The Trump administration imposed sanctions Wednesday on eight more Venezuelan officials, including the brother of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, punishing them for their roles in President Nicolas Maduro‘s creation of a new Constituent Assembly.
The actions by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will result in freezing all assets of the eight officials subject to U.S. jurisdiction, and American citizens are prohibited from dealing with them.
“I support the Administration’s imposition of a new round of sanctions against corrupt individuals involved in organizing or supporting the illegitimate and anti-democratic Constituent Assembly in Venezuela,” Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio responded. “Given the Maduro regime’s continued assault on democracy in Venezuela, the time has now come for the president to act on his promise to impose significant economic sanctions on the Maduro dictatorship.”
Washington slapped sanctions on Maduro himself last week, a day after the Constituent Assembly was sworn in. That same day Maduro ousted Attorney General Luisa Marvelia Ortega Diaz, who had ordered an investigation into possible fraud in the Constituent Assembly vote.
Most countries worldwide have dubbed the election fraudulent and say the Constituent Assembly is a sign of a dictatorship.
The Trump administration says harsher sanctions could come if the political situation continues to deteriorate. Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson hinted that the U.S. could impose a ban on Venezuelan oil, the country’s sole source of income.
However, such a move would likely only further hurt the Venezuelan people, making the South American nation’s food and medical shortage worse than it already is.
A nonprofit organization that raised $22 million for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s failed presidential bid could be a two-man show that went a little too heavy on its support for the Florida Republican’s campaign, according to a report on Open Secrets Blog.
Conservative Solutions Project, a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization, brought in over 90 percent of its funds from one or possibly two anonymous donors according to tax documents obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Of the $22 million raised, $20.5 million came in through two anonymous donations, one for $13.5 million in 2014 and another for $7 million in 2015. Social welfare organizations aren’t required to disclose donor information, so it is unclear whether the two multimillion dollar contributions came from the same source.
The bulk of the money raised was spent on ads and campaign research to boost Rubio’s presidential bid, and it appears that little if any money was doled out for activities that could be deemed “social welfare.”
The nomenclature of “Conservative Solutions Project” is also strikingly similar to Rubio’s own political committee, “Conservative Solutions PAC,” and the web only gets more tangled from there.
Both CSPs, along with the Rubio campaign and the Rubio Victory Joint Fundraising Committee passed money around to largely the same people during the course of the Florida Republican’s presidential campaign.
Team Rubio didn’t deny the close relationship between the two groups when asked about it in 2015.
“Absolutely, the two groups are related,” said Jeff Sadosky in an interview with National Journal. “But they are separate and distinct entities. One is focused on supporting Marco Rubio’s potential presidential campaign, and one is focused on issue education.”
Sadosky’s “issue education” frame may be a little misleading, though, since the bulk of the ads run by the social welfare group were shining a spotlight on Rubio’s positions on taxes and national security. And since the ads were more than 60 days before an election, none of them had to be reported to the FEC.
That also runs afoul of nonprofit rules, which outlaw groups that primarily benefit one person. The IRS rarely pursues such cases, but if they did a former head of the IRS exempt organizations division said investigators “would probably say there’s an overwhelming private benefit to its activities” as well as possible campaign intervention “depending on if the messages got close to ‘vote for’ or ‘vote against’” in substance.
In a time of unprecedented chaos in the West Wing, with a new Chief of Staff shaking up the staff composition, and with questions continuing to mount regarding what Robert Mueller may uncover about the Trump Administration, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio took to Twitter Tuesday to discuss college football.
Specifically, Rubio opined on the suspension of a kicker from the University of Central Florida, who found a way to monetize YouTube videos promoting his athletic endeavors, and who UCF ultimately ruled to be ineligible in accordance with NCAA guidelines.
“The @NCAA is out of control. They ruled Central Florida kicker ineligible over YouTube videos,” Rubio tweeted Tuesday morning.
USA Today reports the kicker in question (Donald De La Haye) sought a waiver from UCF, which granted one on the condition that he could not sell ads promoting his athletic endeavors.
On Monday, NCAA representative Stacey Osburn Tweeted that “UCF declared [the player] ineligible, not the NCAA.”
This position was buttressed by a statement from UCF, which asserted that “The waiver also allowed him to create videos that referenced his status as a student-athlete or depict his football skill or ability if they were posted to a non-monetized account. De La Haye chose not to accept the conditions of the waiver and has therefore been ruled ineligible to compete in NCAA-sanctioned competition.”
Despite the facts of the case leading to UCF being the ultimate arbiter of ineligibility, Rubio had backup on Twitter from former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, who tweeted that the NCAA has “been out of control for a long time … congressional oversight/engagement needed.”
Donald Trump is imposing sanctions directly on Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro after a vote Sunday that many see as a step toward rewriting his country’s constitution.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is completely behind the sanctions, saying it’s time for the U.S. to “consider cutting off imports of Venezuelan oil.”
The directive from the Treasury Department freezes any of Maduro’s assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prevents U.S. persons from dealing with him.
“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday. “By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy.
“I talked to Treasury and we have frozen the assets of Venezuela’s dictator, Nicolas Maduro, and I expect other countries will follow,” Nelson said in a statement. “This is the first in what I hope are the strongest possible economic sanctions to stop Maduro from instituting a Cuban-style regime.”
Florida’s other senator, Republican Marco Rubio, has also been front and center in calling for the Trump administration to impose sanctions on the Maduro government. Last week, Rubio warned of a “very strong response” from Trump if Venezuela went through with what he termed a “fraudulent vote,” delivering a list of Venezuelan officials that he hoped that Trump would issue sanctions to before yesterday’s vote.
That prompted comments from top Venezuelan officials that Rubio and CIA Director Mike Pompeo of secretly conspiring against Caracas so that Washington could install new leaders amenable to U.S. interests. Speaking in Aspen earlier this month, Pompeo saidhe was “hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela and we the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there”.
“The sanctions imposed today on Nicolas Maduro are warranted,” Rubio said on Monday. “However, I remain confident the president will keep his clear commitment to impose economic sanctions on the regime if they convene the illegitimate Constituent Assembly.”
The Constituent Assembly chosen Sunday will meet as soon as this week to discuss changing the charter rewritten under former socialist leader Hugo Chávez. The opposition says the rewrite is meant to replace a critical congress and delay general elections.
Over the past year, Venezuela has become engulfed in a political and economic crisis, which led to shortages in food and medicine as well as government violence against protesters.
For years, Rubio has called out the Maduro regime, while Nelson hasn’t been as public in his criticisms. That makes his comments Monday particularly noteworthy, especially when he said it may be time for the U.S. to stop buying Venezuelan oil.
Venezuela is the third-largest oil supplier to the U.S. — sending 10 percent of its imports last year — and the top supplier to refineries on the Gulf Coast. There are some concerns that cutting off the oil would only further devastate the Venezuelan economy.
Nelson is running for re-election for the Senate next year, probably against Gov. Rick Scott, who has been adroit in talking tough about the Maduro government.
Last week, Scott announced the details of his proposalto the Trustees of the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) that would prohibit the State of Florida from doing business with any organization that supports the Maduro regime.
Fifteen days ago, in a nonbindingstraw pollin Miami, Tampa, Orlando and a host of other Florida cities, more than 93,000 Venezuelan-Americans voted to let people know their opinions about the Maduro administration’s plan to elect the National Constituent Assembly yesterday.
In some respects, Sen. Marco Rubio may deviate from the President Donald Trump agenda. On many others, the former Presidential primary rivals are in sync.
The latest evidence: Rubio’s statement of support for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to become ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
“I applaud President Trump’s nomination of Governor Sam Brownback for ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. With ancient religious communities such as Christians and Yezidis on the verge of extinction in Iraq and Syria after the Islamic State’s campaign of genocide, and with authoritarian regimes attempting to crush dissent by harassing and imprisoning people of faith, filling this State Department post with a qualified, committed individual has never been more urgent,” Rubio stated.
Rubio added that “Governor Brownback brings years of experience and stature at a critical time when religious freedom is under assault globally. Promoting religious freedom must be a foreign policy priority—it is not only a moral imperative but it is directly tied to our national security. I look forward to working with Governor Brownback on these important issues.”
A position like this is well-timed for Brownback, whose approval rating hovers in the mid-20s, as Kansas residents have soured on his governance.
Perez defeated Jose Mallea in the special Republican primary to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. Unofficial election results posted to the Florida Division of Elections website show Perez received nearly 55 percent of the vote, compared to Mallea’s 45 percent.
Perez will face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon in the special general election on Sept. 26.
Perez is an associate at Cole, Scott & Kissane in Miami. The first-time candidate is the former vice-chair of the Miami-Dade County Hispanic Affairs Advisory Board and is a member of the Cuban American Bar Association. He took heat early in the campaign after the Miami Herald reported he took his engagement photos in Havana earlier this year.
Mallea has an extensive background in politics, including running Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. He also served as chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, and served stints in the federal government, working at the U.S. Department of State and the White House.
His political background influenced his campaign — both positively and negatively. He scored endorsements from former Gov. Jeb Bush, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, state Sen. Rene Garcia, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
But outside groups attacked Mallea for his work in the mayor’s office, saying he helped usher in massive tax increases; while Perez released a Spanish language ad saying he betrayed Rubio when he worked as Bush’s Hispanic outreach director during his 2016 presidential campaign.
First elected in 2010, Diaz resigned his seat, effective Sept. 26, to run in the Senate District 40 special election, which was also Tuesday. Diaz received nearly 58 percent of the vote to defeat former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who received nearly 26 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.
The Republican Party of Seminole County announced Monday that U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will attend its Lincoln Day Dinner celebration in Altamonte Springs next month.
The Lincoln Day Dinner will be held at the Hilton Orlando Altamonte Springs on Aug. 22, with doors scheduled to open at 6:30 pm and the dinner set for 7 pm.
Lincoln Day dinners are annual celebrations held by various GOP organizations nationwide. After Ronald Reagan’s death in 2004, some Lincoln Day festivities evolved into a celebration of the former president’s life and achievements, as well as an occasion to honor the party’s successes over the past year.
The Seminole County celebration will be preceded by a VIP Reception and cocktail hour beginning at 6 pm, which Rubio will attend.
Individual tickets to the dinner are listed at $150 a piece, while an individual ticket that includes admission to the VIP Reception with Rubio is listed at $300.
Higher-tier sponsorships for the event, including a reserved table or seats at the head table, are also available.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a lifelong fan of the Miami Dolphins, has grown weary of watching the New England Patriots rack up Super Bowl wins while his team watches from afar.
Operating on the theory that misery loves company, he tried Thursday to sell a fellow Patriot antagonist on a plan he’s cooked up to sideline New England’s star quarterback, Tom Brady.
New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, selected by President Donald Trump to be ambassador to the United Kingdom, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing. Rubio’s a member of the panel. And before he quizzed Johnson on issues like counterterrorism and Brexit, the senator got the other important business out of the way.
First, because the Jets and Dolphins are rivals — both are in the NFL’s AFC East division along with the Patriots — Rubio cleared a few things off his chest.
“Support for your nomination due to your relationship with the New York Jets is painful and difficult, but I’m willing to do it for the good of the country,” he told Johnson as laughter filled the crowded committee room.
Rubio quickly pivoted to the more dastardly, common enemy: Brady. The 39-year-old signal caller has five Super Bowl rings and is a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Patriots have collected eight consecutive AFC East titles, while Miami hasn’t even won a playoff game since 2000.
“I think you and I agree the country would be well-served if a certain Thomas Brady were nominated ambassador to Brazil,” Rubio told Johnson. “Perhaps that could be arranged before September of this year,” which is the start of the NFL’s regular season.
Brady is married to Brazilian-born supermodel Gisele Bündchen.
“I don’t know why people are laughing,” Rubio said, trying to keep a straight face. “I’m very serious.”
Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts tossed cold water on the scheme. President Donald Trump and Patriots owner Robert Kraft are close friends, he said.
“So I don’t think there’s any chance of Tom Brady leaving the country until he’s won at least two or three more Super Bowl championships,” Markey said. “At that point, it’s whatever he wants.”
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.
Russia issue not yet hurting GOP fundraising or giving Dems advantage
The saga regarding Donald Trump – Senior and Junior – and Russia continues with no end in sight. It began in January and now, following the latest “bombshell,” the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice-president, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, is throwing out the word “treason.”
To their credit, the Florida delegation is showing greater restraint. Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz did call Donald, Jr. “a liar” and that his actions represent “the definition of collusion,” but the t-word remained in the holster.
Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch took the opportunity of the latest revelations to urge the House to vote on a sanctions bill against Russia already passed by the Senate 98-2. Deutch said in a release that “failure to act on this sanctions bill makes the Speaker complicit in the White House’s apparent efforts to repay Russia’s political favors.”
All of this this has got to be killing GOP fundraising, right? Or, at the very least, Trump must be providing sufficient fodder for Democrats to raise a ton of campaign cash to bludgeon Republicans with rhetorical vodka bottles.
Second quarter fundraising reports are due later this week, but the first two months show Trump is actually helping Republicans raise money. While the Russia story percolated, the Republican National Committee set a record in the first quarter.
The RNC raised more than $20 million in May and June, more than twice the amount of the Democratic National Committee. The National Republican Congressional Committee and Republican National Senatorial Committee also set first quarter records.
To be fair, the new administration at the DNC is not yet up to speed, but the message is clear that the Russia issue is not hurting the Republicans on the money end.
Russia will also have little effect on federal races in Florida. In addition to Bill Nelson’s re-election race, a few competitive districts will focus – and raise money – on the usual kitchen table issues.
Nelson is expected to report another strong quarter. Late Wednesday evening, the Orlando Democrat’s campaign announced he will report raising more than $2.1 million between April 1 and June 30. The $2.13 million haul, according to the campaign, comes on top of raising nearly $2.1 million during the first three months of the year. Nelson, according to his campaign, now has more than $5.1 million in the bank.
Candidates in swing districts have either released or leaked their second quarter numbers. Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy, a target of national Republicans, raised $410,000 between April 1 and June 30, according to her campaign.
Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo, targeted by national Democrats, had a big haul with $705,000 in the second quarter, leaving him with $1.1 million cash on hand, according to the Miami Herald. St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist, also a target of national Republicans, hauled in $550,000, according to Florida Politics.
The Herald also reported Bruno Barreiro, one of those seeking the seating of the retiring Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, raised $176,000since his entry into the race in May. Numbers for Barreiro’s opponents were not available.
The old saying, “all politics is local” is likely to be true in all areas of the country, but especially in Florida.
Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.
VP: Touched NASA equipment because “Rubio dared me”
Pence tweeted out from his official Twitter account on Friday that while he and Rubio were touring NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, the Florida senator had dared him to touch the surface of “critical space flight hardware” that had a sign saying “DO NOT TOUCH” taped to it.
Rubio responded jokingly that he had warned Pence that if he broke it, he owned it. NASA’s social media account tweeted back at Pence, telling him that touching it wasn’t a big deal, as they were going to clean it later anyway.
The vice president wasn’t done with the jokes, however.
“Okay…so this isn’t exactly the first time this has happened,” Pence tweeted, posting a photoshopped picture of himself touching a porcupine.
— Tweet, tweet:
Air Force backs moratorium on drilling in the Gulf
The U.S. Air Force supports extending a moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, according to a recent letter from David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, to Sen. Bill Nelson.
In theJune 27 letter to Nelson, Goldfein said he was writing in “whole-hearted support of a proposal seeking to extend the moratorium on leasing, preleasing or any other related activity in the area east of the Military Mission Line in the Gulf of Mexico.” Goldfein said the Air Force fully supports the development of domestic energy resources, so long as it is compatible with the military testing, training and operations.
“The moratorium on oil and gas leasing, pre-leasing, and other related activities ensures that these vital military readiness activities may be conducted without interference and is critical to their continuation,” he wrote.
“The moratorium is essential for developing and sustain the Air Force’s future combat capabilities,” he continued. “Although the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act’s moratorium does not expire until 2022, the Air Force needs certainty of the proposed extension to guarantee long-term capabilities for future tests. Emerging technologies such as hypersonics, 5th generation fighters, and advanced sub-surface systems will require enlarged testing and training footprints, and increased Air Force reliance on the moratorium far beyond 2022.”
Nelson, a long-time opponent of drilling near the coast, filed legislation earlier this year to extend the moratorium until 2027.
Rubio joins Coons in highlighting need for pediatric medical research
A briefing featuring experts from Nemours Children’s Health System and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia aimed to highlight the urgent need to include children in cancer research and precision medicine initiatives.
Sen. Rubio and Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, co-hosted and spoke at a policy briefing this week to highlight the need for pediatric medical research. The policy briefing came as the House was poised to take up a package in the coming days that could close a research loophole.
“Even though our technical capabilities have caught up to enable researchers to pinpoint similarities in adult and childhood cancer genomes, the law that prompts companies to examine the drug’s safety in children has not been updated,” said Rubio. “The pace of innovation is moving much faster than the ability of a republic to keep pace with.”
Rubio said the House could take up a package that included legislation — the RACE for Children ACT — to close what he called an “unintended loophole” this week.
Rubio — along with Republican Cory Gardner, and Democrats Michael Bennet and Chris Van Hollen — reintroduced the RACE for Children, or Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity for Children Act, in February. According to Rubio’s office, the bill would update the Pediatric Research Equity Act to reflect the latest advances in drugs, and has the backing of Nemours Children’s Health System, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, MD Anderson Cancer Institute, and more than 100 pediatric cancer advocacy programs.
“Now what this is, this is the result of a lot of hard work from a number of stakeholders, including our hosts here today. So this is an exciting step forward, but it is only one piece of the puzzle,” Rubio said this week. “With the launch of the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot and the All of Us Precision Medicine initiatives, we have a real opportunity to close the gaps between public policy and research with today’s technology. And we must all work together to ensure that as we close that gap, pediatric medicine in general and pediatric oncology in particular are not left out.”
Kate’s Law draws some bipartisan support within delegation
Just before the House and Senate went on their July 4 recess, two contentious bills came up for final votes in the House. One isKate’s Law, named after the murdered San Franciscan Kate Steinle, which calls for strict penalties for criminal aliens who return to the U.S. after being deported.
Virginia Republican Bob Goodlette was the bill’s sponsor with Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz and Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan among 17 co-sponsors. The bill passed 257-167 with 24 Democrats joining all but one Republican (Justin Amash of Michigan) voting in favor.
Among the 24 Democrats voting aye was Val Demings of Orlando, Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park and Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg.
That same day, the House also passed theNo Sanctuary for Criminals Act which, among other things, would withhold federal grant money for “sanctuary cities.” Goodlette was also the sponsor of that bill, while Gaetz and Buchanan were also co-sponsors.
It passed on a more partisan vote, 228-195. All Florida Republicans voted for it and all Democrats voted against it.
“Taxpayer dollars should not be going to jurisdictions that provide safe harbor to dangerous criminals,” Buchanan said while noting Steinle’s alleged killer was on the street because of sanctuary policies. “These two bills ensure we prioritize public safety.”
Also adding voice to his yes vote on both bills was Naples Republican Francis Rooney.
“It’s tragically too late to save the life of Kate Steinle, who was murdered by a 5-time deported criminal illegal alien with 7 prior felony convictions,” Rooney said in a statement. “We must deter illegal immigrants who have been convicted and deported, from re-entering our country.”
Single-payer health care becoming more popular with delegation Democrats
While Republicans try to unite on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are not solidly behind a plan themselves. One idea floated in 2010, but gaining some traction recently, is the idea of single-payer health care.
Those signing on are Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Darren Soto of Orlando, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Kathy Castor of Tampa.
While such legislation has almost zero chance of passing a Republican Congress, Castor told Florida Politics that now is the time to look for alternatives to bring down escalating costs of health care in America. The idea is polling better than in the past.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in June found 53 percent, the highest ever, support single payer. The number of Democrats supporting it represents 52 percent of the Democratic caucus, but that is watered down by zero support from Republicans.
Gaetz’s beach ownership bill heads to House floor
Legislation overturning decades of federal government restrictions in the Florida Panhandle is headed to the House floor, after the House Committee on Natural Resources recently OK’d it.
Sponsored by Rep. Gaetz, the bill gives leaseholders in Santa Rosa Island the option to acquire fee simple title to their land. Melissa Nelson Gabriel with the Pensacola News Journal reports the bill would overturn restrictions put in place by the federal government when it deeded a portion of Santa Rosa Island to Escambia County after World War II.
The federal government transferred land that was part of the Santa Rosa Island National Monument to Escambia County in 1947. Since then, according to Gaetz’ office, Santa Rosa Island resident have been ineligible to own their land, only lease it. While businesses and residents of Santa Rosa Island initially only paid lease fees, Gaetz’s office said the rules have changed and residents are now required to pay both lease fees and property taxes.
“Residents of Santa Rosa Island have suffered under double taxation for years,” said Gaetz in astatement. “My bill will help lift this unfair tax burden, and will finally give Santa Rosa Island residents the ability to obtain titles to their property. As a Republican, I believe land ownership is a cornerstone of the American dream — and now, for Santa Rosa Island residents, it’s finally within reach.”
The bill would require Escambia County to turn over to Santa Rosa County the land it owns there within two years, thus eliminating confusion around county land ownership, said Gaetz’s office. It also calls on Escambia to preserve the areas of the conveyed monument land that are dedicated for conservation, preservation, public recreation access, and public parking.
Sen. Rubio has introduced similar legislation in the Senate.
“This is a team effort on the part of federal, state, and local governments,” said Gaetz. “This is how legislation is supposed to work. I am happy to hear that the bill will come to a vote soon, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to make this long-anticipated goal a reality at last.”
Yoho defends Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting
Rep. Ted Yoho came to Donald Trump Jr.’s defense this week, saying a meeting with someone who might have information helpful to a campaign isn’t out of the ordinary.
“Keep in mind, she wasn’t an official for the Russian government, the way I understand it. She’s a lawyer — a Russian lawyer — and if somebody comes to us and says, ‘Hey, we’ve got information on an opponent,’ yeah, I think that’s an appropriate thing to do,” the Yoho Republican toldCNN’s Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room this week. “I don’t think it was inappropriate for what he did. If you’ve got information about an opponent running against you, wouldn’t you want that information to vet it, to see if it’s real information, and to use it accordingly? And you can’t do that if you don’t have the initial meeting.”
Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged this week that he met with a Russian lawyer, who he had been told might have information helpful to his father’s presidential campaign. The statement was issued in response toNew York Times reporting that Trump Jr. was promised damaging information about then-candidate Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya.
CNN reported that Veselnitskaya is a Russian lawyer who represents Russians who want to see an end of U.S. sanctions.
Yoho told CNN that he also would have probably taken the meeting.
“Do I think it’s appropriate? I think I probably would have done the same thing,” he said. “I mean, it’s opposition research and, you know, anybody that’s been in an election — you’re always looking to get the upper hand.”
— Tweet, tweet:
— DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter responds: “Congressman Yoho’s admission that he would have taken opposition research from Russians with ties to Vladimir Putin is outrageous. Sadly, Yoho is taking his cues from fellow Florida Republican, Congressman Brian Mast, who called Russian hacked material ‘open source,’ and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which actually used material hacked by Russians in their 2016 attack ads. Voters are looking for leaders, not opportunists who are willing to sell out the sanctity of our Democracy for cheap political points.”
Murphy, T. Rooney join West Point oversight board
Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Tom Rooney have joined the board overseeing the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, reportsScott Powers with Orlando Rising.
The two members — Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat, and Rooney, an Okeechobee Republican — were appointed in May to congressional seats on the academy’s Board of Visitors, which in many ways is the equivalent of a Florida university’s board of trustees.
TheU.S. Military Academy Board of Visitors keeps an eye on and considers the morale and discipline, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and other matters relating to the academy.
Both were appointed by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, and have indefinite terms. They join the board’s chair, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York, U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, and six presidential appointees.
Crist named co-chair of economic task force
The St. Petersburg Democrat has been named a co-chair for the Blue Dog Coalition Task Force on Economic Growth for the 115th Congress. He is joined by Lou Correa of California.
The mission of the task force is to advocate policies that focus on creating a positive economic climate geared toward boosting economic growth and creating jobs. Among the goals are advancing policies that accelerate the economic recovery, create good job opportunities for middle class Americans and assisting small business owners as they work to grow their companies.
“While our economy continues to recover from the great recession, too many hardworking Americans still struggle to find good-paying jobs and entrepreneurs still face difficulties to secure loans needed to start or expand their own businesses,” said Crist in a statement. “It’s our job in Congress to work together to address these challenges, creating an environment that fosters economic growth.”
Blue Dog Democrats, who advocate some fiscally conservative policies, have not held much influence in recent years following the defeat of several prominent members, including north Florida’s Allen Boyd. By re-filling the pool with new members such as Crist and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, coalitions with moderate Republicans may be possible – if leadership permits.
“The Blue Dogs are continuing their tradition of strong leadership on economic growth, fiscal responsibility, government reform and accountability, and national defense,” said Daniel Lipinski, the group’s co-chair for policy of Illinois.
Diaz-Balart tours Herbert Hoover Dike
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart toured the Herbert Hoover Dike with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and Hendry County officials to get an update on rehabilitation efforts.
“The rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike is a key step towards restoring the Everglades,” said the Miami Republican, who is the founder and co-chairman of the Everglades Caucus “In Congress, I will continue to work with our federal and local partners to ensure that critical rehabilitation projects like the Herbert Hoover Dike remain a priority and are adequately funded.”
Diaz-Balart, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, was able to secure nearly $50 million for repairs this year. Diaz-Balart was able to include $82 million for the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation project and $76.5 million for Everglades restoration in the energy and water bill for fiscal 2018.
“Florida is fortunate to have so many diverse natural treasures that have significant impacts on our local community” he said in a statement this week. “These funds will go towards the ongoing Everglades restoration work that is vital to the ecosystem’s preservation. Continued funding for the Herbert Hoover Dike is critical to the timely rehabilitation of the waterway.”
Diaz-Balart was joined by Col. Jason Kirk, the commander and district engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District; Clewiston Mayor Mali Gardner, LaBelle Mayor David Lyons, and Hendry County Commissioner Karson Turner.
“I’m glad that Mayors Gardner and Lyons and Commissioner Turner were able to join me on this tour to get a first-hand look at the progress being made,” said Diaz-Balart. “I particularly want to thank Colonel Kirk for his unwavering and steadfast leadership.”
Lake O Rural Health Network gets federal rural health grant
Rep. Diaz-Balart recently announced the health network received a $297,408 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. TheRural Health Network Development Program grant can be used to “provide support for networks of rural providers to integrate administration, clinical, technological and financial functions to improve health care delivery.”
“This grant will allow LORHN and local medical professionals to deliver a higher quality of care to its patients in Florida’s rural communities,” said Diaz-Balart in a statement. “I look forward to continue working with LORHN as they serve Southwest Florida.”
LORHN serves rural parts of Southwest Florida, including LaBelle, Clewiston and other areas of Hendry County.
Ros-Lehtinen calls on Germany to do more for Holocaust survivors
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wants German officials to do more for Holocaust survivors, calling on officials to “comprehensively address the medical, mental health and long-term needs of survivors.”
Last year, Ros-Lehtinen and other members of the Florida delegation called on Germany to provide more financial assistance to Holocaust survivors.Kevin Derby with Sunshine State News reported the group cheered with the country announced it would lift caps on assistance to survivors for home care.
Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement that last year both the House and Senate “unanimously agreed that Germany must do more to ensure that all Holocaust survivors can live their remaining years in the comfort and dignity that they deserve.”
“We urged our partners, Germany, to reaffirm its commitment to comprehensively address the medical, mental health, and long-term care needs of survivors by guaranteeing full funding to meet those needs. Now Germany has an opportunity to step up when it concludes its upcoming negotiations with the Claims Conference, and the Claims Conference leaders must recognize that Germany can do more for survivors,” she said in a statement ahead of annual negotiations between the government and the Claims Conference.
“Those leaders at the Claims Conference must not accept anything less than a comprehensive, permanent, and accountable commitment to fully fund survivors’ medically prescribed needs,” she continued. “Allowing once again for a modest increase when so much more is needed is not consistent with Germany’s past statements of responsibility, would defeat the purpose of the Claims Conference, and would tragically force tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors to continue to suffer when we all know the resources exist to provide the care and dignity that survivors worldwide deserve.”
Ros-Lehtinen urged the two sides to “do the right thing and not settle for anything less than what is really and truly needed.”
The good news for Republicans in the 2018 Florida Congressional elections is that Republicans have dominated not only the congressional elections, but also most elections statewide. The Republicans currently hold a 16 to 11 advantage in congressional seats.
The bad news for Republicans is virtually everything else. Most of the important election factors favor the Democrats.
Money has always been the lifeblood of politics, and Republicans have dominated partisan fundraising for over two decades. This is why the recent fundraising report is bad news for the Republicans. The Democrats raised $1.3 million more than the Republicans in the second quarter ($1.67 million for the Democrats and $338,00 for the Republicans). The total raised for the first six months of 2017 find the Democrats leading Republicans $3.5 million to $2.4 million for the Republicans. This is almost an apocalyptic sign.
The president’s approval rating is directly related to election success. President Trump started with the lowest approval ratings in modern history, and the only direction his ratings have gone is down. Trump’s approval is now in the mid-30’s, which will drag down many Republicans.
Trump’s poor ratings are tied to three primary events. His firing of FBI Director James Comey, his alleged ties of Trump and Administration officials to the Russian government in trying to impact the 2016 election results, and the strongly negative reaction by the public to the Republican effort to, “repeal and replace Obamacare.” Combine this with the failure of the Trump Administration to pass a single major piece of legislation, it is easy to see the dilemma facing Republicans in congress.
Another obstacle confronting Republicans is the impact of midterm elections. Since 1952, the president’s party has won majorities in only four of 16 midterm elections. Each of those four elections where the president’s party won contained unique circumstances that do not now exist.
In 1964 and 1976, Democrats won enormous majorities in the House that almost guaranteed losses in the next midterm election. LBJ racked up a large House majority as a reaction to the extreme positions of Goldwater and, in 1976, Democrats won a huge majority due to the reaction against Nixon and Watergate.
In 1962 and 2002, the majority party maintained control due to the popularity of their president. In 1962, President Kennedy’s popularity hovered around the 70% range due to the Berlin and Cuban missile crises. In 2002, President George W. Bush’s popularity rose to 60% due to 911 and the Afghanistan invasion. Presidential popularity almost always increases when there is an international crisis.
Since the Republican Party does not have a 2 to 1 majority like the Democrats had in 1964 and 1976 and, since the Republicans do not have a president with high approval rates such as occurred in 1962 and 2002, the conditions are good for a Democratic victory.
Finally, the generic ballot finds Democrats with a 7-point advantage, 44 to 37%. If the Democrats can maintain at least a five-point lead in the generic ballot, they should be able to flip the 24 seats needed to regain a house majority.
The opportunity is there for the Democrats. It was also there for them in the 2016 election, and look what happened. Opportunity does not guarantee success.
While the 58-year-old Naples Democrat has the backing of local Democrats and activists, he will face an uphill battle in the Southwest Florida congressional district. Rooney, the former ambassador to the Holy See, handily won his election in 2016, and the district — which covers part of Collier and most of Lee County — is a Republican stronghold.
Still, Holden isn’t letting that stop him. Hetold the Naples Daily News he plans to attack Rooney on health care and the environment.
The Naples Daily News reported Holden’s political activism stretches back to his parents, who were civil rights activists and were against the Vietnam War. He helped flip a City Council in White Plains, New York, through a series of campaigns and as the local Democratic party chairman during the late 1980s and ‘90s.
Holden moved to Naples two years ago.
Gov. candidate Chris King weighs in on “Trumpcare”
We know how the delegation Democrats feel about theGOP health care bill. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, both candidates for governor, make no bones about their distaste for the effort to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”
This week the other Democratic candidate, Winter Park Businessman Chris King, went on the record with a detailed critique of the legislation that is dividing Republicans. While the message is similar to what is heard in Washington, King presents his case in simple terms.
“First, it’s not a health care bill. It’s a massive tax cut bill paid for with huge cuts to health care,” he said in a release issued by his campaign. “Trumpcare is an attack on older Americans. Anyone over 50 will feel the draconian cuts most acutely.”
King makes the case the bill will allow “insurance companies to charge older Americans 5 times the amount they charge everyone else.” The Affordable Care Act allowed those companies to charge older Americans 3 times the amount.
“As governor, I will do everything I can to protect affordable, quality health care coverage for all Floridians,” he said.
Save the date
Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat and the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice president, will attend a fundraising reception for his re-election campaign at The Francis in Sarasota on July 23.
The event is being billed as a chance to meet Kaine and hear about strategies to “combat the policies coming out of the Trump administration.”
Watchdog looks into rapid rise by Ballard Partners DC operation
TheCenter for Public Integrity recently profiled the continuing rise ofBallard Partners’ Washington, DC office, as well as founder and President Brian Ballard. Stories featuring Ballard’s ties to President Trump are not new, but this one comes from an organization dedicating to “revealing abuses of power; corruption and betrayal of public trust by powerful public and private institutions using the tools of investigative journalism.”
Ballard “must ply his trade in the nation’s capital without looking as if he’s selling access to a president who has promised to stand up to special interests – a tricky course to navigate that has quickly tripped up other Trump alumni such as former campaign manager-turned-lobbyist Corey Lewandowski,”the story reads.
“There’s a lot of blurred lines, you know,” Ballard said. “It’s easy to say ‘oh, you’re a Trump person, you get this and that,’ but I don’t think it works out that way.”
Among the many interesting revelations from the article involves Ballard client Univision. Following the hostile relationship between the network and Trump (hethrew out correspondent Jorge Ramos from a campaign press conference), Univision has retained Ballard to “help mend the rocky relationship between Trump and the network.”
The Center for Public Integrity is led by Chief Executive Officer John Dunbar, the former chief investigative reporter for the Florida Times-Union and a graduate of the University of South Florida.
Murphy to lead Future Forum Foundation
Former Rep. Patrick Murphy has been tapped to serve as the chairman of a new political non-profit organization, which aims to identify solutions to the challenges facing millennials.
Dubbed the Future Forum Foundation, the group will raise and deploy resources to provide advocacy organizations, elected leaders and other forward-thinking individuals a platform to explore the changing dynamics facing young Americans. The group is expected to conduct research, hold events, and create partnerships with the private sector, young professionals and students.
“Now is the time for the next generation of leadership to step up and take the lead. I’ve seen first-hand the disconnect between the leaders who serve us and our changing young workforce. Millennials are at the heart of every critical issue facing our nation,” said Murphy, a Palm Beach County Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2016.
“They are defining the future of work. By gaining a better understanding of the economic uncertainty and the disruption caused by technology and automation, we can empower a new generation of leaders to find solutions.”
Trump nominates #FloridaMan as ambassador to Italy
President Donald Trump will nominate Vero Beach resident Lewis Eisenberg as the ambassador to Italy, reports Kristina Webb with the Palm Beach Post. Eisenberg will also serve concurrently and without additional compensation as the ambassador to the Republic of San Marino.
Eisenberg is the co-founder and managing partner of Ironhill Investments in New York, and is the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Eisenberg also served on Trump’s inaugural committee and donated more than $35,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign.
He now faces Senate confirmation.
Backlash against bourbon?
The nation’s bourbon industry could take a hit if the European Union acts on a threat to respond to a blanket steel tariff being mulled by the Trump administration.
Amanda Holpuch with The Guardian reported recently that EU officials confirmed one of the targeted products could be bourbon, 95 percent of which comes from Kentucky. According to The Guardian, U.S. spirit exports to the EU were valued at $654 million in 2016, 20 percent of which was from bourbon.
At a time when America faces serious challenges, it is imperative that Washington put aside partisan hostility in favor of common-sense solutions that move our state and nation forward.
Some people argue that it’s not possible to reshape the dialogue to a more public-spirited approach, but I believe that Florida can lead by example — working together to do what is right. That’s my goal as chairman of a diverse, 29-member Florida congressional delegation that includes Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, 16 Republican House members and 11 Democrats.
A prime example of our bipartisan resolve occurred last week when the Florida delegation held an official hearing to tackle the growing problem of human trafficking — a form of modern-day slavery.
Florida ranks third in the nation, behind California and Texas, in the number of reported trafficking cases and it experienced an alarming 54 percent increase last year. Children account for more than half the cases of human trafficking, a crime in which the victim is abducted or recruited for sexual exploitation. It can also involve illegal organ harvesting and forced labor.
At the hearing I co-chaired with Democrat Alcee Hastings of Fort Lauderdale, we spoke with several Florida experts on ways to combat this vile and monstrous crime.
One of the witnesses was Elizabeth Fisher, founder and head of Selah Freedom, a national anti-sex-trafficking nonprofit based in Sarasota. Ms. Fisher briefed the members on her group’s efforts to help more than 2,000 young women in the Suncoast region. She also shared the harrowing story of a Bradenton girl who was trafficked from 11 years old up until she was 26.
The scope of the global problem is staggering: 27 million people are caught in the modern slave industry, which turns billions of dollars in profits for the heinous individuals behind these crimes.
This is an issue that demands immediate action. Several of the witnesses offered constructive suggestions to confront the problem. Ms. Fisher told us that Congress should focus on helping victims reclaim their lives, given that demand for services is tripling annually.
Another witness at the hearing, Dr. Suzanne Harrison with the Florida State University College of Medicine, noted that training in the medical community is essential to treat the girls and young women who “go unrecognized in clinics and emergency rooms.
Congress should take these suggestions to heart as it moves to address human trafficking.
I have co-sponsored bipartisan legislation, the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, to increase penalties for perpetrators and give law enforcement more tools to treat human trafficking like organized crime.
I also voted for the Put Trafficking Victims First Act, a bill that provides federal grants to train prosecutors on how to best protect victims and investigate human trafficking. It also provides assistance for trauma care and mental health services to victims. The proposal is currently awaiting action in the Senate.
Too often, the subject of human trafficking flies under the radar and only receives mainstream attention when it appears on the movie screen. We must continue the fight, not as Republicans or Democrats but as Americans, to raise awareness and combat this abhorrent crime against women and children in our communities. The time to act is right now.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, serving his sixth term, represents Manatee County and parts of Sarasota and Hillsborough counties. He is also a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee.