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CFO Jeff Atwater says he will leave June 30

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is leaving his job at the end of the month.

Atwater on Monday turned in his formal resignation letter to Gov. Rick Scott. Atwater announced back in February that he planned to step down from his elected post to take a position at Florida Atlantic University.

In his letter, Atwater says his last day in office will be June 30.

Scott will be responsible for picking someone to replace Atwater for the next 18 months. Voters in 2018 will elect a new chief financial officer.

Florida’s chief financial officer is elected statewide and is a member of the state Cabinet that oversees several key agencies. The chief financial officer plays a key role in helping regulate the financial and insurance industries and also functions as the state’s treasurer.

 Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Mallex Smith has 3 hits; Rays beat A’s 5-4

Mallex Smith had three hits and used his speed to set up the go-ahead run and the Tampa Bay Rays took three of four from the Oakland Athletics with a 5-4 victory Sunday.

Smith had a bunt single leading off the seventh and went to third after reliever Daniel Coulombe (0-1) was charged with an error for an errant throw to first that ended up in the right-field corner. Tampa Bay went ahead 5-4 when Corey Dickerson hit a sacrifice fly on the next pitch.

Smith, recalled from Triple-A Durham on Friday to fill in for injured Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, also walked and went 8 for 14 in the series.

Kiermaier is expected to miss at least two months with a broken right hip.

Chase Whitley (2-1) replaced Chris Archer in the top of seventh and worked out of a two-on, no-out jam. Oakland loaded the bases with one out in the ninth before Alex Colome retired Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis for his 18th save.

Stephen Vogt had three RBIs for Oakland, which has lost eight consecutive road series. The previous time the Athletics had a worst stretch was in 1986 when they dropped nine in a row.

Davis drove in a run with a single in the sixth to put Oakland 4-3, but Colby Rasmus pulled Tampa Bay even in the bottom of the inning with a solo homer.

Vogt had a two-run single in the second and made it 3-0 with a fourth-inning RBI double.

After striking out his first two batters in the fifth, Jesse Hahn allowed five consecutive hits as Tampa Bay tied it at 3.

Smith and Dickerson had consecutive run-scoring doubles before Evan Longoria hit an RBI single.

Hahn, winless in his past 10 road starts, allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings.

Archer gave up four runs and seven hits over six innings.


Rays: RHP Jumbo Diaz (right arm fatigue) was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list and worked a scoreless eighth.


Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi (4-3) and Toronto RHP Marco Estrada (4-4) are Tuesday night’s starters. Odorizzi has allowed a homer in eight consecutive starts.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

What’s next for James Comey? Maybe law, corporate work, politics

So what’s next for James Comey?

The former FBI director boldly challenged the president who fired him, accused the Trump administration of lying and supplied material that could be used to build a case against President Donald Trump.

But after stepping away from the Capitol Hill spotlight, where he’s always seemed comfortable, the 56-year-old veteran lawman now confronts the same question long faced by Washington officials after their government service.

His dry quip at a riveting Senate hearing that he was “between opportunities” vastly understates the career prospects now available to him — not to mention potential benefits from the public’s fascination with a man who has commanded respect while drawing outrage from both political parties.

Comey was pilloried for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, yet is now seen as a critical cog in the inquiry into possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign. He may be called upon to provide more detail about his interactions with Trump, which he documented in a series of memos, even as he turns attention to potential opportunities in law, corporate work or perhaps even politics.

“There’s some jobs where the controversy would not be a benefit, but that’s why I see him ending up in a place where he can be himself,” said Evan Barr, a former federal prosecutor in New York City who worked under Comey in the U.S. attorney’s office. “If he were the president of a college or an important think tank, he could pursue the issues that mean the most to him and not be worried about trying to make anyone happy.”

Comey is unlikely to play any sort of direct role in the investigation now led by special counsel Robert Mueller, his predecessor as FBI director. But he almost certainly would avail himself as a witness to Mueller in any obstruction of justice investigation centered on his firing, or to further discuss requests he received from Trump that he interpreted as directives.

Comey’s carefully crafted memos are laden with contemporaneously recorded details and verbatim quotes that could easily lay down a path for investigators, and already have been turned over to Mueller. In one note, Comey says Trump cleared the room before encouraging Comey to end an investigation into Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Comey’s decision to share with reporters, through an intermediary, details from those conversations, and his insistence on testifying in public attest to his determination to confront the president head-on.

“I do think he is unquestionably, if this thing goes anywhere, one of the star witnesses,” said Robert Anderson, a retired FBI executive assistant director. “It really comes down to his testimony, in some avenues.”

Career options are generally plentiful for departing FBI leaders and attorneys general. Both Mueller and former Attorney General Eric Holder, for instance, took jobs with prestigious law firms after leaving public service.

But few if any have as public a profile as Comey or have generated such intense feelings.

Even Democrats who disagree with his firing remain stung by his revival of the Clinton email investigation days before the November election.

Pro-Trump Republicans who were pleased by Comey some seven months ago may now concur with the president’s assessment of Comey as a “showboat.”

And companies that do business with the government might find it risky to bring aboard someone who’s so publicly at odds with the current administration.

Comey’s name over the years has been floated in politics, though it’s not clear the former Republican — now an independent — has any interest.

Educated at the College of William & Mary, where he wrote a senior thesis on a 20th century theologian, Comey went on to law school at the University of Chicago. The bulk of his work has been in government, with the exception of private practice legal work in Virginia early in his career, lucrative general counsel stints at defense contractor Lockheed Martin and a Connecticut hedge fund, and a teaching job at Columbia University.

He was the U.S. attorney in Manhattan who in 2003 charged Martha Stewart with obstructing justice in a stock trade investigation. He then became deputy attorney general, the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department, where he famously faced down fellow Bush administration officials over a surveillance program authorization. In 2013, he was sworn in as FBI director, a job he’s called the honor of his life.

Friends and colleagues say the father of five reveled in his public service.

“Anyone who has ever worked with Jim as far as I know, certainly speaking for myself, holds him in incredibly high esteem,” said Sharon McCarthy, who worked for him at the U.S. attorney’s office. “You’d be working late, he’d have a Coke in his hand and he’d come in, sit down, put his feet on your desk and start talking,”

Though Comey joked at a Senate hearing one week before his May 9 firing that he perhaps regretted picking up the phone when he was recruited for the FBI job while living comfortably in Connecticut, he also was known to pepper speeches with cracks about the “soulless” private sector.

He’d urge young audiences to imagine asking themselves on their death beds who they would want to have been, saying he hoped everyone’s answer would be that they tried to help others.

His own law firm life, he’d say, was lacking despite the matching furniture, parking space and Colonial-style home that accompanied the job.

“You do not make much money working for the FBI. You will not get famous working for the FBI. But you will be rich beyond belief if you look at it from (the public service) vantage point,” he has said.

One other question for Comey regardless of his next job will be how much he chooses, either directly or through intermediaries, to respond to allegations from Trump or Republicans rallying to the president’s defense. On Friday, Trump strongly suggested Comey had lied about their encounters and accused him of being a “leaker.”

“In the days to come,” Comey friend Ben Wittes wrote on his Lawfare blog, “we’re going to see a full-court press against Comey; indeed it is already well underway.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump says James Comey’s ‘leaks’ are more prevalent

The Latest on President Donald Trump and the investigation into his campaign’s potential ties to Russia (all times local):

8:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump is predicting that former FBI Director James Comey‘s “leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible.” Trump says on Twitter, “Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!'”

Trump is again challenging Comey after the ousted FBI director’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.

While many of Trump’s Republican allies have found Comey’s testimony credible, the president has called the man he fired a liar and a “leaker.”

Comey said during his testimony that he asked a friend to release contents of the memos he’d written about his conversations with the president to a reporter. He contended that information was not classified or otherwise protected.

2:45 a.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has agreed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The former Alabama senator was an early supporter of Donald Trump, and Sessions’ contacts during the campaign with Russia’s ambassador to the United States have raised questions.

Back in March, Sessions stepped aside from overseeing a federal investigation into contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign after he acknowledged meeting twice last year with the Russian diplomat, Sergey Kislyak.

Sessions had told lawmakers at his confirmation hearing in January that he hadn’t met with Russians during the campaign.

Sessions has been dogged by questions about possible additional encounters with the ambassador.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Rays, A’s split rare doubleheader

The game was already long and there would be another one. Evan Longoria wanted to get it over.

“We didn’t need more extra innings in a game like today,” Longoria said after his RBI single in the 10th inning lifted the Tampa Bay Rays over the Oakland Athletics 6-5 Saturday. “It’s been quite a while since I’ve gotten a walk-off hit. It felt good.”

The Rays’ fourth straight win came in the opener of the majors’ first regularly scheduled doubleheader since 2011.

Oakland, which scored a run in the ninth to tie it, lost despite getting a season-high 16 hits.

Peter Bourjos led off the 10th with a single, advanced on a wild pitch by Liam Hendriks (2-1) and scored on Longoria’s third hit of the game.

It was Longoria’s eighth career walkoff hit, but his first since a two-run homer against San Diego on May 11, 2013.

“He’s gotten tons of hits in his career,” manager Kevin Cash said. “That was one we needed, and I think he probably needed, too. He’s been spinning a little bit, showing a little bit of frustration.”

Austin Pruitt (5-1) won in relief.

Oakland starter Sonny Gray struck out 10 while giving up five runs, only two of them earned, in six innings.

Steven Souza Jr. and Tim Beckham each drove in two runs for the Rays.

The A’s led off the third with five straight hits off Erasmo Ramirez to take a 3-0 lead. Jed Lowrie drove in the first run with a double and Khris Davis and Yonder Alonso followed with RBI singles.

They had a chance to build the lead in the fourth when they loaded the bases with none out and came up empty.

“We had a chance to blow the game open,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “We left a lot (13) on base. Earlier in the game we had a lot better chance to win because we put together some at bats.”

Souza hit a two-run single in the fourth and Beckham put the Rays ahead 4-3 with a two-out, two-run double in the sixth.

The Rays added another run in the sixth when catcher Josh Phegley mishandled a throw enabling Beckham to score from second base on Michael Martinez‘s infield single. It was Oakland’s second error of the game and major league-worst 61st of the season.

Ryon Healy hit an RBI single in the A’s seventh. Back-to-back doubles by Alonso and Healy off Alex Colome tied it at 5 in the ninth.

A’s center fielder Jaycob Brugman got his first major league hit, a sixth-inning single off Ramirez.

Oakland bounced back to win the nightcap, 7-2.


The last regularly scheduled doubleheader in the majors was on July 11, 2011, when the A’s hosted the Angels. This was the second doubleheader at Tropicana Field – the other was Sept. 30, 2004, when two games against the Detroit Tigers had to be rescheduled because of Hurricane Frances.


Athletics: RHP Andrew Triggs was put on the disabled list with a strained left hip after giving up eight runs in 3 2/3 innings Friday night. OF Matt Olson was recalled from Nashville to take Triggs’ roster spot.

Rays: RHP Matt Andriese (strained groin) was activated to pitch the second game. His last start was May 30. … C Wilson Ramos (recovery from torn ACL) may soon have his rehab upgraded from Class A Charlotte to Triple-A Durham.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Trial delayed until January in Florida airport shooting

Trial will be delayed until at least January for an Alaska man charged with killing five people and wounding six in a Florida airport mass shooting, a federal judge said Friday.

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom set a new Jan. 22 trial date for Esteban Santiago of Anchorage, Alaska, whose trial initially was scheduled for October.

Bloom noted at a hearing that extra time is needed for the Justice Department to decide whether to seek the death penalty, including arguments from Santiago’s attorneys about why prosecutors should not seek capital punishment. Bloom ordered the defense to submit what’s called a “mitigation packet” outlining those arguments by Nov. 3.

“That certainly is sufficient time,” she said.

Addressing Santiago directly, the judge asked if he had any objection to the trial delay.

“No, your honor,” he replied.

Santiago, a 27-year-old Iraq war veteran, pleaded not guilty to a 22-count indictment in the Jan. 6 shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Santiago has been diagnosed as schizophrenic but his lawyers say he is competent for trial and is continuing to take prescribed anti-psychotic medications.

“I have no concern at all about his competence,” said public defender Eric Cohen.

After the shooting, the FBI says Santiago told agents he acted under government mind control, then claimed inspiration by the Islamic State extremist group. No terrorism links have been found.

According to the indictment, Santiago flew from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale with a 9mm handgun in a box he put in checked luggage. After landing he retrieved the weapon, loaded it in a bathroom and came out firing randomly in a crowded baggage claim area until he exhausted his ammunition.

The FBI says several video cameras captured the shooting and that Santiago himself admitted committing the shootings in recorded interviews with agents after his arrest.

Santiago was treated at an Anchorage psychiatric hospital last year after he showed up at the local FBI office saying he was under CIA mind control and was hearing voices. He was released after a brief stay. His gun, which had been confiscated during that time, was returned to him. It was later used in the Florida shooting.

Cohen said the defense needs months to go through the video evidence and obtain Santiago’s medical records, including his service in the Army National Guard. He questioned whether the January trial date was realistic for a potential death penalty case.

“We believe this is premature. We will certainly do our best,” he said. “We need to be particularly careful that we do everything we’re obligated to do.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Rays hit 5 homers, beat Athletics 13-4

Tampa Bay tied a season-high with five home runs, Alex Cobb went six strong innings, and the Rays beat the Oakland Athletics 13-4 on Friday night.

Steven Souza Jr., Mallex Smith, Logan Morrison, Tim Beckham and Corey Dickerson all homered for the Rays, who have hit four or more homers in a game six times this season. Souza, who entered in a 1-for-24 slide, had three hits and came within a double of hitting for the cycle.

Jesus Sucre had three hits and two RBIs, helping the Rays record a season-high in runs.

Cobb (5-5), coming off a start Saturday at Seattle in which he allowed nine runs and 14 hits over five innings, gave up one run and four hits.

Andrew Triggs (5-6) struggled for the fourth consecutive start, giving up eight runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. He has allowed 26 runs in 18 2/3 innings over the stretch.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.


Special session ends after Florida Legislature approves deal

A whirlwind three-day special session is ending after the Florida Legislature approved a last-minute deal to boost money for public schools and money to repair the dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee.

The Florida Legislature on Friday approved two-budget related bills that would also set aside more money to economic development programs championed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Lawmakers also passed a bill that puts in place rules for medical marijuana, which was approved by voters last November.

The special session nearly collapsed after Senate leaders insisted on winning approval for money for university projects that Scott vetoed last week.

The final deal includes $60 million for 17 university projects and also boosts spending to increase per-student funding by $100 for the state’s nearly 3 million school children.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Day after Comey hearing, Donald Trump claims ‘total and complete vindication’

President Donald Trump is asserting that fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to Congress represents “total and complete vindication” in the Russia case.

Trump, who did not post on his Twitter account as Comey appeared before the Senate intelligence committee Thursday, sent a tweet at daybreak Friday. In the post, the president said: “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindcaiton … and WOW, Comey is a leaker.”

Trump was referring to Comey’s revelation that he had passed on to a friend a written memo he’d made detailing a meeting with Trump at the White House — and had asked a friend to give it to a reporter for the New York Times.

During much of the increasingly heated debate surrounding the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s role in the election, Trump has chafed over news leaks, arguing that news organizations had not given them proper attention.

Session on verge of collapse as Florida GOP leaders feud

Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature, which has been wracked by feuds among its top leaders for the last several years, is in danger of ending a three-day special session without restoring billions in money that public schools use to pay for day-to-day operations.

The session is scheduled to end Friday, but after two days there remained a divide over spending that appears to have been partially spurred on by Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to veto more than $400 million in projects, including tens of millions in programs for the state’s 12 public universities.

If legislators don’t act then public schools will lose out on more than $11.4 billion in state funding that it supposed to start trickling down later this summer. A few days ago it appeared that Scott had worked out an agreement with GOP leaders, but Senate President Joe Negron insisted he never signed off on the deal.

“We’re not just going to rubber stamp an agreement that two parties made without our priorities being taken into account,” Negron said.

The Senate wants to restore $75 million worth of university-related projects that Scott vetoed last week – and they also want to restore some cuts to hospitals that legislators agreed to when they passed a new state budget.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has so far refused to go along with an override of Scott’s vetoes or set aside more money for hospitals.

“We would be the first Republican Legislature that overrode a Republican governor on pork-barrel spending. Find me that example. I don’t think it exists,” Corcoran said.

The drama unfolding in the Capitol was put in motion last week after Scott vetoed more than $11.4 billion for public schools on top of the $400 million in projects.

Scott called legislators back to the state Capitol to pass a new school budget that would increase overall funding by an additional $215 million. He also asked them to set aside money for his top priorities, including money for the state’s tourism marketing agency. Pushed by House Republicans, the Legislature had initially proposed slashing money for Visit Florida by two-thirds. Scott had warned for weeks that the House proposals would kill jobs.

Scott put together a hastily-arranged press conference last week in Miami to announce what he called an “agreement” and both Corcoran and Negron joined the governor for the announcement. Negron said that while he supports giving the governor what he wants, he said he warned him ahead of time that the Senate would not support the governor using money from projects put in the budget by senators to pay for it.

Despite the ongoing discord over spending, legislators are poised to pass this week a bill that would put in place rules for medical marijuana, which voters in the state approved last November. Legislators failed to pass any legislation during their regular session that ended in early May. Scott agreed to add the issue to the agenda for the special session after a compromise was worked out.

But the compromise put together by legislators would ban the smoking of medical marijuana. Instead sick patients eligible to use the drug would have to consume it by vaping, or ingest it in a pill form or in something edible.

Legislators in both the House and Senate on Thursday tried to eliminate the ban, saying it went against what voters envisioned when they approved the amendment. Supporters of the smoking ban insisted it made sense because smoking in general is not healthy.

John Morgan, who was the driving force behind getting the amendment on the ballot, said he will sue if smoking is not allowed. Morgan has said that the only place where the amendment does not allow smoking is public spaces.

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