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Charlie Crist calls new Trump travel ban ‘deeply troubling’

While calling it a slight improvement, Charlie Crist says that President Donald Trump’s newly revised version of his executive order that will bar migrants from predominantly Muslim nations from entering the U.S. remains “deeply troubling.”

The Trump administration released its new executive order travel ban on Monday, more than a month after federal judges blocked the initial ban on residents from seven Middle Eastern and African countries that created legal challenges and spontaneous demonstrations in airports across the country. The new executive order removes citizens of Iraq from the original travel embargo and deletes a provision that explicitly protected religious minorities.

“While it’s an improvement that Iraq was taken off the list of countries under the travel ban, this executive order is still deeply troubling, and we can’t take our eye off the ball,” Crist said in a statement.

“By cutting the number of refugees able to seek freedom and safety in the U.S. by over 50 percent annually, we are condemning the lives of up to 60,000 people – a population the size of Fort Myers, Florida – who fear persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, or political views,” said the Pinellas County Representative. “It’s unconscionable, flying in the face of our American values as the beacon of hope and light to the rest of the world.”

Like some foreign policy observers, Crist says the new executive order makes America less safe, “damaging the alliances we need to stop terrorism at home and against our allies and interests abroad.”

The release of the statement shortly after it was announced is another example of how Crist appears to be more focused in his job as a Congressman. When the original travel ban was announced late in the afternoon of Friday, January 27, citizens converged the next night to airports around the country to protest the decision (though in Tampa, citizens who initially were rebuffed by Tampa International Airport officials relocated in front of Marco Rubio’s then Tampa office).

Crist did not issue a statement that entire weekend, finally sending out a statement via his spokeswoman on January 30.

Not this time, however. Tampa Representative Kathy Castor, Crist’s Democratic colleague from across the Bay, has not weighed in with a statement as of yet on Monday afternoon.

Blake Dowling: The road, fast food and Session — all aboard!

Session is here in the Capital City, beginning with a Monday bash at Associated Industries to welcome those from all over the state.

The Legislative Session kickoff has been on my calendar for a decade now; it is a great event and a nice chance to reflect on the past year and the one coming just ahead.

Mayor Andrew Gillum wants to run for governor, legal pot is everywhere, POTUS can give a good speech. What else? Charlie Christ switched back to the GOP, got a divorce or something like that. It’s hard to keep tabs on Chuckles.

For those traveling from out of town make sure to stay away from fast food. It is hard on the system, makes you fat and decreases your life span.

Wendy’s is making it hard to avoid fast food, as they are leading the pack with devious innovative ways to get a double cheeseburger in your hand (where are they square, by the way).

What are they doing? Self-service kiosks for one thing. I wrote in an earlier column that the model Amazon’s new cashier less smart self-serve store would be appealing to big business looking to save money from a higher minimum wage. The head burger honchos came to the same conclusion. How do they stay highly profitable? Get rid of employees.

So, those are elected officials that always want to raise taxes and the minimum wage.

Stop. I was talking to John Londot from Greenberg Traurig about a minute ago about AI (we are collaborating on something for Leon County next week), and it’s not just minimum wage workers that should be on alert.

We must all be mindful of what sort of impact AI could have on the world. We could have an autonomous utopia on our hands or a scorched wasteland.

I prefer to think positive on the subject and I know John does too. We must not fear innovation but that is not to say we should not walk carefully.

“Technology can play a great role in creating a better customer experience, unlocking productivity, driving throughput and ultimately saving some labor to help us to continue to have a strong economic model,” said Todd Penegor, Wendy’s CEO.

Wendy’s has created a lab — called 90 Degrees — with a team of developers and engineers to work on self-serving kiosks, its website and mobile app.

They want you using smart pay, and who do you think they are targeting? Youth. Millennials. They want to make the Clown and the King as irrelevant as the compact disc.

They are well on their way, plus they are rolling out a standardized POS (point of sale, not the other acronym you were thinking of) to all stores. They are making a massive investment in innovation and expect them to crush the competition, except Chick-fil-A. Can’t touch the master.

Wendy’s want you ordering from the app, from kiosks and have an agile and nimble digital experience with their brand. And they are half way there.

Da da da da da … I’m McLoving it.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached here:

Charlie Crist fields questions for nearly four hours at his first town hall meeting

In the weeks since Donald Trump and the Republican Party have taken complete control control of Washington D.C., congressional town hall meetings around the nation have been marked by vitriol, confrontation and anger.

Those elements were decidedly not present at Charlie Crist’s town hall meeting held on Saturday at the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus. Instead, it was a veritable love fest, with the mostly liberal crowd calling on Crist to hold the new regime accountable, as well as asking him to help guide them on what they could do to slow down the Trump administration.

“It’s not Democrats, Republicans or independents,” the freshman U.S. Representative said when asked who could bring the greatest pressure on Trump and the GOP agenda. “It’s Americans on Americans, encouraging these people in Washington to get to the truth. The more you do it, the more it’s going to happen.”

The St. Petersburg Democrat showed Springsteenian stamina in his first town hall, taking questions for nearly four hours before a crowd that started out over 500 people strong.

As he said last weekend in a community in South St. Petersburg, Crist wants an independent, 9/11-style commission to investigate the ties between the Trump administration and Russian officials. He said former Secretary of State Colin Powell would be an ideal personality to lead that panel.

He received a standing ovation when he said that he has called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign after it was reported that he met with Russian officials after saying he had not done so during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing. But Crist said it was important “not to take the eye off the ball” on what was really important.

“The real issue to me in this whole Russian imbroglio, if you will, is what did they do? What did they hack? What did they cyberattack? And why did they do it? And who did they do it for? And who did they talk to about it before it was done?” he asked.

Crist said he was angered by the reports because he “loves democracy,” and what happened in this case “has the opportunity to shatter the very foundation of American democracy.”

Crist also announced that his first major piece of legislation he soon will be filing involves a measure to protect Social Security. He said his legislation would in part raise the cap on earnings that are taxed. Currently, earnings up to $118,500 are taxed for this purpose. Crist’s 13th Congressional District it should be noted,  has always been considered to contain one of the highest concentration of senior voters in the nation.

The other component of his bill would be to eliminate taxation on citizens beginning to cash in on Social Security benefits.

“The hard part is getting these things because we’re putting them in the same bill,” he said.

Members of the audience filled out question forms beforehand, and were given a number that was then announced in no particular order by a Crist staffer during the meeting.

That seemed to be working well enough, but nearly two hours into the town hall, Dr. David McKalip said he’d had enough. The Tea Party activist and St. Petersburg neurosurgeon interrupted the proceedings to say that it was time to interrupt the one-sided nature of the questions being asked,d before asking Crist to please “repeal Obamacare.”

As he continued speaking, the crowd began jeering loudly, yelling at him to “ask your question!”

McKalip said insurance rates had skyrocketed since the ACA officially went into effect in 2014, mentioning the deleterious affect it has on his patients.

Crist never directly responded, instead passing the microphone to the next woman scheduled to ask a question. She began by giving an impassioned defense of the ACA.

Always lauded for his skills as a retail politician, Crist was at his zenith in terms of people pleasing throughout the meeting, though sometimes in an over the top fashion. When a Clearwater resident introduced herself by saying she had just recently relocated from northern Illinois, Crist responded by saying, “Welcome to Heaven.”

When St. Petersburg resident named Cuthbert Hutton asked a question about Trump stripping down the EPA, Crist got a bit corny.

“Mr Hutton is it? So when you speak, people listen,” he quipped, invoking the not-so-recent television ad tagline. He then assured Hutton that he would do “everything in my power to make sure that budget, that has to be approved by the House and the Senate, before it goes to the president’s desk, is one that reflects your wishes. Because you’re my boss. Literally.”

When Seminole resident Randy Wright began his comment about preserving the Affordable Care Act by mentioning that Crist used to be Insurance Commissioner in Florida, Crist interrupted him.

“Education Commissioner, ” he said.

“Not Insurance Commissioner?” Wright responded.

“Hell no,” Crist fired back, eliciting a wave of laughter.

And at one point he gave Pinellas resident Tracy Crabtree his card with his personal cell phone numbers, which he then had her read aloud.

Another citizen who left a bit disgruntled was Beverly Young, the widow of the late C.W. Bill Young, the Republican who held the CD 13 seat for over forty years before his death in the fall of 2013. Young said that she was disappointed with Crist’s dealings with veterans in Pinellas County.

Kathy Castor says Jeff Sessions should resign

Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor joins the chorus of Democrats who are calling for the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions following published reports surfacing that he met twice with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential campaign last year.

The former Alabama senator had said as recently as last month that he had not done so.

“Lying to a congressional committee while you are under sworn oath is illegal,” Castor said Thursday morning. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions should resign and at the very least must recuse himself from the investigation into illegal collusion between Vladimir Putin, the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. President Trump’s failure to release his tax returns (unlike any other presidential candidate or President) continues to be a cloud over his Administration.”

“An open and transparent review of his tax returns could answer questions related to whether or not he or his company have ties to Russia,” she added.

Shortly before Castor released her statement, her fellow Democratic colleague across Tampa Bay, Charlie Crist, was also calling on Sessions to resign.

“As the former Attorney General of Florida, I find Attorney General Sessions’ actions inexcusable, and call for his immediate resignation,” Crist said. “How can we have faith that the duties of the office of the Attorney General will be carried out when the chief legal officer of the country doesn’t tell the truth under oath to the United States Congress.”

At his Senate confirmation hearing last month, Sessions denied ever having met with Sergey Kislyak, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during the presidential campaign. However, a report in The Washington Post said that Sessions had met with him twice during the presidential campaign.

Sessions said Thursday that he would consider recusing himself from any investigation that the Justice Department could be conducting related to any ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Charlie Crist calls for Jeff Sessions to resign after reports of meeting with Russian ambassador surface

St. Petersburg Democratic Representative Charlie Crist is calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, a day after published reports surfaced that Sessions met twice with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. during the president campaign last year, and yet said last month that he had not done so.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that one of the meetings between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race. Sessions did not disclose those meetings during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he was asked about ties between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.

“As the former Attorney General of Florida, I find Attorney General Sessions’ actions inexcusable, and call for his immediate resignation. How can we have faith that the duties of the office of the Attorney General will be carried out when the chief legal officer of the country doesn’t tell the truth under oath to the United States Congress,” said Crist. “It is clear that we need to establish an independent, 9/11-style commission to investigate this administration’s Russian connections. The American people demand answers, and we have a responsibility to get to the truth of this Russian imbroglio.”

Crist had previously said that there should be a 9/11-style commission to investigate potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Earlier on Thursday, the man Crist lost to in the race for U.S. Senate in 2010, Marco Rubio, would not even go as far as to say that Sessions should recuse himself from any investigations regarding the potential Russian-Donald Trump campaign connection.

“We’re not at that stage yet,” Rubio said speaking with Steve Inskeep Thursday morning on NPR’s Morning Edition. “Let’s take this one step at a time, but this is certainly a relevant story. I want to learn more about it, and I want to learn more about it, and I want to hear from him directly.”

Charlie Crist to host first town hall meeting this Saturday

Charlie Crist will host his first town hall meeting as a member of Congress this Saturday in St. Petersburg.

The event will take place between 10:00 a.m and 12:00 p.m. at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s Student Center (that’s at 200 6th Avenue South).

“My number one job is the be the voice of the people – hearing from my neighbors on issues of concern, advocating for the needs of our community, and providing updates on my work on behalf of Florida’s 13th district,” Crist said in a statement. “My constituents are my boss, and this town hall will be an open forum for Pinellas residents to share their views and priorities so I can better serve them in Washington.”

At a neighborhood meeting in South St. Petersburg last Saturday, Crist met with about 20 citizens and discussed local and federal issues. It was there that he said he would soon be announcing his first official town hall meeting since being elected in November.

The meetings seem to be an indication that Crist is now phasing into being “the people’s congressman” after a rocky first month in office that culminated a week ago with the announcement that he was divorcing his wife, Carole.

At that community meeting last week, two different citizens questioned his stance on issues such as the GOP’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and whether there should be an investigation into Donald Trump’s relationship with the Russian government. Crist said he had been clear on both issues – that he was against the repeal, and was calling for an independent, 9-11 type commission to investigate any potential Trump-Russia connection.

On Tuesday, Crist announced his support for a resolution of inquiry proposed by New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler that called on the Department of Justice to provide Congress with all information from any investigations into the president’s conflicts of interest, ethical violations and connections and contacts with Russia.

That proposal went down to defeat later in the day in a party-line vote in the House Judiciary Committee.

Charlie Crist demands more transparency from Donald Trump

Charlie Crist says “count him in” on investigations into President Donald Trump’s possible conflicts of interest and ethical violations.

The St. Petersburg Democrat supports a Resolution of Inquiry put forward by New York Democrat Jerald Nadler, which calls on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide Congress with all information from any investigations into the president.

Nadler’s resolution bypasses standard procedures of how bills work through the House of Representatives. It’s written in a way that the resolution must be brought to the House floor for a vote within 14 days, if not reported by the relevant committee.

Critics contend that Trump has violated the emoluments clause in the U.S. Constitution, which bars him from benefiting (either financially or otherwise) from his extensive business dealings abroad.

“As public officials, we have a responsibility to promote transparency and provide oversight and accountability to ensure the public’s trust in our government, and that the government is working in their best interests,” Crist says in a statement. “This administration is breaking with precedent in ways that raise serious concerns and threaten the health of our democracy.”

“The American people deserve answers to the questions being raised, and Congress has the power to require them. Let’s get to work.”

Crist is backing an effort led by New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell Jr. for Congress to use its authority to make Trump’s tax returns available to ensure no conflicts of interest exist.

House Republicans have blocked the effort Monday night.

Pascrell also co-sponsored two bills (H.R. 356 and H.R. 530) that aim to investigate, expose, and deter foreign influence in the American election process.

Nadler’s Resolution of Inquiry follows two formal requests to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte — the first dated Nov. 30, 2016, and a second Jan. 24, 2017 — asking for hearings into federal conflict-of-interest and ethical provisions that may apply to the president. They also call for an investigation of the legal structure and practices of the “trust” managed by Trump’s sons.

In a letter sent to Speaker Paul Ryan Jan. 12, Nadler is asking for any information needed to evaluate Trump’s financial entanglements for conflicts of interest and constitutional violations, along with details of any uncovered ties between Russia and the president, his advisers or businesses.

At neighborhood meeting, Charlie Crist dismisses question about personnel shake-up

It was supposed to be a simple community meeting.

However, Charlie Crist wound up addressing a controversial personnel decision inside his office, which added a bit of drama to the proceedings.

Appearing at a community forum in St. Petersburg’s Midtown area Saturday morning, Crist’s visit was advertised as a discussion about the Affordable Care Act, economic development and jobs, education, and voting rights.

Ray Tampa, a community activist and former NAACP chapter president, challenged Crist to elaborate on the somewhat mysterious departure last month of district director Vito Sheeley.

Sheeley, who was Crist’s campaign outreach director in his race against Republican David Jolly last fall and was serving as his district director, stunningly announced last month said that he was leaving the office to begin working for Jolly as a senior adviser. That’s the same David Jolly who is no longer a congressman after Crist defeated him in November.

Tampa told Crist and the small crowd at Saturday’s event that he been solicited by Sheeley for campaign strategy in last year’s congressional race, and that ultimately Sheeley and other Crist advisers working for the African-American vote had decided to make copies of an email Tampa wrote in praise Crist, printed it out and distributed it to approximately 25 different churches in Midtown.

“And then shortly thereafter, you’re elected, and then Vito was terminated,” Tampa said. “That was not good. That was horrible, to say the least.”

Tampa said that he didn’t have anything against Gershom Faulkner, who has replaced Sheeley in Crist’s office, but added that “Vito’s termination had an effect on a lot of us in the community. And we don’t know if we’ve gotten a good response as to why that occurred, and it could affect you later on.”

“He wasn’t terminated,” Crist crisply replied. “Any other questions?”

Tampa left the event shortly after that exchange, saying later he was unsatisfied with Crist’s response. “That was horrible. For me to call for a question and it’s ignored, that’s not good.”

The public may never know what truly transpired between Crist and Sheeley, which resulted in the staffer jettisoning the office.

After Sheeley had announced last month that he would begin working with Jolly, he issued a statement saying: “Many have and will continue to question my reason for leaving Congressman Crist. That is an answer that will remain between Charlie Crist and me.”

Jolly’s hiring of Sheeley immediately set off speculation that the Pinellas Republican was already gearing up to challenge Crist in 2018, but Jolly said earlier this week that he won’t make any decision on another candidacy for the seat until next year.

Crist was joined at what was described by officials the “1st quarterly Pinellas County African-American Leaders Conference” at the St. Petersburg College Midtown Center, where he was joined by Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, former state representative and city council member Frank Peterman, and Carlos Senior, the Senior Pastor at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

Although not an official town hall (which Crist said he intends to organize in the coming weeks), the format was similar in that there were a few people in the audience who wanted to speak with their representative about the Affordable Care Act.

In fact, the first two people (there were approximately 20 people in the room) challenged Crist to state his position on the ACA, saying that they couldn’t get a clear answer about where he stood on the GOP’s plan to repeal the landmark initiative from Barack Obama.

“I don’t want to replace it, I want to continue it … I’m not sure who you talked to in my office who told you I don’t have a position on it, but I stand strongly behind the Affordable Care Act,” Crist told Chelsea Baker, an audience member who said she had serious health issues.

Baker said she goes to bed every night “terrified” about the effort to repeal the law.

Crist elaborated that his GOP brethren in the House have undoubtedly learned through some of their own bruising town hall meetings this month that “they know that if they just take it away and that’s that, it’s over for them.”

“I think they’ve gotten that message and figured it out, and that’s why they haven’t done it yet,” he said about actually repealing the law.

Crist’s appearance came a day after news broke that he is divorcing his wife Carole after almost nine years of marriage, news that made Page Six of the NY Post Saturday.


Is Bill Nelson’s re-election race really a “Lean Democrat” in 2018?

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is set for a tough reelection battle next year, but for some reason Sabato’s Crystal Ball decided look past that and peg him as the likely victor in 2018.

The blog post lists Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s seat as leaning toward the Democrats and even goes so far as to give Nelson “the benefit of the doubt” due to him winning statewide several times.

Sure, that’s true, but if you can’t see the Nelson’s weaknesses and the many paths Republicans could use to take him down, you might need to get your eyes checked.

He’s already under attack by a conservative group for his votes on the ACA, and the National Republican Senate Committee is also smelling blood, recently announcing digital ads showing he has voted in lock step with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren 92 percent of the time.

While the attacks are certainly fodder for the Republican base, the comparison has a slugger’s chance of sticking during an off-cycle election in a state carried by President Donald Trump.

Nelson’s response to the attacks is baffling as well. In a Monday article from POLITICO, he said the fundraising prowess of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was “the biggest factor” in how he plans to win a fourth term in the senate.

And that’s in spite of weaknesses he didn’t hesitate to point out with theSsenate Democrat’s social media game.

“I am chewing on Senator Schumer everyday about that,” he said. “We just may surprise everybody. After this election, he might be Majority Leader.”

Yes, the New York Democrat brought in $180 million for Senate Democratic campaigns last cycle, but his results were less than stellar

In Florida alone, the DSCC spent $10 million trying to prop up former Rep. Patrick Murphy in his race, but that barely got him within 8 points of a somewhat damaged Marco Rubio.

Imagine how much money he would have to pump in for a race against expected opponent Gov. Rick Scott who also has won statewide and has had no problem spending his own money on top of the mountains of cash he brings in to his political committee.

But sure, let’s give Nelson the benefit of the doubt. It’s not like Democrats didn’t just get the wakeup call of a lifetime or anything.

Charlie Crist filing for divorce after less than 9 years

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is getting divorced less than nine years after becoming the first Florida governor in 42 years to get married while in office.

Crist spokesman Kevin Cate said the congressman filed papers Friday seeking to divorce his wife Carole, who he proposed to in 2008 after a 10-month romance. He was a Republican governor at the time.

Their St. Petersburg wedding was a grand event with an exclusive guest list of political elite and celebrities.

The couple stayed together through his switch from Republican to independent to Democrat and his unsuccessful 2010 U.S. Senate and 2014 gubernatorial campaigns.

The former Carole Rome was a New York businesswoman and socialite when the couple met. She is Crist’s second wife. He married his college sweetheart in 1980 and divorced less than a year later.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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