Donald Trump Archives - Page 5 of 204 - SaintPetersBlog

Bob Buckhorn says after Donald Trump, voters may not be interested in a ‘guy like him’

On Thursday, Bob Buckhorn explained why he chose not to pursue the Democratic nomination for Florida governor in 2018.

The Tampa mayor’s decision was mainly predicated on two factors: He did not want to be away as his 15-year-old daughter spends her last few years at home, and he loves being Mayor of Tampa more than he could imagine running for statewide office for the next 18 months.

But lurking below that was a realization; if he ran, Florida voters may not be interested in buying what he would be selling next year.

“I would have been running on the fact that I was qualified, that I had managed large institutions, that we had a track record of accomplishments, that we were not particularly partisan, but I don’t know if that really matters anymore,” the mayor told reporters gathered at City Hall Thursday morning.

“I don’t know what the American public is looking for in their elected leadership. It is a disconcerting time in our country, and for those of us who aspire to lead, it’s the most unusual time that I’ve seen in 30 years.”

Of course, Buckhorn was referring to the electoral earthquake leading to Donald Trump winning the presidency last fall over Hillary Clinton, the woman he campaigned hard for both in and outside Florida.

Although the mayor’s decision was expected, over the past few years, his trajectory about being a candidate had evolved.

Based on his successful leadership leading Tampa out of the Great Recession in the last decade — as well as his outsized personality — Buckhorn was a prominent part of the Democratic bench of candidates for statewide office, and had been for several years.

That speculation went into overdrive after he created his own political action committee (One Florida) in December 2014.

And while he won a huge re-election victory in 2015, the rest of the year was troubled, partly due to a negative newspaper report about the Tampa Police Department, which triggered the progressive activist community, demanding the city create a citizen’s review board. It was a proposal Buckhorn initially resisted.

As funding for his PAC began to dry up in 2016, Buckhorn’s gubernatorial aspirations resurfaced locally after he gave a fiery speech this summer to the Florida delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Buckhorn admitted Thursday his thinking about a run for governor “ebbed and flowed” over the past couple of years, something he said was probably the case with all the rumored candidates, except for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, “who has obviously been committed to this from day one.”

“For me this was not an easy choice,” Buckhorn said. “It was not a straight path. There were a lot of things that I have to deal with that a lot of the other candidates don’t.” He specifically mentioned his two teenage daughters and a full-time job as mayor in the Florida’s biggest media market.

“But at the end of the day, family being first, I just didn’t want the job as bad as I wanted to be the mayor,” he said. “And even though I recognize that two years from now I won’t be the mayor, I’m going to finish strong.”

Buckhorn has more than two years left on the job, which is why he was hardly in the mood to get too retrospective about his legacy. While he championed his role in leading what he called “the Tampa Renaissance,” he drew a blank when asked to acknowledge his greatest failing to date, saying only that whatever mistakes he’s made along the way were “not done with malice or ill intent.”

Buckhorn certainly has the ambition to be governor, and he believes it’s vital for a “regime change” in Tallahassee after two decades of Republican rule in both the Governor’s mansion and the state Legislature.

Speculation has been that while a run for governor wasn’t in the cards, Buckhorn could run for chief financial officer, a job with duties that would allow him more time to return to Tampa on a weekly basis. But he said that decision was always about whether to commit for a run for the top spot in state government, not another Cabinet position. That said, he won’t pursue a run for that office.

A disciple of the 1980s Democratic Leadership Council — the same one that spawned Bill Clinton — Buckhorn’s centrism was always an issue for progressives in Tampa and the state.

With other centrist Democrats like Alex Sink, Patrick Murphy and Charlie Crist losing statewide elections in recent years, there is a part of the party that wants to go further left in 2018.

Buckhorn acknowledges that is a fervent part of the base right now, but he insists that’s not the way to go.

“If we continue to run campaigns based on identity politics or cobbling together interest groups, we’re going to lose,” he said flatly. “We’re a Purple state, and my sense is, and I could be wrong, and certainly the party seems to be heading in a different direction than my governing style, is that if we can’t appeal to the middle, we’re never going to be successful in this state.”

The mayor’s most interested in seeing how other Democrats in the race will fare over the course of the next year and a half. He said that the success of Trump does pave a possible path for attorney and Democratic fundraiser John Morgan as a viable wild card in 2018.

“He could potentially be the Democrats Donald Trump in terms of style and his willingness to shake up political and conventional wisdom, ” Buckhorn mused. “I just don’t know what the voters are looking for. I always thought that experience matters, and that credibility matters, and competence matters and a proven track record matters, but I just don’t know anymore.

“Time will tell, as the country rights itself, if a style of a Donald Trump is what Americans are looking for. If that’s the case, a guy like me, you know, they’re not going to be interested.”

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Repeal and replace — The end of traditional conservatism

As a lifelong Republican and a former Fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, I have always preferred voting for the Republican and conservative candidate.

Preferably, the candidate is both Republican and conservative, although that is not always the case.

For only the second time in my life, I did not vote for the Republican presidential nominee:  I found him neither Republican nor conservative. I know there are different strands of conservatism: classical, neo-cons, libertarians, religious and economic conservatives. I found Donald Trump to be none of the above.

Trump did appeal to conservatives by supporting regulatory reform, lower taxes, unleashing the private sector and rolling back the administrative state. At the same time, Trump supported existing entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, which he called untouchable, and backed new entitlements like a paid family leave program.

Until the election of Trump, Republicans venerated Ronald Reagan and his brand of conservatism. This included support for free trade, a centerpiece of conservative economic policy. Trump has denounced free trade by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership which conservatives uniformly backed. Trump also plans to end the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which Republicans helped to pass.

Another litmus test for modern conservatism was for America to play a major role in world affairs. Reagan addressed the first Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) meeting in 1974 and argued that America “cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so.”

Reagan cited Pope Pius XII’s remarks after World War II that “Into the hands of America, God has placed the destinies of mankind.” Under Trump, American First has become the guiding philosophy.

Republicans and conservatives have generally opposed entitlements and big government. Trump has made Social Security and Medicare untouchable, even though most conservatives believe these programs are not sustainable given the demographic changes in American society.

Trump has called for a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, in addition to an expansive family leave policy. How do you pay for these entitlements and increase defense spending while cutting taxes?

Shortly after being elected president, Trump helped negotiate a deal with Carrier in Indiana that promised government benefits to Carrier in exchange for keeping jobs in Indiana. That deal struck many conservatives as another example of “crony capitalism.”

The government picks and chooses winners and losers instead of letting market forces work their will.

Where most presidents have had a shaky relationship with the press, Trump is the first to call the press “enemies of the American public.” Where Reagan called the Soviets the “evil empire,” Trump has praised Vladimir Putin and asserted the moral equivalency between American and Soviet policy.

Trump clearly has flip-flopped back and forth between the Democratic and Republican Party, but has actually spent more time as a Democrat. He only registered as a Republican a couple of years before announcing his candidacy. Trump may or not be a lifetime member of the GOP, but has he held consistent conservative values?  Let’s look at his own words and actions.

At the 2016 CPAC meeting, delegates threatened to walk out if Trump appeared. He was viewed as a false prophet of conservatism and he eventually withdrew as a speaker.

At the 2017 CPAC meeting, Trump was hailed as the conquering hero. A full 86 percent of the delegates approved of Trump’s job performance and 80 percent believed Trump was “realigning the conservative movement.” As presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway observed, “well, I think by tomorrow this might be TPAC.”

During his 48-minute address to the 2017 CPAC delegates, Trump no mention of Reagan, who has been the face of the modern conservative movement for four decades.

Trump made no mention of “liberty” or the “constitution.” Trump made no reference to keeping government small and limited, and only once uttered the word “conservative,” which seemed odd for an audience of conservatives. Trump said: “Our victory was a victory. . . for conservative values.”

The one common thread between Reagan and Trump was their appeal to working-class Americans. In 1977, Reagan told CPAC: “The New Republican Party I am speaking about is going to have room for the man and the woman in the factories, for the farmer, for the cop on the beat.”

In his 2017 CPAC address, Trump said: “The GOP will be, from now on, the Party of the American worker. … We will not answer to donors or lobbyists or special interests.” (Although, being a billionaire will be considered an asset for all cabinet nominees.)

One congressional staffer, after hearing Trump’s CPAC speech, called him “a moderate disguised as a conservative.” Conservative radio host John Ziegler described Trump’s CPAC speech as having the tone “it was written from a liberal perspective, in that greater government involvement was the foundational answer for nearly every problem.”

Another delegate described Trump as “a fairly liberal conservative,” whatever that may mean.

If CPAC is any indication, Trump is reshaping the conservative movement at breathtaking speed. Ideology is conforming to an individual, and not vice versa.

“Repeal and Replace” was the centerpiece of Trumpism. We all thought he was referring to “Obamacare.” Now we know that “repeal and replace” referred to conservatism in America.

Traditional conservative values have been abandoned and replaced by whatever Trump happens to say today.

___

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.

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Fort Lauderdale woman seeks right to trial in Trump University case

A Fort Lauderdale woman asked this week to be excluded from a proposed settlement with President Donald Trump over fraud allegations at his now-defunct Trump University, setting the stage for a possible trial if a federal judge agrees.

Attorneys for Sherri Simpson said in a court filing that lawyers for former students in class-action lawsuits promised in 2015 that they could ask to be excluded from any future settlement. A settlement announced less than two weeks after Trump’s election allows class members to object to the terms, but they can no longer drop out, preventing them from suing on the own.

She described herself as a single mother hoping to improve life for her child — until she was victimized by what she describes as shady practices at Trump University.

“All of it was just a fake,” Simpson said in the ad. “America, do not make the same mistake that I did with Donald Trump. I got hurt badly and I’d hate to see this country get hurt by Donald Trump.”

Monday was the last day for former students to object to the $25 million settlement, which U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel will consider for final approval at a hearing March 30 in San Diego.

Curiel, a target of Trump’s repeated criticism during the presidential campaign, granted preliminary approval to the agreement in December and has said he hoped it would be part of a healing process that the country sorely needed. It settles two class-action lawsuits before Curiel on behalf of about 7,000 former students and a civil lawsuit by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The former students would get at least 50 percent of their money back, according to plaintiff attorneys, who waived their fees to allow for larger payouts.

Simpson’s attorneys said many may be satisfied with the payment and acknowledged it is high under standards for class-action lawsuits but that their client wasn’t prepared to take it.

“What Ms. Simpson seeks is her day in court, at which she will press for the complete vindication of all her rights, including her full damages plus punitive damages and injunctive relief. Due process guarantees her the autonomy to pursue these goals,” her attorneys said.

According to the proposed settlement, former students had until Nov. 16, 2015, to opt out of a future settlement and cannot sue Trump on the same grounds. Thirteen people opted out, but not Simpson.

Jason Forge, an attorney for plaintiffs, said Monday that the former students had been repeatedly informed of the opt-out deadline. “Anyone who chose to give up their individual claim and remain in the class will be rewarded for doing so under the terms of what is (a) historically beneficial settlement,” he said in an email.

The lawsuits allege that Trump University gave nationwide seminars that were like infomercials, constantly pressuring people to spend more and, in the end, failing to deliver on its promises. They contend that Trump misled students by calling the business a university and by saying that he had hand-picked the instructors.

After attending two seminars in Florida in 2010, Simpson enrolled in the “Gold Elite” mentorship program for $35,000.

Attorneys for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump admits no wrongdoing under the proposed settlement.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Could Pat Neal’s anti-Donald Trump hurt his chances of becoming CFO?

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump hasn’t been too keen on hiring those associated with the “Never Trump” movement of conservative policy who surfaced in last year’s presidential campaign.

The most glaring example of this is the case of former State Department official Elliott Abrams. A meeting between the two last month reportedly went well, according to CNN. Ultimately, though, Trump opted not to hire Abrams for the Deputy Secretary of State position once he learned that Abrams criticized him during his White House run.

With the in mind, might strong criticism of the President during the campaign turn off Rick Scott, a close ally of Trump’s, specifically when it comes to naming a new Chief Financial Officer?

While there have been a host of names floated as possible contenders (including state Senators Jack Latvala, Jeff Brandes, Tom Lee and Lizbeth Benacquisto, state Rep. Jim Boyd, former interim head of Citizens Property Insurance Tom Grady, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera), Pat Neal, the Manatee County real estate developer and former state lawmaker, is being looked at by many as the top choice to succeed Jeff Atwater.

Atwater announced last month that he would step down as CFO to serve as Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Chief Financial Officer at Florida Atlantic University at the end of the Florida Legislature’s regular session in May.

Neal announced last June that he would not be a candidate for the CFO position in 2018, telling the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that he was “dispirited with what I see every morning having to do with the Trump campaign.”

He went on to tell reporter Zac Anderson that he viewed Trump as an incredibly “vulgar” candidate  who “is leading our party off a cliff.”

Neal later told the Times’ Adam Smith: “I, Pat Neal, have never had a bankruptcy, never had a bank default. When you sign a note of bonds, or sell stock with investors the right thing to do is pay them back. Not only did he lose money for people he borrowed from, but for a period there he lost money for his investors, particularly in the casino deals. That isn’t the way you do it, and I would not say he is a credit to the real estate industry.”

When asked to comment, a spokesperson for Scott simply sent the same statement that Scott said when Atwater announced he would be leaving the CFO spot last month.  It was filled with effusive praise for the Palm Beach County Republican, with Scott adding, “The role of the CFO is incredibly important to our state, and I will begin the process to appoint someone to serve Florida families.”

It should be noted that not everyone who has had critical words for Trump has been banned from working with him in his new administration.

Take Rick Perry, Bush’s Secretary of Energy.

On the campaign trail, the former Texas Governor called Trump a “cancer on conservatism,” before ultimately endorsing Trump for president calling the the New York City real estate magnate “one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen.”

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Second poll pitting Bill Nelson and Rick Scott head-to-head gives Democrat the advantage, again

Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t announced he’s running for U.S. Senate in 2018, but a new survey shows he’s already trailing in the polls.

A poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Research shows Sen. Bill Nelson holds a five-point lead over Scott, who is widely believed to be mulling a 2018 U.S. Senate bid. Statewide, the Orlando Democrat leads Scott 46 to 41 percent, with 13 percent of respondents saying they were undecided.

The poll was first reported by POLITICO Florida.

The poll found Nelson has a big lead in Southeast Florida, where 60 percent of voters said they backed Nelson, compared to 24 percent who picked Scott. He also leads in the Tampa Bay region, 47 to 40 percent.

Scott is favored in North Florida, 56 percent to Nelson’s 34 percent. And the Naples Republican has a big lead Southwest Florida, his home turf, where 52 percent of voters backed Scott, compared to 37 percent who picked Nelson.

The poll of 625 registered Florida voters was conducted from Feb. 24 through Feb. 28. It has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Pollsters noted the outcome of the race would “likely be shaped by the political fortunes of President Donald Trump.” While Republican carried the state by one percentage point, his “personal popularity has slipped into slightly negative territory.”

“He was elected on a change message and swing voters, who have shown they are less interested in the circus, bought into his agenda. How they still feel about that agenda and his success or failure implementing it is going to be a very important factor in 2018,” according to the polling memo. “Given the narrow margin that he carried the state by, he doesn’t have much room for error in Florida.”

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About that unusually tense interview between Stephanopoulos, Trump aide

George Stephanopoulos‘ “Good Morning America” interview with White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday is an instant milestone in the hostile relationship between the Trump administration and the media.

In the discussion about President Donald Trump‘s weekend accusations — offered without proof — that former President Obama ordered Trump’s New York home wiretapped, Stephanopoulos repeatedly interrupted and stopped Sanders when he felt she veered from the truth. It was a crackling exchange unusual for the generally happy terrain of network morning television, and made Stephanopoulos a hero or villain depending on whose social media feed is followed.

It was also the second time in a month that the ABC anchor had a notably sharp interview with a Trump administration official. On “This Week” last month, he repeatedly pressed Trump aide Stephen Miller for evidence to back up the claim that there was massive voter fraud in the election.

Sanders was also interviewed on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday, while “CBS This Morning” turned down the White House’s offer to have her on. Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” brought presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway on to speak about Trump’s allegations, less than a day after White House press secretary Sean Spicer said there would be no further comment on the issue. It wasn’t clear what changed the administration’s strategy.

Stephanopoulos began his interview by asking Sanders whether Trump accepted reports that FBI director James Comey had denied there was any wiretapping of Trump. Sanders said she didn’t believe he did, and started talking about wiretapping reports in other media outlets.

“Sarah, I have got to stop you right there,” Stephanopoulos said. The stories she cited did not back up the president’s claims, he said. “What is the president’s evidence?” he asked.

Sanders said there was “wide reporting” suggesting that the administration could have ordered wiretapping. Stephanopoulos stopped her to note there was a report of a court-ordered wiretapping, although James Clapper, former director of national intelligence under Obama, had denied that.

Stephanopoulos stopped Sanders again when she noted that the unsubstantiated report of a wiretapping order came under the Obama administration and that “all we’re asking is that Congress be allowed to do its job.”

“Hold on a second,” he said. “There is a world of difference between a wiretap ordered by a president and a court-ordered wiretap by a federal judge.”

Noting that Obama’s representatives, Comey and Clapper had all said there was no wiretapping, Stephanopoulos asked, “is the president calling all three of these people liars?”

Sanders said that he wasn’t, but that it was a matter for congressional investigators to look into. She said she considered it a double standard that the media does not believe Trump when he says nothing untoward had happened between him and Russia, while reporters accept denials by the Obama administration on the wiretap accusation.

“If the president walked across the Potomac, the media would be reporting that he could not swim,” she said.

The interview illustrated the difficulties the media faces in trying to report on the president’s unsubstantiated tweets. There was a furious debate on the “Good Morning America” Facebook page on Monday afternoon between people who cheered the host, a one-time adviser to President Bill Clinton, for calling out untruths, and others who believed he was rude — even suggesting they would boycott ABC’s morning show because they were disgusted by the interview.

Many of Trump’s supporters are angered by aggressive questioning because they believe the media did not ask similar tough questions of the Obama administration, said Tim Graham of the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog.

“You have no right to tell us what the truth is,” Graham said.

At the same time, reporters face pressure from Trump opponents who give no quarter, as witnessed by last week’s backlash against television analysts who suggested Trump gave an effective speech before Congress. There are also some who believe the wiretap accusation itself is a way to distract people from the story about Russia, and the media effectively supports the strategy by reporting it.

Stephanopoulos said after the interview that his job is to elicit as much clarity as possible, and he believed his interview was an important opportunity to get the Trump administration on the record on these issues.

“If I hear something that I know to be untrue, then I think it’s my responsibility to point that out,” he said.

Sanders’ interview on “Today” was more peaceful, but still had some tense moments. Savannah Guthrie interrupted Sanders to ask a second time when she wouldn’t answer her question about whether the president had made his accusations solely after seeing media reports. She said she didn’t know.

Sanders later repeated the same line about the Potomac River.

Conway was given more time to talk on “Fox & Friends,” although she did face pushback on whether Trump associates who had conversations with Russian officials had hurt the president. She drew laughs when she said she wished she had $50 for every time Russia was mentioned in the news.

“A drinking game,” one of the Fox anchors joked off-screen.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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House GOP releases bill replacing Barack Obama health care overhaul

House Republicans on Monday released their long-awaited plan for unraveling former President Barack Obama‘s health care law, a package that would scale back the government’s role in health care and likely leave more Americans uninsured.

House committees planned to begin voting on the 123-page legislation Wednesday, launching what could be the year’s defining battle in Congress and capping a seven-year Republican effort to repeal the 2010 law. Though GOP leaders expect their measure to win the backing of the Trump administration, divisions remain and GOP success is by no means ensured.

The plan would repeal the statute’s unpopular fines on people who don’t carry health insurance. It would replace income-based subsidies the law provides to help millions of Americans pay premiums with age-based tax credits that may be less generous to people with low incomes. Those payments would phase out for higher-earning people.

The bill would continue Obama’s expansion of Medicaid to additional low-earning Americans until 2020. After that, states adding Medicaid recipients would no longer receive the additional federal funds the statute has provided.

More significantly, Republicans would overhaul the federal-state Medicaid program, changing its open-ended federal financing to a limit based on enrollment and costs in each state.

In perhaps their riskiest political gamble, the plan is expected to cover fewer than the 20 million people insured under Obama’s overhaul, including many residents of states carried by President Donald Trump in November’s election.

Republicans said they don’t have official estimates on those figures yet. But aides from both parties and nonpartisan analysts have said they expect coverage numbers to be lower.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the bill would “drive down costs, encourage competition, and give every American access to quality, affordable health insurance.” He added, “This unified Republican government will deliver relief and peace of mind to the millions of Americans suffering under Obamacare.”

But besides solid opposition from Democrats, there were signals galore that Republican leaders faced problems within their own party, including from conservatives complaining that the measure isn’t aggressive enough in repealing parts of Obama’s law.

“It still looks like Obamacare-lite to me,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., among three Senate conservatives who have criticized the emerging GOP bill. “It’s going to have to be better.”

The Republican tax credits — ranging from $2,000 to $14,000 for families — would be refundable, meaning even people with no tax liability would receive the payments. Conservatives have objected that that feature creates a new entitlement program the government cannot afford.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wouldn’t rule out changes in the measure by his chamber, where significant numbers of moderate Republicans have expressed concerns that the measure could leave too many voters without coverage.

“The House has the right to come up with what it wants to and present it to the Senate by passing it. And we have a right to look it over and see if we like it or don’t,” Hatch told reporters.

Underscoring those worries, four GOP senators released a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., shortly before the bill was unveiled.

They complained that an earlier, similar draft of the measure “does not provide stability and certainty for individuals and families in Medicaid expansion programs or the necessary flexibility for states.” Signing the letter were Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia opted to expand Medicaid coverage under the law and accept beefed-up federal spending for the program. Around half those states have GOP governors, who are largely reluctant to see that spending curtailed.

In another feature that could alienate moderate Republicans, the measure would block for one year federal payments to Planned Parenthood, the women’s health organization long opposed by many in the party because it provides abortions. It also forbids people receiving tax credits to help pay premiums to buy coverage under a plan that provides abortions.

Republicans said they’d not yet received official cost estimates on the overall bill from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That office’s projections on the bill’s price tag and the number of people the measure would cover could be key in winning over recalcitrant Republicans, or making them even harder to win over.

A series of tax increases on higher-earning people, the insurance industry and others used to finance the Obama overhaul’s coverage expansion would be repealed as of 2018.

In a last-minute change to satisfy conservative lawmakers, business and unions, Republicans dropped a plan pushed by Ryan to impose a first-ever tax on the most generous employer-provided health plans.

Popular consumer protections in the Obama law would be retained, such as insurance safeguards for people with pre-existing medical problems, and parents’ ability to keep young adult children on their insurance until age 26.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Tom Rooney faces raucous crowd at town hall meeting

It took about three minutes for the majority of the crowd at Florida Congressman Tom Rooney‘s town hall meeting Monday to start booing about everything from the environment to health care.

“You are supporting an appropriations bill to help clean up the Everglades. You recently voted to repeal a rule that allows coal companies to dump toxic ash in waterways throughout the whole country. Would you care to explain?” one man asked.

“We don’t live in a perfect world,” said the Republican congressman, standing alone in front of a podium on stage at the Englewood Event Center.

And that’s when the shouting started.

“That was quick,” quipped Rooney, who’s in his fifth term in Congress and represents a swath of rural and suburban counties in the middle of Florida, roughly from Lake Okeechobee to the east and toward Venice on the Gulf Coast.

Little more than a month into President Donald Trump‘s administration, Republican members of Congress are returning home to encounter crowds of concerned and, at times, raucous voters, pressing for explanations of the president’s plans for health care, immigration policies and cabinet appointees, among other things.

Those subjects came up repeatedly at Monday’s two-hour event. At times, it devolved into a holler-fest between Rooney, anti-Trump voters and pro-Trump voters.

Said Rooney, throwing his hands in the air: “So you want Trump to fail?”

The crowd screamed and clapped. One person yelled, “Yes, he already is failing!”

A Trump supporter screamed a response from the back: “You people suck!”

It appeared that a majority of the 300-strong crowd were retired, white and opposed to Trump. People grilled Rooney on the Affordable Care Act, pleading with him not to vote for a plan that doesn’t cover pre-existing medical conditions. Rooney replied that any health care revision ought to cover pre-existing medical conditions.

Another person asked what, if anything, Congress or the voters could do to prevent further erosion of the public’s trust. Many who attended, Republicans and Democrats alike, said they’d like to see the country less polarized, but that didn’t stop them from shouting their frustrations about the opposite party and politicians in general.

“A lot of people think that being a member of Congress is somehow us riding around in limos,” Rooney said. “I’m not looking for sympathy. Our approval rating is below Fidel Castro’s, and he’s dead.”

Several asked about Trump and Russia, and whether anyone on Trump’s campaign team was influenced by Russian operatives.

Rooney, who’s on the House Intelligence Committee, said “we have zero evidence that the Russian government and the Trump campaign coordinated in any way.”

The 46-year-old congressman also offered some dire predictions about Social Security and said it must be fixed, otherwise younger generations will be out of luck.

“I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat, if you hate my guts or if you voted for me. I’m telling the truth. If we don’t fix our retirement programs now, I’m not getting Social Security,” he said. “Do you not want that for your kids and grandchildren?”

The room erupted in various shouts about “the cap.”

Asked whether he wants to see Trump release his tax returns, Rooney said he believes presidents should do so.

He added, however, “The people didn’t care. He’s president.”

“We care!” people chanted.

“We don’t care!” A man in a Make America Great hat yelled.

In the end, everyone agreed on one thing: Rooney showed guts, standing up in front of a room full of angry voters. He said he was going to Washington Tuesday to vote, and walked off stage to a smattering of applause.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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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.

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An angry weekend follows on heels of frustrations for Donald Trump

President Donald Trump started his weekend in Florida in a fit of anger over his young administration getting sidetracked just days after his most successful moment in office. He returned to the White House late Sunday derailed — again.

Trump’s frustration appeared to be both the symptom and the cause of his recent woes. Angry about leaks, errant messaging and his attorney general landing in hot water, he fired off a series of tweets that only ensured more distractions.

His staff had hoped to build on the momentum generated by his speech to Congress by rolling out his revamped travel ban and, potentially, unveiling his health care plan. Those efforts rapidly unraveled, sparking more staff infighting and enraging a president loath to publicly admit a mistake and eager to shift the blame onto others.

And now, as Trump begins one of the most pivotal weeks yet for his presidency, his staff is facing the fallout from another allegation of close ties to Russia and the president’s unsubstantiated claims that his predecessor ordered him wiretapped during the campaign.

Trump simmered all weekend in Florida before returning to Washington ahead of signing new immigration restrictions, according to associates who spoke to the president and, like others interviewed, requested anonymity to discuss private conversations. Those close to Trump said it was the angriest he’s been as president, his rage bursting to the surface at his senior staff Friday afternoon in the Oval Office.

Trump was furious about the negative impact of the flap over Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ meetings with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. He told one person he personally felt let down that his senior staff were unable to fight back against the story. He also suggested he felt that Sessions’ move to recuse himself from any investigation into administration links to Russia felt like an admission of defeat, said the person who spoke to the president over the weekend but declined to be named discussing private conversations.

Sessions’ decision particularly infuriated a president who promised repeatedly during the campaign that he’d “win so much the American people would be tired of winning” and he felt that it was a sign of weakness, the person said.

White House chief of staff Reince Preibus, scheduled to travel with Trump to his coastal Palm Beach estate, was told to stay behind. White House chief strategist Steve Bannon also remained in Washington but later flew to Mar-a-Lago.

Those close to Trump have said he has had his happiest days as president at Mar-a-Lago. He didn’t cool off there this weekend.

Many West Wing staffers who stayed behind in Washington awoke Saturday morning to the chiming of their cell phones. The president was tweeting just after dawn to hurl the extraordinary accusation that President Barack Obama had ordered Trump Tower to be wiretapped, a charge for which Trump provided no evidence.

Trump had stayed disciplined on Twitter for days surrounding his congressional speech, but no more. Staffers planning to spend the weekend preparing for the president’s new executive orders were instead sent scrambling to deal with the incendiary tweetstorm, their carefully laid plans again wrecked 140 characters at a time.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer, an honored guest at Saturday night’s annual white-tie Gridiron Dinner, a night of witticisms delivered by reporters and politicos alike, spent most of the night with his head buried in his phone, missing many of the jokes, several at his expense. Sessions had been slated to attend the event but canceled after the revelations about his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The first travel ban, which was hastily written with little outside consultation, was struck down by a federal court. Weeks of planning and delays have gone into the second order, one that is also sure to face legal challenges and, were it to suffer a second legal defeat, could have a devastating political impact.

Some Trump allies have been frustrated by his conspiracy-mongering about the inauguration crowd size and claims of widespread voter fraud, believing those accusations had become distractions to their agenda. Afraid to upset the mercurial president, they scrambled to fulfill his request to probe the alleged wiretapping.

On Sunday, the White House asked Republicans in Congress to search for evidence. Obama’s intelligence chief would soon say no such action was ever carried out, and a U.S. official would confirm that the FBI had asked the Justice Department to dispute the allegation.

“I think the bigger thing is, let’s find out. Let’s have an investigation,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders on ABC. “If they’re going to investigate Russia ties, let’s include this as part of it. And so that’s what we’re asking.”

Other Republicans seemed baffled by the charges, which could prove a distraction in the week ahead.

“The president put that out there, and now the White House will have to answer as to exactly what he was referring to,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on CNN.

But Trump told friends that he was certain he’d be vindicated.

“I spoke with the president twice yesterday about the wiretap story. I haven’t seen him this pissed off in a long time,” wrote Christopher Ruddy, a longtime Trump friend and head of NewsMax. “When I mentioned Obama ‘denials’ about the wiretaps, he shot back: ‘This will be investigated, it will all come out. I will be proven right.'”

The president, accustomed to a culture of corporate loyalty enforced by iron-clad nondisclosure agreements, also continued to rage about the leaks that have plagued his White House. He blames the leaks, rather than any of his own decisions, for his administration’s shaky start and is threatening to make changes if they continue, according to one person who spoke to him. That could include making the administration’s public case for policies, as he did in a lengthy news conference and his congressional speech, both performances praised by his backers.

Trump has been particularly incensed over the leaks about Russia ties, which have dogged him since his election. During the transition, he ripped the intelligence community for being behind the leaks and even compared them to Nazi propaganda. Lately, he has blamed Democrats, suggesting that they were using them as an excuse for Hillary Clinton‘s defeat.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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