Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.7.21

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

I understand I am supposed to begin today’s Sunburn with a reflection on yesterday’s horrible developments. And I do have a lot to say on that matter. However, I will instead begin by sharing a sliver of hope, as two of our favorite people in The Process, Lindsey and Skylar Zander, have much to celebrate today.

Michelle and I have known about this for a little while and have prayed while our friends spent every moment with their son in the NICU.

This is one of the best ‘welcome to the world’s’ I’ve ever written, so … Welcome to the world, John Gary Zander.

 

Now on to the disgrace in D.C.

Many tried to warn Congressional Republicans that they were playing a dangerous game by validating inaccurate claims that the presidential election was stolen.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz didn’t listen, though. Neither did U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz. Along with many of their colleagues, they embraced the baseless conspiracy lie that a rigged election will lead to an illegitimate President when Joe Biden is inaugurated.

They did it in the name of politics, hoping to curry favor from Donald Trump supporters in the next election or two. Instead, we can only hope their names will be forever linked to a horrifying scene at Capitol Hill that played out on live TV.

A protest rally nearby, where Trump spoke, quickly became violent when marchers decided that terror was better than reason.

Protesters decided violence was better than reason.

The mob, egged on by Trump, breeched the security to storm the U.S. Capitol building while lawmakers were debating whether to certify Biden’s election. Vice President Mike Pence was evacuated, along with all the other lawmakers.

“At this hour, our Democracy is under an unprecedented assault,” Biden said in a national address late Wednesday afternoon.

Yes, Trump is to blame for much of this, but Republicans who either wholeheartedly endorsed him (Gaetz, Greg Steube) or looked the other way (like Marco Rubio) as norms were shattered and a nation was intentionally divided.

Why?

They put their fear of reprisals at the ballot box over their duty to the country; this is the result.

“Enough is enough, is enough, is enough,” Biden said after he concluded his remarks.

We can only hope that’s true.

Many of those Trump supporters in the mob call themselves patriots, but there is nothing patriotic about what they did. Biden called it insurrection and borderline sedition. That’s more accurate.

This wasn’t a protest over election results. It certainly wasn’t what the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis called “good trouble.” These were thugs with mayhem on their minds, and a President reinforced them with no regard for the law and media outlets like Newsmax and OANN. In a lengthy video, Newsmax recently admitted that it had no evidence to support its claims of fraud against a voting machine company, but the damage was done.

America has been building toward this day since the moment Trump seized control of what used to be known as the Party of Lincoln.

On the day he took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the United States Constitution, Trump referred to “American carnage” in his inaugural address. Turns out, that’s exactly what he had in mind and his supporters made sure it happened.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!

@RealDonaldTrump: These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!

@Mike_Pence: We condemn the violence that took place here in the strongest possible terms. We grieve the loss of life in these hallowed halls, as well as the injuries suffered by those who defended our Capitol today.

@PalmerReport: I love Joy Reid for having the guts to go on the air and mention Donald Trump in the same breath as Osama bin Laden.

@JebBush: The President has provoked the disgusting events at the Capitol today. He has gone from creating chaos to inciting insurrection. Mr. President, accept your defeat, go home to Florida and let our elected officials do their jobs, and rebuild confidence in our democracy.

@ReadioFreeTom: The only debate we should be having is whether the President must be removed by impeachment or via the 25th amendment

@EmilyNussbaum: It’s intensely screwed up and perverse that Mitch McConnell is the one who ends up making the Aaron Sorkin speech.

Tweet, tweet:

@JustinTrudeau: Canadians are deeply disturbed and saddened by the attack on democracy in the United States, our closest ally and neighbour. Violence will never succeed in overruling the will of the people. Democracy in the US must be upheld — and it will be.

@ClairCMC: Where is AG? Where is Sec of Homeland Security? We just had a serious act of domestic terrorism. IN OUR NATION’S CAPITOL.

@Keribla: They protected Confederate statues better than the actual Capitol.

@JakeTapper: Knives out! Another GOP strategist says that NRSC polling looked good until last week when [Josh] Hawley announced his challenge, and the focus turned to overturning the election instead of being a check on the Dems.

@MarkSKrikorian: Has Trump sabotaged his own chances of a Grover Cleveland comeback by handing the Senate to Chuck Schumer on his way out?

@DavidJollyFL: Resigning tonight is not an act of courage; it’s a public admission that you were OK to promote this President until the public scrutiny of your own participation just got too great to bear.

Tweet, tweet:

@Jmadeliman: The Confederate battle flag has reached the United States Capitol building, something that did not happen during the Civil War.

@AVindman: History will judge the SecDef and service secretaries and Joint Chiefs and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff @thejointstaff for their actions this moment. Nothing they have done, at any point in their long careers, matters as much as what they do now. #HereRightMatters

@SethARichardson: I guess the right wasn’t lying when they said the country would descend into chaos like Venezuela if Biden was elected. They just didn’t say they’d be the ones to make it so.

@DavidMWeismsman: Black Lives Matter peaceful protesters get tear-gassed, Trump supporters rioting gets selfies taken with cops.

—@OWillis: the response to the blm protest vs. the response to the maga protest is basically why Black people don’t trust anything in the country

@RexChapman: We live in a country where a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun gets shot by police and insurrectionists who lay siege to the US Capitol get a pass.

@CoreyGJohnson: There’s no way in the world the heads of the Capitol Police should wake up on Thursday with a job.

@MKarolian: Unlike members of Congress, the press is on the hill today, unprotected, bearing witness.

@ChrisSprowls: In a democracy, rioting, violence and lawlessness are repugnant and unacceptable. This isn’t a peaceful protest. It’s a tragic, cowardly and un-American spectacle.

@TheDailyShow: @StaceyAbrams, what do you know about vaccine distribution

Tweet, tweet:

@RealJacobPerry: If @AndrewGillum had focused on actually doing the work in Fla the way @staceyabrams did in Georgia, Democrats would’ve won here by 5%. Something about a show horse vs. a workhorse.

— DAYS UNTIL —

NHL season begins — 6; WandaVision premieres on Disney+ — 8; the 2021 Inauguration — 13; Florida Chamber Economic Outlook and Job Solution Summit begins — 21; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 31; Daytona 500 — 38; “Nomadland” with Frances McDormand — 44; “Coming 2 America” premieres on Amazon Prime — 58; “The Many Saints of Newark” premieres — 64; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 85; Children’s Gasparilla — 93; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 100; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 105; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 120; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 176; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 184; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 197; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 204; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 229; “Dune” premieres — 267; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 299; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 302; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 344; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 337; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 442; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 484; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 638.

— A DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY —

Congress certifies Biden’s win after day of chaos and violence via Kyle Cheney, Burgess Everett, Heather Caygle, Melanie Zanona and Sarah Ferris of POLITICO — A beleaguered Congress finalized President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory early Thursday morning, capping a day of riots that turned deadly and briefly ground the nation’s most powerful institutions to a standstill. It was the last step in affirming Biden’s election ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration, but one marred by violence fueled by the sitting president, Donald Trump, who urged his followers to march on the Capitol to pressure lawmakers to overturn the results. Vice President Mike Pence formally ascertained Biden’s win as the clock struck 3:32 a.m. Thursday morning.

A mob and the breach of Democracy: The violent end of the Trump era” via Peter Baker of The New York Times — So this is how it ends. The presidency of Donald John Trump, rooted from the beginning in anger, division and conspiracy-mongering, comes to a close with a violent mob storming the Capitol at the instigation of a defeated leader trying to hang onto power as if America were just another authoritarian nation. The scenes in Washington would have once been unimaginable: A rampage through the citadel of American democracy. Police officers brandishing guns in an armed standoff to defend the House chamber. Tear gas deployed in the Rotunda. Lawmakers in hiding.

A single day shakes two presidencies, two parties and one nation to the core” via Gerald F. Seib of The Wall Street Journal — Never in recent memory have the events of a single 24-hour period so shaken two presidencies, the very Capitol of the United States and the nation itself as they did on Wednesday. The remarkable scenes of political violence that broke out amid what was to be a peaceful confirmation of the transfer of power are testing America’s democratic institutions, and it’s far from clear how they will respond. Trump’s term, which began with Republicans fully in charge of Washington and the promise of a new kind of populist leadership, effectively came to an end Wednesday with his party aflame and out of power, some of its top leaders excoriated by a President they had loyally supported, and a mob of Trump supporters occupying and vandalizing the Capitol.

One day of political violence shook the nation to its core. Image via AP.

Donald Trump told crowd ‘you will never take back our country with weakness’” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — With his loyal No. 2 no longer so loyal in his eyes, Trump urged his supporters to take another step to back him. “We want to be so respectful of everybody,” Trump said, before calling his political opponents bad people. “And we are going to have to fight much harder.” Donald Trump Jr., warmed up the crowd by warning of challenges to Republican members of Congress who didn’t back the pro-Trump efforts: “We’re coming for you.” As allies of the President began to go public with their disgust about what was taking place at the Capitol, White House aides finally coaxed Trump into a tweet in which he did not condemn the violence.

The day Donald Trump broke the GOP” via POLITICO — Republicans started the day losing the Senate. They ended it with President Trump’s supporters losing their minds. Jan. 6, 2021 might have been remembered for an intraparty battle over whether to certify Joe Biden’s election win or who to blame for the Georgia defeats. But instead it will go down as the day that broke the Republican Party as we know it and began the GOP’s ultimate reckoning with Trumpism. It literally took a riot of Trump supporters in the Capitol for many Republicans to finally confront the defeated President — a moment of bedlam that put those GOP lawmakers’ own lives at risk.

‘They failed’: Mitch McConnell condemns rioters who stormed the Capitol” via Matthew Choi of POLITICO — McConnell condemned rioters who stormed the Capitol as members of a “failed insurrection,” as he pressed forward on lawmakers’ effort to finalize Biden‘s victory Wednesday. “The United States and the United States Congress have faced down much greater threats than the unhinged crowd we saw today. We have never been deterred before; we’ll be not deterred today. They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. McConnell vowed never to let “criminal behavior” deter Congress from exercising its democratic obligations. Earlier, McConnell had angered Trump when he encouraged Republican Senators not to support the President’s false claims of a stolen election.

Joe Biden condemns riots at Capitol, calls on Trump to demand end to siege” via Thomas Franck of CNBC — Biden offered a scathing rebuke of the hundreds of pro-Trump rioters who continued to storm the U.S. Capitol Complex and disrupted the official declaration of the 2020 election results earlier on Wednesday. Biden, who will become the U.S. President on Jan. 20, castigated the rioters and called upon law enforcement to quell violence in Washington. “At this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault, unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times,” the President-elect said from Wilmington, Delaware. “Let me be very clear: The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect the true America, do not represent who we are.”

Biden has called the violent protests on the U.S. Capitol ‘an assault on the most sacred of American undertakings: the doing of the people’s business.’ Image via AP.

George W. Bush excoriates lawmakers’ ‘reckless’ behavior in call for calm” via Nick Niedzwiadek of POLITICO — Former President Bush condemned the mob of rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol and lawmakers who sought to delegitimize the presidential election results beforehand. “It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight,” Bush said in a statement. “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic.” Bush said the rioters who breached the building and remained there for hours were “inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes.” Bush also urged people upset about the recent elections to stand down for the sake of American democracy.

Nothing less than a national heroD.C. aide grabs Electoral College ballots before mob broke into Senate floor” via KJ Hiramoto of Fox 13 — A Washington, D.C. aide is receiving props on social media for keeping the Electoral College ballots safe from pro-Trump protesters during Wednesday’s deadly riots. According to Sen. Jeff Merkley, the aide rescued the sacred ballots just before the mob broke into the Senate floor. Sen. Merkley said if it weren’t for the aide’s quick-thinking actions, those ballots would have been burned down. The aide’s identity has not been released. Congress plans to resume the count of electoral votes Wednesday night after the deadly break-in from the mob.

The rioters who took over the Capitol have been planning online in the open for weeks” via Jane Lytvynenko and Molly Hensley-Clancy of BuzzFeed News — The supporters of Trump who rioted in the U.S. Capitol building had been openly planning for weeks on both mainstream social media and the pro-Trump internet. On forums like TheDonald, a niche website formed after Reddit banned the subreddit of the same name, they promised violence against lawmakers, police, and journalists if Congress did not reject the results of the 2020 election. On pro-Trump social media website Parler, chat app Telegram, and other corners of the far-right internet, people discussed the Capitol Hill rally at which Trump spoke as the catalyst for a violent insurrection.

Inside the assault on the Capitol: Evacuating the Senate” via Paul Kane of The Washington Post — The officer stood dead smack in the middle of the floor of the United States Senate. Across his chest, an orange POLICE sash. Hanging from his right shoulder, a semiautomatic weapon. He said barely a word, just stared straight ahead at the backdoor entrance to the Senate Chamber. It was 2:15 p.m. Wednesday and the U.S. Capitol was under assault, the most brazen attack on Congress since terrorists hijacked an airplane and attempted to slam it into the building more than 19 years ago. On Wednesday, a pro-Donald Trump mob crashed into the building in a historic first that sent Washington into lockdown.

‘Hold the line’: Inside the House chamber as a pro-Trump mob stormed in” via Billy House and Erik Wasson of Bloomberg — At first, the disruption surrounding the Capitol seemed like a curiosity at best, a nuisance at worst. Thousands of pro-Trump protesters were pushing into the East Front of the Capitol grounds, past barricades, some waving Trump flags, some American flags. But the situation quickly turned grave, with security officials inside the House of Representatives chamber warning that “lots of people” had broken past a perimeter that had been set up. “Hold the line and make sure we secure the building,” Paul Irving, the House sergeant-at-arms, could be heard saying into his phone.

Gas masks, a prayer and guns drawn. Inside the riot at the U.S. Capitol Building” via Alex Daugherty and David Smiley of The Miami Herald — The U.S. House of Representatives was already on edge when a Capitol police officer halted proceedings Wednesday afternoon and loudly told lawmakers that they might need to crawl beneath their chairs. Then a series of bangs rang out as the doors to the chamber were sealed. Police told the politicians to find their gas masks. And in the distance, someone said a prayer. Already an unprecedented afternoon in the nation’s capital, an acrimonious debate in Congress over whether to accept the results of Biden’s win in the November election devolved into chaos as a pro-Trump mob forced its way into Capitol Hill and clashed violently with police.

The House was already on edge before rioters broke into the Capitol.

Capitol Police firings imminent after ‘attempted coup,’ top appropriator warns” via Caitlin Emma of POLITICO — The top House appropriator charged with funding the Capitol Police vowed Wednesday to investigate the law enforcement response to the violent mob that overtook the Capitol building and alluded to firings to come among the force. Rep. Tim Ryan told reporters after the rioting had subsided that “there were some strategic mistakes from the very beginning.” With control of both chambers and the White House, Democrats could mandate changes among the Capitol Police force through annual spending bills. House Democrats have previously sought to tie police reform to federal funding, in addition to pursuing reports on Capitol Police training policies and procedures to eliminate unconscious bias and racial profiling.

Amid violent protests in U.S. Capitol, Ted Cruz pleads for cash” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Violent protesters, sporting MAGA hats and draped in American flags stormed the U.S. Capitol this afternoon. They reached the Senate floor. Lawmakers were evacuated. A woman was shot. Trump offered an impotent call for peace, not even asking his supporters to leave the building. American democracy is on fire, and U.S. Sen. Cruz isn’t about to let this crisis go to waste. At 3:12 p.m., as the lawlessness reached a crescendo, the Texas Republican sent a text blast to his supporters asking them for cash. The likely 2024 presidential candidate played the victim, saying, “the Democrats are aiming the full force of their fire at me, and they’re not going to be letting up any time soon.”

A day of crisis at the U.S. Capitol, fact-checked” via PolitiFact — In an unprecedented day of chaos in the nation’s capital, hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building as lawmakers were counting the presidential electoral votes. They overran barricades, and some reached the hallway outside the Senate chamber, forcing a halt to the proceedings. Before counting the electoral votes began, Trump had spoken to a large crowd of supporters gathered between the White House and the Washington Monument, calling the presidential election the most corrupt in the nation’s history. Trump repeated the false claims of election fraud that have failed to find traction in courts across the country.

Democratic lawmakers call for Mike Pence to invoke 25th Amendment, remove Trump from office” via Joseph Choi of The Hill — Democratic lawmakers called on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment on Wednesday and remove Trump from office, blaming the President for inciting the rioters that violently breached the Capitol building. “Dear @VP @Mike_Pence: You need to start the 25th Amendment. @realDonaldTrump is detached from reality,” wrote Rep. Ted Lieu. Rep. Ayanna Pressley tweeted, “Donald J. Trump should immediately be impeached by the House of Representatives & removed from office by the United States Senate as soon as Congress reconvenes. This is dangerous & unacceptable.”

Mike Pence is feeling the pressure to invoke the 25th Amendment. Image via AP.

James Mattis denounces Trump, describes him as a threat to the Constitution” via Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic — Mattis, the esteemed Marine general who resigned as Secretary of Defense in December 2018 to protest Trump’s Syria policy, has, ever since, kept studiously silent about Trump’s performance as President. But he has now broken his silence, writing an extraordinary broadside in which he denounces the President for dividing the nation and accuses him of ordering the U.S. military to violate American citizens’ constitutional rights. “I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis writes. “The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding.”

New York National Guard deployed to Washington D.C. in response to storming of U.S. Capitol building” via CBS New York — Members of the New York National Guard are being sent to Washington, D.C., Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday night. One thousand members of the New York National Guard will be sent to Washington for up to two weeks, the Governor said in a statement. This comes hours after protesters turned violent and stormed the U.S. Capitol Building. Cuomo called what happened “a failed attempt at a coup.” New Jersey deployed 50 state troopers to D.C. in response to the riots. Gov. Phil Murphy said the state was prepared to deploy the New Jersey National Guard upon request.

Rudy Giuliani to Senator: ‘Try to just slow it down’” via Steve Hayes of The Dispatch — Giuliani, a lawyer and top adviser to President Donald Trump, called Republican lawmakers urging them to delay the electoral vote count by at least one day to allow the President and his team to present more evidence of alleged election fraud. Giuliani was making calls Wednesday evening, as late as an hour before Congress reconvened, in a desperate attempt to block the final count of Electoral College votes.  At approximately 7 p.m., Giuliani called newly sworn-in Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a staunch Trump ally, imploring him to stall the process.

—“Marco Rubio pleads with Trump to ‘restore order’ as chaos descends on D.C.” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Charlie Crist: Remove Trump from office by invoking 25th Amendment” via Steve Contorno of The Tampa Bay Times — U.S. Rep. Crist called for the removal of Trump from office hours after the President’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a chaotic takeover of the country’s seat of legislative power. “The 25th Amendment allows for the removal of a President,” Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, tweeted. “It’s time to remove the President.” The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that the Vice President and a majority of Cabinet members can declare a President “unable to discharge the powers and the duties of the office.” Under such a scenario, the Vice President, Pence, would be named acting President. It has never been used to remove a President against his will.

Trump loyalist Neal Dunn backs Electoral College challenge” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — U.S. Rep. Dunn said he would stand with dozens of other House Republicans Wednesday and object to the electoral vote affirming Biden as President of the United States. Dunn spokesman Leah Courtney said the Panama City Republican supports Trump’s decision not to concede the election to Biden. Republican lawmakers, repeating Trump’s claims the election was stolen, have lost more than 50 court challenges in which they failed to provide evidence of massive fraud or other wrongdoing in the casting and counting of ballots.

Was this dark American day worth it, John Rutherford?” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Was it worth it, John Rutherford? You are a former Jacksonville sheriff. You were once, not so long ago, a mainstream Duval Republican. You are now a member of Congress, and as I type this, the nation’s Capitol is on lockdown because a mob of rioters has stormed and overtaken the building. I hope you are taking a few moments to consider your own culpability in this dark American day. I genuinely hope you are safe. I also hope you are writing a forthcoming public apology in your head, and that you are even considering the possibility of stepping down from your post. You are, simply stated, unworthy of the position. You know what you and your colleagues have done.

—“Hiding from Trump’s mob, Rep. Lois Frankel says, ‘It’s pretty scary here’” via John Pacenti of The Palm Beach Post

Business leaders condemn today’s assault on democracy, call for Republicans to hold Trump accountable” via Conan Knoll of Small Business for America’s Future — We join business leaders from across the country, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the International Franchise Association, in condemning today’s assault on the nation’s capital and our democratic values. Today’s violent attack on the United States Capitol and our democracy was disgusting. This act of sedition, stoked by Trump, is a threat to our country and every American’s rights and well-being. It must not be tolerated. A national survey of more than 1,000 small business owners following the presidential election in November found 73% believe Trump should participate in a peaceful transition of power.

Business groups are calling for Donald Trump to just go away. Image via AP.

The Lincoln Project: Impeach the President” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — As supporters of Trump continue to besiege the Capitol, calls for the President’s impeachment or removal from office are starting to mount. Among those calling for the President to leave office before Jan. 20: the Lincoln Project. The former Republican operatives, who coalesced in opposition to the Trumpism that changed the party possibly forever, are again sounding the alarm as a crisis takes hold in Washington. “The House should immediately impeach Donald Trump for directing and provoking this attack. The United States Senate should immediately vote to convict and remove him from office,” asserted Rick Wilson, one of the group’s co-founders.

Trump supporters, Proud Boys protest in front of Old Florida Capitol” via Tori Lynn Schneider of the Tallahassee Democrat — A group of between 100 and 150 Trump supporters rallied outside the Florida Capitol Wednesday to join in the “Stop the Steal” protest which took place at state Capitols across the country and in Washington, D.C. The protest in Tallahassee was tame compared to the one at the U.S. Capitol. In opposition to the 2020 presidential election results, the Tallahassee group joined together in protest and prayer in front of the Old Capitol beginning as early as 8 a.m. By the afternoon, a group had broken off and gathered together in prayer, led by Pam Olsen, who has been praying at the Capitol for the past 27 years.

‘Trump should stay in power.’ In Miami, rallies focus on overturning Biden victory” via Lautaro Grinspan of The Miami Herald — As Congress met in Washington to formally certify the 2020 election results, groups of people rallied across Miami-Dade in support of Trump and his efforts to overturn Biden’s election victory. At gatherings near the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami and in front of the Versailles restaurant in Little Havana, flag-waving protesters falsely alleged that the presidential election was stolen from Trump. Many lamented not having traveled to the U.S. Capitol, which was under siege as mobs stormed the building, triggering a lockdown and a showdown with police. As of Wednesday afternoon, only Scott had indicated that he would “likely” take part in that challenge, raising specific objections to certifying the presidential election results in Pennsylvania.

Northwest Florida Trump supporters join protesters at U.S. Capitol” via Nick Tomecek of the Pensacola News Journal — A group of local Trump supporters traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in what they described as a protest in support of a fair election. However, the overall scene at the capital has devolved into chaos. Jason Harwell, of Fort Walton Beach, who traveled to D.C. and sent videos and photos of the protest, said he is planning to join the group at the Capitol building. At this time, it is unclear if any local people were among the group that stormed the building. Two busloads of Trump supporters left Fort Walton Beach City Hall on Tuesday and 20 flew out of the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport on Wednesday morning to join the protest.

Tampa Bay leaders condemn D.C. chaos” via Charlie Frago and Jack Evans of The Tampa Bay Times — As protests turned into violent chaos around the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, local elected officials condemned the lawlessness. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said the country was watching an attack on democracy. “What we are seeing today is un-American plain and simple,” Castor said in a statement. Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren was blunt. In a tweet, Warren said: “So help me God if I ever hear the words “law & order” from someone who owns a MAGA hat.” Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Tampa native, retweeted Donald Trump Jr.’s advice to the unruly protesters.

Orange Sheriff John Mina, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer: Invaders at U.S. Capitol are domestic terrorists” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — After violent supporters of Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol and clashed with police on Wednesday, local officials denounced insurrection as an assault on American democracy and institutions ― and in the words of Orange Sheriff Mina, “nothing short of domestic terrorism.” He added, “To have people break in and cause some violence and disrupt the democracy of our nation is really deplorable and they need to be held accountable. I’m sure they will.” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer echoed Mina’s description of the attackers. “We’ve had a mob, I guess, overrun our United States Capitol, and they’re not demonstrators; they’re not protesters. They’re rioters and I’d say domestic terrorists,” he said.

Trump supporters from Southwest Florida tear-gassed in siege on U.S. Capitol, returning safely” via Thaddeus Mast of the Naples Daily News — Trump supporters from Southwest Florida were tear-gassed as they stood on the U.S. Capitol steps during Wednesday’s siege but are safe and returning home overnight, members of the group said. About 100 protesters boarded two buses Tuesday morning for the 20-hour trip to a Washington, D.C., rally to show support for Trump on the day Congress was set to start counting certified Electoral College votes that will uphold President-elect Biden’s victory. Members of the group that made it to the Capitol steps said they were surprised law enforcement would “harass peaceful protesters.” After the Trump rally, part of the group left to eat while others went to the Capitol building.

Several Florida Donald Trump supporters were among those gassed in the protest. Image via AP.

After Capitol violence, some Facebook employees call for ban of Trump” via Alex Heath of The Information — Facebook temporarily blocked Trump from posting on the site after dozens of the company’s employees asked CEO Mark Zuckerberg to suspend or ban his account. In a video post on Wednesday, Trump had falsely claimed that the election was “stolen” and praised rioters who had earlier stormed the U.S. Capitol. During a rally that preceded the mob, the President had urged supporters to march to the Capitol to “show strength” and object to lawmakers’ attempt on Wednesday to certify Biden’s November election win against him. One female civilian was shot and killed amid rioting inside the Capitol Building, according to numerous reports. For an hour, Facebook did not remove the President’s video.

Ivanka Trump deletes tweet calling MAGA rioters ‘patriots’” via J. Clara Chan of The Wrap — Ivanka Trump deleted a tweet in which she called MAGA rioters storming the U.S. Capitol “American patriots.” “American Patriots — any security breach or disrespect to our law enforcement is unacceptable,” the President’s eldest daughter wrote in her now-deleted tweet. “The violence must stop immediately. Please be peaceful.” Shortly after, the President’s senior adviser attempted to clarify her comments by tweeting, “Peaceful protest is patriotic. Violence is unacceptable and must be condemned in the strongest terms.” On Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of pro-Trump rioters broke into the U.S. Capitol as Congress was undertaking the usually pro forma process of certifying the Electoral College vote proclaiming Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

Ashli Babbitt, protester killed at Capitol, was Air Force vet from California” via Elizabeth Rosner and Kate Sheehy of the New York Post — The Trump supporter killed in the Capitol building was an Air Force vet from California who tweeted a day earlier how “nothing will stop us” and “the storm is here.” Babbitt, who had 14 years in the service and did four tours of duty, was married and lived near San Diego, her husband Aaron told KUSI-TV. Babbitt, who used the Twitter handle CommonAshSense, also retweeted Wednesday morning — a few hours ahead of her and other Trump supporters storming the Capitol — a “MUST BE DONE LIST before Congress meets today.” It included, “Mike Pence @vp @Mike_Pence must resign & thereafter be charged with TREASON,” and, “Chief Justice John Roberts must RESIGN.” She was apparently shot by Capitol Police.

Trump mob storms Democrat Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s mansion as protesters surround Texas, California, Michigan, Georgia, Oregon AND Kansas state capitols” via Frances Mulraney and Luke Kenton of the Daily Mail — A mob of angered Trump supporters has occupied the front lawn of Washington’s Democratic Gov. Inslee‘s mansion as they also surrounded state capitols in Texas, California, Georgia, Michigan, Kansas and Oklahoma. While chaos gripped Washington D.C., where one woman has been shot dead and dozens of police officers injured, protesters made their way to Inslee’s Olympia home where one state trooper stood guard. The trooper urged members of the crowd to stand back but they quickly surrounded the building chanting and he was forced to retreat to stand guard in front of the door. The crowd, which included several armed protesters, was pushed back as more state troopers arrived at around 6:30 p.m. EST.

‘A sad day’: NBA reacts to Capitol protest, Jacob Blake decision” via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press — With words and actions, several NBA teams showed dismay Wednesday hours after a violent mob loyal to Trump was able to storm the U.S. Capitol and in response to a decision by a Wisconsin prosecutor not to charge a police officer who shot a Black man last year. In Miami, the Heat and Boston Celtics released a joint statement saying they were playing “with a heavy heart” in a game where most players and coaches knelt for the national anthem. In Milwaukee, the Bucks and Detroit Pistons both took turnovers on their first possessions — intentionally, with all 10 players on the court kneeling.

The Boston Celtics team kneels during the playing of the national anthem before the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat. Image via AP.

Donald Trump supporters, other passengers in shouting bout on plane” via The Associated Press — Supporters of President Trump got into an angry shouting match with other passengers on a Washington-bound American Airlines plane after they projected a “Trump 2020” logo on the cabin ceiling and walls. The Trump supporters said a passenger threatened to kill them, and there was yelling back and forth. A flight attendant intervened, telling one passenger in the aisle to sit down. The incident occurred on Tuesday night after American’s flight 1291 from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport landed at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., and was taxiing to the gate. The scene was posted on Twitter by Maranie Staab, a Portland, Oregon-based independent journalist who says on her website that she focuses on human rights and social-justice issues.

— TRANSITION —

Bidenworld hopes Capitol chaos gives GOP a ‘shock to the system’” via POLITICO — Joe Biden and his allies have long argued that Republicans would eventually recognize the need to break from Donald Trump. They never imagined that Trump would make the case for them before he left office. On Wednesday, as supporters of the President ransacked the Capitol building in objection to his election loss, those close to Biden expressed a mix of horror and hope that the chaos playing out in the nation’s capital would serve as a “shock to the system” for Republican lawmakers and compel them to more firmly ditch their party’s leader.

Biden to tap Merrick Garland for Attorney General” via Tyler Pager of POLITICO — Biden has selected Judge Garland to serve as his attorney general, according to two people with knowledge of the decision. Biden selected Garland over former Sen. Doug Jones and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, choosing to elevate the former chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals in D.C. to run the Justice Department. In recent weeks, Garland has been recusing himself from cases involving the federal government, fueling speculation that he was a leading candidate for the job. Jones was viewed as the easiest candidate to get confirmed given his strong relationships across the aisle.

Judge Merrick Garland is Joe Biden’s choice for Attorney General. Image via AP. 

Top White House officials led by Robert O’Brien consider resigning” via Jennifer Jacobs, Saleha Mohsin and Jordan Fabian of Bloomberg — Trump’s top National Security Council officials and a deputy White House chief of staff are considering resigning over the President’s encouragement of protests that led to his supporters storming the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, according to people with the familiar. Those who are discussing stepping down include National Security Adviser O’Brien and his deputy, Matt Pottinger, the people said. Also considering resigning is Chris Liddell, assistant to the President and deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, the people said. A deputy White House press secretary, Sarah Matthews, said she had resigned over Wednesday’s violence at the Capitol, in which one unidentified woman was killed by a gunshot.

Liberals to Stephen Breyer: Time to retire” via Alex Thompson of POLITICO — Left-wing activists are already pressuring Supreme Court Justice Breyer to take advantage of a possible Democratic majority in the Senate and retire. Demand Justice, the group founded in 2018 as a progressive response to conservative organizing around the courts, praised Breyer in a statement to POLITICO but encouraged him to make way for a younger liberal replacement and to do it early in Biden’s first term. “Justice Breyer’s service on the Court has been remarkable, and history will remember him even more fondly if he ends up playing a critical role in ensuring the appointment of the first Black woman to the Court,” said Brian Fallon, the group’s co-founder and executive director.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida records second-highest number of new COVID-19 cases since start of pandemic” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — The Florida Department of Health reported 17,783 new COVID-19 cases and 129 new COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday. The new report marks the state’s second-highest single-day increase since the beginning of the pandemic. The cumulative number of Florida cases is now up to 1,409,906, and the reported death toll for state residents since the pandemic began is 22,317. Among the new deaths reported, 12 were Northeast Florida residents, five in Duval, one in Baker, four in Clay, one in Nassau and one in St. Johns County. The region’s death toll increased to 1,256 since the arrival of the pandemic.

Ron DeSantis created vaccine demand. Can he meet it?” via Randy Schultz of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida needs more government, especially more competent government. We are getting the opposite with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Take your pick of anecdotes that reveal the dysfunction. Broward County’s appointment website sputtering before going down until further notice. Hillsborough County’s hotline crashing under the volume of 2,000 calls per minute. People camped out in Lee County, where the website scheduled 5,000 appointments in three minutes and then died. A smooth rollout would have been difficult under the best of circumstances. In Florida, however, it’s been almost the worst of circumstances.

Does Florida need more government to address COVID-19?

COVID vaccine: Statewide task force previews push to get minorities vaccinated” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — The leader of a statewide COVID-19 vaccine task force on Wednesday resolved to “get 60 to 70% of people of color (in the state) to take the vaccine.” The Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr., the pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, held an organizational meeting Wednesday to outline the Statewide Coronavirus Vaccination Community Education and Engagement Task Force’s goals. Holmes said the group must bring credible and respected voices to the issue and not get mired in politics. “This is a moral call; this is not a political call,” he said. “We are going to have to work with the Governor and he is going to have to work with us. We reached out with an olive branch, not a fist.”

State agrees to settle Orlando Sentinel lawsuit over COVID reports” via Naseem S. Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — The state has agreed to settle Orlando Sentinel’s lawsuit, which stemmed from unreasonable delays by DeSantis’ office in providing the weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force reports to the newspaper. As part of the settlement, the state has agreed to release the future weekly task force reports within two business days and pay $7,500 in attorney fees. “We are satisfied with the settlement and hope we don’t have to sue again for crucial public records regarding the pandemic or any other important public matter. Onward,” said Julie Anderson, the editor-in-chief of the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

— CORONA LOCAL — 

AdventHealth escalates status to red due to COVID-19 patient volume” via Naseem S. Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — Only two days after moving from the green to yellow status, AdventHealth Central Florida escalated its status to color red on Wednesday afternoon due to continued increase in the COVID-19 patient volume, which can strain resources. The red status limits nonessential elective procedures, much like the earlier days of the pandemic. The status is one stage lower than the health system’s highest alert level, black. COVID-19 hospitalizations at AdventHealth and Orlando Health are now above the halfway point of their peak in July. More than 7,300 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals across Florida on Jan. 5, including 889 in Orange, Osceola, Lake and Seminole counties, according to state data.

Hillsborough cases spike with 1,100+ new COVID-19 cases; Pinellas confirms staggering 20 new deaths” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Hillsborough County has confirmed 1,137 new cases of coronavirus according to a report from the Florida Department of Health. Wednesday’s report marks a spike in the county’s caseload since the start of the new year, and in the last two weeks, is only topped by last Thursday, which saw 1,546 new cases. Besides Thursday, the county has reported around 500 new cases daily across the two week period. Hillsborough also added seven new hospitalizations and nine deaths since the previous report, bringing its death toll to 1,102. The latest report brings the county’s total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 82,257.

COVID-19 cases in the Tampa Bay region are on the rise. Image via AP.

Outside vendor still running Hillsborough County vaccination sites after being fired from registration duties” via Mahsa Saeidi of News Channel 8 — Hillsborough County officials said Wednesday they fired the company in charge of registering seniors for coronavirus vaccinations after the outside vendor bungled the rollout. By all accounts, Hillsborough’s coronavirus vaccine rollout was rough. Seniors like Joe McDonald wasted hours trying to make an appointment. “When given an opportunity to sign up and not being able to get through, that was pretty frustrating,” said Mr. McDonald. Hillsborough County said OnSite Safe, the vendor hired to run the call center and registration website, failed. They were fired on Wednesday, but 8 On Your Side kept digging and found more to this story.

Manatee County to adopt lottery system for COVID-19 vaccines” via Louis Llovio of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Manatee County is creating a lottery system in order to make sure all residents have an opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The County Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to adopt the plan. Jacob Saur, the county’s director of public safety, told commissioners that the county is asking residents to either register online or call in to get their names in a system. When vaccine doses are available, a “randomized” list of people will get an appointment for the vaccine. The new system, which includes a new website, will be online at 10 p.m. Thursday.

She was promised a $3,000 CARES family check. She waited and waited; now the money’s gone.” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Rebecca Swindle has been hanging on by a thread physically, emotionally and financially, especially since COVID-19 took away her only source of income. So Swindle was elated when she found out in October that she had been approved for a $3,000 CARES Act family grant in Escambia County. It was a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark time. But as the weeks, then months, went by, Swindle still hadn’t received her check. On Tuesday, Swindle was making lima beans in a Crockpot in her kitchen when the power went out. She thought it was just a glitch, but she went outside to see a Gulf Power employee turning off her power. She was $1,500 behind on her bill.

Lake to offer second day of COVID vaccines in Clermont, after hundreds turned out for shots Wednesday” via Martin E. Comas and John Cutter of the Orlando Sentinel — Lake County health officials said they will offer another day of free vaccinations for COVID-19 on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning at 9 a.m. on Thursday at the Clermont Arts and Recreation Center after receiving a shipment of more than 12,600 doses of the Pfizer vaccine late Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, hundreds of vehicles lined along South U.S. Highway 27 in Clermont for miles within minutes after officials opened the mass vaccination site at the center’s parking lot. But after an hour, officials said they reached capacity and closed off the site at 10 a.m. Many of those waiting in the center’s parking lot had arrived in the dark, early morning hours.

— CORONA NATION —

States urged to widen vaccination pool amid slow U.S. start” via Angelica LaVito of Bloomberg — Top U.S. health officials encouraged states to start vaccinating people more widely, acknowledging that the immunization rollout has been slower than anticipated and opening the spigot for a broader range of Americans to begin getting shots. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a call with reporters, blamed the introduction of COVID-19 shots around the holidays and overly detailed state plans for hindering the vaccination campaign. He urged Governors to vaccinate more seniors and other high-risk populations to prevent shots from sitting in freezers. If Governors “are using all of the vaccine that is allocated, ordered, shipped, distributed, they’re getting it into health care providers’ arms, that’s great,” Azar said.

The federal government is urging states to pick up the pace for vaccinations. Image via NBC News.

Moderna raises COVID-19 vaccine production estimate” via Jonathan D. Rockoff of The Wall Street Journal — Moderna Inc. said it would be able to make at least 600 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year, 100 million more than it had been projecting. The Cambridge, Massachusetts, company also said it is making investments and adding staff to make as much as one billion doses this year. Last month, Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine became the second to be authorized for use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration, after a shot from Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE was cleared. Both vaccines use a new, gene-based technology requiring special manufacturing equipment and expertise. The companies have been racing to build capacity, often with the help of partners like Lonza Ltd., to meet heavy demand.

Still can’t get COVID-19 vaccine? Sure, blame Trump, but blame President Ronald Reagan, too” via Will Bunch for The Miami Herald — This country has been waging war on the very concept of good government for 40 years, and public health has been in the front trench taking World War I-level casualties. Trump might be finishing the job, but the President who created this mess was Reagan, who assured a similarly anxious nation upon taking office in 1981 that “(i)n this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem government is the problem” and then put a lack of money where his mouth was. The early years of Reagan’s presidency saw a budget cut of 25% for the Department of Health and Human Services and, with that, the elimination of vital public-health programs.

Black leaders seek to enhance vaccination effort” via Christine Sexton of The News Service of Florida — A coalition of Black community leaders will work to ensure that upward of 70% of the state’s minority population gets vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19. “My friends, this is a sense of urgency. We feel that these vaccines are a gift of life. We know unfortunately, and sadly, that people of color are dying disproportionately,” R.B. Holmes, the pastor of Tallahassee’s Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, said during a meeting of the Florida Statewide COVID-19 Vaccine Community Engagement Task Force. “Many of us, all of us, have buried, ministered and comforted thousands of people who have died from the virus. This is one battle that we cannot sit out.”

Arizona, roiled by COVID-19 in summer, faces even worse outbreak now” via Campbell Robertson and Mitch Smith of The New York Times — The summer surge that raged across the Sun Belt started in Arizona. For more than a month, from early June until mid-July, the state added cases at the country’s highest per capita rate. Thousands died. Hospitals were stretched thin. At the peak, more than 3,800 cases were emerging each day. As a new year begins, Arizona is again in dire shape, with a higher rate of new cases than any other state. Hospitalizations and deaths have surpassed records. Over the last week, the state has averaged more than 8,000 cases a day, more than double the summer peak.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

COVID-19 aftermath could spell a ‘lost decade’ for global economy, World Bank says” via Yuka Hayashi of The Wall Street Journal — Even before COVID-19, the World Bank had lowered its projections for global growth in the 10 years that began in 2020. The pandemic is exacerbating that trend, raising the prospect of a “lost decade” ahead, the World Bank said Tuesday. The bank’s semiannual Global Economic Prospects report attributes the long-term downgrade to lower trade and investment caused by uncertainty over the pandemic, along with disruptions in education that will hamper gains in labor productivity. “If history is any guide, unless there is substantial reform, we think the global economy is headed for a decade of disappointing growth outcomes,” said Ayhan Kose, the bank’s acting vice president for equitable growth and financial institutions.

COVID-19 may result in a ‘lost decade’ for the world economy.

Researchers believe hospitality industry is starting to recover from COVID-19 pandemic” via Carolina Cardona of Click Orlando — The Central Florida hospitality industry seems to be bouncing back from the havoc the pandemic caused in 2020, according to research by Rosen College of Hospitality. “What we have seen is basically what we expected based on our research back in early summer,” Robertico Croes, the associate dean of the college, said. “Particularly the theme parks have been an important attraction to metro Orlando and Central Florida so that is what we’ve seen. We have seen a surge in traffic at MCO; we have seen a surge in demand at hotels.” Theme park attendance serves as a good barometer of what to expect for the future of Central Florida’s tourism and economy.

Cash-strapped Americans are drawing down savings as pandemic divisions widen” via Donald Moore of Bloomberg — The second round of stimulus checks can’t come fast enough for increasingly cash-strapped Americans. One in four consumers pulled money from their savings in December, the most so far in the pandemic, according to a new survey from financial comparison website MagnifyMoney. While men, college graduates, and six-figure earners continued to add money to their savings, overall, the proportion of those able to save anything dropped to 33% compared with 42% at the same time last year. The data again highlights the increasingly divergent economic impact of the pandemic. While poorer Americans have depleted meager reserves and need new stimulus payments to survive, those who’ve kept their jobs and incomes have seen an unexpected windfall.

$2,000 stimulus checks could become a reality” via Jeff Stein and Erica Werner of The Washington Post — Democrats vowed to rush $2,000 checks to Americans as quickly as possible as they closed in on unified control of Washington with likely Senate wins in Georgia. The move would make good on promises Biden made to Georgia voters in the final days of the runoff race, which ended Tuesday with Democrat Raphael Warnock beating Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Jon Ossoff with a lead over Republican David Perdue. Those Democratic victories would flip control of the Senate to the Democrats and give them a monopoly on power in the nation’s capital for the first time since Barack Obama’s first term.

$2,000 checks may be on the way to cash-strapped Americans. Image via Bloomberg.

Stocks, bitcoin and more: Unusual ways Americans are planning to use their $600 ‘stimmy’” via Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou of Bloomberg — Stimulus checks will provide a financial lifeline to millions of Americans, as they reel from the economic devastation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. But some recipients have kept their jobs and income and can cover critical monthly expenses such as rent, utility bills and debt payments. For them, the $600 checks represent an opportunity to boost their savings, spend on nonessential goods or buy stocks. On TikTok, where young investors have turned for investment advice, videos on how to turn your “stimmy” into thousands of dollars are making the rounds.

Consumer’s feelings about Florida’s economy mixed to end 2020” via WCJB staff reports — The University of Florida’s monthly assessment of how people feel about their finances rose slightly Tuesday. Of the five survey components that make up the consumer sentiment index, three went up. They included opinions about whether now is a good time to buy a major household item, expectations of personal finances a year from now and expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years. The categories that fell were views of personal financial situations compared with a year ago and concern over U.S. economic conditions over the next year.

— MORE CORONA —

Cruise lines begin canceling more 2021 sailings amid coronavirus pandemic” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — The cruise industry’s days of sailing continue to be pushed further into 2021 as a new round of announcements of further delays came this week amid the global coronavirus pandemic. Carnival is ceasing all U.S.-based sailings through March 31, as well as canceling certain sailings to wait for ships to finish planned dry dock enhancements. Princess Cruises, also owned by Carnival, is delaying all cruises until at least May 15. Both lines cite their efforts to gear up for the CDC’s “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order,” but also the uncertainty behind global travel restrictions as COVID-19 continues to spread despite the potential for a turnaround as vaccines begin to be distributed in the U.S. and elsewhere.

— D.C, MATTERS —

Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor tests positive for coronavirus” via Steve Contorno of The Tampa Bay Times — Rep. Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican, tested positive for coronavirus, his office announced Wednesday. Bilirakis is now in quarantine and is not on the House floor as Congress debates certification of the presidential election won by Biden.

— STATEWIDE —

Aghast Manny Diaz suspends campaign to lead Florida Democratic Party amid D.C. unrest” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Diaz announced late Wednesday he is suspending his campaign to become chair of the Florida Democratic Party “until further notice,” saying it’s time to deal with “this disgraceful coup attempt” in Washington. Like many other candidates in the Florida Democratic Party’s election set for Saturday, Diaz thoroughly condemned the breach and ransacking of the U.S. Capitol by rioters supporting Trump‘s false claims that the November election of Biden was fraudulent. Citing Trump’s video message to rioters and his earlier speech to them outside the White House, Diaz added, “He calls domestic terrorists like these patriots, while tear-gassing peaceful protesters calling for racial equity and justice and calling them thugs and terrorists. This is absolutely deplorable.”

— DATELINE TALLY —

Personnel note: Tyler Russell now Chief of Staff at DCF” via Florida Politics — Russell has left the Governor’s office to become the Chief of Staff at the Department of Children and Families. Russell had previously served as DeSantis’ deputy director of legislative affairs. The position required him to work in several capacities, including at the Florida State Emergency Operations Center. At DCF, Russell will work under Secretary Chad Poppell. “Tyler Russell joined the department in December. I am happy to have him on board and look forward to continuing the transformational work here at DCF,” Poppell said. Russell succeeds David Mica Jr. in the Chief of Staff role. In December, Mica left the department to become the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs at the Florida Hospital Association.

Congratulations to Tyler Russell, newly named Chief of Staff at the Department of Children and Families.

Ex-DeSantis spokesman Fred Piccolo to work on career education initiatives in new state job” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Piccolo, a longtime GOP operative who most recently served as DeSantis spokesman, will focus on workforce education issues when he joins the Florida Department of Education on Wednesday. Piccolo will earn $120,000 in his new job working for the department’s division of colleges. He has been tapped to help state colleges and other department divisions “elevate” programs related to career and adult education, key needs as Florida looks to recover economically from the pandemic, said Taryn Fenske, a spokeswoman for the education department.

House, Senate differ on COVID-19 liability protections — The House and Senate are both seeking liability protections to protect from COVID-19 lawsuits, but they aren’t in lockstep, Arek Sarkissian Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida report. The chambers mainly differ in how they would handle health care providers. Sen. Jeff Brandes said his bill would extend protections to all essential businesses, including those in the health care industry such as nursing homes. However, health care providers are not included in the House liability protection bill. The chamber plans to include them in separate legislation, making it harder for either bill to get through the Legislature.

Two Florida Republicans pitch legislation to crack down on riots, budgets cuts to police” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — SB 484 would allow a person to appeal to the Administration Commission when a local government votes to reduce a police budget. That appeal would set a process in motion, ending with the commission moving to approve, modify, or amend the local budget decision at a hearing. SB 484 seeks to increase penalties for certain crimes committed during an unlawful assembly. The measure calls for enhanced penalties against those accused of battery, assault or inciting a riot. The bill, coined Combating Public Disorder, also looks to create a cause of action avenue against local governments. If signed into law, the measure would permit legal action against a local government that obstructs “reasonable law enforcement protection” during an unlawful gathering. 

Sen. Danny Burgess filed a Senate bill that cracks down on riots, putting the brakes on any police defunding. 

Proposal would boost jobless benefits” via News Service of Florida — On Wednesday, Orlando Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy filed a bill (SB 466) that would increase from $275 to $400, the maximum weekly unemployment payment. Also, the bill would allow people to receive unemployment benefits for 26 weeks in a year. Last year, the maximum was 12 weeks, though it is slated to go to 19 weeks in 2021 because of a formula in state law. Nearly 5.14 million people filed unemployment claims from March 15 to Tuesday, as COVID-19 shut down or scaled back businesses across Florida. About 2.17 claimants had received payments, according to the state Department of Economic Opportunity website. Bracy’s bill is filed for consideration during the legislative session that will start March 2.

Legislative pandemic committees to hold first meetings” via The News Service of Florida — A pair of legislative committees set up to review Florida’s response to the coronavirus pandemic will hold meetings next week. State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees is scheduled to address the Senate Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response on Jan. 14. The committee’s agenda also includes a hospital panel discussion. The House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee, chaired by Ormond Beach Republican Rep. Tom Leek, is slotted to meet for an hour on Jan. 14, but the committee’s agenda had not yet been posted. House Speaker Chris Sprowls also has directed the committee to review emergency management and how the state can prepare “for future threats.”

— LOCAL NOTES —

Lenny Curry quadruples down on his story” via Mark Woods of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville Mayor Curry did not orchestrate the attempted sale of the city’s public utility. That’s his story, and he’s more than sticking with it. I would say that he’s doubling down on it. But he blew past doubling down in 2018 when he sent JEA employees a letter saying: “I HAVE NEVER stated opposition or support, in public or private, for privatizing JEA …” Since then, he has at least quadruple-downed. So we shouldn’t have been surprised by how he reacted Monday to the release of an investigative report from a Jacksonville City Council that found “that the Curry administration and JEA engaged in a multiyear effort, from at least 2017 through 2019, to explore selling the City’s municipally-owned utility.”

Lenny Curry continues to insist he had no role in the failed JEA sale.

Jacksonville City Council set to cast initial votes on Lot J deal with Jaguars” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The proposed Lot J development deal between the city of Jacksonville and Jaguars owner Shad Khan will get its first wave of City Council votes Thursday as council decides whether it’s ready to move the bill toward a final judgment at next week’s regular council meeting. Some of the proposed amendments would make substantial changes to the proposed deal. City Council member Ron Salem said Wednesday he had worked with the Jaguars on an amendment saying that if the team were to leave Jacksonville before 2034 and Khan’s affiliate Gecko Investments sold its stake in the Lot J development, the city would get 50% of the proceeds from such a sale.

Orange’s bed tax rises slightly to $8.8M, even as pandemic worsens” via Stephen Hudak and Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County collected $8.765 million in November through its tax on hotel nights and short-term rental stays, a 66% decrease from the prior November, Comptroller Phil Diamond said Wednesday. The November collection marks seven straight months of increasing collections, even as the tax remains at historically low levels overall. The crucial indicator of the health of the region’s tourism economy was crushed by the pandemic — which is again worsening in Orange County. The November collections are a step up from October when it brought in $7.7 million. Diamond said collections have grown as people have grown more comfortable traveling here, and as theme parks have grown more crowded.

Wyndham Destinations acquires Travel + Leisure in $100 million deal; plans name change” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando-based Wyndham Destinations has acquired Travel + Leisure in a $100 million deal from Meredith Corp. that will rebrand the timeshare company as it hopes to tap into the broader travel industry, CEO Michael Brown said Wednesday. Starting in February, Wyndham Destinations, whose properties include six Orlando resorts with more than 2,200 suites, will officially change its name to Travel + Leisure, Brown said. The business division within the parent company that handles timeshares will still be called Wyndham Destinations. Under the deal with Meredith, Wyndham will acquire Travel + Leisure’s name, content, intellectual property, and existing businesses, including two dues-paying travel clubs with 60,000 members.

Why St. Petersburg’s Black voters beat national averages” via Jennifer Glenfield of The Tampa Bay Times — Lynette Hardy found a dusty, metal contraption in the attic of her grandfather’s house. The metal frame has a series of levers near yellowing names. She knew exactly what it was, a sample voting machine from the middle of the 20th century. Her grandfather, Chester James Sr., is best known as the unofficial mayor of Methodist Town, later renamed Jamestown. He also was instrumental in registering people to vote during the civil rights era. In 1963, he earned a service award from the NAACP and in 1964 recognition from President Lyndon Johnson for registering 1,000 Black voters. At the time, the census reported 24,000 Black residents.

Tampa Bay Times will move printing to Gannett plant in Lakeland” via The Tampa Bay Times — Times Publishing Co. announced Wednesday it will outsource the printing of its newspapers starting in March and will close its own production facility in St. Petersburg. The company has signed a three-year agreement with Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper chain, to print the Tampa Bay Times at its operations center in Lakeland. That plant already produces some of Gannett’s own newspapers, plus the Orlando Sentinel, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Times Publishing issued a required 60-day notice to about 90 full-time and 60 part-time workers who will lose their jobs when the transition is complete. Gannett intends to expand its own operations team in Lakeland and has said some jobs could go to Times employees.

Low taxes and high temperatures lure finance firms to Miami” via Arian Campo-Flores of The Wall Street Journal — This city has long pitched itself as an attractive location for finance and tech firms, with its tax advantages, flight connections to New York and cosmopolitan flair. Its efforts appear to be paying off. Private-equity giant Blackstone Group Inc. unveiled plans in October to open an office in the city to serve its internal technology needs that will eventually employ 215 people. Billionaire financier Carl Icahn moved his company to nearby Sunny Isles Beach earlier in 2020. Real estate investor Starwood Capital Group is building a sleek new 144,000-square-foot headquarters in Miami Beach. According to people familiar with the matter, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is eyeing the region as a possible home for its asset-management arm.

Broward’s new elections boss wants to make it easier to vote and run for office” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Fresh into his role as Broward Supervisor of Elections, Joe Scott urged voters to demand two new laws he said would make it easier for candidates to run for office and for all citizens to vote. Change the voter-registration deadline, currently 29 days before an election, to give people more time to sign up, he said. “Why are we disenfranchising people because they didn’t meet an arbitrary deadline?” Scott said at his ceremonial swearing-in ceremony. His second proposal was to allow candidates to gather petitions virtually, decrying physical signatures as an irresponsible health risk in the era of COVID-19. “Keeping up with the latest technological trends is a huge challenge,” he said. “We know this is what we must do.”

Newly elected Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott wants to make it easier to vote and run for office.

Fort Lauderdale neighborhood south of downtown chosen for new federal courthouse site” via David Lyons of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For everyone who has endured the flooding, tight quarters and other inconveniences of Fort Lauderdale’s downtown federal courthouse, relief is finally coming into view. Over the holidays, the U.S. government selected a long-awaited site for a replacement when it agreed to spend $13.5 million for nearly 3.5 acres south of the Tarpon River in Fort Lauderdale. It’s in an area bordering Southeast Third Avenue and Southeast 11th Street. The site selection, which was nearly two decades in the making, is expected to trigger millions in new commercial and residential development near the Broward County Courthouse complex, business leaders said.

Rhonda Rebman Lopez lands gig with Monroe County GOP” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Former House District 120 candidate Rebman Lopez will serve as the finance/budgetary chair of the Monroe County Republican Party following the chapter’s recent leadership elections. Rebman Lopez was one of the best fundraisers in the state last cycle during her bid for the open HD 120 seat. However, several party leaders threw their weight behind former Islamorada Mayor Jim Mooney in the Republican primary. Mooney eventually eked out a win over Rebman Lopez in the Aug. 18 primary and went on to win the seat in November. Rebman Lopez will now have a chance to show off her fundraising talents after she was appointed to her new role with the Monroe County GOP.

— TOP OPINIONS —

Trump has committed treason” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Trump broke any number of laws and norms during his ruinous four-year reign. He just added one more on the way out: treason. He lost the House in 2018. He lost the presidency in November. He lost the Senate on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, with nothing left to lose, he rallied a violent mob to attack the U.S. Capitol in hopes of pressuring lawmakers to toss out the election results, ignore the will of the people, and install him as President for another term. Trump fomented a deadly insurrection against the U.S. Congress to prevent a duly-elected President from taking office. Treason is not a word to be used lightly, but that is its textbook definition.

Trump is deranged, dangerous and ‘incapacitated.’ Invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him from office” via the Miami Herald editorial board — It is time to invoke the 25th Amendment. It is time for Trump — as he told the violent, radical thugs who support him no matter what; who crawled over the U.S. Capitol like spiders; who breached House and Senate chambers; who brazenly confronted overwhelmed, ill-prepared law-enforcement officers; who forced lawmakers to take shelter — to “go home.” But here’s what the President said first: “I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side.”

White conservatives gave violent white radicals a pass. Now they’re about to destroy the country” via Leonard Pitts, Jr. of The Miami Herald — In the end, it wasn’t “antifa.” It wasn’t Black Lives Matter. No, it wasn’t any of the boogeymen white conservatives have imagined, exaggerated and bloviated into national threats. Rather, it was a mob of white conservatives themselves, unrestrained by law, unfettered by patriotism, fueled by resentments, racial and otherwise, who stormed the very Capitol Building of the United States. Who broke its windows and fought with police. Who forced Representatives and Senators to shelter in place. Who brought Congress to a halt.

— OPINIONS —

Mass delusion in America” via Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic — Insurrection Day, 12:40 p.m.: A group of about 80 lumpen Trumpists were gathered outside the Commerce Department, near the White House. They organized themselves in a large circle and stared at a boombox rigged to a megaphone. Their leader and, for some, savior — a number of them would profess to me their belief that the 45th President is an agent of God and his son, Jesus Christ — was rehearsing his pitiful list of grievances, and also fomenting a rebellion against, among others, the klatch of treacherous Republicans who had aligned themselves with the Constitution and against him. “A year from now, we’re gonna start working on Congress,” Trump said through the boombox.

James Comey: Trump should not be prosecuted after leaving office” via Martin Pengelly of The Guardian — Trump should not be federally prosecuted once he leaves the White House no matter how much evidence has been amassed against him, Comey writes in a new book. The next US attorney general, under Biden, should not “pursue a criminal investigation of Donald Trump,” Comey writes, “no matter how compelling the road map left” by the special counsel Robert Mueller, or “how powerful the evidence strewn across his history of porn stars and financial fraud.” That opinion is likely to surprise many — perhaps including Trump himself — as Comey has emerged as a powerful critic of Trump and has been the frequent target of threats and insults from the 45th President.

Trump’s devastation of the Republican Party is nearly complete” via Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post — Democrat Warnock has won his Senate race in Georgia, defeating Republican Loeffler, a billionaire who had reinvented herself as a Trumpist, right down to the trucker cap that she started wearing atop her expensively styled blond locks. If Democrat Ossoff’s lead over Perdue, whose Senate term expired Sunday, holds up in the remaining Georgia Senate race, Republicans will have managed to lose the presidency, the House and the Senate during Trump’s four years in office.

Make no mistake: Trump is trying to pull off a Latin American-style ‘self-coup’” via Andres Oppenheimer of The Miami Herald — What happened Wednesday in Washington D.C. is a classic example of a Latin American auto-golpe, or self-coup. I have seen many auto-golpes in Latin America while writing about the region in recent decades, most recently in Bolivia in 2019. And while I’m pretty confident that U.S. democratic institutions will prevail and Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, Wednesday’s chaos set a horrific precedent. Trump’s call on his followers to overturn the 2020 election results and the images of these mobs taking over the U.S. Congress will weaken the world’s respect for America’s democracy for decades to come.

Happy now, Trump supporters?” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — We’ve never seen the likes of it before in American history. A mob, incited by a President, stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Over the course of a few hours, a centuries-old tradition of peacefully transferring power from one President to the other came to a stomach-churning end as the United States took on the look of a second-rate nation run by a thug backed by his goons. Are you happy now, Trump supporters? Is this what you wanted? Or are you feigning surprise or trying to find someone else to blame? You did this. You supported and voted for a man who never really bothered to disguise his fondness for tyrants and how they were able to run things.

Thoughtful coastline policy means more than banning offshore drilling” via Chip LaMarca in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Floridians saw another active hurricane season this year. We are no strangers to the effects of hurricanes, but extreme weather, coastal erosion, and sea-level rise all threaten Floridians’ lives and property. We are uniquely vulnerable to climate-related damage and have seen the effects evolve more quickly here than in most parts of the country. Policymakers need to focus their attention on this issue in a bipartisan and holistic manner. As a former Lighthouse Point City Commissioner, former Broward County Commissioner and now state Representative for House District 93, I’ve spent my career focused on many of these issues. Protecting our beaches has always been a top priority.

Amy Mercado, David Johnson: Politicians who desire NOT to make news. Bless them.” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — The world is full of political chaos right now with politicians jockeying every week to score TV time through stunts and attention through incendiary tweets. Then there’s Mercado. Orange County’s new property appraiser says her goal is quite the opposite — not to make headlines. “This office should not be on the news at six o’clock every night,” she recently told the Sentinel. Amen. Mercado certainly isn’t alone. In fact, Mercado has a Republican counterpart in Seminole who has been doing something similar for more than a decade. Most of you probably wouldn’t recognize Johnson if he showed up at your front door with an Amazon delivery. That’s because he hasn’t been embroiled in controversies.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Trump supporters violated every norm of American politics when they stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop counting the electoral votes that sealed the election of Biden as the next President. How did Florida politicians respond?

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

Florida set another record for COVID-19 cases, as Gov. DeSantis defended vaccinations’ slow progress statewide. 

— The state has received approximately 1 million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines; if you look at the official stats from the Department of Health, it appears that only a third of them have been administered. But DeSantis says the reports are lagging.

— The Governor also says it’s not fair to blame his administration for long lines to get a shot because the state doesn’t make appointments … they leave that to local hospitals and health departments.

— COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact in communities of color, so a coalition of Black pastors has created the “Statewide COVID-19 Vaccine Community Engagement Task Force.” Their goal is simple: Work with churches and historically Black colleges and universities to turn them into vaccination sites.

— It’s been more than three weeks since vaccinations began in Florida, but the COVID-19 surge has reached record levels. The health department reported 132 additional fatalities Wednesday and 17,783 new cases. That’s the most in one day since the pandemic began. But, once again, the Governor is refusing to impose any statewide restrictions to mitigate the spread of the virus or let local governments enforce their own restrictions.

— And finally, a Florida Man decided to ignore the COVID-19 protocols so his wealthy friends and donors could be vaccinated — without waiting like the rest of us.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Pandemic-era Mardi Gras: No big crowds, but plenty of cake” via Rebecca Santana of The Associated Press — A subdued Carnival season begins Wednesday after the coronavirus pandemic put an end to the crowd-heavy balls and street parades that draw thousands of people to the city every year. The Mardi Gras season always starts on Jan. 6 and ends on Fat Tuesday, which this year falls on Feb. 16. The season is usually marked by extravagant balls and parades where costumed riders throw trinkets to the mobs of people packed along the parade routes. The coronavirus has put an end to those large events. But that has not stopped notoriously creative New Orleanians from coming up with socially distant ways to celebrate.

Mardi Gras in the age of coronavirus — fewer crowds, more cake. Image via AP.

So many pets have been adopted during the pandemic that shelters are running out” via Dana Hedgpeth of The Washington Post — Animal shelters in the Washington region are experiencing a unique problem: As the coronavirus pandemic has kept more residents at home, it has created such a high demand for adopting dogs that the supply is increasingly limited. Some shelters and humane rescue groups are seeing double the typical number of requests from people to adopt dogs since the pandemic hit the United States in early spring. As organizations have switched their in-person adoptions to virtual meet-and-greets, they also are competing with rescue groups in other parts of the country to bring in animals.

‘Ratatouille’ review: What’s small and hairy with big dreams?” via Jesse Green of The New York Times — As bad as the pandemic has been for plays, it has been even worse for musicals, which are not only intensely collaborative but also inherently unhygienic. The next “A Chorus Line” won’t emerge while everyone is standing six feet apart. No new “Hamilton” can spit its rhymes from behind a wall of masks. But the urge to tell stories in song and dance does not go dark just because theaters do; it finds new mediums. And so we now have “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical,” a show that turns crowdsourcing from a danger into an aesthetic. Compared with the excellent 2007 Disney-Pixar film “Ratatouille,” it’s a trifle, but I mean that in the culinary sense: It’s a silly, multilayered delight.

It’s going to be a busy year for rocket launches on Florida’s Space Coast” via Brendan Byrne of WLRN — SpaceX is set to launch a communication satellite this week from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The Falcon 9 launch will mark the start of a busy year for launches on Florida’s Space Coast. Last year, Florida hosted 30 orbital launches, breaking a previous record set in 1966. In 2021, the Space Coast is on track to break that record once again with at least two more astronaut launches, dozens of commercial satellites and two NASA science missions exploring our solar system. SpaceX will likely lead in launches this year thanks to its growing list of commercial customers, its efforts to launch hundreds of internet satellites into its Starlink constellation and a contract to launch NASA’s DART mission.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are Mark Lane of The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Diane Roberts, Chris Spencer, and Jonny Torres. 

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.



#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
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