Donald Trump Archives - Page 6 of 264 - Florida Politics

White House says real story is about leaking, not Russia

On the defensive, the White House is throwing counter punches to deflect attention from three investigations into the Kremlin’s interference in last year’s election and possible Russian ties to President Donald Trump or his associates.

The White House says the real story is not about Russia, but about how Obama administration officials allegedly leaked and mishandled classified material about Americans. Reaching back to campaign mode, Trump aides also contend that Hillary Clinton had more extensive ties to Moscow than Trump.

Arguing the White House’s case Friday, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said: “There is a concern that people misused, mishandled, misdirected classified information — leaked it out, spread it out, violated civil liberties.”

The White House has not pointed to any hard evidence to support its allegations, and instead has relied on media reports from some of the same publications Trump derides as “fake news.” The truth is buried somewhere in classified material that is illegal to disclose.

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THE FLYNN AFFAIR

Trump fired national security adviser Michael Flynn following news reports that Flynn misled the White House about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. But the White House says the problem is that Flynn’s conversations were in the news at all.

“The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” Trump tweeted after firing Flynn in February.

The White House has called for investigations into the disclosure of multiple intercepted conversations that Flynn had with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before the inauguration. The government routinely monitors the communications of foreign officials in the U.S. It’s illegal to publicly disclose such classified information.

Officially, the White House said Flynn was forced to resign because he’d give inaccurate descriptions of the discussions to Vice President Mike Pence and others in the White House. But Trump has continued to defend Flynn, suggesting he was only fired because information about his contacts came out in the media.

“Michael Flynn, Gen. Flynn is a wonderful man,” Trump said. “I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media.”

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THE DEEP STATE?

White House officials say some Obama holdovers are part of a so-called deep state out to tear Trump down.

This week, the White House latched onto a month-old television interview from an Obama administration official who said she encouraged congressional aides to gather as much information on Russia as possible before the inauguration.

Evelyn Farkas, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense, said she feared that information “would disappear” after President Barack Obama left office.

Spicer called Farkas’ comments “devastating” and said they “raised serious concerns on whether or not there was an organized and widespread effort by the Obama administration to use and leak highly sensitive intelligence information for political purposes.”

Farkas was no longer in government when she urged officials to collect intelligence on “the staff, the Trump staff, dealing with Russians.” She left the Pentagon in 2015, just over a year before the election. She says she was offering advice to associates and did not pass on actual information.

Obama administration officials have acknowledged that there were efforts to preserve information that could be related to the Russian investigations, as was first reported in The New York Times. Former Obama officials contend that intelligence was disseminated to pockets of the government where officials had clearance to see classified reports, not publicly leaked.

Still, Farkas herself connected the concerns among government officials about the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia to the information winding up in the press.

“That’s why you have the leaking,” Farkas said in the March 2 interview on MSNBC. “People are worried.”

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THE HILL WEIGHS IN

The White House has embraced a top Republican’s assertion that information about Trump associates were improperly spread around the government in the final days of the Obama administration. It appears the White House played a role in helping House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., acquire some of that information.

Nunes announced last week that he had seen intelligence reports showing that Trump aides’ communications were picked up through routine surveillance. But he said their identities may have been improperly revealed. The California congressman later said he viewed the reports at the White House.

The White House contends that Nunes’ information — which has not been made public — validates Trump’s explosive claim that his predecessor wiretapped his New York skyscraper. Nunes has disputed that but still says he found the reports “troubling.”

The White House’s apparent involvement in helping Nunes access the information has overshadowed what Trump officials contend are real concerns about how much information about Americans is disseminated in intelligence reports. Trump has asked the House and Senate intelligence committees to include the matter in their Russia investigations.

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CAMPAIGN MODE

Trump won the election, but thinks it’s his vanquished opponent whose ties to Russia should be investigated.

Some of the White House’s allegations against Clinton stem from her four years as secretary of state, a role that gave her ample reasons to have frequent contacts with Russia.

To deflect questions about Trump’s friendly rhetoric toward Russia, the White House points to the fact that Clinton was a central figure in the Obama administration’s attempt to “reset” relations with Moscow — an effort that crumbled after Vladimir Putin took back the presidency.

“When you compare the two sides in terms of who’s actually engaging with Russia, trying to strengthen them, trying to act with them, trying to interact with them, it is night and day between our actions and her actions,” Spicer said.

Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state, has deep ties to Russia from his time running ExxonMobil and cutting oil deals with Moscow.

The White House has also tried to link Clinton to Russia’s purchase of a controlling stake in a mining company with operations in the U.S., arguing that she was responsible for “selling off one-fifth of our country’s uranium.”

The Clinton-led State Department was among nine U.S. government agencies that had to approve the purchase of Uranium One. According to Politifact, some investors in the company had relationships with former President Bill Clinton and donated to the Clinton Foundation. However, the fact checking site says most of those donations occurred well before Clinton became secretary of state and was in position to have a say in the agreement.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump, big and brash like his hometown, now avoids NYC

For decades, Donald Trump‘s identity was interwoven with his hometown of New York City: big, brash and dedicated to making money.

Manhattan was the imposing backdrop as Trump transformed himself from local real-estate developer to celebrity businessman — skyscrapers and gossip pages featured his name — and during last year’s presidential campaign he’d fly thousands of miles to sleep in his own bed at Trump Tower.

But since his inauguration more than two months ago, Trump has not set foot within the city limits.

The Republican president received only 18 percent of the vote in the decidedly liberal city. Frequent protests now clog Fifth Avenue outside Trump Tower. A date for a return trip has yet to be scheduled.

Though Trump is expected to travel to New York in the coming weeks, he is unlikely to receive a hero’s welcome. One of his sons says that while the president will enjoy making trips to his hometown, his relationship with the city has changed.

“When he was in New York, his No. 1 thing was work. This was where work was,” said Eric Trump in an interview. “He was home. He took the elevator to his office. At the end of the day, he went back up. He did it every day of his life.”

“Now his focus isn’t work, but being president, so his attention is elsewhere.”

Trump was last in New York Jan. 19, the day before he took office, when he left Trump Tower, his home of 30-plus years, and flew to Washington. His wife, Melania, and their 10-year-old son, Barron, who attends a private Manhattan school, have remained behind, as have Trump’s two adult sons who are now tasked with running their father’s sprawling business interests.

During the presidential transition, speculation swirled that Trump, a famed homebody and creature of habit, would return to Manhattan frequently. But while the president has repeatedly left Washington on weekends, he heads south instead, to his palatial Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

Mar-a-Lago closes for the season later this spring. Trump has given no indication he will keep it open — he didn’t last year during the campaign — and he is expected to head north for weekend trips, either to his Manhattan high-rise or his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Allies say New Yorkers should be excited about his presence even if they may disagree with his politics.

“As someone who loves history, I am excited to go to the Martin Van Buren House in Kinderhook, New York, and New Yorkers should be thrilled to have this president’s house right here in New York City,” said Joe Borelli, a co-chair of Trump’s campaign in New York state. “He’s a quintessential New Yorker. This is going to remain his home.”

But Borelli is just one of just three Republicans on the 51-person New York City Council, pointing to the lopsided political divide in the nation’s largest city. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 6-to-1 margin and Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has denounced many of Trump’s views as “‘un-American.”

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the mayor believes the president is significantly out of step with the values of New York City,” said Erik Phillips, de Blasio’s spokesman. “That said, the mayor’s attitude also is that he wants the president to feel and see the potential impacts on his hometown of some of these budget cuts he’s talked about.”

Another of de Blasio’s concerns: the cost of safeguarding the president in the 58-story skyscraper on one of Manhattan’s busiest streets.

The New York Police Department estimated that it cost their agency about $24 million to protect Trump Tower when the president-elect stayed there between Election Day and the inauguration 73 days later. That works out to about $328,000 per day; when it’s just Melania and Barron Trump in the building, the cost to the NYPD drops to about $127,000 to $146,000 per day. The police department is seeking federal reimbursement. Secret Service expenses also balloon while Trump is in town.

Eric Trump said his father is mindful of the impact of his presence in New York, particularly on traffic. But when asked this week if Trump is concerned about criticism of the cost of his trips, White House press secretary Sean Spicer responded, “No, he feels great.”

Many who worked with — or against — Trump in New York have expressed surprise he’s stayed away so far.

Trump was born in Queens but didn’t want to stay there, pushing his family’s development firm into the glitzy and cutthroat Manhattan market. He rehabilitated dilapidated city landmarks — like Central Park’s ice skating rink and a 42nd Street hotel — and gained a reputation as a publicity-hungry celebrity in a town that celebrated success. He’d frequently call into the city’s tabloids, sometimes adopting an alias to act as his own spokesman.

“For all his braggadocio, he was kind of a likable guy if you didn’t pay any attention to the truth,” said George Rush, longtime gossip columnist at the New York Daily News.

“He’d love to say, ‘This is off the record but you can use it,'” said Rush, who recalled Trump’s tireless efforts to make himself part of the city’s celebrity firmament.

“You couldn’t turn the corner without running into his name — and needing to put on sunglasses because of the sun’s glare off the bronze,” Rush recalled. “But he’s always someone who needed to be loved and he’s not loved here now. He’s become sort of the prodigal son of New York.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Roger Stone: I’ll beat suit even if jury thinks I’m a devil

Republican strategist Roger Stone said Thursday that jurors may think he’s “the devil” but he still expects to beat a defamation lawsuit accusing him of circulating a mailer calling a political candidate a sexual predator.

The civil trial in New York was set to start Thursday but was postponed until at least August.

Stone, a longtime Donald Trump adviser who cut his teeth in politics playing tricks on opponents of President Richard Nixon, said he looks forward to testifying — and he also hopes to testify before congressional committees investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

He said he wants to testify before the House Intelligence Committee because ranking Democrat Adam Schiff, of California, “maligned” him by accusing him of predicting the hacking of Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta‘s email account.

“He slimed me in public, and I’d like to have an opportunity to defend myself in public,” Stone said.

The defamation suit accuses Stone and two others of sending a flyer to 150,000 New York households during the state’s 2010 election that called the Libertarian Party candidate for governor, Warren Redlich, a “sick twisted pervert.”

Stone predicted Thursday that he would prevail in the end because Redlich has “presented no evidence but a wild conspiracy theory.” He acknowledged, however, that a jury drawn from heavily Democratic Manhattan could present a challenge.

“We would obviously attempt to get a balanced jury but it’s Manhattan,” he said. “The pool is 80 percent Democratic. And I recognize that to some Democrats I’m the devil. That’s just the way it goes.”

Stone did not appear for trial Wednesday, when it was initially scheduled to start. His lawyer, Benjamin Burge, told the judge Stone was busy complying with a notice from the U.S. Senate intelligence committee asking him to preserve any documents that might be related to its investigation into alleged Russian interference in the presidential election.

When both sides appeared Thursday, the judge postponed the trial to give lawyers more time to go over exhibits and prepare their cases.

Stone has said he communicated with Guccifer 2.0, the shadowy hacker credited with breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s email servers. But he has denied that he worked with Russian officials to influence the presidential election.

He said Thursday that complying with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s notice is time-consuming because he has “multiple email addresses and boxes” but he wants to cooperate with both the Senate and House intelligence committees.

Redlich’s lawsuit claims that Stone and his accomplices were responsible for the defamatory flyer. The mailing, which included Redlich’s photo and the header “Sexual Predator Alert,” said: “This man constitutes a public danger.” And it warned: “If you see this man in your neighborhood, CALL THE POLICE!”

It purported to come from an organization called People for a Safer New York.

At the time, Stone was advising two other candidates for governor: Kristin Davis, a former madam of a prostitution ring, and the Republican nominee, Carl Paladino. Redlich also is suing Paladino and his former campaign manager, Michael Caputo.

Redlich, who is representing himself at the trial, and is seeking unspecified damages, charged Wednesday that Stone’s failure to appear was part of a defense strategy to prolong what should be a speedy trial.

But Redlich agreed Thursday to postpone the trial, saying the delay would give him more time to prepare.

Stone, 64, got his start in politics working for Nixon, where he developed a reputation as someone who specialized in campaign trickery and spreading dirt on opponents.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Poll: Most disapprove of Donald Trump, except on economy

Most Americans disapprove of Donald Trump‘s overall performance two months into his presidency. But they’re more upbeat about at least one critical area: his handling of the economy.

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans disapprove of Trump’s overall performance, and about the same percentage say the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. It was conducted amid the collapse of the GOP’s health care overhaul.

But the poll also found a brighter spot for the businessman-politician on the economy, often a major driver of presidential success or failure. There, Americans split about evenly, with 50 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving of Trump’s efforts.

“He’s driving the car off the cliff in every other kind of policy and executive action he’s trying to push through, but (not) the economy,” said Ryan Mills, a 27-year-old tobacco company chemist from Greensboro, North Carolina.

Overall, just 42 percent of Americans approve and 58 percent disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president. That’s an unusually poor rating by historical standards for a still-young administration.

By contrast, at this point in their presidencies, Barack Obama‘s approval rating was above 60 percent in Gallup polling and George W. Bush‘s was above 50 percent. Gallup’s own measure of Trump’s approval has dipped below 40 percent.

Trump has suffered defeats in the federal courts, which twice temporarily halted his travel ban on some foreigners, and in Congress, where discord among Republicans has stymied legislation to up-end Obama’s signature health care law. The FBI, along with Congress, is probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and any possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

The president has responded in public with belligerent tweets often blaming the media, Democrats, conservative Republicans and others.

The AP-NORC poll did show Republicans still far more likely to approve than disapprove of Trump, a fifth of GOP respondents said they don’t approve of his performance. Among independents, six in 10 disapprove.

Notably, whites — who formed an important chunk of Trump’s political base during the election — divide about evenly on the approval question, 53 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving.

But there are signs in the poll that Trump’s base is holding and that people are willing to give him a chance on the still-strong economy.

Fifty-eight percent of whites without a college degree — who were especially likely to vote for Trump — approve of the job he’s doing overall.

Nearly 20 percent of those who disapprove of Trump’s overall performance still approve of how he’s handling the economy. And most Americans — 56 percent — describe the national economy as good, while 43 percent describe it as poor. About a year ago, in April of 2016, just 42 percent of Americans described the economy as good in another AP-NORC poll.

The current majority extends across party lines, with 63 percent of Republicans, 54 percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats describing the national economy as good.

Trump voter Joshlyn Smith, a Riverside County, California, law enforcement officer, said the president needs to move past “the Twitter stuff” that often mires him in social media spats — and focus instead on the nation’s policy.

“I feel like I want to give him a fair shot, especially in terms of helping on taxes and the economy,” said Smith, 38. “On a personal level, I think he’s too involved with how he’s portrayed in the media. I want him to have a little bit tougher skin.”

The approval ratings of many presidents through history are linked to the economy, with several — including Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama — suffering politically for downturns during their first year in the White House, according to a project by the Miller Center at The University of Virginia.

Trump inherited a strong economy, which might be leading people to give him a chance to maintain it, said Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the Miller Center.

“It starts with how they’re feeling about their pocketbooks and their family budget,” Perry said. For presidents, “if you can keep the economy going well and having people feel good about (it), good about their lives and therefore good about the country, that can cover a multitude of sins.”

The poll, conducted over five days preceding and following last Friday’s collapse of the GOP health care bill, suggests the political damage could be hard for Trump to leave behind even if the economy stays strong.

It was a galling setback for the president and the Republicans who control Congress. Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin canceled a House vote that would have spelled defeat for the legislation because too many Republicans opposed it.

In other findings:

— More than 6 in 10 Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of health care, the worst of seven issues tested in the poll. Three in 10 Republicans feel that way, as do 6 in 10 independents and 90 percent of Democrats.

— Eighty-six percent call health care a very or extremely important issue to them personally, nearly as many as the 87 percent who say the same about the economy.

— Along with health care, majorities of Americans also disapprove of Trump’s handling of foreign policy, immigration, the budget deficit and taxes. Half approve of how he is handling Supreme Court appointments.

— Most Americans — 62 percent — say the country is headed in the wrong direction, while just 37 percent say it’s headed in the right direction. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans say the country is headed in the right direction, while just a third of independents and less than a fifth of Democrats say the same.

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The AP-NORC poll of 1,110 adults was conducted March 23-27 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.

Interviews were conducted online and using landlines and cellphones.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Cyprus businessman suing BuzzFeed for unproven Donald Trump dossier

A businessman based in Cyprus is suing the BuzzFeed online media outlet for defamation over its publication of an unproven dossier on President Donald Trump‘s purported activities involving Russia and allegations of Russian interference during last year’s U.S. election.

The businessman, Aleksej Gubarev, claims he and his companies were falsely linked in the dossier to the Russia-backed computer hacking of Democratic Party figures. Gubarev, 36, is seeking unspecified damages from BuzzFeed and its top editor, Ben Smith, for the lawsuit’s libel and slander claims.

BuzzFeed’s lawyers, meanwhile, say the case should be tossed out of Miami federal court due to lack of jurisdiction or at least transferred to New York, where the company’s main offices are located.

The most recent filing by Gubarev’s attorneys Monday appeared to mock BuzzFeed’s editorial style by titling the document this way:

“Six Ways BuzzFeed Has Misled The Court (Number Two Will Amaze You) … And A Picture Of A Kitten.”

The 35-page dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, was circulating among multiple news outlets during the 2016 election. It contains unproven allegations of coordination between Trump’s advisers and Russians on hacking the emails of prominent Democrats and makes unverified claims about sexual activities.

On Jan. 10, BuzzFeed published the dossier in full, noting at the time that much of its content had not been verified. The Associated Press has not authenticated its claims. Trump himself has described the lurid dossier as “phony allegations” concocted by his political opponents.

In one paragraph, the dossier claims that Gubarev and his companies, XBT Holdings and Webzilla Inc., “had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership” at the behest of Russian entities, according to court documents filed by his lawyers.

“Not a single portion of this statement, as it applies to Mr. Gubarev, XBT or Webzilla, has any basis in fact whatsoever,” his attorneys wrote in a filing dated Monday.

Since the dossier’s publication, they added, Gubarev “has found his personal and professional reputation in tatters” and his wife has been subjected to online harassment. XBT operates 37,000 computer servers around the world, about 40 percent of them in Dallas, the document says.

In his lawsuit, Gubarev is described as a “venture capitalist and tech expert” who moved from his native Russia to Cyprus in 2002. Gubarev is not involved in politics and has no connections with the Russian government, the document says.

In a March 14 filing, BuzzFeed’s attorneys contend the case has no place in a Florida court because neither BuzzFeed nor Gubarev’s companies have a strong presence in the state. They want the case dismissed or moved to New York, where BuzzFeed’s headquarters are located.

“On the most fundamental level, this action has no meaningful connection to Florida,” the BuzzFeed lawyers wrote. “While the dossier itself continues to generate intense international interest, it is clear that this dispute about its publication has nothing to do with Florida.”

Gubarev, however, contends that BuzzFeed regularly reports in and about Florida and that Webzilla has maintained a corporate presence and paid taxes in the state since 2009.

The case, originally filed in February, is pending before Miami U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro. She could issue a ruling on the motion to either dismiss or transfer at any time.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Matt Gaetz: Fix Florida’s Everglades, avoid distraction of costly land buy

As a former state legislator and now a member of Congress, I’ve been proud to support investments in protecting Florida’s natural resources, including the Everglades. While located far from the Emerald Coast, the Everglades are about as iconic in Florida as the Blue Angels, the Space Shuttle, and the orange. Everglades National Park alone welcomes 1.1 million visitors annually with an economic impact of more than $103 million.

Recently, I joined my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in encouraging President Donald Trump to remain on the current path to Everglades restoration. In a letter delivered by Congressman Francis Rooney, we made the case for why Everglades restoration is critical to preserving such a unique and treasured ecosystem. Congress has already invested $1.26 billion into this ongoing effort. The smartest scientists say these projects are having a meaningful impact on restoring Florida’s “River of Grass” and addressing concerns over water quality issues around Lake Okeechobee. For these reasons, we must complete the comprehensive array of fully-vetted projects that are designed to restore the Everglades and reduce the discharges from the lake.

At the heart of the current debate over fixing Lake Okeechobee is whether additional land should be purchased by the government using state and federal dollars through a bonding scheme that relies on future generations paying off the debt. At a time when 42 percent of all land in South Florida is already owned by the government, we should be looking for ways to get government out of the real estate business – not deeper into it. And with Washington so focused on cutting costs, there simply isn’t enough money to buy more land, especially for projects for which land has already been acquired by the government.

Instead, the dollars committed by Congress and the state should be going toward projects that the science says can provide communities with tangible benefits for flood protection, storage and water treatment – the most quickly and at the best price.

Land buys are not only costly to taxpayers, but also to those who rely on the land to help put food on our tables. According to the conservative James Madison Institute, more than 4,100 jobs will be lost as a result of the proposed land buy. The study also found the plan could cost Florida up to $700 million in economic output, mostly in already struggling Glades communities.

In the case of the proposed plan to purchase 60,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee, the major landowners have signaled they are not willing to sell. Many of these are multigenerational family farmers. So, without a single seller, why does the debate continue? One has to wonder that if the sellers are anything but willing, is eminent domain really at work?

Instead of a futile land buy, Florida needs to stay the course on completing the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which has enjoyed bipartisan support from our

Congressional delegation since its inception under Governor Jeb Bush and President Bill Clinton in 2000. The plan keeps taxpayer dollars focused on addressing the water quality issues in coastal areas of South and Southwest Florida while also building additional storage at points north, east, south and west of Lake Okeechobee. Most importantly, it does so in a way that respects private property rights and agricultural communities, which play a crucial role in Florida’s economy.

Whether you are from North Florida or South Florida, we can all agree that Florida’s Everglades are a national treasure we cannot afford to lose. Finishing the projects that were started in 2000 will help to ensure the “River of Grass” will be around for generations to come. We need to stay the course and not get distracted by another government land buy that won’t solve the problem but will harm some of our struggling rural communities.

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Matt Gaetz is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 1st Congressional District, stretching from Pensacola to Holmes County.

Darryl Paulson: Why Donald Trump won — A review of the 2016 election

We know Donald Trump won and Hillary Clinton lost the 2018 presidential election.

What else do we need to know? We need to know why Trump won and Clinton lost.

We know that Clinton won the popular vote 65,844,954 to 62,979,879, or by 2.9 million votes. Trump’s popular vote deficit was the largest ever for someone elected president.

We all know that he popular vote does not determine the winner in a presidential election. The only thing that matters is the electoral vote, and Trump won 304 electoral votes to Clinton’s 227. Trump won 34 more electoral votes than was needed to win the election.

There were also seven “faithless” electors who cast their vote for neither Trump or Clinton. Three voted for former general and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ohio Governor John Kasich, former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul and Sioux anti-pipeline activist Faith Spotted Eagle each received one vote.

Ask individuals why Trump Won and Clinton lost and you will receive a variety of responses. Some Clinton supporters argue that she lost because of Russian hackers and WikiLeaks releasing her emails. Others blame FBI Director James Comey’s “October surprise” about reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails shortly before the election.

Others blame Clinton for her defeat. She was an unpopular candidate who barely defeated a little-known Vermont senator even though the Democratic National Committee seemed to do everything possible to assist Clinton in winning the primaries. Many saw Clinton’s use of a private email server, in spite of warnings, to be a self-inflicted wound, as was her comment about Trump’s supporters being a “basket of deplorables.”

Heading into election night, the election was Clinton’s to lose, and that’s exactly what she did. Clinton was not the only Democrat to lose. What was supposed to be a great election for Democrats, turned into a great election for Republicans.

Republicans lost only two senate seats, although they had to defend 24 of the 34 contested seats. Republicans lost only six seats in the House, although Democrats had hoped to win control of both chambers at one point. In addition, Republicans picked up two more governorships, raising their total to 33, and they won control of both houses in the state legislatures in two more states, giving them complete control in 32 of the 49 states with a bicameral legislature.

Trump won, in part, by shifting six states from the Democratic to the Republican column. Trump won the key state of Ohio by 8 points and Iowa by 9 points. He also squeaked out narrow wins in Florida (1.2 percent), Wisconsin (0.8 percent), Pennsylvania (0.7 percent) and Michigan (0.2 percent). Victories in these six states added 99 electoral votes to the Trump total, more than enough to win the election.

Republicans like to point to Trump’s strengths by noting he won 30 states to 20 for Clinton, carried 230 congressional districts to 205 for Clinton and swept over 2,500 counties compared to less than 500 for Clinton. The political map of America looked very red and looked very much like a Trump landslide.

But maps often distort political reality. After all, Clinton did win 2.9 million more votes than Trump. If she had not lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 percent, she would have been president and Trump would be managing his hotel chain.

The usual explanation for Clinton’s loss was that turnout was far lower than normal. That is not true. The total turnout of 136.6 million was a record turnout and represented 60 percent of the voter-eligible population.

Turnout was down slightly for black voters, but that ignores the fact that 2008 and 2012 had record black turnout due to the Barack Obama candidacy.

According to a recent analysis of the 2016 presidential vote by The New York Times, Trump’s victory was primarily due to his ability to persuade large numbers of white, working-class voters to shift their loyalty from the Democrats to the Republicans. “Almost one in four of President Obama’s 2012 white working-class supporters defected from the Democrats in 2016.”

Trump was able to convince enough working-class Americans that he was the dealmaker who would work for the little guy and Make America Great Again.

“I am your voice,” said Trump, and the America voters believed him.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg specializing in Florida Politics, political parties and elections.

Florida ex-student seeking full refund, apology may delay Trump U settlement

President Donald Trump‘s $25 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit that alleged fraud at his now-defunct Trump University may be put on hold because a former student in Florida wants a full refund plus interest and an apology.

A federal judge in San Diego will decide Thursday whether to let Sherri Simpson opt out of the settlement and sue the president individually.

Simpson, a Fort Lauderdale bankruptcy and consumer rights attorney, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she thinks Trump should acknowledge wrongdoing and apologize. Simpson and a partner paid $35,000 in 2010 to enroll in Trump University’s “Gold Elite” program, where they were supposed to be paired with a mentor who would teach them Trump’s secret real estate investment strategies.

Like other members of the lawsuit, Simpson said they got little for their money – the videos were 5 years old, the materials covered information that could be found free on the internet and her mentor didn’t return calls or emails. Under terms of the settlement, Trump admitted no wrongdoing and the students will get back 80 percent of their enrollment fees – about $28,000 for Simpson and her partner.

Simpson said that’s not enough, financially or morally. She doesn’t want U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel to scuttle the entire settlement – she just wants the right to sue Trump individually.

“I would like an admission that he was wrong, an admission that, ‘Oops, maybe I didn’t handle it as well as I should have, I didn’t set it up as well as I should have, that I didn’t maintain it or oversee it as well as I should have,'” said Simpson, who appeared in two anti-Trump ads made by political action committees last year.

Trump’s lead attorney Daniel M. Petrocelli didn’t immediately return a phone message or email. But attorneys representing both the former students and the president have told the judge they oppose Simpson’s request and want him to give final approval to the settlement. They say Simpson and the other former students were informed in writing that they had to opt out of the lawsuit by Nov. 16, 2015, if they wanted to pursue individual lawsuits. They say she filed a claim form on Feb. 1 to receive her share of the settlement, but then filed her objection three weeks ago.

“The 2015 notices were crystal clear,” wrote Rachel L. Jensen, an attorney for the students, in a court filing. “If Simpson had any questions or concerns, she could have brought it up with counsel for the class on any one of their many calls. She did not.”

Simpson argues that the written notice also said that if the students obtained money, they would be notified how to receive their share or “how to ask to be excluded from any settlement.”

Of the 3,730 members of the class, attorneys said only Simpson and a man who wants triple his money back have objected. Thirteen former students opted out before the 2015 deadline, but none have sued Trump individually.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond Law School professor who has been following the lawsuit, thinks the judge will approve the settlement but could let Simpson pursue her own lawsuit. If she does, it would raise the question of whether Simpson’s attorneys could depose a sitting president, and the case could be delayed until Trump leaves office.

The lawsuit became campaign fodder last year as supporters for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said it showed Trump University was a scam and that Trump lied in its advertising. Trump told prospective students that he “hand-picked” the teachers and had helped devise the curriculum, which he said would be “Ivy League quality.”

But in a 2012 deposition, Trump told lawyers that he had no direct role in hiring teachers or designing courses. Trump University, which opened in 2005, changed its name to “The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative” in 2010 after New York officials said it was not an accredited school. It mostly ceased operations later that year.

During the campaign, Trump blasted Curiel’s rulings on the lawsuit and insinuated that the Indiana-born judge’s Mexican ancestry influenced his decisions.

Trump has proposed building a wall between Mexico and the United States as a curb to illegal immigration. Curiel was appointed to the bench in 2012 by President Barack Obama.

Trump vowed never to settle the case. But less than two weeks after the election, the settlement was announced.

Trump tweeted shortly after, “The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

Palm Beach County Commissioner has great advice for Rick Scott — Part 2

As the dust settles on last week’s Trumpcare debacle, President Donald Trump is reaching out to Sen. Chuck Schumer and others who think that America should join the rest of the civilized world in making basic health care a fundamental right.

That makes this an excellent time to remind Trump’s good friend, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, about the burgeoning public health crisis in the backyard of the Winter Palace at Mar-a-Lago.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay was the first public official to urge Scott to call Florida’s heroin epidemic by its right name: a public health crisis. That was, and remains, the Very Best Idea in Florida Right This Minute, and McKinlay’s choir is, thankfully, growing.

Last week, Palm Beach County’s Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath tossed his robe into the ring. In his plea to Scott, Colbath noted that last year’s local death toll was in the hundreds, and each overdose call to the Fire Rescue folks costs taxpayers about $1500. The price paid by first responders can run much, much higher.

Colbath is no bleeding heart, big-government, soft-on-crime snowflake. Experience as a prosecutor and insurance defense lawyer shapes his view from the bench.

The Palm Beach Post’s pacesetting, big-picture reporting on the opioid epidemic paved the way for police and prosecutors to begin cleaning up the Palm Beach County sewer of “sober homes” where pimps, extortionists and insurance fraudsters got rich preying upon addicts too sick to take care of themselves and insurance companies too stupid to recognize a criminal conspiracy.

But, as Colbath and everyone else paying attention can see, the problems have metastasized far beyond Palm Beach County. They won’t be solved easily, and they may not be solved at all without the statewide leadership that Scott’s Department of Health is long overdue to provide.

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee’s mission: To keep the world from ‘spoiling’

Now that he’s dispensed with the possibility of running for political office again, former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says he just wants to be a cultural “preservative.”

Huckabee – a Christian minister, former Arkansas governor and now Walton County resident – spoke to reporters before his appearance at Wednesday’s Legislative Prayer Breakfast in Tallahassee.

Huckabee ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and 2016, and had a talk show on Fox News. His daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, now is deputy White House press secretary for President Donald Trump.

Earlier this week, at the Okaloosa County Republican Party’s Lincoln Dinner, he batted down continued rumors of another run for elective office, including Florida governor.

“Let me be real clear — it ain’t me,” Huckabee said, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. “There is a greater likelihood that I will have transgender surgery than I will run for the governor of any state, at any time, or anything, anywhere. It ain’t happening.”

On Wednesday, he referred to a passage in Matthew in which Jesus tells his followers they are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.”

“We seek to have an influence and a preservative effect on the culture,” he said. “Salt in the first century was a preservative. It’s how things were kept from spoiling … there were no Yeti coolers.

“When Jesus told us that, what he meant was, if the world is rotting, putrefying, spoiling, you’re supposed to keep that from happening,” Huckabee said. “It’s not the secular world’s fault that things are going astray, it’s our fault. If the salt isn’t doing its purpose, to preserve, then things will get worse.

“The burden is not on the people who do not embrace the Gospel; the burden is on those of us who do.”

Indeed, the problem in his view is that “Christian believers are not doing enough … It’s not one or two issues, it should mean that in every aspect of our lives, everything we do is changed through our relationship with Christ.

“If we’re not consistent, I can see why people would be cynical and say, ‘if that’s what it means to be a believer, to treat people with indignities, then I don’t want any part of it,’ ” he added. “And that’s the challenge.”

For instance, the biblical perspective “means there is no such thing as an expendable person, as a person who is disposable,” he said. “Every life is sacred … We shouldn’t put a higher value on the captain of the football team than a child with Down syndrome.”

Attending a VIP reception before the breakfast was Agriculture Commissioner and likely 2018 GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, Republican state Sens. Keith Perry and Dennis Baxley, and conservative Florida Supreme Court justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson.

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