Delegation for 10.4.19: Impeachment — deepfakes — no Ché — ‘scary’ Reps. — whistleblower

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Voters are slowly warming to the idea of impeachment.

Polls move toward impeachment

The launch of the impeachment inquiry led some in the pundit class to wonder if Democrats would be harmed by taking a position not supported by the polls. The percentage of respondents not wanting to impeach the President ranged anywhere from 10 to 25 points running against.

Over the past week, some of the early results began trickling in. Combined with gauging President Donald Trump’s job approval numbers, questions on opening the impeachment inquiry as well as impeaching and removing the President were among those asked.

More voters are warming up to the idea of impeachment.

His job approval numbers were around minus-7 points earlier in the week but rose to around minus-10 points in the Real Clear Politics average of polls.

The Quinnipiac poll reported a 20-point shift in one week, going from 57-37 against impeachment to a tie at 47 percent. The POLITICO/Morning Consult survey showed 38 percent of registered voters were more or somewhat more likely to vote for a member of the House who voted to impeach, while 34 percent were much less or somewhat less likely.

In the Monmouth poll, 44 percent support impeachment and removal, while 52 percent oppose. Among respondents in the Economist/YouGov poll, 51 percent of registered voters support impeachment and removal from office.

Other polls during the past week, including Reuters/Ipsos, The Hill/HarrisX, CNBC and Rasmussen did not measure impeachment. A newly-released survey from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) found narrow pluralities in swing districts opposing impeachment.

While the President and his team would prefer to be on the right side of these surveys, there are reasons not to get too excited one way or the other. Trump could have used some of that advice after a feisty news conference earlier in the week, followed by numerous tweets.

Polls more than one year out have their shortcomings. Respondents usually are either registered voters instead of likely voters (Rasmussen), while some do not ask registration status (CNBC).

Republicans routinely cry “foul” in these early polls due to the makeup of the samples. For example, the Morning Consult sample was 46 percent Democrat or lean Democrat and 37 percent Republican or lean Republican.

Quinnipiac had more independents than Republicans with 30 percent while Democrats made up 33 percent and Republicans 29 percent. Independents were the largest group in the Monmouth survey as they represented 44 percent of the sample with Democrats comprising 30 percent and Republicans 26 percent.

Likely voter polls, which will become the norm as the election draws closer, will more accurately reflect the 2020 electorate. Independents will not exceed voters from the major parties.

One thing most voters from both parties can likely agree upon came from Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth poll.

“Fundamental opinion about Donald Trump has been baked in from the very start of his presidency,” he said.

Will next week show any significant movement? Stay tuned.

Rubio, Warner tackle deepfakes

Last week, St. Augustine Republican Michael Waltz demonstrated the sophistication of falsified videos known as “deepfakes.” Concern is growing around the country, prompting Sen. Marco Rubio and Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner to ask for help in curbing the practice.

The Senators are asking 11 major companies, including the major social media giants, to develop standards for receiving, sharing and archiving information that comes through their platforms. In separate but similar letters to each CEO, the Senators asked them to commit to helping solve the problem.

Virginia Democrat Mark Warner is teaming up with Marco Rubio to help curb the use of deepfake videos.

“We believe it is vital your organization have plans in place to address the attempted use of these technologies,” they wrote. “We also urge you to develop industry standards for sharing, removing, archiving, and for confronting the sharing of synthetic content.”

The letters pose seven questions about the companies’ current policies on user-posted deepfakes, their technical abilities to detect and track doctored media, and the steps each platform would take to notify users when “problematic content” is removed or replaced. The senators also ask how the companies would verify claims of victims who are depicted in the videos and images.

Senators blast Ché exhibit

One person can look at a painting and see art that should be prominently displayed, while another thinks that the same painting should be in a closet. Any piece of art involving Cuban revolutionary Ché Guevara shown in public is propaganda say both Florida Senators.

Both Scott and Rubio expressed their displeasure at a traveling exhibit funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which features depictions of Guevara. In a letter to NEA chair Mary Anne Carter, the Senators described anything putting him in a positive light amounts to “propaganda celebrating a thug who mercilessly silenced his opponents with bullets.”

Florida Senators call on NEA chair Mary Anne Carter to put the brakes on a Ché Guevara exhibit.

“It is disturbing that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being misused to fund an exhibition that glorifies an individual who hated the United States, our commitment to democratic principles, and the values of individual freedoms we so deeply cherish,” they wrote. “Those who choose to praise him fundamentally ignore Guevara’s role in the mass murder of innocent lives during the Cuban revolution, as well as those who were denied the right to due process.”

Curators said the goal was to “create a vital dialogue that crosses national borders” that included the work of several prominent artists. The Senators asked for future exhibits to include information about the subjects of the art.

“Lastly, we urge you to ensure that individuals responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity are not featured in any NEA funded exhibits without clearly and unambiguously highlighting their heinous crimes and memorializing their victims,” Rubio and Scott added.

Republicans disavow China tweet

Earlier this week, China celebrated the 70th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s rise to power. Few in the United States celebrated the event or even offered well-wishes to the current leadership. Trump was an exception.

In a tweet, the President said:

Trump may have been trying to buy goodwill toward getting a trade deal with the Chinese. If so, Republicans in both chambers voiced their disagreement.

Without directly upbraiding the President, Republicans described modern China’s 70-year history as “ghoulish” with a “70-year record of oppression.” Floridians weighed in as well.

Scott said “70 years of China’s communist oppression is too long.” Gainesville Republican Ted Yoho, the leading Republican on the subcommittee overseeing Asia and the Pacific, said: “We must not forget the transgressions of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) around the world.”

Trump, RNC break records

When Speaker Nancy Pelosi jump-started the impeachment process, both sides used it for fundraising purposes. The first results are in.

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced it raised the staggering sum of $125 million in the third quarter, smashing the previous record of $70 million raised by former President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the third quarter of 2011.

Donald Trump and the RNC take in a record-busting haul.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale claimed 50,000 new donors to the campaign in two days following the impeachment inquiry announcement. The RNC revealed it would start spending $10 million from the newly-acquired bounty on ads targeting House Democrats for the impeachment push as well as attack ads on Joe Biden.

The pro-Trump effort has raised $308 million in 2019 and has $156 million in the bank.

Are Democrats benefitting as well? Sen. Bernie Sanders reported a respectable $25.3 million for the quarter, while Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised $19.1 million with Biden reporting $15 million. Sen. Elizabeth Warren had yet to declare her campaign’s haul.

Gaetz, Spano ‘scariest representative?’

Most college basketball teams celebrate making the NCAA Tournament ‘Sweet 16” each year. NextGen America, a liberal group backed by presidential candidate Tom Steyer, now has a sweet 16 of what they call a tournament to determine the “Scariest Rep.”

Eight matchups between Republican members of the House and Senate are on the site with visitors encouraged to vote for a “winner” of each matchup. The ultimate winner, determined after three rounds of voting, will be targeted with ads directed toward young voters.

Toss up: Who’s the ‘scariest’ Congressman — Matt Gaetz or Ross Spano?

Florida is well-represented with Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz on one side of the bracket and Dover Republican Ross Spano on the other. Gaetz is pitted against Nevada State Senate leader James Settelmeyer, while Spano matches with Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

Some of those included are somewhat surprising if targeting an unabashed conservative is the purpose. Michigan Republican Fred Upton, who often votes with Democrats, is on the list as is Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a frequent thorn in the side of conservative Republican Senators.

Collins is included undoubtedly due to her high-profile role in the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, an unpardonable sin among liberals, especially women.

Gaetz could be considered a front-runner, but liberal money spent on ads would likely be better spent targeting Spano, Tillis, Collins, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst or Arizona Sen. Martha McSally. There is also Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who has become a pariah even in his own party.

Rutherford to lead caucus

The torch has been passed to Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford, a co-chair of the Congressional Deaf Caucus. He replaces former Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder, who was defeated in the last election, and joins with California Democrat Mark Takano to lead the caucus.

The caucus “bridges the communication divide between members of Congress and their deaf and hard-of-hearing constituents” and “works to advocate for legislative policies focused on the deaf community and to empower these individuals by promoting equal access for all.

John Rutherford will call attention to the issues facing people who are deaf. Image via Getty.

“Deaf individuals experience many unique challenges in their everyday lives,” the second-term Congressman said. “It is our job as representatives to ensure America’s laws and resources properly reflect our commitment to equity and opportunity.”

Working with Gallaudet University, the Congressional Deaf Caucus supports a Congressional Deaf Internship program. James Groff, a deafblind and graduate of Fletcher High School in Jacksonville working on an MPA at Gallaudet, is currently an intern for Rutherford.

Oncologists honor Bilirakis

In recognition for exceptional bipartisan commitment to supporting cancer research and treatment, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has presented Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis with its annual Congressional Leadership Award. Also cited was New Mexico Democrat Ben Luján.

Both are members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and both jointly sponsor the Clinical Treatment Act. This legislation looks to improve patient access to clinical trials by guaranteeing coverage of the routine care costs of clinical trial participation for Medicaid enrollees with a life-threatening condition.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology awards Gus Bilirakis with its annual Congressional Leadership Award.

“I was humbled to receive the Congressional Leadership Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology. While I appreciate ASCO’s recognition of my work, it’s really all about the patients,” Bilirakis said. “I have worked tirelessly to ensure that patients with cancer have access to the cures and treatments that give them the best chance to fully recover.”

Bilirakis is also a member of the Congressional Childhood Cancer Caucus and has backed legislation that creates a 10-year Pediatric Research Initiative Fund to support the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and renews important breast and cervical cancer detection programs.

Dr. Howard Burris presented the award to Luján and Bilirakis during ASCO’s Advocacy Summit, where ASCO volunteers from across the United States came to Capitol Hill to educate lawmakers about critical issues affecting patients with cancer and their cancer care team.

Crist announces three grants

To assist disadvantaged minority groups, individuals seeking homeownership in the Tampa Bay Area, and those seeking holistic care, St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist has announced three grants totaling approximately $557,000.

The first is a $245,000 grant awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Coptic Orthodox Charities (COC) Inc. The group serves minority groups or those economically or physically challenged and collaborates with federal, state, and local government agencies to assist.

Charlie Crist brings home the bacon, announcing three grants to organizations in the Tampa Bay area — totaling $557,000.

Crist described the COC’s efforts as “life-changing work.”

He also thanked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for a $39,000 grant to the Tampa Bay Community Development Corporation (CDC), whose aim is to promote homeownership in the Tampa Bay area. Crist lauded the CDC as an organization that “serves as a partner with families working to achieve” the dream of owning a home.

Crist announced another $273,000 grant from HHS to the Community Health Centers of Pinellas, Inc. They are committed to providing holistic, culturally-sensitive care, and served 50,000 patients in 2017.

“I’m proud to announce this incredible grant to the Community Health Centers of Pinellas, empowering them to assist our low income and uninsured residents with family planning and preventive health services,” Crist said.

Castor awaits whistleblower testimony

Millions of Americans have uttered the term “whistleblower” over the past week. Some likely for the first time.

That will not diminish over the next few days as the one who complained about Trump’s call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is close to an agreement to testify on Capitol Hill.

The whistleblower is held in different levels of regard, with Trump calling him a spy. Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor says he or she is “brave” and looks forward to the testimony.

Kathy Castor is looking forward to the Trump/Ukraine whistleblower testimony.

“The fact now that the President has admitted that he did in fact pressure the Ukrainian President, he put his personal political interests ahead of the United States of America’s military and national security interests, that is plain, but now the House is proceeding in a very deliberate way, an expeditious way, to get all of that on the record,” Castor said.

Testimony would come before the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by California Democrat Adam Schiff. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has effectively put Schiff in the lead role of the impeachment inquiry.

Orlando Democrat Val Demings is the only Floridian on the committee.

While the content of the whistleblower’s complaint will be the focus of any appearance, he or she will be questioned extensively by Republicans based on The New York Times report that Schiff, through his staff, received an early account of the accusations before they were filed.

Ethics Committee extends inquiries

The House Committee on Ethics had unwelcome news for two Republican Congressmen, including Spano, as well as one of the members of The Squad. The committee informed Spano, Michigan Republican Bill Huizenga and Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib it would “extend the matter” involving each, which were referred to them earlier in the year.

Spano came under fire when he revealed he might have violated campaign finance laws by using personal loans in his campaign. The committee requires those informed of such action to acknowledge their understanding of the committee’s actions.

The House Committee on Ethics does not bring good news for Ross Spano.

“The House Committee on Ethics is reviewing my self-reported filings with the FEC. I think this is a step in the right direction as I want to ensure my record of transparency and accountability is publicly highlighted,” Spano said in a statement.

“While I have doubts about the timing and motive behind this inquiry, I am confident the process will ultimately lean in my favor. With that said, I remain committed to the issues that my district has elected me to address.”

Huizenga is accused of improper campaign spending while Tlaib was the target of a complaint about taking a salary from campaign funds. The committee stressed the recent action does not necessarily mean a violation has occurred. An update on the cases is expected Nov. 14.

An investigative subcommittee is also looking at an earlier complaint filed against Gaetz for his tweet at former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. The Florida Bar earlier cleared Gaetz of official wrongdoing but admonished him for being “reckless.”

Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch chairs the Ethics Committee.

Stopping the trophy pipeline

Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan said Congress is one step closer to upping the bounty on poachers themselves. His Rescuing Animals With Rewards (or RAWR) Act already passed in the House, and now has advanced in the Senate, where Sens. Collins and Jeff Merkley are sponsoring.

“Wildlife trafficking is a nefarious and persistent threat to endangered animals across the world,” Buchanan said. “The RAWR Act provides another tool to crack down on the billions of dollars generated by this illegal activity.”

Vern Buchanan is moving closer to upping the bounty on wildlife poachers, with his Rescuing Animals With Rewards Act.

The legislation potentially will authorize the State Department to offer cash rewards to information leading to apprehension and conviction of wildlife traffickers.

“I was pleased to see this important measure take another critical step forward and urge Senate leaders to pass my bill and send it to the President’s desk for his signature,” Buchanan said.

But notably, the legislation also comes not long after the Trump administration permitted an Orlando man, Carl Atkinson, to import the skin, skull, claws and teeth of a lion killed in Tanzania in 2016.

Still, Buchanan’s tough-on-poachers measure passed unanimously in the House, and he’s confident it will continue to see strong bipartisan support.

Steube touts USMCA

Among the issues making little traction while impeachment grips Capitol Hill is the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA), which many say is needed, but stuck in neutral. The USMCA replaces the widely-panned North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has the support of business and farmers, but is opposed by unions.

If changes are not made to protect union workers, the AFL-CIO pledges to “do everything in our power to defeat it.” Democrats, who control the House, no doubt hears that message.

While impeachment takes up most of the talk, Greg Steube wants to get moving on the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement, which is stuck in neutral.

Republicans such as Greg Steube of Sarasota, considers the agreement a “must-pass.”

“Continuing the long history of our successful trade relationships is essential to bringing the United States economy into the 21st century,” Steube said in a one-minute video released this week. “That’s why Congress should pass the USMCA.

Steube quoted statistics from a United States International Trade Commission report that the new agreement will lead to 176,000 new jobs and add $68 billion to the gross domestic product.

“This deal is a good deal for Florida and America, and I urge my colleagues in Congress to pass this quickly.”

Rooney: No bailouts

Recent American history has shown large cities in dire financial straits illustrated by the New York crisis of 1975. President Gerald Ford first refused to support a federal bailout, but later acquiesced.

With other cities, especially Chicago, facing default on pension liabilities, Naples Republican Francis Rooney wants to ensure cities or states do not come to Washington seeking bailouts. Last week he introduced a bill that would make such bailouts illegal.

Francis Rooney believes taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden for municipal mismanagement.

“American taxpayers do not like when their money is used to bail out failing corporations or businesses,” Rooney said, “and this dislike extends to state and local governments who are fiscally irresponsible.”

Rooney claims his legislation is not targeted toward any city, but the dilemma facing Chicago is well-known. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has asked the state of Illinois for help on a failing pension fund.

The second-term Congressman and other conservatives believe it would only be a matter of time before U.S. taxpayers would be asked to come to the rescue.

Nothing doing, says Rooney.

“I have consistently voted against irresponsible spending and subsidies,” he said. “All levels of government; federal, state and local, must be better stewards of taxpayer money.”

Rooney’s bill is the House counterpart filed in the Senate by Republican Sens. Todd Young of Indiana, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

Anger over testimony time

Former Ukraine envoy’s testimony to the Foreign Affairs Committee provided the newest chunk of news in the impeachment saga. But the Democratic majority’s decision not to allow Republicans equal time to question Kurt Volker drew criticism, including from committee member Rooney.

He shared a letter from Ranking Member Michael McCaul to Committee Chair Eliot Engel that strongly objected to the one-sided questioning.

Francis Rooney is criticizing foreign affairs committee chair Eliot Engel, objecting to the one-sided partisan questioning of Kurt Volker.

“I was alarmed to learn — less than 24 hours before the first interview is scheduled to start — that it will be led by the Intelligence Committee and that questioning will be done solely by their staff,” McCaul wrote. “Also, we were told that only a single Republican professional staffer from the Foreign Affairs Committee will be allowed to attend while the majority will have two. These constraints on committee and Republican participation are unacceptable and at odds with House Rules and general fairness.”

Rooney concurred.

“The hearing process today undermines the jurisdiction of the Foreign Affairs Committee, on which I sit,” Rooney tweeted Thursday.

“Further, by limiting questions and input from all sides of the inquiry process is asymmetrically oriented to express only some points of view.”

Shooting anniversary remembered

Oct. 1 marked the second anniversary of the Las Vegas shooting massacre where 58 people were killed and hundreds wounded. The somber remembrance was missed by most, helped in part by the fixation on the impeachment inquiry.

It was not lost on some members of the delegation, who remembered the dead in Nevada and other shootings around the country. They were among those urging Senate action on House bills focusing on gun control.

Oct. 1 marked the second anniversary of the Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds.

“It’s been two years since the deadliest shooting in modern US history,” tweeted Miami Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. “58 people lost their lives in Las Vegas and hundreds injured. Since then, we’ve taken action. #VegasStronger.”

Demings of Orlando put the number of those killed and injured in another tweet. She also added to the call for action as a way to remember those whose lives were lost or shattered.

“Two years — and not enough action to save lives,” she said in a tweet. “The victims and families of the #LasVegasShooting must be first in our hearts and prayers today. But remembering alone is not enough. We must #HonorThemWithAction. We must #EndGunViolence.

The House passed two bills earlier this year, including one that called for universal background checks. More are under consideration highlighted by a “red flag” bill that would temporarily confiscate weapons from those deemed by a judge to be a danger to the community.

On this day

Oct. 4, 2012 — President Mitt Romney may not sound so far-fetched after all. After a convincing win in the first of three debates with President Barack Obama, Romney’s campaign has new life.

Respondents to polls by CNN and CBS gave the Republican nominee a two-to-one advantage when asked about who did better in the debate. The Romney campaign immediately began to fundraise off the debate with an email pitch for cash titled “Victory is in sight.”

Oct. 4, 2017 — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is denying reports that he intends to quit and another report claiming he called the President a “moron.” Tillerson said: “I have never considered leaving this post.”

He did not directly respond to a report from NBC News that claimed he used the term “moron” to describe his opinion of Trump. He did say “I am not going to deal with petty stuff like that.”

Correction: In the last issue of Delegation, we did not identify Republican Rep. Waltz as a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Waltz and Gaetz are the delegation’s two members on that committee. We regret the error.

Staff Reports


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