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Donald Trump’s Florida visits puts small airport in tailspin

President Donald Trump wants small businesses to thrive, but his frequent Mar-a-Lago visits have flight schools and other companies at a nearby airport in a financial nosedive.

The Secret Service closed Lantana Airport on Friday for the third straight weekend because of the president’s return to his Palm Beach resort, meaning its maintenance companies, a banner-flying business and another two dozen businesses are also shuttered, costing them thousands of dollars at the year’s busiest time. The banner-flying company says it has lost more than $40,000 in contracts already.

The airport, which handles only small, propeller-driven planes and helicopters, is about 6 miles southwest of Mar-a-Lago, well within the 10-mile circle around the resort that’s closed to most private planes when he’s in town. Trump flies into Palm Beach International Airport, which is 2.5 miles from Mar-a-Lago, and remains opens as it handles commercial flights. Small private planes can also use that airport during presidential visits if they meet certain stringent conditions.

The Lantana owners are pushing compromises they say will ensure Trump’s security while keeping their businesses open. They involve letting pilots fly in a closely monitored corridor headed away from the resort until they are outside a 10-mile ban around Mar-a-Lago and a 30-mile zone where flying lessons are restricted. Pilots, planes and cargo would undergo preflight screening by Transportation Security Administration agents.

“None of us are suggesting that we shouldn’t do everything to keep the president safe but we believe there are things that can be done to keep us in operation,” said Jonathan Miller, the contractor who operates the Palm Beach County-owned airport.

The airport and its 28 businesses have an economic impact of about $27 million annually and employ about 200 people full-time, many of them making about $30,000 a year. They don’t get paid when the airport is closed.

Miller is already losing a helicopter company, which is moving rather than deal with the closures. That will cost him $440,000 in annual rent and fuel sales.

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham directed questions to the Secret Service. The agency also declined comment. Flight restrictions have long been standard around buildings where a president is staying to protect him from an airborne attack.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat who represents the area, met with the business owners this week. She said she will meet with the Secret Service next week to see if a compromise can be reached.

Lantana Airport opened in 1941 as a Civil Air Patrol station, with planes flying along the coast during World War II to spot German submarines attempting to sink cargo ships. Today, the 300-acre, three-runway facility handles an average of 350 arrivals and departures daily, peaking on winter weekends as tourists enjoy South Florida’s temperate weather. Summer, with its stifling, visitor-repelling heat and the constant threat of plane-grounding thunderstorms, is not nearly as lucrative.

Marian Smith, owner of Palm Beach Flight Training, said her 19-year-old business is losing 24 flights daily when closed and three students cancelled. She lost $28,000 combined the last two weekends and will lose $18,000 on this President’s Day weekend. She estimates her 19 instructors are each losing up to $750 a weekend.

“What’s frustrating is that we get little notice when this is going to happen,” she said.

This week, rumors began Monday. The closure notice arrived Wednesday.

David Johnson, owner of Palm Beach Aircraft Services, said his 27-year-old repair and maintenance business generates $2 million in sales annually, but has taken a hit over the last month and he fears it will cascade if flight schools like Smith’s close. He has written a letter he hopes gets delivered to Trump this weekend asking him, one businessman to another, to help resolve the conflict.

“Even if the TSA had to screen every pilot going out of here, we would be open to that,” Johnson said. “But so far, we’ve gotten nothing.”

Jorge Gonzalez, owner of SkyWords Advertising, a banner towing service, said his company lost four contracts totaling $42,500 because of Trump’s visits. He wants exceptions made for three pilots to fly within the restricted zone when the president visits because it is where thousands of residents live and tourists stay.

“We have spent 10 years building this business,” said Gonzalez’s wife, Hadley Doyle-Gonzalez. “We just can’t pick up and move.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Hail Britannia: U.K. could teach U.S. a thing or two about running government

Late in the campaign, the New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz wrote that Queen Elizabeth II was offering to take the colonies back, suggesting that Americans dissatisfied with their options should just write in her name for president.

It doesn’t seem quite as funny now as it did then.

Let’s imagine, though, that we are still part of the British Empire, and that Donald Trump has moved to London and is now Prime Minister.

Imagine him waddling into the House of Commons to face that jolly good British ordeal known as Prime Minister’s Questions.

Imagine him trying to explain to the MPs and to the world on television, why he discussed a North Korean missile launch in full view and earshot of a dining room full of swells without security clearances. Imagine the barrage of questions from the opposition over why he kept a national security adviser for weeks after he was warned that the Kremlin had blackmail on the man who, he knew also, had lied about it.

Imagine him melting down under the jeers from their benches, if not also from his own side. Compared to the Commons, Saturday Night Live is gentle.

Had he been the British P.M., it might not have gotten even that far. There would have been a no-confidence vote once it became plain that he and his family were in it for the boodle rather than for the nation “Buy Ivanka’s stuff?” Really?

Or perhaps his network of Russian connections would have brought him down first.

In 1963, the British regarded minister of war, John Profumo, was forced to resign after admitting that he had lied to colleagues in denying an affair with a call girl who was also sleeping with a Russian naval attaché and spy. The scandal helped to bring down the Harold Macmillan government a year later.

What’s hardest to imagine, of course, is that Trump would have become prime minister in the first place.

In the British parliamentary system, someone like him could never get near 10 Downing Street, except perhaps as a guest, with staff assigned to carefully watch the silver.

Although Britain has no written constitution or law requiring that the prime minister be a member of the Commons, tradition demands it. There hasn’t been a PM who wasn’t since Lord Home was appointed in 1963, and even he quickly resigned his peerage so that he could be elected to the Commons. It is also assumed that the PM will be the leader of his or her party in the Commons.

Nigel Farage, the British politician most like Trump, has failed five times to win a seat in Parliament.

It’s theoretically possible for either of the major party conferences to elect a leader who isn’t a member of Parliament, but in practical terms it’s impossible. Labour Party rules, a friend in Britain tells me, require any candidate for party leader to be nominated by 35 of the party’s MPs. As for the Conservative Party, someone like Trump simply wouldn’t be their cup of tea.

As all the government ministers are drawn from the Parliament — Britain has only two branches of government — the members are particular about who leads them. The judgments of these leaders are questioned frequently and fiercely, but their basic competence is assumed.

Our Founders departed from the British model for good reasons. But is it possible that the mother country still has some lessons in governance to teach us?

We can’t require—and we shouldn’t– that our presidents have Congressional experience. Barely half—25 of 45—have fit that bill. But the parties could—and should—require by rule a certain number of endorsements from Congress to become a nominee for president.

Other good British examples:

—They don’t elect judges. (In fact, almost no one else does.)  Theirs are chosen strictly for professionalism, deportment and experience.

—Their election campaigns are measured in weeks, not years. Spending is limited strictly.

—All of their election districts are drawn by professionals and approved by entities called Boundary Commissions. That’s not to say there are no games played from time to time, but they don’t have anything like the gerrymandering scandals that betray our belief in democracy.

—There are very few political positions jobs at the highest levels of their government. Ministers come and go, but civil servants run most things.

—The most attractive example is the regular grilling that the Prime Minister must endure in the House of Commons and before the nation.

As in Britain, American Cabinet officers are frequently before legislative committees, but the president himself almost never is. The last time—the only occasion in modern times—was in October 1974, when President Gerald R. Ford voluntarily appeared before a House subcommittee to answer questions about his pardon of his resigned predecessor, Richard Nixon.

As it is, we’re likely to have a major showdown soon over executive privilege. That’s the claim made by presidents of both parties that their Cabinet officers and other appointees should not have to tell Congress what advice they give the boss. There’s nothing in the Constitution about that, so the line between talk and action has never been drawn. If the Senate is serious about probing Trump’s Russian connections, that showdown must come.

Meanwhile, can we cheer ourselves up with a rousing chorus of “God save the Queen?” We already know the tune.


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

We don’t have a president. We have a high priest of the American id

I don’t know what to tell you. Honestly.

One of the hallmarks of an unfree society is a lack of narratives to make clear sense of the government’s behavior — especially the government’s preferred narratives.

But this government has no narratives; no coherent, meaningful story to tell to us, the governed; no clear philosophy. We only neurotic and self-serving prevarications that shift as quickly as the ground beneath the lie-manufacturers.

America is in a crisis, and the America that eventually emerges will not be one any of us — liberal, conservative, urban, rural — will much recognize.

In the future, in this space, I hope to piece together some occasional narratives of this decline, accounts that can perhaps put America’s crisis in a useful context. But this week, a month into the most inept, malign, dishonest, infantile, hateful government administration I have witnessed in my lifetime, all I can do is try to pluck out a few waypoints on our rapid ride down the cliff.

For us mere mortals, there have been too many outrages to track, which is probably as close as Donald Trump’s inner circle comes to a strategy. They are prone to crisis and deceit, so they make crisis and deceit perpetual, until the populace adapts to it — like the stench of an unemptied garbage pail in your own home.

As my Pennsylvania-Dutch great-grandmother used to say, “If you hang long enough, you get used to it.”

This week, Michael Flynn, a simple soldier whose lifelong genius for connecting dots and acting on the picture they produce may have worked in an Afghan village but not in a bureaucracy designed to protect 319 million Americans, lost his job as national security adviser, and that is a good thing on its face.

Flynn’s unpardonable sin, per the president who hired him, is not that he spoke before Trump’s inauguration about election-tampering sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador, but that he lied about it to the vice president of the United States.

That is a jumbled, nonsensical timeline that begs a thousand questions.

Why did Flynn lie when he must have known U.S. authorities would record his call to a Russian diplomat? Why did Trump pretend, when asked by reporters on Air Force One, that he was unaware of Flynn’s lie, even though the Justice Department had informed him of it right after his inauguration? When Mike Pence told America on TV last weekend that Flynn assured him sanctions weren’t mentioned in his call, how did the vice president not know what the president already knew?

Why did Flynn have the “full confidence” of Trump just hours before he was forced to resign, according to prevaricating administration proxy Kellyanne Conway?

Only one clear answer emerges from the flaming heap of Flynn’s career. Absent investigative reporting by the “disgusting” media, absent an inflamed sense of justice motivating some career FBI and intelligence professionals to share what they knew with “fake news” outlets (like CNN and The Washington Post and The New York Times) the administration would not have cut Flynn loose.

And they would not have to answer questions about its ways of doing business.

The administration still may slip loose of hard questions, since Republican leaders on Capitol Hill — particularly Jason Chaffetz and Devin Nunes — refuse to investigate anything this administration does.

Not the Trump’s broken promise to divest himself of his many conflicts of interest or his already voluminous billing of taxpayers for Secret Security expenses when Donald or Melania or the kids take frequent jaunts, for work and play, to South America, the Middle East, Mar-a-Lago and New York.

Not the addition of political adviser Stephen Bannon, the certifiably power-mad Breitbart propagandist, to the National Security Council.

Not Trump’s refusal to release any of his tax returns, an unprecedented act of opacity and cynicism even in American politics.

Not his administration’s repeated lies, usually laced with racial innuendo, about phantom voter fraud in an election he won.

And certainly not the ties of Trump’s campaign and White House staff to Russian government officials or intelligence assets or hackers or money launderers or what-have-you.

Congressional conservatives, some of whom worked on Whitewater and the Clinton impeachment two decades ago, spent the past eight years looking in vain for gross corruption in a terribly conventional Democratic White House. They spent millions to investigate Benghazi in dozens of venues. They screamed about emails.

Oh, the emails.

They grilled Hillary Clinton with questions in one public hearing for 11 hours and never got the “gotcha” sound bite they sought. They gave the third degree to the Clinton Foundation — not a squeaky-clean organization, but by no means the bloodthirsty leviathan it was made out to be by shrill online fever swamps of resentment, stirred by Trump’s coterie.

And that would all be fine, if only Congressional Republicans would lift a finger to challenge its pathos-in-chief. Perhaps they yet will — after they edit Obamacare, “gun-free zones,” and corporate and capital gains taxes out of existence.

In the meantime, we will have more Putin-style televised news conferences, substitutes for the spectacular back-bitings of reality TV that clearly puts The Donald in his natural element, lying to all and entertaining some.

Trump browbeat a Jewish reporter as “unfair” for asking about the rise of anti-Semitic attacks nationwide, told a black reporter to set up a meeting between himself and the Congressional Black Caucus, pretending that 306 electoral votes make him a triumphant second coming of Ronald Reagan — a president who, like Trump, was not especially popular upon his inauguration, but who, unlike Trump, met deep skepticism with charm, calm and professionalism.

Personally, I did not care for most of Reagan’s policies or staff. But he charted out a philosophy, a direction, and a sense that his decisions affected 250 million Americans and billions more people abroad. He also abhorred nuclear weapons and sought to reduce their cloud over humanity.

Trump is no Reagan. Trump is no Ronald McDonald.

Republican indifference to this nasty, brutish — and hopefully short — regime’s myriad offenses against democracy is starting to take hold in a plurality of the populace, too. Just as Hill conservatives’ attitude seems to be “As long as I get my tax cut,” Middle America seems to have adopted “As long as I get mine” as its new mantra and ethos.

Money and revenge on our enemies, that’s all most of us want anymore. Trump was not the cause of this phenomenon, but he is its logically absurd endpoint.

We have elected our own id impulses. There is an ever-present danger — at least among white men of a certain age like me, whose existence or livelihood or bodily integrity is not immediately threatened by Trump’s wobbling whims — that we may tolerate (or even embrace) Trump, because his rule by id validates our own impulse to act on our darkest, ugliest urges.

America’s system was built by its designers to keep these impulses in check, to adapt them to public reason, to remember that government exists not to make us all the same, but to manage our differences.

That America is one that challenges us to know better, do better — and moderate our antipathies and subordinate our id-impulses for the common good.

But now we have elevated our lowest impulses to the highest office. I fear that, in place of electing a president, we have ordained an id-priest. I fear his ministry works well on a populace as broken as ours.

And if it doesn’t work in the long term, he will have broken us even more, perhaps beyond repair, before much longer.

680 Cubans returned home since end of ‘wet foot, dry foot’

About 680 Cubans have been returned to the island from various countries since then-President Barack Obama ended a longstanding immigration policy that allowed any Cuban who made it to U.S. soil to stay and become a legal resident, state television reported Friday.

Cuba’s government had long sought the repeal of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which it said encouraged Cubans to risk dangerous voyages and drained the country of professionals. The Jan. 12 decision by Washington to end it followed months of negotiations focused in part on getting Havana to agree to take back people who had arrived in the U.S.

Cuban state television said late Friday that the returnees came from countries including the United States, Mexico and the Bahamas, and were sent back to the island between Jan. 12 and Feb. 17. It did not break down which countries the 680 were sent back from.

The report said the final two returnees arrived from the United States on Friday “on the first charter flight especially destined for an operation of this type.”

Florida’s El Nuevo Herald newspaper reported that the two women were deemed “inadmissible” for entry to the United States and placed on a morning flight to Havana.

Wilfredo Allen, an attorney for one of the women, says they had arrived at Miami International Airport with European passports. The women requested asylum and were detained.

The repeal of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy was Obama’s final move before leaving office in the rapprochement with the communist-run country that he and Cuban President Castro began in December 2014. The surprise decision left hundreds of Cubans stranded in transit in South and Central America.

Before he assumed the presidency on Jan. 20, Donald Trump criticized the detente between the U.S. and Cuba, tweeting that he might “terminate” it.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

A month into presidency, Donald Trump prepares for a campaign rally

President Donald Trump is holding a campaign rally Saturday in politically strategic Florida — 1,354 days before the 2020 election.

The unusually early politicking follows a pattern: Trump filed his paperwork for re-election on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. By comparison, President Barack Obama didn’t make his re-election bid official with the Federal Election Commission until April 2011.

Huge rallies were the hallmark of Trump’s presidential campaign. He continued to do them, although with smaller crowds, throughout the early part of his transition, during what he called a “thank you” tour.

The Florida event will be his first such one as president.

“I hear the tickets — you can’t get them,” Trump said Thursday during a meeting with lawmakers. “That’s OK, that’s better than you have too many.”

Trump responds well to the supportive crowds, who often chant, cheer and applaud enthusiastically when he speaks. The rallies serve a practical purpose by enabling his campaign to continue building a list of supporters. To attend, people must register online, giving their email address and other personal information that the campaign can use to maintain contact and raise money.

Trump’s upcoming evening event is set for an airport hangar in Melbourne, Florida, and it comes as he makes another weekend trip to what he calls his “Winter White House,” his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.

Trump also said he would play golf this weekend with Ernie Els, a South African professional golfer. It will be his Trump’s third consecutive weekend at Mar-a-Lago.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the rally is “being run by the campaign.” It follows an official trip Friday to South Carolina, where Trump will visit a Boeing facility in North Charleston.

Spicer and others at the White House have not responded to repeated questions about why Trump’s embryonic campaign is organizing this rally, or about who will pay for the event and transportation to and from it. Presidents regularly hold large campaign-style events to build support for their policies. Those events are often considered part of their official duties and organized by the White House.

Michael Glassner, executive director of Trump’s campaign committee, also did not respond to questions.

Trump’s campaign is running the event because Trump does not want to spend taxpayer dollars on it, a person close to him said. The person requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Although Trump is getting started far earlier than his predecessors, it’s common for presidents to combine political and governing events into the same trip. When that happens, the campaign picks up the tab for part of the trip and taxpayers for the rest.

Trump’s campaign account had more than $7.6 million in the bank at the end of the year, according to fundraising reports. He’s continued raising money postelection by selling popular merchandise, such as the ubiquitous red “Make America Great Again” ball caps.

On Thursday, as the president wrapped up a confrontational press conference with the media — during which he repeatedly referred to coverage as “unfair” and “fake news” — one of Trump’s campaign accounts emailed a “media survey” to his supporters.

The 25 multiple-choice questions included: Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement? Do you believe that our Party should spend more time and resources holding the mainstream media accountable?

After clicking through the survey, there’s a prompt to donate money.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Producers can’t keep politics from edging into Oscar show

Meryl Streep ushered politics into Hollywood’s awards season when she used her Golden Globes acceptance speech to condemn President Donald Trump for what she called his “instinct to humiliate.” Stars were even more outspoken at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, held just days after Trump’s travel ban caused havoc at airports across the country. Even last week’s performance-heavy Grammy Awards had a political edge when members of A Tribe Called Quest raised their fists and Q-Tip repeated a call to “Resist.”

The Feb. 26 Academy Awards are the final stop of the industry’s annual two months of self-adulation, and while show producers aren’t planning any political content, the night’s winners might be.

As much as first-time Oscar telecast producers Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd may want their show to focus on the magic of the movies, they say they support any message spoken from the heart, even if it means turning the Oscar podium into a political pulpit.

“The show has to stand behind the free exchange of ideas,” De Luca said in a recent interview. “I do believe a little bit in the famous Sam Goldwyn quote about movies: ‘If you want to send a message, call Western Union.’ And there’s a school of thought that says people are tuning in to celebrate the storytelling that’s moved them, and should we limit what we say to a celebration of that?”

But Oscar-caliber artists “are the kind of people that do get moved by the environment and the world they live in,” De Luca said, and they may want to use their moment on stage “to share those feelings the same way you shared the story that you’re being nominated for, and we want to honor that, too.”

Given the tone set by celebrities at other awards shows this season — and on social media since the election — some anti-Trump rhetoric at the Oscars wouldn’t be surprising. The show already has a political element: The Iranian director and star of foreign language film nominee “The Salesman” have said they will not attend the ceremony in protest of Trump’s travel ban.

Film academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs was clear at the annual nominees’ luncheon last week that the organization supports artists and freedom of expression.

“Each and every one of us knows that there are some empty chairs in this room, which has made academy artists activists,” she said. “There is a struggle globally today over artistic freedom that feels more urgent than at any time since the 1950s.”

Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel hasn’t given much hint of his approach for the show. Winners are free to use their allotted 45 seconds of speaking time as they please.

“I hope that the Oscar speeches, whatever they are, are just well said,” co-producer Todd said. “I loved when Patricia Arquette talked about fair pay (when accepting the supporting actress Oscar in 2015). She did a beautiful job and she spoke from her heart. So I just think that as long as you’re going to do it, do it well.”

Passionate expressions also make for compelling television, De Luca added.

“Those feelings can create moments for the telecast that are really memorable,” he said. “And spontaneity is our friend. Anything that’s not scripted, that’s natural and from the heart, is a good thing for the telecast.”

And if viewers who disagree with the politics decide to tune out?

“We’re of a mind of: Let people be the people they are and not worry about the public reaction,” De Luca said.

Oscar nominees and guests say they expect politics to have a presence at the 89th Academy Awards.

“I suppose each Oscar show represents its time on some level,” said Viggo Mortensen, nominated for lead actor for “Captain Fantastic.” ”I think the Trump White House so far is not about being, let’s say, completely honest and above board. It’s not really about intellectual curiosity. It’s not about listening to people who think differently. It’s about, to some degree, shutting people up who you don’t like or who don’t agree with you, and I think the Oscars will probably be the opposite of that.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

CNN: Donald Trump attacks haven’t hurt the news network

The president of CNN said Thursday that neither the network’s journalism or business have been hurt as a result of President Donald Trump‘s attacks.

Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, spoke Thursday at the same time Trump was holding a news conference in Washington in which he continued his barrage against media coverage of the administration.

Zucker said he was worried enough about Trump’s labeling of CNN as “fake news” through the campaign and after that he ordered a study last month to see if it had damaged the network’s reputation with viewers. He said it hadn’t. Less than a third —or 31 percent — of 2,000 Americans surveyed said they believed CNN’s coverage of Trump had been unfair, the internal study found.

The survey also reported that a little more than half of respondents said they trusted CNN, but that was well above the trust level for Trump or members of Congress.

“The CNN brand has been as strong as it has ever been,” Zucker said. Network executives said CNN had its most profitable year in 2016 and was on pace to do even better this year.

The administration has reportedly banned its officials from appearing on CNN, although there have been sporadic exceptions. The dispute has been most apparent on Sundays, where on two weekends Vice President Mike Pence and presidential aide Stephen Miller were guests on other network political affairs shows but not on Jake Tapper‘s CNN show, “State of the Union.”

Zucker, who said he had not spoken with Trump since December on this or other issues, said it hasn’t affected CNN’s ability to tell the political story.

“We don’t feel it’s hurt us in any way,” he said.

Angered by the Pence snub, CNN said that it declined an administration offer to instead have aide Kellyanne Conway on Tapper’s show, saying she had credibility issues. Conway has said she wasn’t available that day. But Tapper interviewed her two days later. “Saying that we have questions about her credibility does not mean that we would never interview her,” Zucker said.

Like its rivals, particularly Fox News Channels, CNN has benefited from extraordinary interest in the new administration. CNN’s ratings are up 51 percent this year compared to last, he said. That’s unusual because news network ratings usually tumble after a presidential election.

Trump’s lengthy news conference on Thursday was filled with media criticism. But he took questions from a range of reporters; many White House reporters — including CNN’s Jim Acosta — had been concerned over the past week when Trump bypassed the mainstream media in three separate news conferences connected to visits by foreign leaders, instead calling on representatives from more friendly news outlets. On Thursday Trump even took questions from Acosta, but also specifically criticized some of CNN’s coverage of him.

The president said that CNN’s 10 p.m. news show, hosted by Don Lemon, “is almost exclusive anti-Trump.”

“I would be your biggest fan in the world if you treated me right,” Trump said. “I sort of understand there’s a certain bias, maybe by Jeff or somebody, you know, whatever reason. And I understand that. But you’ve got to be at least a little bit fair and that’s why the public sees it. They see it. They see it’s not fair. You take a look at some of your shows and you see the bias and the hatred.”

Acosta, for his part, told the president that “just for the record, we don’t hate you. I don’t hate you.”

After the news conference, CNN’s Tapper said the president was “unhinged.” He said that Trump’s performance might play well among people who voted for him, but “a lot of people are going to say, ‘that guy isn’t focused on me. I don’t know what he’s focused on.'”

A few minutes later on Fox News Channel, Bret Baier said that Trump’s “mesmerizing” performance was an illustration of why people had supported him.

“There are people who are going to say that it was unhinged, or their heads are going to explode at something he said, but this is Trump being Trump,” Baier said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Immigrant-rich Miami-Dade split over sanctuary city order

The mayor is an immigrant, and more than half its residents are foreign born.

But unlike many cities with large numbers of immigrants, there’s no sanctuary for people living illegally in Miami-Dade County, Florida. A recent decision by Mayor Carlos Gimenez requires local authorities to cooperate with federal officials to enforce immigration law.

The decree by Cuban-born Gimenez has roiled the area, drawing criticism from the mayors of the cities of Miami and Miami Beach. The county’s commissioners have called for a special meeting Friday to confront the mayor on the issue.

They’re not the only ones who are unhappy with the mayor. Immigration advocates and others opposed to the shift have filled the streets in protest, and a long-standing divide between Cuban-Americans and other Latinos has reappeared. Meanwhile, farmworkers who have lived in the area for years to plant and harvest vegetables on vast commercial farms fear they’ll be deported.

“I have four children. To get picked up like that would break me,” said Itzel, 23, who arrived as a baby from Mexico, works in nurseries near the city of Homestead and whose children were born in this country. She spoke on condition that her surname not be used because she fears deportation.

“I would be lost in Mexico. I’ve never been there. I’ve never traveled out of here,” she said.

Gimenez says his order to end Miami-Dade’s status as a sanctuary city, where policy forbids local police from enforcing federal immigration laws, was a financial decision. President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order that would cut federal funds to local governments that did not fully cooperate on immigration enforcement. But immigration advocates say Gimenez’s decision sends the wrong message at a delicate time.

“To be fair, in a community where 50 percent were not born here it sends an erroneous and a somewhat negative image of our community,” said County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who was born in Cuba.

The divide, however, is also rooted in immigration policy that gave preferential treatment to Cubans fleeing the island’s communist government. For more than 50 years, Cubans have arrived to open arms in the U.S. and been able to become citizens much more easily than people from other countries.

“Cuban families, in a general way, haven’t been as aware of what it means to be undocumented in this country,” said Michael Bustamante, a Florida International University expert on contemporary Cuban history. “They have had a different process to achieve legal status. Not to say that they haven’t faced other difficulties.”

Miami-Dade is the only county in the U.S. where a majority of residents— 51.7 percent— were born abroad. But the share of immigrants living there illegally is lower than places like Houston or Atlanta, precisely because Cuban immigrants could quickly get employment authorization cards, a social security number and become legal residents.

But that’s changed. Former President Barack Obama in January announced that Cubans without residency or visas would be treated as any other immigrant with similar status.

Many of Miami’s Cubans have openly embraced Trump’s ideas on immigration. Hillary Clinton may have won 63 percent of the vote in Miami-Dade County, but Trump drew more votes than Clinton in the three heaviest Cuban-American neighborhoods.

Ibrahim Reyes, a retired furniture salesman who was having coffee and reading a newspaper in Miami’s Little Havana recently, said he supported the president’s efforts to deport criminals and his actions toward Mexico, noting the country supported Fidel Castro after Cuba’s revolution.

“It’s bad what is happening in Mexico,” Reyes said. “But they didn’t show solidarity toward us when we were refugees.”

In 2013, Miami-Dade commissioners passed a resolution that local law enforcement officers would comply with federal immigration officials only in cases of serious charges or convictions and only when the federal government agreed to reimburse the county for holding an offender in jail for more than two days. Longer detention while awaiting deportation was costing local taxpayers, Miami-Dade officials said.

The move put the county on a list of sanctuaries in a 2016 Justice Department report. Gimenez contested the designation, and then on Jan. 26, a day after Trump announced he would strip federal funding from sanctuary cities, Gimenez sent a memo instructing the corrections director to honor all immigration detainer requests.

Gimenez defended his decision on local TV and said the county’s police were not actively chasing suspects in the U.S. illegally or asking for their immigration status — they were only agreeing to hold people flagged by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“I’m an immigrant. I believe in comprehensive immigration reform. I believe that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in our county are law-abiding citizens — never had a run in with Miami-Dade police,” Gimenez said.

He acknowledged that immigration authorities had already requested 27 people be held during the first week of the order, and, reading from his smart phone, said they were wanted on charges including murder, domestic violence, petty theft and drug trafficking. County officials later said an additional seven immigrants had been arrested as of Feb. 9, bringing the total to 34.

Marina, a 34-year-old Mexican woman who arrived in Homestead in 1999, said she wishes the mayor would recognize the contribution migrants make to the region’s agriculture and construction industries and protect families like hers.

“All of us,” she said, “We are Latinos.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Out like Flynn: The firing of National Security adviser Mike Flynn

“In like Flynn” has been part of American language since the 1940s.

The San Francisco Examiner in February 1942 contained the first known use of the term when it stated: “Answer these questions correctly, and your name is Flynn, meaning you’re in …”

Within a few months, the term became closely identified with movie idol Errol Flynn. Flynn had developed a reputation as a fighter, drinker and womanizer. In November 1942, Flynn was accused by two underage girls of statutory rape. Flynn was cleared of the charge in 1943 and “in like Flynn” became part of the actor’s persona. The phrase has had a sexual connotation ever since.

A final variation of the origin of “in like Flynn” is tied to New York political boss Edward J. Flynn, who dominated politics in the Bronx during FDR’s administration. Boss Flynn’s “Democratic Party machine exercised absolute political control over the Bronx … The candidate’s he backed were almost automatically in.”

Whatever the origins, we may now coin a new term: “Out like Flynn.” “Out like Flynn” refers to someone who supposedly has the complete support of his boss, but is quickly fired. It is also associated with a political appointee who was quickly hired and quickly fired. Mike Flynn‘s tenure as National Security Adviser lasted 24 days.

Although Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump‘s campaign manager and now presidential adviser noted on MSNBC that Flynn “does enjoy the full confidence of President Trump, a few hours later press secretary Sean Spicer told the press that Trump was “evaluating the situation.”

Within hours, Flynn submitted his letter of resignation.

At issue was whether Flynn gave Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak assurances that the Trump administration would reverse sanctions imposed by President Obama after the intelligence community concluded that they were involved in trying to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Flynn denied discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador several times, including in conversations with Vice President Mike Pence. Pence went on national television and used Flynn’s remarks in stating that the Trump Administration never discussed the sanction issue before assuming office.

Flynn then modified his statement to say “he had no recollection of discussing sanctions” with the Russian ambassador, but “he couldn’t be certain the topic never came up.”

The same day that Conway said that Flynn enjoyed “the full confidence of President Trump,” Flynn submitted his resignation stating that “I inadvertently briefed the vice president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador.”

In announcing Flynn’s resignation, press secretary Spicer noted the resignation was due to “eroding trust” between Trump and Flynn, and for misleading the president and others in the administration.

During the presidential campaign, it appeared that Trump was encouraging Russian intervention in the election. At many campaign appearances, Trump told his supporters: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Foreign intervention in American elections is illegal. Trump could say he was joking, but the integrity of elections is no joking matter.

When the American intelligence community investigated the Russian involvement in the presidential election, they uniformly concluded that we are “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails.” One of those released emails led to the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz as Chair of the Democratic Party when it was clear that Schultz and the Democratic Party were favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the presidential primaries.

Instead of defending the intelligence community, Trump attacked their credibility. “You ever notice anything that goes wrong, they blame Russia? Russia did it. They have no idea.”

When the intelligence community stated that Russia was seeking to help Trump win the election, Trump attacked them by saying “these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

I do not know of any American political candidate, let alone the president, who has so uniformly attacked the intelligence community. I hope I never see another one engage in such undeserved attacks.

The basis of Flynn’s firing is the Logan Act, passed in 1798. The law essentially says that no United States citizen can attempt to influence the conduct of a foreign government without the authorization of the United States. No one has ever been convicted of violating the law, and there has only been a single indictment.

Even though there has never been a conviction associated with the law, the Logan Act frequently pops up with respect to foreign policy. Democratic Majority Leader Jim Wright was attacked for negotiating with Cuba and Syria for the release of American prisoners. More recently, 47 Republican senators were accused by Democrats of violating the Logan Act when they sent a letter to Iran opposing President Obama’s nuclear agreement with that nation. Critics of the Act contend it violates the First Amendment freedom of speech provisions.

Although Flynn is out as the head of the National Security Administration, the issue is not over. Trump will need to find a replacement for Flynn. Favorites are the Acting Director of the NSA, Lt. General Joseph Kellogg, Retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, formerly a Navy SEAL and deputy director of CENTCOM in Tampa, and retired general David Petraeus. Petraeus had a distinguished military career and then directed the CIA before being forced to resign for sharing classified records and having an extramarital affair with his biographer.

Remaining issues include an investigation into Flynn’s actions. Did Flynn act on his own or was he directed to call the Russian ambassador? If so, who directed him and did they expect Flynn to discuss sanctions? If there is an investigation, should Attorney General Jeff Sessions lead that investigation because he was the first member of the Senate to endorse Trump for president?

We are only a month into the Trump Administration and we already have a major problem in one of the most important segments of government. If this is an indication of what is to come, what can we expect in the next three years and 11 months?


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg.

White House taps billionaire to head intelligence review

The Trump administration asked the founder of a New York-based private equity firm to lead a review of the intelligence community as President Donald Trump vows to crack down on what he describes as “illegal leaks” of classified information.

A senior White House official said Thursday that Stephen Feinberg of Cerberus Capital Management has been asked to head the review of the various intelligence agencies and make recommendations on improvements to efficiency and coordination between the various intelligence agencies.

The official was not authorized to discuss private personnel matters and spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said that Feinberg’s role is not official until he completes an ethics review.

The president has vowed to crack down on leaks and add new oversight over intelligence. His moves have not been well received and look to many like retaliation against intelligence officials who are investigating his campaign aides’ ties to Russia.

Trump on Tuesday tweeted, “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by “intelligence” like candy. Very un-American!”

On Thursday, he accused Democrats of planting “fake news” stories on Russia in retaliation for their loss in the general election.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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