John Kelly delivered a raw and searing monologue Thursday about the reality and pain of war sacrifice, praising those who serve and summoning the 2010 death of his own son to defend President Donald Trump against accusations of insensitive outreach to a grieving military family.

In an unannounced appearance at the White House, Kelly, a retired three-star general whose son was killed while serving in Afghanistan, dressed down the Democratic congresswoman who had criticized Trump for comments she said he had made in a condolence call to the pregnant widow of a Green Beret killed in Niger.

Kelly called Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida an “empty barrel” who “makes noise,” but he did not deny the lawmaker’s account of the phone call, as the president had this week. Throughout his remarks, Kelly lamented what he said was lost respect for military service, women, authority and more.

“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing,” Kelly said. “Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred.”

The remarkable scene underscored Kelly’s singular role as an authoritative adviser and now spokesman for a president who is prone to false claims, exaggerations and misstatements. Kelly, who joined the White House to restore internal order, has increasingly become a public figure himself, employed to project calm and reassurance in times of crisis.

The uproar over Trump and how presidents should or shouldn’t try to console families of the fallen has rattled the White House and overshadowed the rest of Trump’s agenda in recent days.

Kelly personally absolved Trump of blame in his call to the family of Sgt. La David Johnson, a conversation that prompted Wilson to declare that the president had been disrespectful to the grieving family and couldn’t remember Johnson’s name.

“If you’re not in the family, if you’ve never worn the uniform, if you’ve never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call,” Kelly said. “I think he very bravely does make those calls.”

Trump – who has frequently struggled with showing empathy – has emphatically rejected claims that he was disrespectful. But he started the latest controversy this week when he boasted about his commitment to calling service members’ next of kin and brought Kelly into the issue by wondering aloud if President Barack Obama had called the former Marine general after the death of Kelly’s son.

Kelly confirmed Thursday that Obama had not called him, but he made clear “that was not a criticism.”

“That’s not a negative thing,” he said. “I don’t believe all presidents call. I believe they all write.”

In fact, the chief of staff said that when Trump took office, he advised him against making those calls: “I said to him, ‘Sir there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families.'”

But Trump wanted to make the calls, and asked Kelly for advice on what to say. In response, Kelly told him what General Joseph Dunford, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told him when Robert Kelly was killed. Kelly recalled that Dunford told him his son “was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war.”

And Kelly added that Dunford told him that “when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day.”

Kelly said the Defense Department is investigating the details of the Oct. 4 ambush that killed four American soldiers, including Johnson, in Niger.

Islamic militants on motorcycles brought rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing the four and wounding others after shattering the windows of unarmored U.S. trucks. The attack happened in a remote corner of Niger where Americans and local counterparts had been meeting with community leaders.

Kelly said Thursday that small groups of U.S. military personnel are being sent overseas, including to Niger, to help train local people to fight the IS group “so that we don’t have to send large numbers of troops.”

His speech was a rebuke to Wilson, who was in the car with the family of Johnson when Trump called on Tuesday. She said in an interview that Trump had told Johnson’s widow that “you know that this could happen when you signed up for it … but it still hurts.” Johnson’s aunt, who raised the soldier from a young age, said the family took that remark to be disrespectful.

The call came in as they drove to Miami’s airport to receive the body. At the airport, widow Myeshia Johnson leaned in grief across the flag-draped coffin after a military guard received it.

A spokeswoman said Thursday that Wilson stood by her earlier comments. The congresswoman herself, asked by WSVN-TV in Florida about Kelly’s remarks, replied only indirectly.

“Let me tell you what my mother told me when I was little,” Wilson said. “She said, ‘The dog can bark at the moon all night long, but it doesn’t become an issue until the moon barks back.'”

Kelly also accused Wilson of grandstanding at the dedication of a Miami FBI office in 2015.

The White House chief of staff said he was so upset by her criticism of Trump’s call that he went to walk “among the finest men and women on earth” in a 90-minute visit to nearby Arlington National Cemetery, among the graves of service members, including some who died under his command.

Kelly began his remarks by recounting in painstaking detail what happens after a soldier is killed in overseas combat. The dead soldier’s body is wrapped in a makeshift shroud by his colleagues, Kelly said, and then flown by helicopter to a nearby air base, where it is packed in ice. It is then flown to a second base, often in Europe, and put in more ice before it is transported to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The body is then embalmed and dressed in military uniform, complete with medals before heading home.

Kelly said the next of kin are notified by a casualty officer, who “proceeds to break the heart of a family member.”

Robert Kelly, 29, was killed when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan’s remote Helmand province. Kelly said his family got calls from Robert’s friends in Afghanistan attesting to his character. Those calls, he said as he fought back tears, were the most important.

After his dramatic opening statement, Kelly then took questions from reporters, asking first if any of them were Gold Star parents or siblings, meaning relatives of slain service members. When no one raised a hand, Kelly then said he would take questions only from those who knew a Gold Star family.

Kelly, whose frustration with the distractions created by Trump on other subjects led him to deny last week that he was considering quitting, also bemoaned how the nation no longer held things sacred, from life to religion to women. He said the respect given to Gold Star families “left in the convention over the summer,” an apparent reference to the bitter election exchanges between the Trump campaign and a family whose military son had been killed.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Kathy Castor optimistic about bipartisan health care proposal

A potential breakthrough in health care legislation broke out this week with the announcement of a bipartisan deal in the Senate proposed by Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander and Washington Democrat Patty Murray.

The deal would include funding through 2019 for the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing program, which President Donald Trump cut last week. It would allow states to use existing Obamacare waivers to approve insurance plans with “comparable affordability” to Obamacare plans. And it would not allow states to duck the law’s minimum requirements for what a health insurance plan must cover.

The House of Representatives are not in Washington this week. Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor says that it would behoove her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to speak with the public on what they think of the proposal.

“I think it would be fair to allow people to go through it and understand what it means,” she said Wednesday in Tampa. “I also think it’s important to hear from folks at home, doctors, hospitals, a lot of our neighbors. I’m going to check in with our state insurance commissioner, because here we are and open enrollment is going to start quite soon and people need to know is it going to be affordable for me and my family.”

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act is scheduled to start November 1 and run through December 15. Those “navigators” will attempt to sign up as many people as they can, despite the fact that the Trump administration is reducing their funding, some by as much as 90 percent.

The Alexander-Murray proposal comes a week after Trump finally followed through with his months long threat to yank the funding for subsidies to insurance companies as part of the ACA. Those subsides reduced deductibles and co-payments for low-income Obamacare enrollees. Analysts say the move did not have that significant an impact since many insurers already raised their rates in anticipation of the move. Regulators in several states that didn’t price in the funding loss announced rate hikes soon after the president’s announcement last week. Insurers must continue to offer the cost-sharing subsidies since they are required by law.

Castor says it’s important to let the public “digest the details.”

“We should be cheering on a bipartisan effort to help fix things for families,” she said. “If this bill will really lower costs and provide affordable care to our neighbors, then we need to pass it and the leadership needs to allow a vote.”

Meanwhile on the other side of Tampa Bay, Pinellas County Democratic Representative Charlie Crist is calling on his constituents to sign a petition calling on congressional leaders to demand a vote on the Alexander/Murray proposal.

Shad Khan on Donald Trump’s latest: ‘The lowest of the lowest expectations’

President Donald Trump has been roasted throughout the media for reported comments during a condolence call to the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson.

Reportedly telling the grieving widow that he “knew what he signed up for,” Trump also apparently failed to refer to the slain sergeant by his name.

Many are outraged. Including an NFL owner.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan has not missed an opportunity of late to criticize Trump, and he addressed this and other topics with USA Today Wednesday evening.

“It’s so bad,” said Khan to USA Today. “It’s below the lowest of the lowest expectations. It doesn’t sound rational. It’s bizarre.”

Khan then said that the President was more offensive than NFL protests of the national anthem.

“Let’s get real,” Khan said. “The attacks on Muslims, the attacks on minorities, the attacks on Jews. I think the NFL doesn’t even come close to that on the level of being offensive. Here, it’s about money, or messing with — trying to soil a league or a brand that he’s jealous of.”

Khan also offered USA Today his sharpest criticism yet of Trump’s repeated travel bans from majority-Muslim countries.

“That’s one aspect that you can imagine — someone is getting a visa that will change their life is from a Muslim-majority country — and, now, boom, that dream to change lives, they get locked out,” Khan said. “That’s a hell of a lot more significant than fighting some sponsors or people who want their money back because they’ve been riled up.”

These comments follow up on comments Khan made in Chicago earlier this month.

On Trump, Khan had this to say: “You have to give Trump credit, people are confused on the First Amendment versus patriotism, that if you exercise your First Amendment, you’re not a patriot, which is crazy … People are confused on it, (Trump) knew he could hit on it and take advantage. I think what we’re seeing is the great divider overcoming the great uniter.”

And on Trump adviser Steve Bannon, Khan was even more pointed.

“Steve Bannon or whoever is analyzing the data realizes, ‘How do I get elected?’ I get elected by dividing this person or this group against this group. What are the worst fears, phobias somebody has, how do I tap that button and get them with my people? There’s a lot of predictive behavior here.”

Amidst all of these expressly political statements, Khan has attempted to mend fences with the Jacksonville fan base, though efforts have met with skepticism.

The sincerity of the well-publicized apology letter from Jaguars President Mark Lamping to a city of Jacksonville official was questioned by someone who had met, along with other military veterans and officers, with the Jaguars a day before.

Richard Corcoran: ‘We’re done with talking heads,’ Congress must OK Trump’s tax cuts

House Speaker Richard Corcoran joined other GOP lawmakers for a meeting Wednesday with business owners in Tampa, during which he delivered a stern message to Congress: Get behind Donald Trump and his proposed tax cuts.

“The time to act is now,” the Land O’Lakes Republican said at a downtown Tampa news conference. “We’re done with sound bite politics. We’re done with talking heads. What we need is for those guys to get into a room and pass meaningful tax reform.”

The plan (as currently outlined) would cut the top personal income tax rate; eliminate estate taxes (which presently only tax estates worth at least $5.5 million); kill the alternative minimum tax, and slashes rates on pass-through income. While Democrats predictably turned up noses to the proposal when it was unveiled last month, Senate Republicans have also objected to the proposed plan.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker indicated he would not vote for any bill that significantly adds to the deficit.

“With realistic growth projections, it cannot produce a deficit,” Corker said. “There is no way in hell I’m voting for it.”

“I will not vote for the budget unless it keeps within the spending caps,” Rand Paul said Tuesday.

In a conversation earlier in the day with Trump, the Kentucky senator told the president, who is a fellow Republican: “I’m all in. I want to be supportive. I’m a ‘yes’ vote. But we have to obey our own rules.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin argues that robust growth, fueled by tax cuts, will actually pay down the national debt by $1 trillion.

However, that’s not what the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says, contending the Trump tax cut plan would cut revenues to the U.S. Treasury by $5.6 trillion over 20 years.

Corcoran doesn’t agree, saying those calculations are through  “static” scoring — as opposed to “dynamic” scoring, which doesn’t make room for higher growth rates that bring in more revenue.

“Read any economist, any foundation, out there,” he said. “They’re predicting in the first five years, this could lead to  3.2 percent growth rate, which is an additional $2.5 trillion in revenues over ten years. So that more than pays for the tax plan.”

Not every foundation is saying that, however.

The nonpartisan balanced-budget advocacy group Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget believes the cuts will not be self-financing.

In a paper produced earlier this month, the Washington-based group argued the economy “would need to grow by $5 to $6 for every $1 of tax cuts,” to avoid adding to the deficit.

They also said that past tax cuts in 1981 and the early 2000s “have led to widening budget deficits and lower revenue, not the reverse as some claim.”

Corcoran also pushed back on the premise that the Trump tax cut plan rewards the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. The Speaker noted a provision in the plan to double the standard deduction for the majority of taxpayers who don’t take deductions. He also said an increase in the Child Tax Credit (CTC) would be a huge benefit for the middle class.

Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Marco Rubio said flatly that the Trump tax cut plan wouldn’t pass without a “significant” increase in the CTC.

Joining Corcoran at the event were state Rep. Neil Combee of Polk County and Tampa-area Reps. Jackie Toledo and Shawn Harrison, touting that the economies of Tampa Bay and the state were flourishing “based on good, solid conservative pro-business values and policies.”

It was a similar message Corcoran attempted to drive home to Congress, urging them to look at Florida as a laboratory of democracy to be emulated when it comes to fiscal health.

“When you cut 75 taxes over seven years, totaling $7 billion,” he said. “When you get rid of 5,000 regulations, what happens? You become the number one state in the entire union for fiscal health. You become the number four state for tax simplicity.”

Family of slain sergeant says Donald Trump showed disrespect

The mother of an Army sergeant killed in Niger said Wednesday that President Donald Trump, in a call offering condolences, showed “disrespect” to the soldier’s loved ones as they drove to the airport to meet his body. Trump, engulfed in controversy over the appropriate way for presidents to show compassion for slain soldiers, strongly disputed that account.

Sgt. La David Johnson was one of four American military personnel killed nearly two weeks ago whose families had not heard from Trump until Tuesday. Rep. Frederica Wilson said that Trump told the widow that Johnson “knew what he signed up for.”

The Florida Democrat said she was in the car with the widow, Myeshia Johnson, on the way to Miami International Airport to meet the body when Trump called. La David Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Associated Press Wednesday that the congresswoman’s account was correct.

“Yes the statement is true,” Jones-Johnson said. “I was in the car and I heard the full conversation.

That’s simply not so, Trump said Wednesday. He declared on Twitter: “Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!”

And in a White House meeting on tax reform, Trump said that he “didn’t say what that congresswoman said, didn’t say it at all. She knows it.”

Wilson did not back down from her account, suggesting that Trump “never wants to take ownership” of a mistake.

“If you are the leader of the free world, if you are president of the United States and you want to convey sympathy to a grieving family, a grieving widow, you choose your words carefully,” Wilson told the Associated Press Wednesday. “And everyone knows that Donald Trump does not choose his words carefully.”

“She was crying for the whole time,” Wilson said of the new widow. “And the worst part of it: when he hung up you know what she turned to me and said? She said he didn’t even remember his name.”

Like presidents before him, Trump has made personal contact with some families of the fallen but not all. What’s different is that Trump, alone among them, has picked a political fight over who’s done better to honor the war dead and their families.

He placed himself at the top of the list, saying on Tuesday, “I think I’ve called every family of someone who’s died” while past presidents didn’t place such calls.

But The Associated Press found relatives of two soldiers who died overseas during Trump’s presidency who said they never received a call or a letter from him, as well as relatives of a third who did not get a call. And proof is plentiful that Barack Obama and George W. Bush — saddled with far more combat casualties than the roughly two dozen so far under Trump, took painstaking steps to write, call or meet bereaved military families.

After her Army son died in an armored vehicle rollover in Syria in May, Sheila Murphy says, she got no call or letter from Trump, even as she waited months for his condolences and wrote him that “some days I don’t want to live.”

In contrast, Trump called to comfort Eddie and Aldene Lee about 10 days after their Army son was killed in an explosion while on patrol in Iraq in April. “Lovely young man,” Trump said, according to Aldene. She thought that was a beautiful word to hear about her boy, “lovely.”

Trump’s delay in publicly discussing the men lost at Niger did not appear to be extraordinary, judging from past examples, but his politicization of the matter is. He went so far Tuesday as to cite the death of chief of staff John Kelly’s son in Afghanistan to question whether Obama had properly honored the war dead.

Kelly was a Marine general under Obama when his Marine son Robert died in 2010. “You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Trump said on Fox News radio.

A White House official said later that Obama did not call Kelly but not respond to questions whether some other sort of outreach was made. Kelly, who was absent from a pair of public White House events on Tuesday, was sitting near the president in his tax reform meeting on Wednesday but did not address reporters.

Democrats and some former government officials were livid, accusing Trump of “inane cruelty” and a “sick game.”

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter was attacked, said: “I just wish that this commander in chief would stop using Gold Star families as pawns in whatever sick game he’s trying to play here.”

For their part, Gold Star families, which have lost members in wartime, told AP of acts of intimate kindness from Obama and Bush when those commanders in chief consoled them.

Trump initially claimed that only he among presidents made sure to call families. Obama may have done so on occasion, he said, but “other presidents did not call.”

He equivocated Tuesday as the record made plain that his characterization was false. “I don’t know,” he said of past calls. But he said his own practice was to call all families of the war dead.

But that hasn’t happened.

No White House protocol demands that presidents speak or meet with the families of Americans killed in action — an impossible task in a war’s bloodiest stages. But they often do.

Altogether some 6,900 Americans have been killed in overseas wars since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the overwhelming majority under Bush and Obama.

Despite the much heavier toll on his watch — more than 800 dead each year from 2004 through 2007 — Bush wrote to all bereaved military families and met or spoke with hundreds if not thousands, said his spokesman, Freddy Ford.

Veterans groups said they had no quarrel with how presidents have recognized the fallen or their families.

“I don’t think there is any president I know of who hasn’t called families,” said Rick Weidman, co-founder and executive director of Vietnam Veterans of America. “President Obama called often and President Bush called often. They also made regular visits to Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical Center, going in the evenings and on Saturdays.”

Trump feuded with one Gold Star family during last year’s campaign, assailing the parents of slain Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq in 2004, after they criticized him from the stage at the Democratic National Convention.

Though decrying gridlock, David Jolly would like to see Democrats stop Donald Trump

Republican former U.S. Rep. David Jolly doubled down Tuesday evening on his expressed wish that Democrats win the 2018 mid-term elections as a check on President Donald Trump, saying he hoped that so that “we may be safer as a nation.”

Jolly appeared Wednesday evening at the University of Central Florida in Orlando with Democratic former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy on their college-campus tour to talk about their concerns about how hyper-partisanship has caused gridlock, and forced both parties to kowtow to extremes within their ranks.

Yet Jolly, the St. Petersburg politician who served two terms and then chose to run an eventually-aborted campaign for the U.S. Senate Republican nomination last year instead of for re-election, expressed great frustration Monday night on MSNBC with his party’s unwillingness to stand up to Trump.

After the UCF forum Tuesday evening, he repeated that contention and his desire to see Democrats take over the U.S. House of Representatives for the last two years of Trump’s term. He told FloridaPolitics.com that he views Trump as unsteady and a national security concern, and is worried that his party cannot check him.

“I’ve struggled with it as we continue to hear stories around the national security implications around the president’s irascibility and volatility,” Jolly said. “Certainly we know some of the Constitutional issues that have been raised from ethics to Russia. We also know that he is an unsteady hand as commander in chief.

“And we’ve seen Republicans largely unwilling to stand up to him,” Jolly continued. “Listen, I’m a Republican, who hopes we see a Republican Congress pass Republican policies. But it may be for the greater good that there is a stronger check on Capitol Hill on this president than the Republicans are currently providing. So if it meant Democrats take control of the House for two years, and the president not being in office come January 2021, then we may be safer as a nation in my opinion.

“This may be bigger than the party,” Jolly concluded.

The matter did not come up during the 75-minute forum, in which Murphy and Jolly expressed their concerns about how gerrymandering had created too many safe seats, and how the party leadership in Congress was valuing power over any bipartisan relationships, discouraging members in any contested seats from building relationships with those across the aisle.

Murphy said gerrymandering was the biggest single problem. Yet he also decried the closed-primary system in Florida and other states that use it, noting that voter turnout in a primary average is 15 percent. That 15 percent, he argued, likely represents the most extreme wing of the party; and becomes the deciding force in any district predetermined to be a safe seat for one party or the other. And he contended 90 percent of seats are so predetermined.

“So imagine you’re a member of Congress. Imagine your a candidate. Are you going to appeal to that 85 percent [who don’t vote in the primary] or that 15 percent? Murphy said. “You’re going to tailor a message to them. You’re going to make sure they see ads.And you’re going to get to office. And then you’re going to say the same thing, even if it’s against your own self interest.

“We both know friends on both sides of the aisle that are standing for things they don’t truly believe in,” Murphy said.

Both Murphy and Jolly talked about how leaderships punish members who work across the aisle. Murphy said it starts from the very first week a freshman member of Congress arrives, and is segregated from freshmen from the other party, and then is told to not get chummy with those in the other party, because the goal is to see them defeated in the next election. Murphy and Jolly said both sides do it, threatening to not provide re-election money, or threatening to take away valuable committee seats.

“We can’t can’t take human nature out of this,” Jolly said. “It requires a certain amount of political courage to step forward to say I’m going to be one of those people who decide to change it.”

Jacksonville Jaguars issue mea culpa for players’ anthem protest

Just weeks ago, members of the Jacksonville Jaguars made international news by protesting the U.S. national anthem on foreign soil.

Ahead of a game in London, Jaguars kneeled — and owner Shad Khan supported their protest by standing with the team during the anthem.

Khan offered support before the protest, said defender Telvin Smith: “It was [a] sigh of relief when the owner comes in and says: ‘We’re with you. Whatever you want to do, let’s do it.’”

After the protest, Khan told Smith that he was “going to remember this for the rest of my life.”

Ownership and management, apparently, is as inconsistent as the team is on the field — as a mea culpa letter from Jaguars President Mark Lamping to a city of Jacksonville official made clear on Oct. 6.

The team, wrote Lamping, “was remiss in not fully comprehending the effect of the national anthem demonstration on foreign soil has had on the men and women who have or continue to serve our country.”

“Similarly, we today can better appreciate how standing for God Save The Queen may have been viewed negatively by our armed forces here in Jacksonville and beyond …  this was an oversight and certainly not intended to send a message that would disparage you, our flag or our nation,” Lamping wrote.

Given the chain of events before the protest, which included Jaguars ownership and management being aware that a demonstration was planned, it’s hard to imagine this as an “oversight.”

Yet that’s the narrative.

“The notion never entered the minds of our players or anyone affiliated with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but today we can understand how the events in London on September 24 could have been viewed or misinterpreted. We owe you an apology and hope you will accept it,” Lamping added.

The letter was dated Oct. 6 — nine days before the Jaguars’ most recent home game, a classic home team collapse against the Los Angeles Rams.

In the interim, Khan offered some very direct comments about President Donald Trump — to whom Khan donated $1 million — and Trump’s advisor, Steve Bannon.

“What (Trump) has done is shown leadership as the great divider, not [a] uniter. We are used to being warm and fuzzy and cuddled. Well, it’s a different time,” Khan said.

That division is part of the Steve Bannon strategy, Khan offered.

“Steve Bannon or whoever is analyzing the data realizes, ‘How do I get elected?’ I get elected by dividing this person or this group against this group. What are the worst fears, phobias somebody has, how do I tap that button and get them with my people? There’s a lot of predictive behavior here,” Khan asserted.

One suspects that Khan’s actual take on this matter is closer to his widely-reported comments than to Lamping’s attempt to walk back the London protest and placate the ever-fickle fanbase in the Jacksonville market.

St. Pete discussion panel talks Trump tax plan Saturday

President Donald Trump’s tax plan and the effect it could have on the Bay area will the topic of a discussion panel set for Saturday morning in St. Petersburg.

The panel, titled “Trump’s Top-First Tax Plan: A Community Conversation” will be held at the Enoch Davis Recreation Center, 1111 18th Ave. S, and will run from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

According to the event listing put out by organizers, many groups — predominantly left-leaning ones — will have a hand in hosting the discussion, including For Our Future FL, the Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, MoveOn and Women’s March Pinellas, among others.

“Come get the facts from experts and community advocates and learn about how this plan could impact you and your family if it passes,” organizers said in the event listing.

In addition to the tax plan discussion, the panel will also talk about “what steps you can take to get more involved.” Organizers also said attendees will have an opportunity to submit questions to the panel.

The event listing does not say who will be on the discussion panel.

Those interested in attending can take a look at the Facebook page, or Eventbrite page for more details on the event.

Donald Trump issues warning to John McCain after senator’s tough speech

President Donald Trump on Tuesday issued a warning shot after Republican Sen. John McCain questioned “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in America’s foreign policy, saying “people have to be careful because at some point I fight back.”

McCain, a former Navy pilot who spent 5½ years in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp and is battling brain cancer, offered a simple response to Trump: “I have faced tougher adversaries.”

Trump said in a radio interview with WMAL in Washington, “I’m being very, very nice but at some point, I fight back and it won’t be pretty.” He bemoaned McCain’s decisive vote this past summer in opposition to a GOP bill to dismantle Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a move that caused the failure of GOP efforts to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”

In Philadelphia on Monday night, the six-term Republican senator from Arizona received an award for a lifetime of service and sacrifice to the country. In addition to recalling his more than two decades of military service and his imprisonment during the war, McCain took a moment to go a step further than the night’s other speakers, who lamented what many described as a fractured political climate.

“To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems,” he said, “is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

He continued: “We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden presented McCain with the Liberty Medal. Though members of opposing parties, the two men worked together during their time in the Senate. Former President Barack Obama, who defeated McCain in his bid for the presidency in 2008, congratulated the senator on the award in a tweet Monday night.

“I’m grateful to @SenJohnMcCain for his lifetime of service to our country. Congratulations, John, on receiving this year’s Liberty Medal,” Obama wrote.

Another political foe, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said on Twitter: “Ran against him, sometimes disagree, but proud to be a friend of @SenJohnMcCain: hero, champion of character and last night, Lincolnesque.”

Pressed on Trump’s threat Tuesday morning, McCain told reporters he has had tougher fights, and then smiled.

Trump said in the radio interview that McCain’s vote against Republican efforts to dismantle the 2010 health care law was a “shocker.”

McCain and Trump have long been at odds. During the campaign, Trump suggested McCain was not a war hero because he was captured in Vietnam.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump’s drug czar pick drops out. Will Pam Bondi be back in?

What is old is new again, as rumors re-emerge that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi could have a job in the Trump administration.

With a new twist in the nomination for the nation’s drug czar, Bondi returns to the spotlight, amid renewed speculation she could be headed to Washington.

And there is a good argument to be made for Donald Trump to put Bondi at the top of the list: Her record on fighting drugs in Florida, and her overwhelming success in shutting down the state’s pill mills.

After Trump’s nomination, many considered Bondi a sure winner to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, commonly known as the drug czar. As a friend of the president, Bondi had a role on Trump’s transition team. Earlier this year, the president appointed her to a White House panel on drug abuse – one of Bondi’s passions as attorney general.

However, in a news conference Monday where Trump announced he would declare a national emergency on the nation’s opioid epidemic sometime next week, the president showed a distinct lack of confidence in Rep. Tom Marino, his current pick for drug czar.

This non-support comes after a joint Washington Post/60 Minutes report blasted the Pennsylvania Republican congressman for steering legislation to make it harder to act against big drug companies – which would add a degree of difficulty in the battle against opioids.

The Washington Post wrote: “The president … said he had not yet spoken with Marino about the … report, but if he determines that Marino’s work was detrimental to the administration’s goal of combating opioid addiction, ‘I will make a change.'”

As of Tuesday morning, Marino withdrew his name from consideration.

What apparently sealed Marino’s fate, Axios notes, was that the report “detailed how a targeted lobbying effort helped weaken the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to go after drug distributors, even as opioid-related deaths continue to rise.”

Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, herself seeking the Senate seat in one of the states hardest-hit by the opioid crisis, is also facing a backlash as “a lead sponsor of Marino’s bill.”

According to CBS Evening News, nearly 13 million people had watched the “60 Minutes” segment – an audience that included Trump, a known fan of the show. Trump confirmed Monday he “saw the report.”

Now that Marino’s nomination is dead, Bondi could be in contention for the job.

If she did accept a role in the Trump administration, Gov. Rick Scott will need to name a successor to fill Bondi’s remaining term through next year, adding a new wrinkle in the growing field of candidates to replace her in 2018.

 

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