Delegation for 4.30.19: ‘Spying’ — Russian hack — popularity contest — foreign policy — 200 days

u.s. capitol GREEN
Accusations of 'spying' have brought tensions on Capitol Hill from a simmer to a slow boil.

Coming soon: ‘Spying’ probe

Attorney General William Barr is scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill this week in front of both the House and Senate Judiciary Committee. While lawmakers from both parties have questions ready for him, Barr’s demand that only committee members question him could prevent his appearance in front of the House committee.

AG William Barr is expected to testify in front of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. But there are several caveats.

Committee chairman Jerry Nadler of New York is having none of that saying, “The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period.” Nadler insists that both committee counsels be given 30 minutes to question the Attorney General.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are looking to move on from collusion and obstruction and head in another direction. While the report from special counsel Robert Mueller undergoes intense scrutiny among House Democrats, a growing number of Senators want to know how the investigation started.

Nadler’s counterpart on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, is scheduling hearings on how the original counterintelligence investigation against Trump began. For example, they want to know how a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) judge come to approve surveillance against Trump campaign staffer Carter Page.

The Mueller report said surveillance occurred through a “finding of probable cause to believe that Page was an agent of a foreign power.”

President Donald Trump and Barr have called that “spying,” which infuriated Democrats. Graham’s committee will not pursue anything further on obstruction.

“It’s all theater — it doesn’t matter,” Graham said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “I don’t care what Trump said to (former White House Counsel) Don McGahn — it’s what he did. The President never obstructed.”

The Mueller report stated McGahn claimed Trump ordered him to fire Mueller, which Trump denies.

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz is conducting an internal investigation of how the investigation began. Barr pledged to initiate his own review of the “genesis and the conduct” of intelligence collection based on Horowitz’s report which is expected within the next 30 to 60 days.

Florida Republicans, especially Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, have clamored for the release of the Horowitz report and investigations into the conduct of the DOJ and the FBI. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, he will have his moment with Barr should the hearing take place.

Also waiting to quiz the Attorney General, with far different agendas, is Republican Rep. Greg Steube of Sarasota and Democrats Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Val Demings of Orlando and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Miami.

Neither Sen. Marco Rubio nor Sen. Rick Scott are members of the Judiciary Committee, but Rubio sits on the Intelligence Committee, which conducted an exhaustive investigation of the collusion accusations. That committee, chaired by North Carolina Republican Richard Burr, could play a role in questions involving the FISA court approval process.

Russians got into system

Part of the Mueller report made the startling pronouncement that Russian hackers had penetrated one Florida county election site in 2016. What followed was an “I told you so” from former Sen. Bill Nelson, a demand for more information from Scott and confirmation from Rubio.

Rubio confirmed there was an intrusion, but the targets were not identified. Instead, blanket warnings were issued to county elections supervisors preceding the 2018 election.

So, Bill Nelson was right after all.

Soon after the Mueller report revealed the intrusion, Scott wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking him to provide more specific information to Congress and the state. Scott called it a “very serious issue that needs the immediate attention of the FBI.”

A Scott spokesperson said late last week that “the FBI has reached out and is working on scheduling a briefing with Gov. Ron DeSantis and Scott.”

In a statement after the Mueller revelations, Nelson reminded Floridians why the warnings he and Rubio issued to Florida elections supervisors were so important. The threats were real and the “Mueller Report makes clear why we had to take that important step as well as my verbal warnings thereafter.”

Nelson had said Russians “are in” voting systems in 2018, prompting demands for proof from the Scott campaign.

Florida Senators above water

The good news for both Florida Senators in a recent Morning Consult poll is both are in positive territory when it comes to their approval rating. The bad news is neither reaches 50 percent.

Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are both above water in popularity.

Rubio shows a 44 percent favorability rating with 35 percent unfavorable and 21 percent indicating “never heard of.” Scott’s favorable rating is 42 percent while also receiving a 35 percent unfavorable mark and 21 percent have never heard of him.

Rubio ranks 65th among his colleagues and Scott comes in at 77th. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had the highest rating with 62 percent favorable and 31 percent unfavorable with only 7 percent having no idea who he is.

Former Congressman and now-Gov. DeSantis had a strong showing in the survey. His favorability is 54 percent with 20 percent responding unfavorably and 27 percent unaware of him.

Foreign policy scorecard

According to a liberal-leaning scorecard, Democrats hold better views on foreign policy. Foreign Policy for America ranked all Senators and House members through 2018 based on their views on certain issues or cosponsorship of either supported or opposed the legislation.

Former Sen. Nelson earned a 66.67 percent score, while Rubio received a 33.33 percent rating. Rubio was marked down for, among other things, supporting a border wall, additional sanctions on Iran, and Trump’s travel ban (described by FPA as “Muslim ban”).

The only perfect score from the delegation went to Rep. Frederica Wilson, who was one of only 26 around the country to earn that distinction.

Frederica Wilson is the only one of 26 lawmakers to earn a perfect score from the left-leaning Foreign Policy for America.

The Miami Gardens Democrat had supported legislation promoting worldwide gender equality, an inclusive military service, addressing climate change, sanctions against Russia, and opposed efforts to block funding for the U.N. Human Rights Council and other U.N. initiatives.

Only two Democrats, Rep. Stephanie Murphy and Rep. Charlie Crist, failed to score above 80 percent. Both are members of the moderate Blue Dog group and received marks of 76.92 and 72.73, respectively.

The highest Republican scores came from former members Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo. Each received marks of 50 percent with no other Republican earning above 40 percent.

Rep. Ted Yoho of Gainesville earned the lowest score of 15.38 percent.

The scorecard will probably become a source of campaign appeals among Democratic presidential candidates. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand were the only two candidates to earn 100s, with several others in the 80s and 90s.

200 days and counting

More than 200 days after Hurricane Michael annihilated the Panhandle, supplemental disaster funding is still nowhere in sight. It took only 17 days for help following Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, while Hurricane Andrew, the last Category 5 hurricane to hit Florida, saw relief in 17 days.

Nikki Fried speaks with North Florida Congressman Neal Dunn over the push to get more federal funding for Hurricane Michael recovery.

Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City has been trying to achieve a breakthrough but has not been able to broker a solution between two sides entrenched in politics. He described the standoff as “a political farce.”

“It is shameful that the Speaker of the House and Senate Minority Leader are playing political games with the livelihoods of the many victims of 2018 disasters who are hurting across this country,” Dunn said. “I will continue to fight for disaster aid and I hope Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer will immediately support the passage of disaster relief funding.”

The two sides agree on amounts to affected states, but Democrats want more for Puerto Rico. Trump has said he will only sign a bill containing Republicans’ allotments for the island commonwealth.

Late last week, Dunn participated in a news conference in Tallahassee with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis (also from Panama City) and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. The message was “hurry up.”

“There’s a huge federal responsibility here that they have abdicated and it’s shameful that we have not done anything about this storm in over six months at this point and it’s a disgrace, honestly.”

North Florida algae blooms

Over the past two years, algae blooms have besieged local water bodies in South Florida causing significant damage to local wildlife and creating significant health risks. North Florida is beginning to have some issues of its own, which is affecting the St. Johns River.

While the major problems are located downstream in the Palatka area, minor blooms have cropped up closer to Jacksonville along the Riverwalk and the Arlington River. With the South Florida experience serving as a history lesson, Yoho is staying abreast of developments.

Ted Yoho is keeping tabs on developing algae blooms in North Florida.

“Upon receiving the news (last week), our office began working with the St. Johns River Water Management District as well as state and local officials to keep an eye on the situation as it develops,” the Gainesville Republican said in a statement. “St. Johns River Water Management has taken samples of the bloom and are continuing to run tests.”

The St. Johns Riverkeeper, Jimmy Orth, has expressed concern that the blooms could get much worse as the temperatures increase. He notified the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to urge it to take additional samples and to test for toxins and other health risks.

Yoho pledged to stay on top of the issue and thought tests are underway, it is “too early to say what the cause specifically of the current bloom would be.”

‘Proud capitalist’

A month ago, Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy made waves by stating she was a “proud capitalist” and took offense to the growing trend toward socialism in her party. In a Washington Post op-ed published April 29, Murphy became a leading voice on trying to show the Democratic Party must not be defined by socialists such as Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“While this term has come to mean different things to different people, it signals disenchantment with — and a desire to discard — the capitalist model that the United States has embraced since its founding,” Murphy wrote. “I didn’t expect my comments to be newsworthy, because I think they reflect sentiments shared by most Americans, including my congressional colleagues.”

‘Proud capitalist’: Stephanie Murphy is pushing back on the appearance that ‘socialism’ is taking hold of the Democratic Party.

She recognized her very public statements gave fuel to Republicans and conservative media, prompting her to criticize the party for “conducting itself irresponsibly” by deeming worth programs as creeping socialism.

Murphy expressed her frustration that Republicans are having success linking Democrats to failed socialistic regimes in Venezuela and Cuba.

“I can argue it’s like comparing apples to oranges,” Murphy, the co-chair of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, said. “For (my constituents), understandably, it’s all poisonous fruit.”

Demings joins armed teachers debate

The Florida Legislature’s moves to allow school districts to let teachers volunteer to bring guns into the classrooms drew a response from Democratic Rep. Demings, who reintroduced a bill forbidding federal money to help.

Val Demings is dead set against arming teachers and has filed legislation to stop it.

Demings’ “The Secure Communities and Safe Schools Act.” would prohibit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from directing any of its counterterrorism money for cities toward arming teachers.

The bill may have no chance of becoming law, though it might get traction in the House, where her identical measure cleared one committee last year when the Republicans ran things. But Demings, a former Orlando police chief, used the measure to speak out on what Florida has done with SB 7030.

“As a 27-year law enforcement officer, the solution is simple,” she stated in a news release: “not more guns in classrooms, but laws that keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

Bilirakis tackles mold

In February, numerous families reported mold and other issues in private housing at MacDill Air Force Base. As a result, Rep. Gus Bilirakis has convinced the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine military housing across the country.

Because of the unacceptable conditions that families at MacDill have endured, Bilirakis requested and received approval for a full, independent analysis of all privatized military housing throughout the country, the congressman’s office noted last week.

Gus Bilirakis is tackling the mold problem in housing for MacDill Air Force Base.

“Our military families deserve safe living conditions on base and we must ensure their rights are protected. I am eager to see the results of this important study and look forward to acting upon the GAO’s recommendations,” said Bilirakis.

Several within the delegation have shared Bilirakis’ concern and taken steps to address the problem. Rubio wrote to the Assistant Air Force Secretary for Installations, Environment and Energy, John Henderson, seeking corrective action.

Sen. Scott met with U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson about the reports of mold and Rep. Charlie Crist introduced a bill to “empower military base commanders to hold private companies managing on-base military housing accountable for the health and safety of service members and their families” while also pointing to the problems at MacDill.

Arms treaty yanked

The President paid a call on a reliable Republican constituency last week when he addressed the annual convention of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in Indianapolis. He said all the right things but added something new and unexpected to those attending.

Trump surprised attendees by announcing he had instructed the Senate to cease considering the pending United Nationals Arms Trade Treaty that former President Barack Obama signed in 2013.

“Under my administration, we will never surrender American sovereignty to anyone,” who said to enthusiastic applause. “We will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your Second Amendment freedoms.”

The treaty was designed to regulate $70 billion in the international arms trade and keep conventional arms away from terrorists. It was submitted to the Senate in 2016 but has lingered.

A leading Congressional voice on gun control was furious.

Rep. Deutch tweeted:

Trump had a final word on the issue to attendees.

“I hope you’re happy,” he said.

Drilling plans on hold

An issue near and dear to the hearts of nearly all in the Florida delegation, offshore oil drilling, took another turn over the weekend when Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said plans to expand drilling on hold “indefinitely.”

The Trump administration had a little help in coming to that decision. Last month a federal judge in Alaska ruled the President exceeded his authority by signing an executive order to lift an Obama administration ban on oil and gas drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt says plans to expand offshore drilling are on hold ‘indefinitely.’

While appeals are expected, Bernhardt and the Interior Department felt it was better to wait for the process to play out. He described the ruling as “discombobulating the administration’s plans.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was buoyed by the ruling and cautiously pleased with Barnhardt’s announcement.

“It is encouraging, if true, that the Trump Administration has paused its economically and environmentally harmful offshore drilling plans that pose such a needless risk to America’s coasts,” the Weston Democrat said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, this Administration’s public pronouncements are unreliable, so I will continue to pursue my bipartisan Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act to ensure Florida’s precious marine life and beaches are permanently protected.”

Tragedy in California

The shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California provided another reminder of the state of today’s society. Now that attacks are coming in places of worship, religious hatred is boiling over in some.

“At this moment it looks like a hate crime,” Trump said before heading to a rally in Wisconsin. “My deepest sympathies to all of those affected. And we’ll get to the bottom of it.”

One person was killed in a shooting at a Poway, California synagogue.

Rep. Mucarsel-Powell also offered condolences to those affected. She said via Twitter:

These assaults nearly always return to access to firearms. Authorities say an “AR-type assault weapon” was used in the crime, prompting calls for legislative action.

“We must all condemn and work on common-sense gun reform to prevent them from happening again,” she added.

Trump heading to Panama City

Six months after Panama City was smashed by a category 5 Hurricane Michael, Trump is heading there for a re-election rally.

The Panama City News Herald reported that records at the city show the Donald J. Trump for President campaign is planning a May 8 rally at the city’s Aaron Bessant Park, the same place he held a rally late in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Donald Trump is heading to Panama City Beach.

Trump also made a brief visit there in late 2017 to inspect Hurricane Michael damage.

The same day news got out about his upcoming rally, Rubio’s office announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved $52 million in reimbursements for storm recovery efforts, with much of the money going to the Bay County school board.

On this day

April 30, 1974 — In an effort to bolster his claim of innocence in the growing Watergate scandal, President Richard Nixon turned over edited transcripts of recordings from White House meetings with his staff. Democrats had no interest in the transcripts, instead demanding the full release of the actual tapes.

The tapes are under subpoena, but Republicans were inclined to accept Nixon’s offer of the transcripts in lieu of the actual recordings. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino of New Jersey said he was disappointed “after this long wait” that the tapes had not yet been turned over.

April 30, 2013 — After hearing Republican criticism, Rubio defended his role in developing comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate. As part of the “Gang of Eight,” Rubio and his colleagues said the legislation would grant legal status to millions of illegal immigrants if they meet a series of requirements.

“I ran because I wanted to fix things that I thought were hurting America — that’s what I tried to do on this issue,” he said. “To people who don’t like that solution, all I ask is what’s ‘What’s yours?’”

Free falling Congressman

The late President George H.W. Bush was known for parachuting out of airplanes, even up to his 90th birthday. By comparison, Rep. John Rutherford is a youngster, but he took the opportunity to jump with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights.

In what he calls “Rutherford Ride Alongs,” Rutherford hooked up with one of the Knights to jump from a few thousand feet above the Homestead Air Reserve Base. He came away with an appreciation for what the unit does and said how important it is for Congress to support the military.

Freefalling down to Earth was an experience I will never forget,” the Jacksonville Republican said. “Thank you to the Golden Knights, my jump partner especially, and all our service members here at home and abroad for the work they do to keep our country safe.”

To watch a video of Rutherford’s skydive, click on the image below:

Staff Reports


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