Charlie Crist Archives - Page 2 of 124 - SaintPetersBlog

Charlie Crist calls decision to exit Paris climate agreement ‘immoral’

Charlie Crist says the idea of President Donald Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords would be “shortsighted, irresponsible, and immoral.”

In the Kenwood area of St. Petersburg Wednesday morning, the St. Petersburg Democratic congressman made the comment during an extensive tour of an ongoing expansion at the Metro Wellness and Community Center.

Reacting to reports Trump might pull the country out of the 2015 landmark pact to reduce carbon emissions, Crist says the president should know better.

“I think it would be awful to pull out and I wish that President Trump, who spends a lot of time in Florida and certainly understands the beauty of our state and the water that is a treasure here, can also be a threat,” he told reporters gathered. “So I think the wisdom of staying with the Paris accord is very important, and I hope he will reconsider.”

Axios reported Wednesday that Trump has decided to pull the U.S. out of the accord, basing their report on two anonymous sources.

Whether or not Trump formally pulls the U.S. out of the agreement, he already has made significant moves on the environment in his four months in office.

Two months ago, Trump signed an executive order undoing former President Barack Obama‘s Clean Power Plan, which would aim to reduce carbon emissions. The executive order also rescinded a number of executive actions aimed at reining in climate change or mitigating its effects.

And Trump’s proposed federal budget includes major cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency to the tune of nearly 30 percent.

Rafe Pomerance was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Development in the Clinton administration. His agency was responsible for numerous multilateral issues, including climate change and ozone depletion.

Pomerance says climate change is an “existential threat to Florida.”

“To our ability to implement the (Paris) agreement, the U.S. made certain commitments to reduce emissions, and (EPA head Scott) Pruitt and others have made already begun to make it impossible for the U.S. to live up to its pledge,” he says.

“In my home state of Florida, the environment is our economy and we feel the effects of climate change on a daily basis,” Crist said in a formal statement issued later Wednesday. “We must renew and strengthen these commitments, not turn our back on them.”

St. Pete Council candidate Brandi Gabbard fears loss of workforce housing in city

Realtors may be rejoicing over the possibility Florida’s homestead exemption could be increased by an additional $25,000 in 2019.

Brandi Gabbard is not one of them.

The National Association of Realtors director and a candidate in St. Petersburg’s District 2 race this year, Gabbart has “grave” concerns about the proposal, which if approved by the voters in November of 2018 could result in the loss of millions of dollars in revenue to the city.

“Anything that causes huge deficits to local revenue is of great concern,” Gabbard said during a meeting early Wednesday at a Dunkin’ Donuts on North Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. “I’m currently combing through the budget, and I’m hard pressed to see where that deficit will be made up.”

Mayor Rick Kriseman, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn oppose the measure, as well as elected officials at the city and county level throughout Florida.

Despite that opposition, state legislators approved the measure anyway, which will go before the voters in the fall of 2018.

Gabbard is currently running in a one-on-one matchup with banker Barclay Harless for the District 2 seat being vacated by term-limited Jim Kennedy. 

In Gabbard’s opinion, the bigger issue for many St. Petersburg homeowners is what’s going to happen with the National Flood Insurance Program, which is scheduled to end this September. A proposal to renew the plan for another five years has just been introduced in Congress, and Gabbard participated with Congressman Charlie Crist and other officials in a roundtable discussion on the issue Monday.

“A tax break here doesn’t necessarily make up for an increase in flood insurance cost on that side,” she says.

Gabbard serves on the St. Pete public information task force on property insurance that meets quarterly, and as someone who’s been selling real estate in Pinellas County for over a decade, is an expert on the subject of flood insurance and its potential to seriously harm homeowners in the city, depending on what Congress ends up doing.

“Even though flood is a national issue, I just think it’s so important to us here, because we are Ground Zero,” she says. “Pinellas County has more properties affected -especially when it comes to the grandfathering issue –  than any other place in the country, so it’s my duty to continue that fight, even after I’m on City Council. Because the issue every time it rears its head it gets uglier and uglier and we have to find a solution.

Regarding homeowners, Gabbard acknowledged that housing is a huge issue in this year’s campaign, specifically workforce housing. She said the biggest problem is that there’s simply not enough “inventory” to satisfy demand in St. Pete, particularly for those looking teachers, policemen, firemen and other professionals attempting to spend between $100,000-$250,000 for a first time purchase.

“If there is going to be loan on a property, it has to meet  certain criteria, and a lot of those homes are not in the condition that they would actually be financeable, ” she says, adding that if they were, they’d be more expensive, “so it’s a really challenge place to be.”

Gabbard says the challenge for the city is how do redevelop in a “smart way that doesn’t lose the aesthetic of our neighborhoods, but at the same time, provides those options for those who want to create a life here in their city.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday that they have issued a permit to the city to begin construction on the new Pier.

Gabbard says she personally wants to see a new Pier but voters have concerns over the escalating costs of the project.

“They’re just really concerned about the money, the increased costs that keep being brought up and keeps being discussed,” she says.

Unless a third candidate gets in the race before the end of next month, Harless and Gabbard won’t square off until November. If there’s a third candidate, a primary would be held August 29.

Jose Felix Diaz, six others qualify to run in SD 40 special election

The race is set.

State records show seven candidates — three Republicans, three Democrats and one no party affiliation candidate — have qualified to run in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40.

The one-day qualifying period was set to end at noon Wednesday for the special election. State records show Republicans Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Lorenzo Palomares; and Democrats Ana Rivas Logan, Steve Smith, and Annette Taddeo qualified as of noon Wednesday. Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth, a no party affiliation candidate, has also qualified to run.

Artiles resigned in April after he made national news after used a racial slur and vulgar language in a conversation with two African-American colleagues.

Diaz, who currently serves as the chairman of the Regulatory Affairs Committee, was first elected to the Florida House in 2010. A well-liked and respected member of the House, Diaz was the chamber’s point man on gambling legislation. He resigned his seat, effective Sept. 26, to run for the Senate seat.

Diaz de la Portilla served in the Florida House from 1994 until 2000, before transitioning to the Florida Senate. He served there from 2000 until 2010, serving as the Senate President Pro Tempore from 2002 to 2004, and Senate Majority Leader from 2008 to 2010.

Rivas Logan, a former Republican member of the Florida House, ran as a Democrat in Senate District 40 in 2016, but lost the primary to then-Sen. Dwight Bullard.

Taddeo ran in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, where she faced former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia in the Democratic Party. She received 49 percent of the vote to Garcia’s 51 percent. In 2014, she was former Gov. Charlie Crist’s running mate when he ran for governor as a Democrat.

The special primary election is July 25, with the special general election scheduled for Sept. 26. A special election in House District 116, triggered by Diaz’s resignation, has been scheduled for the same days.

At campaign appearance, Rick Kriseman says the election is all about moving St. Pete forward

To a cheering crowd of supporters Friday night, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman expressed what will be undoubtedly the predominant theme of his re-election campaign this summer.

Kriseman said the election between himself and former Mayor Rick Baker is a simple choice: whether citizens want to keep moving forward or go back in time.

“It’s about us deciding as a community who we want to be,” the mayor told more than a hundred people who crammed into a house on North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and 16th Ave. that will serve as his campaign headquarters. “What kind of city do we want to be?”

“You hear me talk about our vision of being a city of opportunity, where the sun shines on all who live, work and play (here),” he continued. “That’s the kind of community we want to be, and that’s what we’re going to be deciding in this election.”

This was perhaps Kriseman’s biggest engagement with the public since he formally declared his candidacy for re-election at Three Birds Tavern four months ago.

Even back then, rumors were getting serious that the popular, twice-elected Baker was thinking of returning to city politics, after several years in the private sector working for entrepreneur Bill Edwards.

Since he stepped down from office at the beginning of 2010, Baker flirted with running for several political offices, but never ultimately pulled the trigger on any. It led to some skepticism about whether he would even come back to challenge Kriseman.

Since entering the race May 9, he’s made an impression, starting with a fiery public takedown of Kriseman at his lengthy campaign kickoff.

After that, there have been a few fundraisers, but none bigger than Tuesday night at the Morean Arts Center for Clay, where Baker premiered a new television ad and offered supporters a copy of his 2011 opus, “The Seamless City” (apparently there were plenty of copies still sitting in boxes somewhere).

In a brief five-minute address, Kriseman touched on one of the most vulnerable parts of his record — the issues with sewage spills in 2015 and 2016 and his administration’s ability to level with the public about them. In his address, he touched upon the incident, but segued to referring to the storm’s intensity and who can best contend with acknowledging the realities of climate change.

“We experienced over an 18-month time rains that we hadn’t ever seen before, and I’m not afraid to talk about climate change and sea level rising,” he said, before getting in a dig at Baker for inheriting a sewage system that wasn’t fully funded.

“For too long though we’ve invested in our system, we haven’t invested enough because if we had, we wouldn’t be dealing with those issues today. but we’re going to fix it,” Kriseman declared. “We are committed to investing $305 million over the next five years and then beyond.”

Opening up for Kriseman at the event were members of St. Petersburg’s Democratic all-star team: City Council Chair Darden Rice, County Commissioner Ken Welch and Congressman Charlie Crist, who twice Kriseman referred to as “Governor Crist” (because it’s something that people call Crist).

Segueing from sewage to his credentials as an environmentalist, Kriseman became nostalgic over a bonding moment with Crist in 2010.

The mayor reminisced about the time when he, along with two other state Democrats, called for a special session to propose a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot to prohibit drilling for oil or natural gas within state waters.

Crist was all for it, but the Legislature didn’t agree.

The themes pounded into the crowd’s head: Moving forward as a city with a leader who is inclusive.

Welch began by saying about the current environment in Tallahassee and Washington D.C.: “Two words come to mind — regression and progress.”

You can guess who represents who in Team Kriseman’s eyes.

Welch said that in all his time in office (since 2000), city-county relations have never been better; Kriseman deserved a big share of the credit for helping to establish that level of cooperation.

Rice talked up some of the policies that have been achieved under the Kriseman administration: increased minimum wage for city workers, establishing a parental leave policy, “banning the box” on job applications,

There was no mention of Baker during the event, except for one passing comment by Rice, while praising Kriseman as an inclusive mayor: “That wasn’t the message from the other guy who announced his re-election campaign a few weeks ago.”

Although one poll shows Kriseman down by double-digits to Baker, attendees are convinced Kriseman will come out on top this year.

“The city of St Petersburg has changed a lot since Mayor Baker was in office. so the DNA in our city has become much more forward thinking and much more progressive, and that bodes well for a Kriseman re-election,” said Mark Ferrulo, the executive director of Progress Florida, a liberal activist organization.

He acknowledges, though, that the race will be extremely competitive.

Some 2013 Kriseman voters who say they’ll vote for Baker this time around say they’ve been “disappointed” by the Democrat incumbent. That includes some of the same progressive base that Kriseman believes is the key to his re-election strategy.

City Councilman Charlie Gerdes doesn’t understand that sentiment against Baker, a Republican who chides Kriseman for making the race partisan.

“If they voted for Rick they should have understood that Rick was a progressive and that the vision and values were going to change,” Gerdes said, “and to the extent that people are disappointed that things haven’t happened fast enough, I get that.”

“But if you’re going to vote for a progressive and you’re disappointed, and you go to Rick Baker, that’s inexplicable to me,” Gerdes added, shaking his head.

“I just don’t get that.”

Photo courtesy of Kim DeFalco.


Charlie Crist cheers Army Corps’ $30M for Pinellas beach restoration

Pinellas Democratic Representative Charlie Crist proudly announced Thursday that the Army Corps of Engineers will fully fund the Pinellas County Shore Protection Project, to restore and protect Pinellas County’s beaches.

The announcement comes after Crist worked with Pinellas County Commission Chair Janet Long for the past few months to secure the Corps’ approval.

“Pinellas County is a peninsula on a peninsula, surrounded almost entirely by coastline. With rising sea levels, increasing storm surges, and erosion caused by hurricanes like Hermine, the importance of nourishment projects is urgent to protect our economy, infrastructure, and coastal properties,” Crist said in a statement. “I thank Commissioner Long and the entire Commission for their commitment to our beaches, and the Army Corps for listening to our concerns. I look forward to continuing our work together, to push forward with this major project benefiting Pinellas.”

“The Army Corps of Engineers allocation of $30 million to complete the Pinellas County Beaches projects, including Sand Key, Treasure Island, and Upham Beach, is great news for our entire region,” said Long. “Thank you to Congressman Crist for his work on this issue as well as the Army Corps of Engineers for recognizing the importance of these projects to our local economy.”

According to Crist’s office, the Corps’ work plan also includes the full federal cost share of $9 million for the Port Tampa Bay Big Bend Channel navigation project, as well as a “New Start” designation for this deepening and widening project.


Universal support for Robert Mueller so far from Florida’s members of Congress

Across the aisles and across the Sunshine State Florida’s members of Congress are universally praising the announcement that former FBI Director Robert Mueller will lead a special investigation into Russian interference in American elections.

Some Democrats, while praising the appointment and Mueller’s integrity, still called for more, including the special commission that Democrats have been pushing for in a bill in the House of Representatives. They also almost universally expressed hope that Mueller will conduct a broad investigation that includes pursuing obstruction of justice allegations against President Donald Trump.

Fewer Florida Republicans than Democrats responded Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, but those who did expressed confidence that Mueller’s appointment is the right move, and that Mueller is the right man for the job.

Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Kendall once again got out front of other Republican in expressing concerns over Russia, going on MSNBC Wednesday night and alluding to the prospect that the Russians had American insiders helping them with their election influence operation.

“Because we all want to get to the bottom of what the Russians did to influence this election, and we need to know if any U.S. persons collaborated or colluded with the Russians, this is something that will get us much closer to the truth,” Curbelo told Greta Van Susteren on the For The Record With Greta show. “And it’s something we should be very happy about.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who’d been among the first and most vocal of Republicans to raise concerns about Russian interference last fall, but who had remained fairly quiet as news bombs exploded earlier this week, applauded the Mueller appointment, while cautioning that he still wants the Senate to run its own investigation.

“Mr. Mueller is widely respected for his independence and professionalism. I have confidence that he will conduct a fair and thorough investigation,” Rubio said in a written statement. “For the sake of the country, all parties must fully cooperate with his efforts that are focused on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. This effort should in no way be allowed to impede the ability of the Senate Intelligence Committee to conduct and conclude its investigation into the same subject. It is my hope that these investigations will now move expeditiously.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson offered the hope that Mueller will get everything he needs.

“Bob Mueller has the experience to conduct a thorough investigation. Now, the administration must provide him the resources and independent authority he needs to follow the facts wherever they lead,” Nelson said in his statement.

Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key called Mueller “a man of integrity and independence.”

“Bob Mueller is a great choice to lead the investigation as the newly appointed special counsel. A former FBI director, Mueller is a man of integrity and independence who can be expected to conduct a thorough inquiry into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Mueller will get to the truth and give the American people confidence in the outcome of the investigation.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast of Palm City called for truth.

“We should never run or hide from the truth,” Mast stated in a release. “If we seek out truth and embrace it then Americans can know we all play by the same set of rules.  I hope Former FBI Director Robert Mueller can be looked at as unbiased and his finding respected by all involved.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami called Mueller “no-nonsense.”

“I applaud the appointment of no-nonsense Mueller to lead the investigation of the negative interference of Russia in our democratic process,” she tweeted.

Republican Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami said the matter deserves the attention.

“By appointing former FBI Director Mueller as special counsel, the Justice Department recognizes the attention this matter requires,” he wrote in a statement. I expect Mr. Mueller will conduct this in a professional and thorough manner, just as he led the FBI for 12 years through two presidencies.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando called the move “brilliant” but held out a demand that the commission House Democrats have been seeking still gets established.

“The American people deserve answers. The appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller is a brilliant choice. Based on my knowledge of him, he will be relentless in his pursuit of the facts. He is well up to the task,” she wrote in a statement. “Now, we need an independent commission to ensure we protect our democracy and send a strong message that we will not tolerate any  interference in our elections from anyone.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park agreed, on social media posts.

“The appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel for the Russia investigation is a positive step toward uncovering the truth. We must follow the facts,” she wrote. “However, we still need an independent commission on Russia’s interference and hacking in our 2016 elections to inform the public and to determine how we can prevent future attacks on our democracy. “

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg expressed his confidence in Mueller.

“This is a very significant step and a win for our democracy and the American people,” he declared in a written statement. “Robert Mueller has broad respect across party lines and is the right person to lead such an important and sensitive investigation. We must get to the bottom of the Russia question, letting facts guide us to the truth.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa urged everyone, including Trump, to fully cooperate with Mueller.

“The appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate potential wrongdoing between Russia and President Trump is an important and overdue step to fully uncover the extent of Russian meddling in our political system and potential obstruction of justice,” she wrote. “A fully independent investigation outside of the partisan politics of Congress is required to restore public trust. This is a tall order and I hope the Special Counsel is up to this task. The appointment comes on the heels of intransigence by Congressional Republicans who as late as this afternoon refused to bring to the House floor a bipartisan bill I have co-sponsored to establish a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the malign Russian influence on our democratic system, the Trump campaign, and his administration. I urge President Trump, all of his associates and all who love this country to be forthright and do everything they can to cooperate and aid the investigation. The American people deserve no less.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston insisted the investigation must be as broad as possible.

“I’m encouraged by the Justice Department’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump-Russia connection, and I have a deep respect for former FBI Director Mueller. Assuming he is given true independence, this appointment will remove some of the clouds that have hung over our system of justice during this deeply troubling situation. It’s certainly overdue,” she said in a written statement. “However, the investigation must include Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, the Kremlin’s possible ties to the Trump campaign, and the President’s alleged interference in the Michael Flynn investigation. This is a positive step, but more still needs to be done to ensure that we provide the whole truth to the American people.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton said something similar in a tweet:

“Important step in Russia investigation. But any investigation must include possible obstruction of justice by POTUS,” he tweeted.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach called for vigilance.

“Thanks to public outcry, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein names a special counsel in Russia probe. Americans must stay vigilant,” she tweeted.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens specifically cited Trump’s presidential campaign as a target.

“The appointment of Robert Mueller to investigate possible ties between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government is a long-awaited step in the right direction,” she said in a written statement. “After a week of constant controversy, Americans’ faith in government may begin to be restored. I applaud Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for having the courage to name a special counselor, a decision that Mr. Trump has denounced as a ‘witch hunt.’ My view is that if there is no connection between the president or his campaign and Russia, he should have nothing to worry about. Mr. Mueller is widely viewed as a man of the highest integrity who can be counted on to maintain that standard. I hope he will have all of the authority and resources necessary to conduct a thorough investigation, no matter where it may lead him.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee called the appointment a step in the right direction, but insisted on the independent commission.

“Appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel is a step in the right direction for continuing the investigation into Russia’s possible involvement in our democracy, but we still need an independent commission in order to ensure a thorough investigation,” Lawson said in a written statement. “The American people deserve to know the full truth.”

#13 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist, the 60-year-old former Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, returned to public office earlier this year, after defeating incumbent David Jolly in a bitter contest for Congress in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

In serving in Washington for the first time after a lifetime in Florida politics, the St. Petersburg native had a rocky transition to working in Washington.

Crist missed one of his first votes, condemning the United Nations for a resolution perceived to be anti-Israel. A few weeks later his head of outreach, Vito Sheeley, left Crist to work somewhat bizarrely for Jolly.

Then came news that he was divorcing his wife Carole, after an eight-year run.

Coincidentally or not, Crist seemed immediately afterward to have gotten his act together and started turning his press coverage around, most notably earning plaudits for hosting a four-hour town hall meeting on the USFSP campus in February.

“The million-dollar question is can be content in Congress, or will the siren of the campaign trail prove to be enticing and see him run statewide once again,” asks strategist and analyst Barry Edwards.

One thing that Crist has carried with him is the persona of working collegially with his colleagues. Criticized by some Democrats for not being sufficiently critical of Donald Trump, Crist joined some of the members of his freshman class in co-signing on to a ‘Commitment to Civility’ pledge.

Joe Henderson’s Take

“Everyone knows how likable Charlie is, and I suppose it’s hard to say a sitting U.S. Congressman shouldn’t be ranked so high. I’ll say it anyway. We all know that he is doing better after a slow start, and I’ll cut him some slack because he was going through a divorce at the time. Even with all that, the news that chief antagonist Rick Baker is running for mayor (instead of Crist’s seat in Congress) means he’ll likely have his job for as long as he wants it. The big question is, how long will that be?”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.


Partly in disbelief, Florida’s members of Congress denounce Donald Trump’s revelations to Russians

A lot of Florida’s Democratic members of Congress are responding with stunned disbelief to news reports — and President Donald Trump‘s Tuesday morning tweet — that he shared classified, highly sensitive ISIS information with Russian diplomats last week, calling the prospect inexcusable and demanding details.

Republican U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami and Mario Diaz-Balart also denounced the events, while most other Republican members from Florida have yet to react Tuesday morning to Monday evenings’ news, and Trump’s tweet essentially acknowledging the information exchange.

On the other hand, Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Rockledge argued that if the concerns are real and serious, the sources who brought the story forward need to be taking their concerns to Congress, not offering unnamed source tips to the media.

“The President has the authority to make decisions regarding our national security and work with other nations to combat international terrorism,” Posey stated. “It’s time for these unnamed sources to come forward and inform Congress and the public of any specific allegations.”

After reports first in The Washington Post and then other major media outlets, Trump responded Tuesday morning with two tweets stating, “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining …” and “… to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

Essentially The Washington Post and others had reported that Trump told the Russian officials about intelligence it had gathered on ISIS in Syria, from third-party sources that presumably would not want that information shared with the Russians, who are not aligned with the United States in the multisided Syrian conflicts.

“If the story is true,” began a statement from Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“If these allegations are true,” opened Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando.

“If reports are accurate,” surmised Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton

“If true,” started Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston.

“Putin and the Russian regime are dangerous players in the global arena,” Diaz-Balart stated. “They are not our allies and cannot be trusted with sensitive, classified information.”

Ros-Lehtinen spoke on CBS Miami, and then passed along her essential position in a tweet Tuesday morning: “No one should share classified information with nations like #Russia that have interests adverse to ours.”

Democrats were no less direct, including those who caveated their statements in initial disbelief, calling for damage assessments and more.

And with later reports on Tuesday that the intelligence may have come from Israel, Deutch really let loose.

“It is shocking that President Trump shared classified information reportedly obtained by Israel with the Russians. Not only does this endanger Israel’s intelligence network, but it puts highly sensitive information into the hands of Russia — a partner of Israel’s enemies Syria, Iran, and its proxy Hezbollah,” Deutch said. “Intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel has always been a cornerstone of our relationship, and to jeopardize this while boasting to the Russians puts America’s national security and Israel’s security at serious risk.”

“When you betray the trust of our allies and national security partners, it jeopardizes our safety and future intelligence sharing. As the former vice chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I can’t stress enough how serious of a blunder this is,” declared U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of Miramar. “It is imperative that Congress is given a full briefing on the extent of the damage that President Donald John Trump has caused in compromising highly classified code-word intelligence to the Russians.”

“If the story is true, this is a serious breach of security and will have lasting and dangerous consequences for the U.S.,” Nelson said.

“Trump betrays our country & allies when he leaks classified info to Russia,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando.

“The news that the president gave highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador in the Oval Office is deeply, deeply disturbing. His actions are indefensible,” declared U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg. “They delivered a self-inflicted wound to our national security, imperiling secret, sensitive operations overseas battling ISIS, putting the lives of our operatives in grave danger. Congress must exercise its oversight responsibilities immediately. The repercussions of the disclosure, and measures to prevent the President from repeating such a serious error, must be weighed.”

“If these allegations are true, they are inexcusable and deserve immediate action from Congress. In leaking this kind of intelligence, the President would be putting lives in danger. Our allies need to know that they can trust us,” Demings offered.

“As president, Trump has the right to declassify anything he wants, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do,” offered U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens. “Russia is not our friend, and the sooner he realizes that, the better off our country will be.”

“If true, news reports indicate that President Trump compromised America’s intelligence gathering operations and security, and possibly harmed a relationship with a key ally and put lives at risk,” stated Wasserman Schultz. “His disclosure would be a gravely dangerous compromise of classified information with an adversary. Congress needs an immediate and full briefing on what damage has been done.”

“If reports are accurate, President Trump revealed vital and highly classified information in the Oval Office to Putin’s top officials. This reckless move jeopardizes our intelligence sources, exposes extremely sensitive information, and seriously calls into question our president’s judgment,” Deutch declared in his original statement, before the Israel report. “This dangerous behavior threatens our global alliances in the fight against terrorism and actually makes America less safe.”

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee posted on Facebook, “Reports of President Trump sharing highly sensitive information with Russian officials is extremely concerning. This underscores the need for a Special Prosecutor to investigate this administration’s ties to Russia.”

At a news conference Tuesday morning, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa said: “If it’s true that President Trump shared classified information with one of our adversaries while they were invited into the Oval Office, it’s simply outrageous and it undermines the ability of the United States of America to cooperate with our allies across the world, gathering intelligence. It undermines the effectiveness of the brave men and women in our intelligence agencies.”

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, also sent out a tweet, stating, “If other nations can’t trust us to keep shared classified info secret, then they will stop sharing it with us — making us less safe.”

Murphy’s campaign side had a lot more to say on the subject late Tuesday, in a fundraising email, demanding that transcripts of Trump’s meeting with the Russians be sent to Congress for review:

“These leaks could put American lives in danger and no one — not even the President — should be given a free pass for this kind of reckless behavior. Nothing is more important than the safety and security of American citizens. Trump’s leaks to the Russians put our national security at risk and endanger our relationships with key allies.

“In fact, The Associated Press is reporting that other countries may stop sharing intelligence that could prevent future terrorist attacks. As a former National Security specialist with one of the nation’s top security clearances, Stephanie knows the importance of keeping classified information within the intelligence community.

“That’s why she’s taking Trump’s leaks VERY seriously and calling for the immediate release of the meeting transcripts for Congressional review.

“Congress should at least have the same information the Russians now have in their possession. If our President put our nation in danger — we deserve to know.”

The email then directs people to click on a link to send a message to Trump, but the link first sends visitors to a fundraising page for Murphy’s 2018 re-election.

Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor, Gwen Graham endorse ‘rockstar’ Darden Rice for re-election

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice’s re-election effort received a boost Monday with major endorsements from three Florida Democratic leaders.

On Monday, Rice received thumbs-up from former Governor and hometown Congressman Charlie Crist, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, and Congresswoman Gwen Graham, currently a Democratic candidate for governor.

“Darden is a rockstar, and I’m proud to call her a friend. We’ve worked together for years to make St. Petersburg a better place to live, work and play,” said Crist who represents St. Petersburg as part of Florida’s 13th Congressional District. “She has an impressive track record creating innovative solutions to the issues facing our community. We need her leadership on council, and she has my steadfast support.”

“Council Chairwoman Rice is committed to improving the quality of life for residents of St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay,” Castor said. ” I have great respect for her leadership on transportation and a clean and healthy environment – both of which are key to our economic success. That’s why we need her to continue her leadership on the St. Petersburg City Council for the next four years.”

“I’m proud to support Darden. She’s exactly the kind of leader we need in St. Petersburg,” Graham said. “She sets a strong example of thoughtful and courageous leadership that local government leaders around the state can look to and emulate.”

“I’m honored to have the endorsement of these special and dedicated Florida leaders who look out for our working families. ” Darden said. “We’re very fortunate to have such dedicated leaders fighting for us in Washington. I’m excited to continue our work together.”

George Sheldon now taken to task by hometown paper

George Sheldon‘s hometown newspaper now has weighed in on the former Florida politico, putting in newsprint the latest ethics woes of the now-director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services.

The Tallahassee Democrat’s Monday edition (online version here), with help from the Chicago Tribune’s estimable reporting of the last few weeks, documented Sheldon’s travails as head of Illinois’ DCFS.

The lede, by the nearly 20-year Democrat veteran Jeff Burlew: “George Sheldon, a well-known figure in Florida politics who took over Illinois’ troubled child welfare agency in 2015, is embroiled in ongoing state ethics probes and facing scrutiny over contracts given to past campaign donors and consultants.”

Sheldon, a Democrat who lost a challenge to incumbent GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2014, was secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families from 2008-2011 under then-Gov. Charlie Crist.

He also has served in the state House, as a deputy to Attorney General Bob Butterworth, and as acting assistant secretary for the federal Administration for Children and Families under President Barack Obama.

The upshot: Sheldon now is looking at a beating a retreat to Miami, to head the Our Kids nonprofit that provides child services in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Not that Sheldon—still listed as owning a home in Tallahassee that last sold for $409,000—talks much to the Florida media these days.

Sheldon, who was a reporter’s best friend during his AG campaign, now has taken to largely shunting press inquiries to right-hand man Neil Skene, a former St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) Tallahassee bureau chief. Skene joined Sheldon’s leadership team in Illinois.

“George’s leadership has won widespread, bipartisan support, including an outpouring from people in the General Assembly and the child-welfare system urging him to remain in Illinois and complete that work that is under way,” Skene told the Democrat, adding that Sheldon “saw no personal financial benefit from any of the Florida contracts.”

They include Gary Yordon, a political consultant and former Leon County commissioner, and Adam Corey, part-owner of Tallahassee’s Edison restaurant.

Yordon got “$35,000 to produce two television public service announcements about child drowning danger and safe infant sleeping practices,” the paper reported, and Corey “lobbied for a company, Presidio Networked Solutions, that was awarded more than $1 million in contracts with (Illinois’) DCFS.”

Sheldon did tell the Tribune last week he “can’t not give serious consideration to Florida. It’s home, but I also feel an obligation to Illinois.” He said he expects to make a decision “in the coming weeks.”

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