Donald Trump Archives - Page 6 of 257 - Florida Politics

Report: Ron DeSantis tours Jerusalem embassy sites

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis was far away from his Northeast Florida district this weekend; the Jerusalem Post reports that the Republican Congressman was in town, confidently scouting potential sites for a United States embassy.

DeSantis, chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, told Israeli media that he wanted to “come out and get some knowledge about where this thing will actually be.”

DeSantis also predicted that President Donald Trump “will announce that the embassy will be moving,” a move he said would project strength, and one that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu backed, even as King Abdullah II of Jordan and a Fatah leader predicted negative consequences.

The congressman scouted four sites, and the Post asserts that one site, which currently houses the American Citizens Service Union, would be the most ideal of the options.

Alan Snel: Dear Mr. President, let’s ride bicycles when you’re in Florida (so that you keep off the Twitter)

Alan Snel: Bicycle Writer

Dear Mr. President,

It’s so cool that you enjoy Florida!

You’re back in South Florida today — and I live here too.

Today is such a sweet March day here in the Sunshine State for both of us. Strong tropical breezes off the Atlantic Ocean, yet the humidity is still low so that we’re not sweating our balls off!

Yet, for some reason, when you come to Florida you seem kinda, well, stressed out and those fingers of yours go running across your cell phone and out pops another tweet that really grabs America by the . . . hmmmm, I’m not sure I better finish that sentence.

Well, anyway, you were back in Florida and back on the Twitter and out jumped this twittery gem.

Man, that’s quite the doozy!

You’re one intense dude.

So intense, that you threw in an extra “p” into “tapp.”

Talk about ppassion!

So, here’s the deal. Even your closest pals think you’re overdoing it a bit with this Twitter thing.

SAD!

So, I have an idea.

Let’s go bicycling instead of you twittering when you come to Florida.

Didn’t you hear? Bicycling is the new golf!

I get stressed out, too, sometimes — just like you.

But instead of tweeting I go biking.

I love bicycles.

You love bicycles. Well, maybe once you did, when you put on the Tour de Trump bike race back in the late 1980s.

You had the golden touch even back then.

This protest stuff is not new.

Check out some of these folks way back in 1989 at your bike race.

Anyway, I’m happy to take you out on a bicycle ride.

I have a bicycle for you. Or, I have lots of friends who would be happy to loan their bikes to you, too.

That’s the beautiful thing about bicyclists — we come in all shapes and sizes and political backgrounds, so we’ll definitely come up with a bike for you to pedal.

Just one condition.

No tweeting and biking. (And no Putin either).

Deal?

___

Alan Snel blogs about all things bicycling for Bicycle Stories.

Teed off: Critics say Donald Trump water rule helps his golf links

President Donald Trump‘s recent executive order calling for a review of a rule protecting small bodies of water from pollution and development is strongly supported by golf course owners who are wary of being forced into expensive cleanups on their fairways.

It just so happens that Trump’s business holdings include a dozen golf courses in the United States, and critics say his executive order is par for the course: yet another unseemly conflict of interest that would result in a benefit to Trump properties if it goes through.

“This conflict is disturbing and his failure to completely step away from his business raises questions about his White House actions,” said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight.

Trump’s order targets a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule — released under former President Barack Obama in 2015 — that designates many smaller creeks and wetlands as protected under the Clean Water Act of 1972. Environmentalists, and some hunting and fishing groups, say keeping those humble waterways intact and clean is essential to the larger downstream waters they feed.

Golf course owners like Trump oppose the Obama rules, arguing that water features on golf courses would be covered and thus subjected to costly controls and possible fines for violating pollution limits. Among the 17 golf courses Trump owns around the world, three are in Florida. He also owns golf properties in Scotland, Ireland, California and North Carolina.

Trump had railed against the Obama rule during his campaign, slamming it as an example of federal overreach. In signing the executive order on Feb. 28, Trump derided the Obama rule as a “very destructive and horrible rule” and an example of federal regulation that “has truly run amok.”

Bob Helland, a lobbyist for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, said there are more than 161,000 acres of streams, ponds and wetlands on golf courses around the nation that he argues would be covered under the Obama administration rule. He said the cost of dealing with that is the group’s concern, and that he didn’t think Trump’s involvement was an issue.

“It’s not about the Trump administration doing something to benefit themselves,” Helland said. “We’ve been opposed to the rule from the start because we think every drainage area or pond would be subject to oversight.”

The administration did not respond to requests for comment by The Associated Press for this story.

Trump’s executive order is lifting the pro-business spirits of many, including builders, landowners, and farmers who opposed the Obama rule as too onerous. The American Farm Bureau contends the Obama rule would convert much of the nation’s farmlands to wetlands in the eyes of the law, opening a door for more intrusion from regulators.

John Duarte, a fourth-generation California farmer involved in a legal battle over Clean Water Act violations on one of his farms, applauded Trump’s decision to rescind the rule.

“I think the Trump directive is very promising, and hopefully points to a very broad redirection of the regulatory state and the Trump administration bringing it back to reality,” Duarte said.

Trump’s order to “rescind or revise” the rule could take years. The Obama rule is tied up in court and hasn’t even taken effect yet, and legal experts say the Trump administration will have to draft its rule while seeking to have the myriad court challenges against the existing rule thrown out.

Despite the legally tangled future of the Trump order, critics came out swinging after the president signed it.

Richard W. Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor who served as President George W. Bush‘s chief White House lawyer on ethics, said if Trump were head of the EPA, the law would require him to sell his golf courses or recuse himself from participating in the rule making.

“So the boss is doing something that the head of the EPA cannot do. That’s going to look terrible when the EPA backs off on that rule and people will ask if there was White House influence.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Trump hotel may be political capital of the nation’s capital

At a circular booth in the middle of the Trump International Hotel’s balcony restaurant, President Donald Trump dined on his steak — well-done, with ketchup — while chatting up British Brexit politician Nigel Farage.

A few days later, major Republican donors Doug Deason and Doug Manchester, in town for the president’s address to Congress, sipped coffee at the hotel with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

After Trump’s speech, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin returned to his Washington residence — the hotel — and strode past the gigantic American flag in the soaring lobby. With his tiny terrier tucked under an arm, Mnuchin stepped into an elevator with reality TV star and hotel guest Dog the Bounty Hunter, who particularly enjoyed the Trump-stamped chocolates in his room.

It’s just another week at the new political capital of the nation’s capital.

The $200 million hotel inside the federally owned Old Post Office building has become the place to see, be seen, drink, network — even live — for the still-emerging Trump set. It’s a rich environment for lobbyists and anyone hoping to rub elbows with Trump-related politicos — despite a veil of ethics questions that hangs overhead.

“I’ve never come through this lobby and not seen someone I know,” says Deason, a Dallas-based fundraiser for Trump’s election campaign.

For Republican Party players, it’s the only place to stay.

“I can tell you this hotel will be the most successful hotel in Washington, D.C.,” says Manchester, adding that he would know because he has developed the second-largest Marriott and second-largest Hyatt in the world. Manchester says Trump’s hotel will attract people based on its location near the White House and Congress, the quality renovation and the management team.

Then there’s also the access.

Although Trump says he is not involved in the day-to-day operations of his businesses, he retains a financial interest in them. A stay at the hotel gives someone trying to win over Trump on a policy issue or political decision a potential chit.

That’s what concerns ethics lawyers who had wanted Trump to sell off his companies as previous presidents have done.

“President Trump is in effect inviting people and companies and countries to channel money to him through the hotel,” said Kathleen Clark, a former ethics lawyer for the District of Columbia and a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

She said the “pay to play” danger is even greater than it would be if people wanted to donate to a campaign to influence a politician’s thinking. Spending money at a Trump property “is about personally enriching Donald Trump, who happens to be the president of the United States.”

The White House strongly disputes there’s any ethical danger in Trump’s business arrangements.

Trump can see his hotel from the White House. When a Fox News interviewer mentioned that to him recently, Trump responded, “Isn’t that beautiful?” But while the interviewer pointed out that he can see the property from his desk in the Oval Office, Trump said, “I’m so focused on what I’m doing here that I don’t even think about it.”

Still, Trump couldn’t resist the short trip over there for dinner on his only weekend night out in Washington since becoming president.

A reporter for the website Independent Journal Review was tipped off about Trump’s dining plans and sat at a table near him. He noted the president’s dinner fare and companions, who also included daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Trump adviser Jared Kushner.

On other nights, the posh hotel is the kind of place where on a mid-February evening, you could bump into Trump television personality Katrina Pierson having cocktails with Lynne Patton, a former Trump Organization executive who’s now working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Trump campaign and inauguration hands Tom Barrack, Boris Epshteyn, Nick Ayers and Rick Gates are among the many who have stayed there in recent weeks.

Rooms start at above $500 most nights, according to the hotel’s website and a receptionist. That’s up hundreds of dollars from when the hotel first opened, not long before Election Day. Patricia Tang, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, declined to answer questions about how business is going.

The hotel has become a staging area for big political events.

Eric and Donald Trump Jr. posed for dozens of selfies with admirers at the hotel that bears their name before attending their father’s White House ceremony in late January to announce Judge Neil Gorsuch as the president’s pick for the Supreme Court.

Deason ran into the Trumps and fellow Texas donor Gentry Beach while at a meeting at the hotel that day with Trump’s campaign adviser Rudy Giuliani. During inauguration week, when Trump himself repeatedly visited, the hotel was “literally the center of the universe,” Deason said.

Last Tuesday, as Trump gave his first address to Congress, lobbyists and politicos watched the four large flat screens above the bar, two tuned to Fox news and two to CNN. In what hotel staff said was an effort to avoid some of the obvious politics of the place, the TVs were muted, so people followed along on their own devices.

As Trump wrapped up, applause rose through the lobby and bar. Mnuchin waved to admirers gathered in the bar as he strolled through after Trump’s speech.

Mnuchin is one of the New Yorkers working in Washington who call it home during the week. White House economic adviser Gary Cohn is another. Linda McMahon, who heads the Small Business Administration, also has been staying there.

Administration officials “have been personally paying a fair market rate” for their accommodations, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said.

Even Trump’s closest friends pay to stay.

Billionaire Phil Ruffin, Trump’s partner for his Las Vegas residential tower, said he shelled out $18,000 per night while he was in town for the inauguration, which he said surprised him since he’d given $1 million to Trump’s inauguration committee. Ruffin says he lightly complained about the high rate to the president.

“He said, ‘Well, I’m kind of out of it.’ So I didn’t get anywhere, didn’t get my discount,” Ruffin recalled.

Trump’s continued ownership of his hotel and other businesses has spawned lawsuits and ethics complaints, but so far, no action on any of them. One accommodation Trump says he is making on the ethics front is to donate profits from foreign governments that spend money at his hotels.

Last week, Kuwait’s ambassador, Salem al-Sabah, and his wife hosted a reception in the hotel’s presidential ballroom, in what was one of the first known instances of foreign money changing hands with the hotel division of the Trump Organization since he became president. A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization did not respond to questions about whether the money from the Kuwait Embassy has been or will be donated.

Mnuchin attended.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Combative House Speaker vows contentious Session

The outcome of this year’s Florida Legislature session may depend largely on a 51-year-old firebrand attorney with a deep conservative streak and a love for cigars and the band U2.

New House Speaker Richard Corcoran has taken on rapper Pitbull, gotten in a knock-down fight with fellow Republican Gov. Rick Scott and vowed to keep legislators in session for months if he doesn’t get his way on property taxes.

He has an ambitious agenda for the 60-day session that starts next week, which also includes term limits for Florida’s most senior judges and throwing out some of the state’s regulations on health care providers. While at one time he lashed out at then-candidate Donald Trump, Corcoran has adopted the president’s populist tone in vowing to fight a “culture of corruption” in a town where Republicans have held sway for nearly 20 years.

Corcoran is unapologetic for his combative ways.

“I think certainly in the political arena, that the hardest thing, in my opinion, that determines a person’s character is what a man does when everyone is looking and you know you are going to go against the grain,” he said last month at a Tallahassee private school appearance.

Corcoran has flummoxed fellow Republicans and stirred speculation he’s more interested in grabbing headlines in anticipation of a potential run for governor in 2018. Corcoran has declined to discuss future political plans.

“Richard is not a political opportunist, he’s never been one,” said Mike Fasano, the Pasco County tax collector and a former legislator who met Corcoran nearly 35 years ago when he was a teenager helping out on local legislative campaigns. “He’s trying to accomplish what he truly believes in.”

Born in Toronto, Corcoran moved to Florida when he was 11. At a young age, he became enamored of conservative thinkers such as author William F. Buckley Jr., and drops names of philosophers like Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau in his speeches. He earned a law degree from Regent University, the school established by evangelist Pat Robertson.

Corcoran works at a well-established law firm and once did legal work for Scott before either was elected. But most of his career has been in politics, including as a legislative aide and chief-of-staff for then-Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, when he helped write Rubio’s blueprint entitled “100 Ideas for Florida’s Future.”

After two unsuccessful runs for the Legislature, Corcoran finally got elected to a Pasco County House seat in 2010. He quickly rose through the ranks and secured enough pledges to become speaker.

He pushed to have the Florida House reject billions in federal aid available under President Barack Obama‘s health care overhaul. During a floor speech now famous in Tallahassee, Corcoran made it clear during a standoff with Senate Republicans over Medicaid expansion that the House would never go along.

“They want us to come to the dance? We’re not dancing. We’re not dancing this session. We’re not dancing next session. We’re not dancing next summer – we’re not dancing,” Corcoran said.

Since he became speaker in November, Corcoran sued to force Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, to reveal how much it paid to Pitbull to promote the state. Corcoran then pushed legislation to scrap the state organization that uses incentives to lure companies to the state. Those moves have angered Scott, whose political committee labeled Corcoran a “career politician.”

Corcoran has put both Scott and Senate Republicans on notice he will not go along with a plan to use a hike in property values – which trigger higher tax payments – to boost funding on schools. Yet at the same time, Corcoran has hinted at his own ambitious plans for education, which will likely mean more money for charter schools. Corcoran’s wife, Anne, founded a charter school. They have six children, and met while attending law school.

Corcoran is a maze of seeming contradictions.

He has railed against the influence of lobbyists, banning them from texting or emailing legislators during committee meetings. Yet his own brother, Michael, is a long-time lobbyist. While at times he sounds stern, he can quickly run off a stream of sarcastic comments and jokes.

“Every day Gov. Scott and I get together and take long walks in the park together,” he quipped recently.

Yet despite harsh treatment leveled at him by the governor, Corcoran says he remains grateful that Scott once hired him, adding: “If Gov. Scott poked me in the chest or whatever, I would take it 10 out of 10 times.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Tea Party parallel? Liberals taking aim at their own party

Four days after Donald Trump‘s surprising White House victory, the liberal organization CREDO Action fired off a frantic warning to its 4.6 million anxious supporters.

Their worry wasn’t the new president. It was his opposition.

“Democratic leaders have been welcoming Trump,” the email said. “That’s not acceptable. Democratic leaders need to stand up and fight. Now.”

Amid a national surge of anti-Trump protests, boycotts and actions, liberals have begun taking aim at a different target: Their own party.

Over the past few weeks, activists have formed a number of organizations threatening a primary challenge to Democratic lawmakers who offer anything less than complete resistance to the Republican president.

“We’re not interested in unity,” said Cenk Uygur, the founder of Justice Democrats, a new organization that’s pledged to replace “every establishment politician” in Congress. “We can’t beat the Republicans unless we have good, honest, uncorrupted candidates.”

While party leaders have urged Democrats to keep their attacks focused on Trump, the liberal grass roots sees the fresh wave of opposition energy as an opportunity to push their party to the left and wrest power from longtime party stalwarts.

The intraparty pressure is reminiscent of the tea party movement, where conservative activists defeated several centrist Republican incumbents. Their efforts reverberated through the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, forcing candidates to the right on economic issues.

Like Uygur, many founders of the new groups are supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ presidential campaign, eager to continue their effort to remake the Democratic Party.

Uygur’s group says they’ve already found 70 possible candidates who will refuse corporate campaign donations while running for Congress— challenging elected Democrats if needed. Those people are now going through candidate training.

Democratic officials from more conservative states worry that those primary contests will result in the party holding even less power in Washington.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat likely to face a tough re-election fight in a state won overwhelmingly by Trump, said the effort will make Democrats a “super minority” in the Senate.

A coalition named “WeWillReplaceYou” is urging Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York to remove Manchin from his new role in the party leadership after Manchin expressed openness to working with Trump.

“If you want to go ahead and beat me up in a primary then go ahead,” Manchin said. “All it does is take the resources from the general.”

Even without primaries, the party faces a challenging political map in 2018. Republicans will be defending just eight Senate seats, while Democrats must hold 23 — plus two filled by independents who caucus with them. Ten of those races are in states Trump carried November.

The activists say they’re willing to trade power for conviction.

“I’d rather have 44 or 45 awesome Democrats who are lockstep together than 44 or 45 really awesome Democrats and three to four weak-kneed individuals who are going to dilute the party,” said Murshed Zaheed, CREDO’s political director.

They point to a postelection shift among Democrats as a sign that their efforts are working.

Initially, Schumer and even liberals such as Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren cautiously spoke of working with Trump on certain issues. After the wave of liberal fury, most Democrats have shifted into full opposition mode.

“Democrats have a reflexive instinct to compromise,” said Ben Wikler of MoveOn.org, which has directed its members to protest at Democratic as well as Republican congressional offices. “At this moment of successive Trump crises, resistance rather than compromise is what the country needs.”

Democratic leaders say the path to victory next year depends on a strong economic message, one that casts Trump as betraying the working-class voters who boosted him to victory.

“What we have in common, whether you’re West Virginia or Massachusetts or Kansas is a commitment to economic opportunity,” said Tom Perez, the newly elected Democratic National Committee chairman.

A memo this past week from Priorities USA gave Democrats a “10-point checklist” for criticizing Trump’s economic policies and conflicts of interest, saying the party cannot simply count on the president to remain “his own worst enemy.”

Many of the most vulnerable Democratic senators avoided town halls meetings during the congressional recess last week, hoping to evade politically damaging confrontations.

Party officials are trying to channel the new energy into more targeted electoral efforts.

In the weeks after Election Day, the Ohio Democratic Party held a series of meetings across the state with new activists. Since then, they’ve teamed up with some organizations for events.

“Our goal is to build good relationships so that come spring, summer of ’18 everyone moves to an election mindset,” said David Pepper, the state party chairman.

Last month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee installed full-time organizers in 20 swing districts, with the goal of building stronger connections with activist groups.

Their message: “We can’t add by subtracting,” said the committee chairman, Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico.

That may be a hard sell for some of the new anti-Trump organizations.

“Something the tea party was really smart about early on was not giving a big bear hug to the Republican National Committee,” said Ezra Levin, the executive director of the new anti-Trump group Indivisible. “Keeping the political parties at arm’s length is crucial to remaining an outside political force.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump claims Barack Obama had phones wiretapped; Obama denies it

President Donald Trump on Saturday accused former President Barack Obama of having Trump Tower telephones “wire tapped” during last year’s election, a startling claim that Obama’s spokesman said was false.

Trump did not offer any evidence or details, or say what prompted him to make the allegation.

Trump, whose administration has been under siege over campaign contacts with Russian officials, said in a series of early morning tweets that he “just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!’

Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said a “cardinal rule” of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered in any Justice Department investigations, which are supposed to be conducted free of political influence.

“As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen,” Lewis said, adding that “any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”

The White House did not immediately reply to inquiries about what prompted the president’s tweets.

Trump, who used to speak of having a warm relationship with Obama, compared the alleged activity by his predecessor to behavior involving President Richard Nixon and the bugging of his political opponents.

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” he tweeted, misspelling ‘tap.’

Trump said the wiretapping occurred in October. He ran the presidential transition largely out of Trump Tower in New York, where he also maintains a residence.

Trump’s tweets came days after revelations that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, during his Senate confirmation hearing, didn’t disclose his own campaign-season contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Sessions, a U.S. senator at the time, was Trump’s earliest Senate supporter.

Trump’s opening tweet Saturday mentioned Sessions and claimed the first meeting Sessions had with the Russian diplomat was “set up by the Obama Administration under education program for 100 Ambs …”

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the campaign with the goal of helping elect Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton — findings that Trump has dismissed. The FBI has investigated Trump associates’ ties to Russian officials. Congress is also investigating.

Trump has blamed Democrats for leaks of information about the investigation and the contacts.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that Trump was making “the most outlandish and destructive claims without providing a scintilla of evidence to support them.”

Schiff added: “No matter how much we hope and pray that this president will grow into one who respects and understands the Constitution, separation of powers, role of a free press, responsibilities as the leader of the free world, or demonstrates even the most basic regard for the truth, we must now accept that President Trump will never become that man.”

It was unclear what prompted Trump’s new charge. The president often tweets about reports he reads on blogs and conservative-leaning websites.

The allegations may be related to anonymously sourced reports in British media and blogs, and on conservative-leaning U.S. websites, including Breitbart News. Those reports claimed that U.S. officials had obtained a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to review contacts between computers at a Russian bank and Trump’s New York headquarters.

The AP has not confirmed these contacts or the investigation into them. Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist in the White House, is a former executive chairman of Breitbart News.

FISA is a 1978 law that created a system to hear requests to surveil foreign intelligence agents. It differs from a regular criminal warrant because it does not require the government to provide probable cause that a crime has occurred. Instead, under FISA, the government must simply provide evidence that the target of an investigation is an agent of a foreign power.

Such targetable agents would include Russian diplomats such as Sergei Kislyak, the ambassador who spoke with a number of Trump aides. But a FISA warrant could also include others for whom investigators could muster probable cause, potentially including entities directly connected to Trump.

Obama could not order a FISA warrant. Obtaining one would require officials at the Justice Department to seek permission from the FISA court, which is shrouded in secrecy. Judges could order prosecutors to share FISA information with defendants if they deem it necessary for challenging a search’s legality, but courts have consistently agreed with the government that disclosing the material could expose sensitive intelligence secrets.

One exception to this practice is the president himself, who has the authority to declassify records. In Trump’s case, he could confirm any such surveillance of his campaign or business undertaken before he took office in January.

Trump is spending the weekend at Mar-a-Lago, his waterfront estate in Palm Beach, and he spent several hours at his golf club in nearby West Palm Beach on Saturday.

Trump also tweeted about Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s decision to leave “The New Celebrity Apprentice.” Schwarzenegger replaced Trump as host of the show while the president remained its executive producer.

Trump was scheduled to have dinner Saturday at Mar-a-Lago with Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has a home in Palm Beach, Bannon and other White House advisers.

The president planned to return to the White House late Sunday.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Andrew Gillum opens ‘people-centric’ campaign for Florida governor

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum took on Rick Scott, Donald Trump, and the National Rifle Association during the opening speech of his campaign for governor Saturday, and promised to “bring Florida home” for the state’s working people.

“Together, we will build the kind of campaign that will move across this entire state and make this state proud — we’ll stand up for every Floridian,” Gillum said.

“That gives them hope in every family, no matter where their backgrounds are, where they come from. This campaign will win the governorship in 2018, and we’re going to put this state back on a pathway to success and opportunity for all,” he said.

“Let’s put Floridians to work at every rung of the income ladder. Let’s bring it home for Florida. Let’s invest in the clean energy that provides good-paying jobs and protects our natural resources, and makes a strong statement that Florida is about to become the capital of this country when it comes to producing solar energy that puts people to work right here.”

Gillum warned of “powerful headwinds” and interests “that own this Capitol, as they see it. And own this governor’s mansion, as they see it.

“But we’re going to run a race that is powered by people. It’s going to be your $25 dollar contributions, you’re $5, you’re $10, that’s going to make it possible for a people-centric message to break through. Because we need to tell these special interests that we run this state, not them. That there are more us … than there are of them.”

He conceded he was engaging upon an “improbable mission.”

“Improbable it may be. Possible, it completely is. We’re about to show the rest of this state what it means,” he said. “We can do this. We can do this together.”

At 37, Gillum is young to enter a governor’s race. But he was elected to the Tallahassee City Commission at 23. He was elected mayor in 2014.

He’s made some early missteps. On the morning of his rally, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that he had repaid the city for using its email system to campaign, and that he’d had to correct campaign documents that included his old address.

He made no mention of that during his speech, focusing on people “who are struggling, are finding hard to make a way for themselves, and make a way for their families. Who want to be optimistic again and also want to believe that they’re included in the future of this state.

“We deserve our voice, too,” he said. “And we’re going to get our voice back, I assure you.”

Gillum described how his grandmother anointed his head with oil as he headed to school as a child, and instilled in him the responsibility to care for his six brothers and sisters and neighbors.

“It really is what shapes my own political belief system and how I approach public policymaking. What she was telling me is that we’re all in this together. That if I did good, we all did good. If I go far, we will all go far.”

A couple of hundred supporters gathered in Tallahassee’s Kleman Plaza as a chilly wind died down and the day warmed, dishing into a large stack of pizzas while they waited for the candidate.

Several of his high school teachers stood among the crowd. One of them, Linda Aubrey, from Gainesville High School, testified that he was “a natural leader with a big heart” even then.

“I want to thank y’all here in Tallahassee who gave a 23 year-old skinny by from Florida A&M University the chance to be your city commissioner. I want to thank you for giving that same young man the opportunity to be your mayor,” Gillum said.

“Now I’m asking for your blessings and your good will, for all the hope and all the love and all the ideas that you’ve instilled in me over this period of time — I want to ask your permission to share just a little bit of what you’ve put in me with the rest of the state of Florida.”

Gillum is the first candidate to enter the governor’s race. Among Democrats, Orlando businessman Chris King filed campaign papers this week, and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, also of Tallahassee, is considering running. Other possibles include Democratic mayors Bob Buckhorn of Tampa and Philip Levine of Miami Beach.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam so far is the most likely Republican candidate to announce a run for 2018.

Gillum outlined a jobs platform built on education — young childhood, K-12, vocational, and college, to help people “who are under pressure and under the squeeze in this state.”

He slammed Scott for refusing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, killing a $1 billion high-speed rail system that would have provided jobs, and minimizing the threat of climate change and rising sea levels.

“We need to bring Florida home for Florida’s workers, Florida’s working people. We need a plan for Florida’s economic future that doesn’t rely on tourism alone but that catalyzes the assets of this state, which includes our best assets — our people. Y’all. Me. Us.”

Gillum spoke of his own record as mayor — encouraging technology jobs and employment for young people, building a 200-acre solar farm at the airport, eliminating $2 million in local business taxes, granting $5.6 billion in energy rebates, and limiting job discrimination against people with criminal records.

“I want to bring these forward-looking ideas into state government. Florida has everything it needs to be the strongest economy in this country. We just need the leadership and the willingness to get us there,” he said.

He decried education reforms that he said teach kids to take tests.

“I don’t believe that our teachers are evil. And I don’t believe that their union is evil. Does our system deserve correcting? Absolutely. But we do that by demonizing the people who are responsible for creating that better system?”

When some local officials stopped granting marriage licenses to avoid having to give them to same-sex couples, “as the mayor of this city, I said, ‘Come to Tallahassee, where we recognize that love is love is love.’ ”

When Trump “targeted immigrants … I spoke up boldly and I said that we could do both — we could protect our national security interests and have secure borders without tearing our families apart,” he said.

“And when the NRA decided that it wanted to join in a lawsuit against me because I refused to repeal a law that said you can’t fire a gun in our city parks — that you can’t fire a gun in a park where our kids play and our families picnic, common sense … we won that fight twice,” Gillum said.

“I recognize that it will not be easy. Change is hard. Pursuing a people-focused agenda to boost our economy and provide access to quality education will take vision, and it will take the courage of our convictions,” he said.

“Too many of our political leaders lack all three. But standing up for people in this state, and standing up to powerful interests is not something that I’m not used to.”

Donald Trump meets with 4th graders, private school leaders in Orlando

[The following is drawn from pool reports provided by Ted Mann, reporter for The Wall Street Journal.]

Accompanied by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and others, President Donald Trump dropped in on a Catholic school 4th-grade class the met with Orlando Diocese leaders Friday to talk about school choice.

With the 4th grade class of Jane Jones at St. Andrew Catholic School, Trump, who also was accompanied by his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, heard the students declare they were “scholars” and would be going to college and heaven.

St. Andrew is located in the largely-African American and low-income Pine Hills neighborhood of west Orange County, and some though not all of the students there are African-American.

Trump complimented them as “beautiful” and asked a few questions and advised them to “make a lot of money, right? But don’t go into politics after,” before moving on, after about 15 minutes, to a 2 p.m. meeting with Bishop John Noonan, from the Orlando Catholic Diocese, Henry Fortier, the superintendent of Catholic schools in Orlando, and others involved in private, parochial and charter schools.

Fortier told him he saw school choice creating “a partnership. It’s not a situation of us versus them,” he said. Of private schools, he said, “It shouldn’t be just for the wealthy who can afford it.”

John Kirtley, founder of Step Up for Students, which administers school choice aid, said the program provides tuition assistance for 100,000 kids, and that the average household income is $24,000 per year.

Trump said the school was doing a “fantastic job” and that it’s a school that “enriches both the mind and the soul. That’s a good education.”

He quoted Martin Luther King, saying that he “hoped that inferior education would become a thing of the past.”

Trump noted that he had said during his speech to Congress that education in the “civil rights issue of our time,” and added, “Betsy’s going to lead the charge, right?”

“You bet,” DeVos answered.

They left after about 30 minutes.

Trump Taj Mahal

Seminole Tribe also wants casino near NYC

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, now co-owner of Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal casino, also wants to build a $1 billion casino in northern New Jersey just outside New York City.

Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Tribe-controlled Hard Rock International, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the company remains committed to its plan to build a casino at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford if voters change the law to allow it.

Hard Rock and two investors bought the Taj Mahal, which now-President Donald Trump opened in 1990, from billionaire Carl Icahn on Wednesday for an unspecified price.

“We own 25 percent of the Meadowlands (track) and we are 100 percent still on board to do that project at the Meadowlands,” said Allen, also Seminole Gaming CEO.

The company has partnered with track owner Jeff Gural to propose a casino resort just outside New York City that analysts predict could become one of the most successful casinos in the nation – at least until New York City allows one or more casinos to open nearby.

But before that happens, New Jersey voters would have to change a law that currently restricts casinos to Atlantic City. A statewide referendum on it last November was rejected by more than 80 percent of voters, and it cannot be reconsidered for at least two years.

When it reopens in the spring of 2018, the casino’s domes and spires will be gone, replaced by Hard Rock’s signature music theme. The company says it has the world’s largest collection of music memorabilia, which is on display at Hard Rock cafes and casinos around the world.

Allen said a stabilizing climate in Atlantic City helped convince Hard Rock to buy the casino; it made an unsuccessful bid for Revel in bankruptcy court.

“The bones of the Taj Mahal are as good as anything in town, and it’s something we felt we could do something spectacular with, from the height of the ceilings to the way the casino floor is laid out,” Allen said.

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