Donald Trump Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Kathy Castor on Nancy Pelosi: No time to discuss change of leadership

In the wake of Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff‘s four-point lost to Republican Karen Handel in last week’s special election, there has been much hand-wringing among Democrats desperate to show that they’re building momentum going into the 2018 midterms.

Ossoff’s loss was the fourth special election to go to the Republicans in the first six months of the Trump presidency.

“Our brand is worse than Trump,” Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan lamented the day after Ossoff’s loss, while New York Representative Kathleen Rice of New York told CNN the entire Democratic leadership team should go.

First and foremost, Rice and Ryan are referring to Nancy Pelosi, who has been at the head of the Democratic House leadership since 2003.

Pelosi has fought back tenaciously, saying she isn’t going anywhere, and she has a majority of supporters in her caucus, such as Tampa U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, who continues to stand by her despite the growing criticism of her tenure.

“This is the exact wrong time to be having this discussion because everyone needs to be focused on defeating this health care bill in the Senate this week,” Castor told FloridaPolitics when asked Monday morning in Tampa where she stood on the issue.

The calls among some Democrats to oust Pelosi have been ongoing for years as the Democrats have continued to lose seats in the House of Representatives. Those grumblings were loud after last fall, and reached a fever pitch way back in 2010 after the Republicans took back the House and the speakership from Pelosi.

At that time, Castor called the discussion “a distraction,”

While calling Pelosi “a strong leader,” Castor said Monday that “over the next few years, you’re going to see a change in the House leadership.”

One would think so. Pelosi is 77. Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer from Maryland is 78, while assistant Democratic leader James Clyburn turns 77 next month.

While some pundits and Democrats said that last week’s election was one that Democrats needed to show that they will have a big year against vulnerable GOP incumbents in Congress, others have noted that it was a district that has always been Republican.

“This is Newt Gingrich’s (former) district; (now-Health Secretary) Tom Price’s district. A first-time candidate. That was going to be a toughie,” said Castor, who made a campaign appearance for Ossoff.

In fact, Price defeated his Democratic challenger last November by 23 percentage points, and Georgia Six was Gingrich’s home district for more than 20 years. But it was also a district that is changing, and is now the 6th best educated congressional district in the country.

Trump narrowly won it by just 1.5 points over Hillary Clinton last fall, however.

“I thought it was a warning shot to the 70 other districts out there are more Democratic, or more independent than that one, you just watch,” said an ever-confident Castor about the Democrats chances of winning back House seats in 2018.

I’m not distraught over that at,” she said. “I’m more hopeful than anything.”

Donald Trump travel ban partly reinstated; fall court arguments set

The Supreme Court is letting a limited version of President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries take effect, a victory for Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his young presidency.

The justices will hear full arguments in October in the case that has stirred heated emotions across the nation. In the meantime, the court said Monday that Trump’s ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen can be enforced if those visitors lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Trump said last week that the ban would take effect 72 hours after being cleared by courts.

The administration has said the 90-day ban was needed on national security grounds to allow an internal review of screening procedures for visa applicants from the six countries. Opponents say the ban is unlawful, based on visitors’ Muslim religion. The administration review should be complete before Oct. 2, the first day the justices could hear arguments in their new term.

A 120-ban on refugees also is being allowed to take effect on a limited basis.

Three of the court’s conservative justices said they would have let the complete bans take effect.

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, said the government has shown it is likely to succeed on the merits of the case, and that it will suffer irreparable harm with any interference. Thomas said the government’s interest in preserving national security outweighs any hardship to people denied entry into the country.

Some immigration lawyers said the limited nature of the ban and the silence of the court’s liberals on the issue Monday suggested that the court had not handed Trump much of a victory. The White House did not immediately comment.

The court’s opinion explained the kinds of relationships people from the six countries must demonstrate to obtain a U.S. visa.

“For individuals, a close familial relationship is required,” the court said. For people who want to come to the United States to work or study, “the relationship must be formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course, not for the purpose of evading” the travel ban.

The opinion faulted the two federal appeals courts that had blocked the travel policy for going too far to limit Trump’s authority over immigration. The president announced the travel ban a week after he took office in January and revised it in March after setbacks in court.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said the ban was “rooted in religious animus” toward Muslims and pointed to Trump’s campaign promise to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country as well as tweets and remarks he has made since becoming president.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the travel policy does not comply with federal immigration law, including a prohibition on nationality-based discrimination. That court also put a hold on separate aspects of the policy that would keep all refugees out of the United States for 120 days and cut by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000, the cap on refugees in the current government spending year that ends September 30.

Trump’s first executive order on travel applied to travelers from Iraq and well as the six countries, and took effect immediately, causing chaos and panic at airports over the last weekend in January as the Homeland Security Department scrambled to figure out whom the order covered and how it was to be implemented.

A federal judge blocked it eight days later, an order that was upheld by a 9th circuit panel. Rather than pursue an appeal, the administration said it would revise the policy.

In March, Trump issued the narrower order.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump signs VA reform bill backed by Marco Rubio

President Donald Trump signed a bill into law aimed at reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs by allowing the secretary to dismiss bad employees.

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, gives the VA secretary the authority to fire and demote employees. It also adds protections for whistleblowers, by prohibiting the secretary from using his or her authority to fire employees who filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel.

The measure — which passed the Senate on a voice vote, and the House on a 368-55 vote earlier this month — had the support of VA Secretary David Shulkin, and received significant bipartisan backing, including from Sen. Bill Nelson.

The bill signing comes more than three years after a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for an appointment. The agency has been plagued with problems, and critics have complained that too few employees have been punished over the years.

“We have seen scandal after scandal come out of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and today we turn to a new chapter. The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act puts meaningful reforms in place to ensure VA employees are fulfilling their duty to serve veterans,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, the vice chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, in a statement Friday. “If a VA employee is involved in misconduct, they should be demoted, suspended, or fired. Certainly not promoted or given a bonus. If a VA employee sees misconduct and wants to report it, they should not fear retaliation. This legislation is common-sense, and strongly bipartisan.”

Bilirakis wasn’t the only member of Florida’s congressional delegation who applauded Trump for signing the bill, Rep. Tom Rooney, an Okeechobee Republican, called the measure a “necessary reform” that was “long overdue and is essential to ensuring that our veterans are receiving the very best care.”

“This new law makes clear to VA managers: get the job done, or make way for someone who can,” he said in a statement. “Our veterans deserve better, and it’s time for serious accountability and oversight. I’m hopeful that we are providing Secretary Shulkin with the tools he needs to run the agency properly.”

Trump promised to reform the VA on the campaign trail, and cast the bill signing as a fulfillment of a campaign promise.

“What happened was a national disgrace and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls,” he said. “Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable. Today we are finally changing those laws.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Hillsborough Democrats blast Confederate monument vote as ‘white supremacy, white privilege’

Two days after Hillsborough County Commissioners made national news by voting to keep a Confederate monument in front of its County Courthouse Annex, the Hillsborough Democratic Party says the commissioners who did so “should be ashamed of themselves.”

Four commissioners, all Republicans, voted to maintain a statue built in 1911 of a Confederate soldier in front of the courthouse. They also approved Crist’s proposal to add a mural behind the monument, showcasing what Crist called “love and diversity” of the community.

“The votes cast by Sandy Murman, Stacy White, Victor Crist, and Ken Hagan are an abomination,” says Ione Townsend, chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee in a statement. “We ask these commissioners to dig deep and find the moral courage to call for a reconsideration of this issue and put Hillsborough County on the right side of history.”

The two lone Democrats on the board — Les Miller and Pat Kemp — as well as Republican Al Higginbotham — voted to remove the monument.

Townsend said the vote to not remove the statue “was a continuation of white supremacy and white privilege policies,” and says “WE MUST stand up against these racist and divisive policies. We can and will express our beliefs at the ballot box in November of 2018.”

That’s easier said than done on a county commission that has been dominated by Republicans for two decades.

White will be running for re-election to his District 4 seat in conservative eastern Hillsborough County, while Murman and Crist will be running for new countywide seats after serving eight years on the board.

Hagan is also running for a new four-year term in District 2, which he previously served on from 2002-2010. He has spent the past six and a half years representing District 5, but intends to return to the north Hillsborough seat next year. He has already collected more than $200,000 in campaign contributions.

Then again, the changing demographics of the district in terms of a larger Latino population saw the county go further left in the 2016 election. Although Hillsborough has maintained a reputation for being one of the ultimate swing districts in the country during the presidential votes, the county went for Hillary Clinton by more than six percentage points last year, while the entire state went for Donald Trump.

Kemp easily won in the only countywide election, and Democrat Andrew Warren pulled off a major upset by defeating 16-year-GOP incumbent Mark Ober in the race for State Attorney.

On Thursday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn issued a statement clarifying that it was Hillsborough County, and not Tampa, that made the controversial vote.

The statement was akin to what happened in 2005, when then-Mayor Pam Iorio announced that “gays and lesbians are part of our diversity and deserve our respect,” days after the Board voted to ban “Gay Pride” events.

As of late Friday, two of the four GOP commissioners responded to Townsend’s statement.

“I really have no response to this,” responded White. “My remarks from the meeting this past Wednesday really speak for themselves and basically rebut everything in the DEC’s statement.”

Victor Crist said he was “shocked” by what he called “hypocritical” remarks, since he said it was the Democratic Party who supported the monument from the beginning.

“Over the last 65 years that it’s been in its current location, most of those years have been under the Democratic County Commission, and every year that money had to have been appropriated to maintain it, the Democrats voted to do so,” he said. ” So all of a sudden now after 135 years of Democratic support, they’re going to turn around and criticize other people? You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

This is Townsend’s full statement:

Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners who voted on June 21 to leave the Confederate monument up in front of the courthouse should be ashamed of themselves. The votes cast by Sandy Murman, Stacy White, Victor Crist, and Ken Hagan are an abomination. We ask these commissioners to dig deep and find the moral courage to call for a reconsideration of this issue and put Hillsborough County on the right side of history. We also call all Democrats and residents of Hillsborough County who support the constitutional rights of all citizens and find the vote on June 21 to be unacceptable to CONTACT THESE COMMISSIONERS AND ASK THEM TO RECONSIDER THEIR POSITIONS AND VOTE “YES” on the removal of the Confederate statute.

Let us be clear!! The Civil War was fought over the oppression of the civil and human rights of African Americans. It was NOT a war of states’ rights or northern aggression as it is often referred to in the South even in 2017. The South fought this war to protect the interests of rich white Southerners who depended on slavery to maintain their lifestyle and wealth. After the Civil War the United States of America passed the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments abolishing slavery, giving citizenship to former slaves, guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law, and voting rights for African American men (women of all races did not get the right to vote until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920).

Jim Crow laws, designed to perpetuate segregation, were passed by southern states and local governments unwilling to abide by these new constitutional amendments in the later part of the 1800s. These laws by were an attempt to circumvent the new rights granted to all Americans. After yet another 100 years of continued suppression of rights guaranteed by the Constitution, Martin Luther King and many civil rights activists, some of whom lost their lives in this cause, worked tirelessly to make this oppression part of our public discourse.

This culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Resistance to equality continues today in the form of new Jim Crow laws being passed by Republican controlled states. New voting rights laws have been passed under the guise of unsubstantiated voter fraud resulting in oppression of voting rights especially in communities of color. Mandatory sentencing even for minor offenses and discriminatory criminal justice practices has a disproportionate effect on people of color, resulting in the filling of for-profit prisons. Is this not another form of discrimination, oppression, and slavery? These actions and sentiments have emboldened militarized police forces to shoot unarmed African American men, women and children.

The vote on June 21, 2017, at the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners to not remove a Confederate Statue from a public space was a continuation of white supremacy and white privilege policies. Symbols of the Confederacy are divisive, painful, racist, and are meant to intimidate a portion of our citizens who, because of white supremacy, have never realized complete freedom in the Land of the Free. A Confederate statue in front of a courthouse is particularly offensive. The vote was shameful and was the result of people working to perpetuate this abomination of racist thought and action on our body politic. White Supremacy was on full display at the County Commission meeting. WE MUST stand up against these racist and divisive policies. We can and will express our beliefs at the ballot box in November of 2018.

No tapes: Donald Trump says he didn’t record meetings with James Comey

President Donald Trump said Thursday on Twitter that he “did not make” and doesn’t have any recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI Director James Comey.

“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information,” Trump said he has “no idea” whether there are “tapes” or recordings of the two men’s conversations. But he declares he “did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”

The tweets are the latest chapter in a high-stakes guessing game after Trump hinted that he might have recordings of his private conversations with Comey at the White House and over the phone.

The tale of mystery began last month, just days after Trump fired Comey, who was then leading an investigation into contacts before and after the election between the president’s campaign and Russian officials.

The absence of recordings almost certainly elevates in significance to investigators the notes made by Comey right after his conversations with Comey.

A New York Times report cited two unnamed Comey associates who recounted his version of a January dinner with the president in which Trump asked for a pledge of loyalty. Comey declined, instead offering to be “honest.” When Trump then pressed for “honest loyalty,” Comey told him, “You will have that,” the associates said.

Trump tweeted the next day that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Trump’s tweets on Thursday raised questions about why the president would have staked his reputation and political capital on promoting something that wasn’t real.

His earlier suggestion about tapes immediately evoked the secret White House recordings that led to Richard Nixon’s downfall in the Watergate scandal. Under a post-Watergate law, the Presidential Records Act, recordings made by presidents belong to the people and can eventually be made public. Destroying them would be a crime.

Comey says any recordings that might exist would support his version that Trump asked him to pledge loyalty and urged him to drop the investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser.

“Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey declared at a congressional hearing.

But the president has steadfastly refused to clarify whether any tapes existed.

Two weeks ago, he teased reporters in the White House Rose Garden by saying that he’d explain “maybe sometime in the very near future.” He cryptically added: “You are going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer.” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said Wednesday that an answer would be provided this week, presumably by the Friday deadline set by the House intelligence committee for turning over any tapes.

The Secret Service had said it had no audio copies or transcripts of any tapes recorded within Trump’s White House, according to a freedom of information request submitted by The Wall Street Journal. But that didn’t exclude the possibility that recordings were created by another entity.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump returning to Iowa, where he may find remorseful independent voters

Iowa independents who helped Donald Trump win the presidency see last year’s tough-talking candidate as a thin-skinned chief executive and wish he’d show more grace.

Unaffiliated voters make up the largest percentage of the electorate in the Midwest state that backed Trump in 2016, after lifting Democrat Barack Obama to the White House in party caucuses and two straight elections. Ahead of Trump’s visit to Iowa Wednesday, several independents who voted for Trump expressed frustration with the president.

It’s not just his famous tweetstorms. It’s what they represent: a president distracted by investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and a court battle over his executive order barring refugees from majority-Muslim countries at the expense of tangible health care legislation and new tax policy.

“He’s so sidetracked,” said Chris Hungerford, a 47-year-old home-business owner from Marshalltown. “He gets off track on things he should just let go.”

And when he does spout off, he appears to lack constraint, said Scott Scherer, a 48-year-old chiropractor from Guttenberg, in northeast Iowa.

“Engage your brain before you engage your mouth,” Scherer advised, especially on matters pertaining to investigations. “Shut up. Just shut up, and let the investigation run its course.”

Scherer said he would vote again for Trump, but pauses a long time before declining to answer when asked if he approves of the job the president is doing.

Cody Marsh isn’t sure about voting for Trump a second time. The 32-year-old power-line technician from Tabor, in western Iowa, says, “It’s 50-50.”

“People don’t take him seriously,” he said.

Unaffiliated, or “no party” voters as they are known in Iowa, make up 36 percent of the electorate, compared with 33 percent who register Republican and 31 percent registered Democrat. Self-identified independents in Iowa voted for Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 13-percentage-point margin last year, according to exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks

They helped him capture 51.8 percent of the overall vote against Clinton.

Nationally, exit polls showed independents tilted toward Trump over Clinton by about a 4-percentage-point margin in November, but an AP-NORC poll conducted in June found that about two-thirds of them disapprove of how he’s handling his job as president.

In North Carolina, Republican pollster Paul Shumaker says he has seen internal polling that has warning signs for his state, where Trump prevailed last year. Independent voters are becoming frustrated with Trump, especially for failing so far to deliver on long-promised household economic issues such as health care, said Shumaker, an adviser to Republican Sen. Richard Burr.

Inaction on health care and any notable decline in the economy will hurt Trump’s ability to improve his numbers with independents, with broad implications for the midterm elections next year, Shumaker said. At stake in 2018 will be majority control of the House. A favorable map and more Democrats up for re-election make the GOP more likely to add to its numbers in the Senate.

“How the president and members of Congress move forward and address the kitchen-table issues facing the American voters will determine the outcome of the 2018 elections,” he said.

In Iowa Wednesday, Trump will be rallying his Republican base in Cedar Rapids.

Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence attended Republican Sen. Joni Ernst‘s annual fundraiser, where he talked about job growth and low unemployment since the start of the year, although economists see much of it as a continuation of Obama policies.

Trump has only been in office five months.

It’s a message the Republican establishment is clinging to, especially those looking ahead to 2018.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, installed last month to succeed new U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, said last week of Iowa voters: “I think they are confident that President Trump and this administration are doing the job that they said that they would do, going out there and making America great again.”

But Trump has to worry about people like Richard Sternberg, a 68-year-old retired high school guidance counselor from Roland, in central Iowa, who voted for Trump. But is Sternberg satisfied? “Not completely.”

He is bothered by Trump’s proposed cut to vocational education, an economic lift for some in rural areas.

“We, especially in Iowa, need those two-year technically trained people,” Sternberg said.

More broadly, Trump needs to act more “presidential,” he said.

“Trump speaks before he thinks,” Sternberg said. “He doesn’t seem to realize what the president says in the form of direct communication or Twitter carries great weight and can be misconstrued if not carefully crafted.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Breaking down the results of the Georgia special election

The last month has been filled with media coverage of yesterday’s special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. One would think this was the most significant race in the history of Congress. Why has this race dominated the media, while another special election in neighboring South Carolina has received almost no attention?

Both the Georgia and South Carolina districts feature resignations by Republicans Congressmen who took positions in the Donald Trump administration. In Georgia, Tom Price resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services, while in South Carolina, Mick Mulvaney gave up his seat to become Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

One reason for the attention on the Georgia race may be that the seat was previously held by Newt Gingrich before Price took over, and it has been a Republican district since 1979. That hardly explains the attention on the Georgia district and the neglect of the South Carolina district.

Many viewed the election as a referendum on the Trump administration. Mitt Romney won the district by 23 percent in 2012; Trump won by only 1.5 percent in 2016. Many saw this as an opportunity for Democrats and a sign of Republican dissatisfaction with Trump as party leader.

The Democratic candidate in District 6 was Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old political activist who did not even live in the district. Although the Constitution does not require House candidates to live in the district where they run, not doing so is usually a fatal blow. Handel constantly reminded voters that Ossoff could not vote in the election because he did not reside there.

Ossoff raised over $25 million for his campaign, and his Republican opponent, Karen Handel, raised a similar amount making this the most expensive House race in congressional history. Conspicuously lacking was any discussion, especially by Democrats, of the corrupting influence of money in congressional campaigns.

The media focused great attention on Ossoff, but comparatively little focus on his Republican opponent Handel. We knew that Ossoff worked for a number of Democratic causes and candidates, and considered himself to be a progressive. Ossoff had the backing of the progressive establishment, including John Lewis, an icon in both congressional and civil rights history.

The lack of focus on Handel may be due to the fact Ossoff received 48 percent of the vote in the blanket primary, compared to only 20 percent for Handel. It should be remembered that Republican candidates collectively received 51 percent of the primary vote.

We also know that the Ossoff campaign had 12,000 volunteers, a number seldom reached by statewide candidates. He was clearly a political juggernaut, as his $25 million dollars in campaign funds demonstrated.

During the campaign, one of the candidates posted on their website that the country needs to “cut the wasteful spending. Reduce the deficit so the economy can keep growing.” The site also suggested that the minimum wage be adjusted “at a pace that allows employers to adapt their business plans.”

The above policy pronouncements sound like something from Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan or Handel. They were actually from Ossoff. Hardly progressive sentiments. Did Ossoff’s attempt to moderate his progressive views actually “turn off”  progressive voters?

Republican strategy was to tie Ossoff to Nancy Pelosi, a common strategy, but one that many felt was no longer effective.  One ad asked voters to “Say ‘No’ to Pelosi’s ‘Yes Man.’” Another ad called Ossoff a “rubber stamp for Pelosi’s failed agenda.”

Ossoff lead by as much as 7 points only a month ago and never trailed Handel until the day before the election when she led by a single point.  The polls indicated that Ossoff’s support came from voters from 18 to 64, where he lead by 8 to 15 points; Handel led among voters over 65 by a margin of 62 to 36.

Males supported Handel 52.6 to 45.7 percent while women supported Ossoff by almost exactly the same margin. White voters preferred Handel 55.8 to 43.2 percent while African-Americans favored Ossoff 88.7 to 9.4 percent for Handel.

Why did Handel win and what does it mean? There are several reasons why Handel won and Ossoff lost. Perhaps most damaging was the outsider label, which effectively damaged the Ossoff campaign. Not being able to vote for yourself in such an important campaign put Ossoff in a difficult position. Carpetbaggers in politics have seldom fared well.

Another part of the outsider problem was self-imposed by Ossoff. In an attempt to negate the outsider charge, Ossoff said he lived “a few blocks outside District 6. In fact, it was found that he lived 3.2 miles outside the district.

A final part of the outsider charge related to campaign contributions. Although Ossoff raised over $25 million, most of the contributions came from outside the district. He received fewer than 1,000 donations from District 6 residents, but got over 7,200 contributions from California residents.

It is too early to know for sure, but I am guessing senior voters turned out at very high rates, while younger voters supported Ossoff, but turned out at a far lower rate. We cannot forget that this was a Republican district and the results reflected typical voting patterns.

Democrats are clearly going to be demoralized after expecting to win this seat almost from the beginning. Ossoff did lead almost the entire campaign, but momentum is everything in politics.

A seven-point Ossoff advantage a month out from the election completely vanished by election day.

Neither party should read too much into the election results. A Handel victory is no more an endorsement of Trump than an Ossoff victory would have meant that Trump and the Republicans were doomed.

Sean Spicer out as WH press secretary; seeking ‘less public’ role, replacement

White House press secretary Sean Spicer is seeking to take on a more strategic role that would give him a limited presence in the daily press briefings that have made him a prominent face of the Trump administration.

A senior administration official and three people familiar with the potential changes said Monday that Spicer has discussed taking a more senior communications role at the White House. The three people said he has reached out to possible successors at the podium and as communications director. The people spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations before a final decision is made.

“We have sought input from many people as we look to expand our communications operation. As he did in the beginning, Sean Spicer is managing both the communications and press office,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a deputy White House press secretary. She declined further comment on the potential changes.

Discussions about overhauling the White House communications office have been ongoing for several weeks, according to the senior administration official. Spicer’s preference is to step away from the press briefings entirely, though other configurations have also been discussed.

It’s unclear how quickly a decision will be made, and, as with all things involving President Donald Trump, the situation could change. Major staffing shake-ups have been a constant subject of conversation at the White House, but have failed to materialize in recent weeks, aside from the departure of communications director Mike Dubke in early June.

The White House has consulted an array of Republicans and Trump allies, including Laura Ingraham, the conservative radio host and political commentator. However, Ingraham is not expected to take the press secretary position.

David Martosko, the U.S. political editor of London’s Daily Mail, who covered the president’s campaign, has also interviewed for senior communications jobs, according to a person familiar with the interviews who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private deliberations.

The possible changes for Spicer were first reported by Bloomberg News and Politico.

Spicer’s public role has already diminished in recent weeks.

The White House has increasingly tapped Cabinet officials and other White House advisers to address reporters on camera and moved to take some of the daily briefings off cable television to keep the focus on Trump, who makes a habit of watching the televised performances.

Spicer spoke Monday from the podium at an off-camera gaggle that barred broadcast outlets from using the audio of the question-and-answer session. Asked about the changes, Spicer said Trump had spoken before cameras during an Oval Office meeting with the president of Panama and would later make remarks in front of the media at an event with technology leaders.

“There are days that I’ll decide that the president’s voice should be the one that speaks and iterate his priorities,” Spicer said.

The White House has generally only used that excuse on days that the president has held a press conference or delivered a major speech.

Spicer’s briefings have been must-see TV during the start of the Trump era, beginning with his fiery, inaccurate claim that journalists wrongly portrayed the size of Trump’s inauguration audience. He has been the subject of recurring skits by comic Melissa McCarthy on “Saturday Night Live” and his afternoon briefings have garnered strong ratings.

In April, the former Republican National Committee strategist apologized for making an “inappropriate and insensitive” statement comparing Adolf Hitler to Syrian President Bashar Assad by suggesting Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” His comments ignored Hitler’s use of gas chambers to kill Jews.

Trump threatened in May to shut down daily press briefings and told Fox News Channel at the time that Spicer was “doing a good job, but he gets beat up.”

The president has long seen himself as his most effective spokesman, and has faulted his communications team for much of the early turbulence at the White House as well as the backlash from the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Rick Scott remains tight-lipped about U.S. Senate bid

Gov. Rick Scott remains tight-lipped about his 2018 plans, telling CNN he won’t make any decision about the U.S. Senate race until “later.”

“I’ve always said the same thing: It’s 2017. The race is in 2018. I won’t make a decision until later,” said Scott during an interview with Erin Burnett on her show Erin Burnett OutFront. “Politicians seem to worry about their next job. I’ve got 570 days to go in this job. I’m trying to make Florida No. 1 for jobs, No. 1 for people being safe … and No. 1 for education.”

Scott is widely believed to be considering a U.S. Senate run in 2018. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has already said he plans to run for re-election.

The Naples Republican has been boosting his national profile for months now. In May, he announced he would chair the New Republican, a federal super PAC aimed rebranding the Republican Party and helping President Donald Trump.

The super PAC was founded by GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, and several Scott allies have been tapped to oversee the day-to-day operations. Melissa Stone, the governor’s former chief-of-staff and campaign manager of his successful 2014 re-election campaign, serves as the executive director; while Taylor Teepel, served in the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and spent two years as former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff, is New Republican’s finance director.

If Scott decides to run, he’ll have a big-name backer. President Donald Trump has encouraged Scott to run on several occasions, including last week when they were in Miami to announce the president’s Cuba policy.

“He’s doing a great job,” the president told the crowd. “I hope he runs for the Senate.”

Scott told Burnett that wasn’t the first time Trump put him on the spot, telling Burnett that Trump “did the same thing … a week and a half ago” when he was with him at an infrastructure conference.

HART CFO warns feds funding delay could be a big problem

Apparently, it’s not just the lack of hiring executive-level appointments where the Donald Trump administration is falling behind.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) is patiently waiting on the Federal Transit Administration to deliver more than $10 million in federal formula funding that it expected to receive before the end of the current fiscal year in September.

But it hasn’t arrived yet.

“This is the latest that it has ever been,” said HART CFO Jeff Seward told A HART subcommittee meeting on Monday. “It has never been this late.”

The funds that HART is expecting come from the FTA’s Urbanized Area Formula Funding program, which makes Federal resources available to urbanized areas.

Once the agency receives funding, HART is required to hold a public hearing. If they don’t receive the full apportionment by the time of a scheduled July public hearing, Seward says the agency can apply for a portion of that money, about $7 million. But he warned that without those funds, the agency’s bottom line will plummet.

“As you get these reports and we stand before you to talk about our cash in the bank,” he said, “you will see continue us to draw down rapidly,”

Seward says that typically at the end of the fiscal year, HART’s cash balance drops down to anywhere between $5 million down to zero. He warned that without those Federal funds, there are economic models he’s run that show the “cash flow in the red.”

Yet Seward remains optimistic the agency will get at least a portion of those formula funds. Coupled with spending controls and a hiring freeze, Seward is confident the agency should be able to make it to the end of September with more cash on hand than without.

A call to the FTA in Washington was not immediately returned.

In other news, Seward also announced that HART is attempting to install Wi-Fi service for riders to use on the Tampa Streetcar.
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