Donald Trump Archives - Page 7 of 264 - Florida Politics

Jared Kushner, taking new White House role, faces rare scrutiny

Jared Kushner has been a power player able to avoid much of the harsh scrutiny that comes with working in the White House. But this week he’s found that even the president’s son-in-law takes his turn in the spotlight.

In a matter of days, Kushner, a senior Trump adviser, drew headlines for leaving Washington for a ski vacation while a signature campaign promise fell apart. The White House then confirmed he had volunteered to be interviewed before the Senate intelligence committee about meetings with Russian officials. At the same time, the White House announced he’ll helm a new task force that some in the West Wing have suggested carries little real influence.

Kushner became the fourth Trump associate to get entangled in the Russia probe. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the intelligence committee, said Tuesday that Kushner would likely be under oath and would submit to a “private interview” about arranging meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials.

The news came as the White House announced Kushner would lead a new White House Office of American Innovation, a task force billed as a powerful assignment for Kushner. But the task force’s true power in the White House remained unclear, according to a half-dozen West Wing officials and Kushner associates who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The official White House line is that the group would have sweeping authority to modernize government, acting as strategic consultants who can draw from experiences in the private sector — and sometimes receive input from the president himself — to fulfill campaign promises like battling opioid addiction and transforming health care for veterans. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that it would “apply the president’s ahead-of-schedule-and-under-budget mentality” to the government.

But others inside and outside the White House cast doubt on the task force’s significance and reach, suggesting it was a lower priority for the administration and pointing out that similar measures have been tried by previous presidents with middling success. The assignment revived lingering questions about whether Kushner had opted to focus his time on a project that would put him at some distance from some Trump’s more conservative and controversial policy overhauls.

The announcement came just days after Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, were photographed on the ski slopes of Aspen, Colorado, as the GOP health care deal began to unravel amid protests from conservative Republicans that it did not go far enough in replacing President Barack Obama‘s Affordable Care Act. Kushner rushed back to Washington on Friday but it was too late to save the bill, which was scuttled hours later by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Two people close to Kushner vehemently denied the president was upset at his son-in-law for being absent, saying Trump had given the trip his blessing. And a senior White House official insisted the timing of the task force announcement was planned weeks in advance.

Kushner, who has been at his father-in-law’s right hand since the campaign, has long been viewed as a first-among-equals among the disparate power centers competing for the president’s ear. Kushner, who routinely avoids interviews, draws power from his ability to access Trump at all hours, including the White House residence often off-limits to staffers.

His portfolio is robust: He has been deeply involved with presidential staffing and has played the role of shadow diplomat, advising on relations with the Middle East, Canada and Mexico. Though Kushner and Ivanka Trump have been spotted with some frequency on the Washington social circuit, the president’s son-in-law is routinely in the office early and leaves late, other than on Fridays when he observes the Sabbath.

While those close to Trump flatly state that Kushner, by virtue of marriage, is untouchable, this is a rare moment when he has been the center of the sort of political storm that has routinely swept up the likes of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway. It points to a White House whose power matrix is constantly in flux.

Kushner has been closely allied with senior counselor Dina Powell and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive and a registered Democrat. That group has, at times, been at odds with conservatives led by Bannon, who to this point has been the driving force behind the White House’s policy shop.

When Kushner officially joined the administration in January as a senior adviser, it was suggested that the real estate heir would draw upon the private sector to streamline and modernize government. His task force has been meeting since shortly after the inauguration and started talking to CEOs from various sectors about ways to make changes to entrenched federal programs.

“Jared is a visionary with an endless appetite for strategic, inventive solutions that will improve quality of life for all Americans,” said Hope Hicks, Trump’s longtime spokeswoman.

A list supplied by the White House of some of those who have met with Kushner reads like a who’s who of the American business world, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Tim Cook of Apple and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase. Kushner usually does more listening than talking in the meetings, largely avoiding ideological arguments while asking questions about efficiency and best practices, according to a person who has attended a gathering but is not authorized to discuss private conversations.

But the Trump team is hardly the first seeking to improve how the government operates. The Reagan administration tasked the Grace Commission in 1982 with uncovering wasteful spending and practices, while the Clinton administration sought its own reinvention of government in 1993 with what was initially called the National Performance Review. Previous commissions have not produced overwhelming results in changing the stubborn bureaucracy, casting some doubt on what Kushner’s team can accomplish.

Philip Joyce, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, said the domestic spending cuts in Trump’s budget blueprint suggest that this new committee would most likely focus more on shrinking the government than improving its performance.

Even then, any change would be unlikely to deliver significant budget savings compared to reforming entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

“It’s not the main thing we ought to be focusing on,” Joyce said. “It’s at the margins of the big issues facing the country, certainly in terms of the budget.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Darryl Paulson: On Neil Gorsuch; both parties should just grow up!

Until 1987, presidential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court were respectfully received and reviewed by the U.S. Senate. In 1986, Antonin Scalia, a judicial conservative and constitutional originalist, was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to a vacancy on the court.

He was confirmed 98 to 0 by the U.S. Senate.

The confirmation process imploded in 1987 when another Reagan nominee to the court, Robert Bork, was subject to such a vicious attack concerning his record and judicial temperament, that the word “borking” became part of the political lexicon. To be “borked” was to be the subject of a public character assassination.

Since the defeat of Judge Bork in 1987, the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominees has become bitter and brutal. In 2016, President Barack Obama nominated the highly-qualified jurist Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy due to the death of Scalia. The Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold hearings on the Garland nomination, arguing that it should be left to the next president.

Democrats were outraged by the treatment of Garland and are taking out their anger by attempting to defeat President Donald Trump‘s nomination of Neil Gorsuch. Democrats contend that Gorsuch’s views are out of the mainstream and accuse him of favoring corporations over workers. They also argue that he fails to fully defend the right to vote and favors the “powerful candidate interests over the rights of all Americans.”

Republicans respond by asking how, if Gorsuch’s views were so extreme, did he win confirmation on a 98 to 0 vote 10 years ago, when he was seated on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado. Would not some of those senators have opposed his extreme views when first nominated?

Not only that, but the American Bar Association (ABA) told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Judge Gorsuch received its “well qualified” rating, the highest rating available from the ABA. Nancy Scott Dogan of the ABA said, “We do not give the “well qualified” rating lightly.” So, why does the ABA see Judge Gorsuch in such a different light than Democrats in the Senate?

Republicans want to confirm Gorsuch for several reasons. With the death of Justice Scalia, Gorsuch would likely carry on his conservative views. For quite some time, the court has been divided between four conservatives, four liberals and the swing vote of Justice Kennedy.

The Republicans and Trump also need a political victory. The Republican failure to “repeal and replace” Obamacare was a deep political blow to the party and its president.

President Trump, who promised his supporters that they would “get tired of winning,” are beginning to wonder what happened to all those promised wins.

Democrats want to defeat Gorsuch as political payback for the treatment of Garland, and also to make amends for Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton.

In addition, Democrats want a second major defeat of Trump after he failed to secure passage of the Republican health care plan. Democratic activists do not want their elective officials to give 1 inch to the Republicans.

In 2005, the “Gang of 14” senators from both parties reached an agreement to prevent an impasse over judicial nominations. The filibuster and 60 vote requirement would continue for Supreme Court nominees, but a simple majority would be needed for other nominations.

Since Republican outnumber Democrats 52 to 48 in the Senate, eight Democrats must support Gorsuch for him to be confirmed. So far, no Democrat has indicated support for Gorsuch. As a result, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is threatening to use the “nuclear option.”

The “nuclear option” would allow the Senate to approve a change in the filibuster rule to require a simple majority of the Senate, or 51 votes, to confirm a Supreme Court appointee. To change the filibuster rules only requires 51 votes.

If Democrats are successful in their filibuster against Gorsuch, it will be the first successful filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee in over 50 years when the Senate rejected President Lyndon Johnson‘s selection of Abe Fortas to be Chief Justice.

According to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a successful Democratic filibuster would mean “that qualifications no longer matter.” A candidate unanimously confirmed to the Court of Appeals a decade ago and one who has received the highest rating from the ABA is not suitable for the court.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of only three senators still left who brokered the “Gang of 14” deal, is keeping the door open to use the nuclear option. As a firm believer in the rules and traditions of the Senate, Collins argues that “it would be unfair if we cannot get a straight up-or-down vote on Judge Gorsuch.”

But then, it was only a year ago, that Obama and the Democrats were making the same argument on behalf of Merrick Garland.

If only one of the two parties could grow up!

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

National Dems ask if Ileana Ros-Lehtinen supports new petition to repeal ACA

No one knows when President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans will make another attempt at repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Some hard-line GOP lawmakers want to force a repeal-only bill back onto the floor, once again putting several House Republicans on the spot.

On Friday, Alabama Republican Mo Brooks, part of the House Freedom Caucus, filed a full ACA repeal.

However, Brooks says he must wait 30 days until he begins collecting signatures for a discharge petition, POLITICO reports.

That’s compelling the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to single out Miami Republican Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, who last week said she would not support the American Health Care Act because “millions of people would lose their coverage.”

However, like her GOP brethren, Ros-Lehtinen frequently sided with them when voting on bills to repeal the ACA over the past six years. According to the DCCC, Ros-Lehtinen voted 12 times to repeal the ACA. But since there’s not an alternative at the moment, Democrats are questioning whether she’d support the Brooks petition.

But since there’s not an option at the moment, Democrats are wondering whether she’d support the Brooks request.

“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has voted repeatedly to recklessly tear health care away from millions of Americans with absolutely no plan to replace it,” said DCCC spokesperson Cole Leiter. “House Republicans should be focused on improving the Affordable Care Act, but instead are again pursuing full repeal without a replacement, and Ros-Lehtinen’s constituents deserve to know where she stands on this petition.”

Ros-Lehtinen has represented parts of Miami in Congress since 1988. She defeated Democrat Scott Fuhrman last fall 55 to 45 percent.

Regarding another crack at health care, House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday that “we want to get it right.”

 “We’re going to keep talking to each other until we get it right,” he said. “I’m not going to put a timeline on it because this is too important to not get right and to put an artificial timeline on it.”

Donald Trump takes aim at Barack Obama’s efforts to curb global warming

Moving forward with a campaign pledge to unravel former President Barack Obama‘s sweeping plan to curb global warming, President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday that will suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.

As part of the roll-back, Trump will initiate a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The regulation, which was the former president’s signature effort to curb carbon emissions, has been the subject of long-running legal challenges by Republican-led states and those who profit from burning oil, coal and gas.

Trump, who has called global warming a “hoax” invented by the Chinese, has repeatedly criticized the power-plant rule and others as an attack on American workers and the struggling U.S. coal industry. The contents of the order were outlined to reporters in a sometimes tense briefing with a senior White House official, whom aides insisted speak without attribution despite President Trump’s criticism of the use of unnamed sources in the news media.

The official at one point appeared to break with mainstream climate science, denying familiarity with widely publicized concerns about the potential adverse economic impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather.

In addition to pulling back from the Clean Power Plan, the administration will also lift a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.

The Obama administration had imposed a three-year moratorium on new federal coal leases in January 2016, arguing that the $1 billion-a-year program must be modernized to ensure a fair financial return to taxpayers and address climate change.

Trump accused his predecessor of waging a “war on coal” and boasted in a speech to Congress that he has made “a historic effort to massively reduce job-crushing regulations,” including some that threaten “the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.”

The order will also chip away at other regulations, including scrapping language on the “social cost” of greenhouse gases. It will initiate a review of efforts to reduce the emission of methane in oil and natural gas production as well as a Bureau of Land Management hydraulic fracturing rule, to determine whether those reflect the president’s policy priorities.

It will also rescind Obama-era executive orders and memoranda, including one that addressed climate change and national security and one that sought to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change.

The administration is still in discussion about whether it intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. But the moves to be announced Tuesday will undoubtedly make it more difficult for the U.S. to achieve its goals.

Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, alarmed environmental groups and scientists earlier this month when he said he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. The statement is at odds with mainstream scientific consensus and Pruitt’s own agency.

The overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed studies and climate scientists agree the planet is warming, mostly due to man-made sources, including carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons and nitrogen oxide.

The official who briefed reporters said the president does believe in man-made climate change.

The power-plant rule Trump is set to address in his order has been on hold since last year as a federal appeals court considers a challenge by coal-friendly states and more than 100 companies who call the plan an unconstitutional power grab.

Opponents say the plan will kill coal-mining jobs and drive up electricity costs. The Obama administration, some Democratic-led states and environmental groups countered that it would spur thousands of clean-energy jobs and help the U.S. meet ambitious goals to reduce carbon pollution set by the international agreement signed in Paris.

Trump’s order on coal-fired power plants follows an executive order he signed last month mandating a review of an Obama-era rule aimed at protecting small streams and wetlands from development and pollution. The order instructs the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to review a rule that redefined “waters of the United States” protected under the Clean Water Act to include smaller creeks and wetlands.

While Republicans have blamed Obama-era environmental regulations for the loss of coal jobs, federal data shows that U.S. mines have been shedding jobs for decades under presidents from both parties as a result of increasing automation and competition from cheaper natural gas. Another factor is the plummeting cost of solar panels and wind turbines, which now can produce emissions-free electricity cheaper than burning coal.

According to an Energy Department analysis released in January, coal mining now accounts for fewer than 70,000 U.S. jobs. By contrast, renewable energy — including wind, solar and biofuels — now accounts for more than 650,000 U.S. jobs.

The Trump administration’s plans drew praise from business groups and condemnation from environmental groups.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue praised the president for taking “bold steps to make regulatory relief and energy security a top priority.”

“These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous administration’s strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, job-killing regulations that choked our economy,” he said.

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy accused the Trump administration of wanting “us to travel back to when smokestacks damaged our health and polluted our air, instead of taking every opportunity to support clean jobs of the future.”

“This is not just dangerous; it’s embarrassing to us and our businesses on a global scale to be dismissing opportunities for new technologies, economic growth, and U.S. leadership,” she said in a statement.

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press

Missing mayor casts shadow over Jax ICARE event

The Jacksonville religious group ICARE has been pressuring Mayor Lenny Curry to bring back a homeless day center that was once in Jacksonville.

However, already-fractious discussions between Curry and the clerics broke down last month, and he wasn’t to be at the Monday ICARE “Nehemiah Assembly.”

Moreover, the city’s data suggests there are better ways to spend finite resources, as the homeless day center was not completely effective in terms of the city’s goals, and took away resources that would otherwise go for getting homeless people into homes.

And the original funding for the day center came from Obama-era community development block grants that Donald Trump looks to zero out of the budget.

With all that in mind, the ICARE show went on anyway.

So how did it play?

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The program for the event, distributed upon entry, referenced the ICARE version of the homeless day center narrative, ignoring the lack of a dedicated facility or of the federal funding that got the original facility online.

Also included: Curry’s contact information, with a stock message. “I am disappointed that you did not attend … and I want you to fund the homeless day resource center,” the message read.

_____

As the event kicked off, a speaker noted that when opposed to something, the crowd was to respond “not with boos, but deafening silence.”

That was true, he said, even when considering concepts like “homeless men and women in our city don’t even have a place to shower” — the first of numerous allusions to the homeless day center dispute.

The call: “to demand justice from our public officials.”

For minutes before the official program began, the crowd practiced responses in unison at the urging of the pastor, who let them know that ICARE pastors would be holding the microphone at all times, even when public officials were speaking.

And that there would be no questions from the floor, as ICARE had spent months researching the answers.

_____

The pastors had their say, of course.

Catholic Bishop Felipe Esteveznotable for recently comparing objectors to LGBT rights expansion to people objecting to serving in combat during the “darkest days of World War II,” invoked Pope Francis in his argument for a homeless day resource center.

Rev. Tony Hansberry likewise argued for a homeless day center, saying “we keep displacing the homeless to hide them,” and that the homeless day center would help address that cohort’s needs.

“I urge all of you to continue to hold his feet to the fire,” Hansberry said.

Myrtle Collins said that homelessness increased 33 percent in 2015 and 2016, constituting a “crisis.”

“A year ago at this assembly, we called on Mayor Curry to open a day resource center. He said the pension tax had to pass first. That tax passed last August,” Collins said.

“At our meeting with him in the summer, Mayor Curry cited a commitment to make sure the most vulnerable people in the city receive service,” Collins said.

Collins noted that Curry said that he would not attend the assembly if ICARE “went to the press.”

Press coverage followed, then Curry’s “prior commitment,” Collins said.

Radio DJ Kenny Leggett called on Curry to be a “man of [his] word.”

Pastor James Wiggins said Curry “clearly said [he] would” support a day center, showing video of last year’s event where he emphatically said “yes” when asked.

The hard sell continued, despite Curry’s absence, as members of the crowd began to filter to the exits from the balcony and floor levels.

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Curry’s absence wasn’t the only schedule disruption. In lieu of Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, who looks poised to move back to Detroit and run the district up there, the chief of schools (Iranetta Wright) “brought greetings on behalf” of Vitti.

Sheriff Mike Williams and State Attorney Melissa Nelson did show, during a segment of the program when the focus was civil citations for young people and other restorative justice mechanisms, an ongoing concern of the group that has been rolled out slowly in Jacksonville.

Williams committed to offer civil citations to 90 percent of eligible youth by March 2018, and to expand community accountability boards … though got pushback when he urged “officer discretion” in a statewide rollout of the program via SB 196.

Williams said his department moved from 10 percent to 83 percent issuance of citations, but that wasn’t enough for his questioner.

Nelson vowed, meanwhile, to divert non-violent youth to neighborhood accountability boards, and to use diversion program.

“You’ve already seen an increase in that,” Nelson offered, compared to the previous state attorney.

Nelson, in addressing ICARE, noted the cumulative effect of its collective concern.

Lauding the “energy in the room,” Nelson said she’s “paid attention and I’ve acted” and will continue to “work with ICARE and listen to ICARE.”

Bill to exempt Florida credit unions from regulations advances in Senate

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved SB 1620 Monday, a bill filed by West Palm Beach Democrat Bobby Powell that would exempt credit unions from regulation under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

However, there were also discussions about rolling back federal consumer protections by President Donald Trump, leading Fort Lauderdale Democrat Gary Farmer to attempt a late-filed amendment.

Farmer said common law fraud protects consumers only when someone makes an affirmative misrepresentation, and that recipient lies on that misrepresentation.

If no statement is made or no question is asked, something still unfair to a consumer would not be actionable under common law fraud rules, he said.

That’s what the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act is all about.

Last month, Trump signed an executive order starting the process of rolling back consumer protections under the federal Dodd-Frank Act Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  The order directs the Treasury Secretary to consult with regulators about what needs to be done to fix Dodd-Frank and report back.

Trump also called for a review of what is known as the fiduciary role, which requires investment brokers handling retirement funds to put their clients’ interests ahead of other factors, such as their compensation or company profits.

“There is a great concern now there will be a void at the federal level, and because of that void, the justification for exempting banks from the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act,” Farmer said.

“Stated another way, federal law was providing a backstop to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices by banks,” he added. “That backstop is being taken away, and so I believe we should put banks and credit unions on the same footing but that footing, would be that they would both be they would be subject to unfair and deceptive trade practices act.”

After Powell had said he did not have enough time to review the proposal and called it an unfriendly amendment, Farmer withdrew it, adding that he hopes to consult further with Powell about it before it goes to its next committee.

A companion bill has been filed in the House by West Park Democrat Shevrin Jones (HB 1347).

Charlie Crist to host health care telephone town hall meeting Tuesday

Charlie Crist wants to hear from constituents about ways to improve health care in America

The St. Petersburg Democrat is hosting a telephone town hall meeting on the subject Tuesday night.

On Friday afternoon, Crist cheered the news that House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the vote on the American Health Care Act because there wasn’t enough support among Republicans.

Crist called the decision a “win for the American people.”

“It was a bad bill, plain and simple,” Crist said in a statement Friday. “It would have harmed our seniors, and particularly those who often don’t have a voice in the debate – ‘the least among us’ if you will, the poor and the disabled.”

Crist, a former Republican, has been consistent in his rhetoric since going to Washington in January that, when possible, he is willing to work with the Trump administration to improve the lives of Americans. “We have the opportunity now to drop the rhetoric, roll up our sleeves, and work together to fix what needs fixing to bring down costs, expand access, and protect the most vulnerable in our society,” he says.

At this point, nobody is sure if Republicans will attempt to take another crack at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, which remains the law of the land. Crist is a supporter of the ACA, but says it needs improvements.

Speaking in the Oval Office Friday, Donald Trump blamed Democrats for unanimously opposing the bill, saying Obamacare would soon “explode.”

“Now the Democrats own Obamacare 100 percent,” he said. They own it. It’s exploding now, and it’s going to be a very bad year. There are going to be explosive premium increases.”

If you want to participate in Crist’s telephone town hall, you need to register by 5 p.m. on Monday, which you can do so by going here.

Crist held a four-hour town hall meeting in St. Petersburg earlier this month.

Ted Deutch now wants select committee to investigate Russia’s alleged ties with Donald Trump campaign

Boca Raton Rep. Ted Deutch, the top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee, is now calling for an independent inquiry into alleged ties between Russia and Donald Trump‘s campaign.

His comments come days after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes broke protocol by going directly to the White House to tell Trump about intelligence reports that involved some of his associates, and not telling committee members first.

That was followed Thursday by an Associated Press report that in 2005, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort pitched a plan to a Russian oligarch that he claimed would benefit Vladamir Putin’s image inside the U.S.

“When the Chairman of the Committee decided to share information first with the Speaker, then rushing to the White House to share it with the president, information that appears to be classified information, it makes it hard for people to have confidence in his ability to move forward,” Deutch said speaking on NPR’s Morning Edition. “That’s why there needs to be an independent investigation.”

Deutch is hardly the first Florida Democrat to call for an independent inquiry, but unlike other Democrats, he’s not calling for a special prosecutor or a 9/11 style commission, saying that will take too long to set up. Instead, he wants House Speaker Paul Ryan to name a special select committee to investigate the allegations about Russian and Trump, à la the committee that looked into Benghazi.

“We should also have a discussion about whether a select committee that would give Democrats and Republicans both the opportunity to issue subpoenas and work in a more dedicated fashion to this issue alone … but independence is what is necessary, and it’s necessary right now,” Deutch said.

The South Florida Congressman noted that Ryan has not been reluctant to commit resources toward appointing select committees during his tenure as House Speaker, referring to a select committee he called to investigate Planned Parenthood.

“Certainly, it would make some sense and show some leadership and allow us to move forward with an independent investigation into the Trump campaign and White House’ ties to Russia,” he said.

Lois Frankel, Palm Beach officials asking for federal help for police overtime, protests, cyber security

Palm Beach County’s challenges with hosting the “Winter White House” begin with police and firefighter overtime but also include such needs as tighter cyber security, officials said Monday morning.

As a result, Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach is sending a letter today to the White House asking for increased compensation for the local governments’ costs in helping secure Mar-a-Lago. Her letter was co-signed by fellow Democratic U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Alcee Hastings of Miramar.

Joined by West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and Palm Beach County Assistant Administrator Jon Van Arnam, Frankel layer out costs that start with $70,000 for the county and $35,000 for the city each day in extra police, sheriff and firefighter duty and then go on to include increased security for everything from water supplies to municipal computer systems.

‘We understand why the president wants to be here. We understand that. This is paradise, right?’ Frankel said. “But what were asking for is reimbursement for this county and the city.”

Someone is trying to hack West Palm Beach city’s computers, Muoio said. The city is working with the FBI to try to figure out who and why, but now expects to spend $400,000 to upgrade information technology security. She also said the city is looking at spending up to $4 million for additional equipment and staff, particularly since the president’s presence heighten terrorist risks, what she referred to as “critical threats.”

Van Arnam praised the six-member bipartisan congressional delegation, also including Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast of Palm City and U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, for working with the White House to try to get reimbursements.

“The reality is that these are federal expenses that local taxpayers are burdened with,” Van Arnam said.

Two months out of office, Barack Obama is having a post-presidency like no other

The first cocktail party at Barack Obama‘s new office last month was certainly more casual than any he had hosted in recent years. The wine bore a random assortment of labels, as if assembled potluck-style. The self-serve appetizers were set out in the narrow hallway. The host, tieless, eschewed formal remarks, as a few dozen of his old administration officials – Joe Biden and former chief of staff Denis McDonough, as well as more junior ones – mingled in a minimalist wood-paneled suite that could be mistaken for a boutique law firm.

“It was a bit of a shock to the system,” said Peter Velz, who used to work in the White House communications office. “You’re bumping up right against the vice president as he’s getting cheese from the cheese plate.”

As the dinner hour drew near, the former president exited with a familiar excuse, Velz recalled: “He was joking if he doesn’t get back to Michelle, he’s going to be in trouble.”

So far, Obama is trying to approach his post-presidency in the same way as his cocktail-hosting duties – keeping things low-key, despite clamoring from Democrats for him to do more. “He is enjoying a lower profile where he can relax, reflect and enjoy his family and friends,” said his former senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

But the unprecedented nature of this particular post-presidency means his respite could be brief. Even while taking some downtime at a luxurious resort in the South Pacific last week, Obama put out a statement urging Republicans not to unilaterally dismantle his signature health care law.

Not only are the Obamas still young and unusually popular for a post-White House couple, their decision to stay in Washington while their younger daughter finishes high school has combined with the compulsion of the new Trump administration to keep pulling them back into the spotlight.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly invoked his predecessor to blame him for the “mess” he says he inherited: “jobs pouring out of the country,” “major problems” in the Middle East and North Korea. A post-election show of camaraderie has ended; the two have not spoken since Trump took office.

Trump dropped any remaining veneer of politeness this month with a series of tweets accusing Obama – without offering evidence – of illegally surveilling Trump Tower during the campaign. Obama was privately irritated at the allegation, which the director of the FBI and lawmakers from both parties dismissed as unfounded.

He has attempted to stay above the fray, watching from the sidelines as Republicans have pressed to unravel a slew of his initiatives – and emphasizing the need for a new generation of political leaders to step up in his place.

And yet, while other recent ex-presidents have devoted their retirement years to apolitical, do-gooder causes, Obama is gearing up to throw himself into the wonky and highly partisan issue of redistricting, with the goal of reversing the electoral declines Democrats experienced under his watch.

Both the continued interest in Obama and his desire to remain engaged in civic life place him in an unusual position for a former president. George W. Bush left office with low approval rates, retreating to Dallas to write a memoir and take up painting. Bill Clinton decamped for New York on a somewhat higher note politically but downshifted to a mission of building his family’s foundation and supporting his wife’s political career.

Can the Obamas put their heads down and build their ambitious presidential center while living only blocks from the White House? Or is it inevitable that he will get pulled back into the political swamp?

In February, Obama attended a Broadway performance of Arthur Miller‘s “The Price” along with his older daughter, Malia, and Jarrett. They slipped into the theater after the lights went down and left before they came up, most of the audience unaware of his presence – until a New York Times reporter sitting in front of him tweeted about it. By the time Obama left, a crowd had gathered outside.

Paparazzi wait outside of the D.C. SoulCycle exercise studio that Michelle Obama frequents, though she clearly does not appear interested in being photographed.

“They are still decompressing from an extremely intense period. It actually started not just eight years ago but really since his 2004 convention speech – and it never let up,” said a former senior West Wing staffer. “It’s like 12 years of extremely intense stress, political activity, scrutiny, responsibility as a national leader, and for the first lady as the surrogate in chief. … That’s been a big load for the both of them.”

To escape the spotlight, the Obamas have taken multiple vacations since leaving the White House – to Palm Springs, the Caribbean and Hawaii. After meeting with tech executives about his presidential center recently, Obama headed to Oahu, where he golfed with friends and dined at Buzz’s Lanikai steakhouse in Kailua.

Three days later he jetted off in a Gulfstream G550 to Tetiaroa, a South Pacific island once owned by Marlon Brando. He plans an extended stay there to start writing his White House memoir, according to a person familiar with his plans who asked for anonymity to discuss them.

His whereabouts have been obsessively scrutinized. The conservative Independent Journal Review hinted at some murky connection between Obama’s Oahu visit and a Hawaii federal court ruling putting a temporary stay on Trump’s latest travel ban; the conspiratorial story was later retracted. At a GOP dinner, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., declared that Obama stayed in Washington “to run the shadow government that is going to totally upset the new agenda.” (Kelly later played down his claim.)

Trump, meanwhile, has kept his distance. Before he took office, the new president said he intended to seek Obama’s counsel in the future, but he has not. Trump called once to thank Obama for the letter left in his desk, a pleasant tradition among presidents, but Obama was traveling at the time, according to an individual familiar with the exchange. When Obama returned the call, Trump conveyed his thanks through an aide but said there was no need to get Obama on the phone.

Few believe the Obamas plan to stay in Washington beyond their daughter Sasha‘s 2019 graduation from Sidwell Friends School. “People admire and respect the decision that Barack and Michelle Obama made as parents to minimize the disruption to their children,” former vice president Al Gore told The Washington Post. “When I left my job in the White House, my kids were out of high school. If they had still been in grade school or high school, I might have well made the decision to stay in the city.”

When Obama has been in town, he has not been much of a public presence. Both he and the former first lady have entertained friends in their Kalorama home, newly redecorated to suit their modern style; and both frequently go into in their new West End office space.

About 15 staffers work there, with the framed flag that the Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden presented to the former president displayed in the entryway. One floor of the new office houses aides, including Jarrett, who are helping to build Obama’s foundation, which is headquartered in Chicago.

For now, Obama is delegating political work to associates – notably former attorney general Eric Holder, whom he has tapped to lead the redistricting project that aims to help Democrats redraw legislative maps that many see as tilted toward the GOP. He also endorsed Tom Perez, his former secretary of labor, in a successful bid to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee. His first major speech as a private citizen will come in May, where he will be awarded a Medal of Courage as part of a celebration of President John F. Kennedy‘s centennial.

Michelle Obama, who has a team of four staffers in the office, is spending more time than her husband in Washington, working on her own post-White House book while remaining focused on the home front.

“She’s got one daughter to get off to college, another is a (sophomore) in high school. All of that comes first,” said Tina Tchen, her White House chief of staff. “Now she will also be working on the book and still keeping up her engagement with the community as she always has.”

Her first forays back into public have been visits to D.C. public schools in predominantly minority neighborhoods. These visits have drawn extra attention, perhaps because Melania Trump has held very few public events so far.

Michelle Obama marked International Women’s Day this month by visiting the Cardozo Education Campus and praising its program for recent immigrants. Without mentioning Trump by name, it seemed to be a swipe at his immigration policies.

“She’s deliberate. She likes to be strategic,” said Jocelyn Frye, who attended Harvard Law with the former first lady and served as her first White House policy director. “She doesn’t just do stuff by the seat of her pants.”

Unlike other former first couples, the Obamas do not necessarily have to take to a podium to make a statement. They know their every public movement is plumbed for meaning.

Caught in glimpses over the past few weeks, they appeared relatively rested and refreshed, even as they continue to decompress.

They joined their close friends Anita Blanchard and Marty Nesbitt at the National Gallery of Art to see an exhibit of Chicago artist Theaster Gates‘s unique work – installations constructed from pieces of demolished buildings from African American communities.

Gallery director Earl “Rusty” Powell described it as a “casual Sunday afternoon visit” – but someone alerted the Associated Press, which stationed a photographer outside to capture them as they emerged. The former president’s leather jacket and dark-washed blue jeans drew much approval from outlets that had showered the Obamas with attention for years: “Chic and serene,” opined a Vogue writer.

Obama was similarly “relaxed and calm” when he dropped in on a Chicago meeting with community organizers planning his future presidential library, according to participant Torrey Barrett.

“When he saw me, it wasn’t a traditional handshake,” said Barrett, founder and CEO of the KLEO Community Family Life Center, which sits near the library site. “It was actually a dap, where we shook hands and patted on the back at the same time. … He said he and Michelle’s main priority now is to make sure the library happens.”

When the group posed for a photo with Obama, the Rev. Richard Tolliver, who has known him since his days in the Illinois legislature, stood to his old friend’s right.

“I had my arm around his back and he had his arm around mine,” Tolliver recalled. “I reminded him that the last time I tried to hug him, the Secret Service snatched my arm away. We laughed. He didn’t come off as stiff and formal, projecting the authority of his former office.”

But even in retirement, Obama was in a hurry. After 15 minutes, he rushed off to another engagement.

Republished with permission of The Washington Post.

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