Donald Trump Archives - Page 6 of 219 - SaintPetersBlog

GOP mocks national Dems for ‘zero chance’ of beating Vern Buchanan in 2018

Though the 2018 congressional elections are still a year and a half away, the news headlines continue to make Democrats believe that 2018 will be a wave election that could see them take over the House of Representatives.

It won’t be easy, even if the daily revelations from Washington continue to chip away at President Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s ratings.

On Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced 20 more congressional districts targeted for recruitment and potential investment, bringing the total to 79 GOP-held districts.

The new list includes Florida’s 16th Congressional District, held for the past decade by Sarasota Representative Vern Buchanan.

Buchanan narrowly defeated Democrat Christine Jennings in his first race by just 369 votes under disputed circumstances in 2006 (Jennings claimed that voting machine problems resulted in some 18,000 lost votes). Since then, however, he’s never been seriously challenged by a Democrat, and his supporters say that will remain the case in 2018.

“The only thing more egregious than Hillary not campaigning in Wisconsin would be if the DCCC spent even just $1 attempting to defeat Vern Buchanan,” scoffs Sarasota County Republican Committeeman Christian Ziegler, who worked as a congressional aide for Buchanan for several years in Washington and Sarasota. “Locally, the Democrat Party lacks grassroots & donor excitement, the party registration isn’t there for them and most importantly, they do not have one credible individual on the bench that would be able to serve as anything more than a ‘paper candidate.”

“The Democrats have zero chance at winning this seat,” adds Sarasota Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters, noting his high re-election margins.

New College of Sarasota political science professor (and Democrat) Keith Fitzgerald says this is the time when the DCCC begins recruiting candidates for the next election cycle. He sees the new list as a sign that they are casting for candidates beyond districts where performance histories would usually suggest they would succeed.

“They want qualified candidates in place in advance of a possible wave election,” he says. “It is too early to say that a wave election is coming, but the early indicators are stronger than they were when the Republicans cleaned house in 2010.”

Fitzgerald is a former state representative who ran and lost a congressional bid to Buchanan in 2012. He says that the new list of DCCC targets (which also includes Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District) are mostly incumbents who normally would be considered safe politically, including Buchanan.

But after a cacophonous two weeks of political news, even some Republicans have invoked the word “impeachment” about Trump’s problems, which led the Justice Dept. to select former FBI Director Robert Mueller last week as a special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between the campaign and Russian officials.

“Rep. Buchanan, supported legislation that would devastate many of his constituents,” says Fitzgerald. If the tsunami comes, there is no telling how far it will roll ashore,” he says. “Representatives who have placed extreme ideology ahead of the health and security of their voters could be swept away.”

Buchanan supported the American Health Care Act earlier this month, which remains extremely unpopular with the American public. The controversial bill, which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, is already being considered dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate, with a Quinnipiac poll showing only 21 percent support in the country.

The Democrats need to flip 24 seats to retake the House.

Florida CD 27 Republican incumbent Illeana Ros-Lehtinen announced earlier this month that after since serving in Congress representing her constituents in Miami-Dade County since 1988, she will not run for reelection next year. The DCCC is hoping to flip that seat, and are hoping that other Republican incumbents will follow suit.

Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in the CD 27 by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016.

Small sinkhole opens outside Donald Trump’s Florida getaway club

A small sinkhole has opened on the road just outside President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The Palm Beach Post reports that the 4-foot-by-4-foot hole was discovered Monday in Palm Beach County just west of one the resort’s entrances. It is near a new water main and isn’t a threat to the president’s property in Palm Beach.

The president has spent seven weekends at Mar-a-Lago since taking office, but it is now closed for the summer. Trump is on a nine-day trip that began in the Middle East and will end in Italy.

Trump bought the club for $10 million in 1985 and has spent tens of millions on improvements. Each of the 500 members pays $14,000 annually in dues. The initiation fee was recently doubled to $200,000.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Martin Dyckman: It’s always about the money

The Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts wrote a powerful case for Donald Trump‘s impeachment, in the style of an open letter to the “Dear Republicans in Congress,” that I was reading to my wife as she prepared breakfast the other morning.

At the part where Pitts asked, “Have you no loyalties deeper than party?” Ivy broke in.

“The money,” she exclaimed.

That nailed it. It is always about the money.

It’s about the campaign money they expect to continue bagging from the Kochs and other oligarchs who embrace the Trump agenda even as they despise the man.

It’s about the money, the great gobs of money that would befall the wealthier classes, the true constituency for most of them, from the sort of tax “reform” they are counting on Trump to sign.

It’s about the money they would gain for themselves from the Trump tax scheme. While the outlines he proposed are strikingly thin, they are enough to show that Congress members themselves would make out better than bank robbers.

The middle class and poor would get essentially nothing. The foregone revenue would take America back to where the oligarchs want it — a sociopolitical stone age, with the new robber barons doing what they want and getting what they want, with only minimal interference, if any, from taxes, regulations or labor unions.

The Congress does not simply represent the Republican Party’s true constituency. It is part of it.

The most recent available figures estimated the average Congressional net worth at around $1 million. To be one of the richest 50 members required a minimum of $7.28 million in net worth. Of those 50, 32 were Republicans.

There are Democrats, no doubt, who would vote for the outrageous Trump tax scheme if they thought their voters would forgive them. Most of the Republicans act as if they don’t have that particular worry.

For the Democrats and the few Republicans who do care to put their country first, the question may well be whether it would be best to be rid of the guttersnipe in the White House sooner or later.

From an exclusively partisan standpoint, it would suit the Democrats to have him still twisting in the ill winds of own making as the 2018 midterm elections approach. This would be better for policy as well, since every Republican Congress member who isn’t totally insulated by gerrymandering would have to worry about casting his or her vote with the extremely unpopular president. And the fact that Trump still refuses to release his tax returns, despite all the promises, raises profound suspicions about any tax legislation bearing his label.

If Trump were dethroned now, whether by his Cabinet or by a late-awakening congressional conscience, the Democrats would be confronting in President Mike Pence someone who has a long-standing and genuine commitment to all the hideously anti-social policies that Trump never shared until he saw them as keys to the Republican nomination. Lacking Trump’s offensive personality, Pence could take America backward even faster and farther than Trump.

The more important issues, though, are the clear and present danger of keeping an uneducated, uneducable and wildly impetuous man-child in proximity to the nuclear codes, the forfeiting of American influence and prestige for which he is responsible, and the disgust that sickens most of us with every new disclosure of his abuses of power and of the foreign influences in his campaign.

Whatever happens in the short term, both political parties should be planning how to never again nominate someone so singularly unfit and dangerous as Trump.

The electoral system was supposed to prevent that — “a moral certainty,” as Alexander Hamilton put it, “that the office of President will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

When Hamilton wrote “seldom,” he was not thinking “forever.”

But the Founders provided for a day when their precautions would fail.

At the outset, the party factions in Congress caucused to nominate their candidates for president. There was never a doubt as to their qualifications. No outsider cracked the system until Andrew Jackson came along, and he was much like Trump, who admires him, in being ill-informed, reckless and ruthless.

Congress, for all its enormous faults, could be an inherently better judge of presidential timber than the present primary election system. But to try to give Congress control of who runs would be a fool’s errand, not to mention unwise.

What Congress should do — what it must do — is to accept the constitutional responsibility the Founders assigned to it in the event of a rogue presidency. It is the fail-safe they wrote into the Constitution.

As Pitts described it to the Republicans, “Your course of action, if you have even a molecule of courage, integrity or country love, should be obvious. Impeach him now.”

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

 

In Saudi Arabia, Donald Trump seeks to move past domestic troubles

President Donald Trump arrived in the Middle East on Saturday, touching down in Saudi Arabia to begin his first trip abroad, a visit aimed at forging stronger alliances to combat terrorism while seeking to push past the series of controversies threatening to engulf his young administration.

Trump flew to Riyadh overnight on Air Force One and was welcomed during an elaborate ceremony at the airport, punctuated by a military flyover and a handshake from Saudi King Salman. Trump is the only American president to make Saudi Arabia, or any majority Muslim country, his first stop overseas as president — a scheduling choice designed in part to show respect to the region after more than a year of harsh anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric.

The president’s stop in Saudi Arabia kicks off an ambitious international debut. After two days of meetings in Riyadh, Trump will travel to Israel, have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, and meet with allies at a NATO summit in Brussels and the Group of 7 wealthy nations in Sicily.

As he arrived, the president waved from the doorway of Air Force One and then descended the steps, joined by first lady Melania Trump. The 81-year-old King Salman, who used a cane for support, was brought to the steps of the plane on a golf cart. The two leaders exchanged pleasantries and Trump said it was “a great honor” to be there.

Several jets then flew overhead leaving a red, white and blue trail.

A few hours later, Trump tweeted for the first time on international soil as president, writing “Great to be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Looking forward to the afternoon and evening ahead.”

White House officials hope the trip gives Trump the opportunity to recalibrate after one of the most difficult stretches of his young presidency. The White House badly bungled the president’s stunning firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the federal investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. On Wednesday, the Justice Department relented to calls from Democrats to name a special counsel, tapping former FBI chief Robert Mueller to lead the probe.

Moments after Trump lifted off for Saudi Arabia, fresh reports stemming from the Russia investigation surfaced and threatened to overshadow the trip. The New York Times reported that Trump called Comey “a real nut job” while discussing the ongoing investigation with two Russian officials visiting the Oval Office earlier this month. He also told them that firing Comey had “taken off” the “great pressure” he was feeling from the investigation, the Times reported.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that an unidentified senior Trump adviser was being considered a “person of interest” in the law enforcement investigation. In addition, Comey agreed to testify at an open hearing of the Senate intelligence committee in the near future, the panel said.

Despite his domestic troubles, Trump was expected to get a warm reception in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom’s ruling family grew deeply frustrated with former President Barack Obama’s detente with Iran and his restrained approach to the conflict in Syria. The king did not greet Obama at the airport during his final visit to the nation last year.

Saudi Arabia offered Trump an elaborate welcome ahead of his two-day stay. Billboards featuring images of Trump and the king dotted the highways of Riyadh, emblazoned with the motto “Together we prevail.” Trump’s luxury hotel was bathed in red, white and blue lights and, at times, an image of the president’s face.

Trump and the king met briefly in the airport terminal for a coffee ceremony before the president headed to his hotel before the day’s other meetings. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told reporters on Air Force One that Trump spent the flight meeting with staff, working on his upcoming speech to the Muslim world and getting a little sleep.

Melania Trump wore a black pantsuit with a golden belt and did not cover her head for the arrival, consistent with custom for foreign dignitaries visiting Saudi Arabia. In 2015, her husband had, in a tweet, criticized former first lady Michelle Obama for not wearing a headscarf during a visit to the kingdom.

For a president who campaigned on an “America First” platform, the trip is a crucial moment for U.S. allies to size up his commitment to decades-long partnerships while trying to move behind his previous controversial statements.

“President Trump understands that America First does not mean America alone,” said H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser. “Prioritizing American interests means strengthening alliances and partnerships that help us extend our influence and improve the security of the American people.”

In a sweetener for Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials said the Trump administration plans to announce $110 billion in advanced military equipment sales and training to the kingdom during the trip. The package includes tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications and cybersecurity technology.

After spending much of Saturday meeting with King Salman and other members of the royal family, Trump was to end the day at a banquet dinner at the Murabba Palace. On Sunday, he’ll hold meetings with more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders converging on Riyadh for a regional summit focused largely on combating the Islamic State and other extremist groups.

Trump dodged one potential land mine when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted on war crime and genocide charges, announced that he would not attend the summit for personal reasons.

The centerpiece of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia will be a speech Sunday at the Arab-Islamic-American summit. White House aides view the address as a counter to Obama’s 2009 speech to the Muslim world, which Trump criticized as too apologetic for U.S. actions in the region.

Trump will call for unity in the fight against radicalism in the Muslim world, casting the challenge as a “battle between good and evil” and urging Arab leaders to “drive out the terrorists from your places of worship,” according to a draft of the speech obtained by The Associated Press. The draft notably refrains from mentioning democracy and human rights — topics Arab leaders often view as U.S. moralizing — in favor of the more limited goals of peace and stability.

It also abandons some of the harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric that defined Trump’s presidential campaign and does not contain the words “radical Islamic terror,” a phrase Trump repeatedly criticized Hillary Clinton for not using during last year’s campaign.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Marco Rubio has little to say about Donald Trump, but a lot about the media

For anyone following national politics, it’s been a dizzying week.

Marco Rubio isn’t sure what to make of it all.

The Florida Senator, who turns 46 next weekend, was considered a possible nominee for President of the United States less than 15 months ago, but he’s now just a sideshow in the circus that is the Donald Trump presidency, and he’s getting frustrated about it.

Speaking at the Pinellas County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Rubio touted his bill to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which is being co-sponsored by Montana Democrat Jon Tester and Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson and gaining some momentum in the Senate. The bill would reform the VA by allowing the secretary to dismiss bad employees, and “ensure appropriate due process protections for whistleblowers.”

“That’s an important law. How many of you read about that in the newspaper?” Rubio asked the hundreds of Republicans who gathered at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park.

He said it simply wasn’t sexy enough, without mentioning why the national press is so focused on what Trump has been saying and tweeting, and what his staff is telling the press every day.

“It’s not being posted because nobody clicks on those stories, because the stories that get all the clicks are the stories about something controversial and explosive,” he said, adding that, “I’m not here to beat up the press but just because somebody told you something doesn’t mean that’s what happened.”

“Maybe it did? And maybe it did, and if it did then we need to find out, but if it didn’t, that would be unjust, would it not? So before you ask me to give you a hard opinion on something, let me find out the truth first, let you find out the truth first?”

Rubio made the same complaints while interviewed on Fox and Friends on Thursday when asked about Trump’s possible connections with Russia and Comeygate. So if you’re looking for Rubio to bash Trump when he seems to be in free fall, Rubio is not your man. Instead, he sounds like a man who isn’t sure what to think about all of the news coverage.

Other than he doesn’t like it, labeling the way politics is covered these days as “entertainment.”

Referring to the seemingly daily bombshell stories about Trump and Comey, Rubio asked if it wouldn’t be better for everyone involved if everyone knew the facts and didn’t have to “take concrete positions one way or another. “

“Isn’t that what you deserve? Isn’t that what the president deserves? Isn’t that what our nation deserves? Isn’t that what everyone deserves?,” as the crowd of partisan Pinellas Republican cheered lustily.

But before you think that Rubio thinks that Trump is getting a raw deal from the mainstream media, he was there to tell us that he spends 10 hours a week in the Senate Intelligence Committee looking at threats to the nation, including “looking at the specific threats to the 2016 campaign and what Russia did, and what they’re beginning to do in Europe and other places.”

Rubio said mournfully that the campaign last year was about getting people back to work and reminding people about the American dream, but “we don’t talk about these things.”

But the tone of his speech seemed like it was more of the media’s fault for not focusing on incremental policy changes — but how can it compare to a president who can’t stop contradicting his own press spokespeople?

He said that everyone was to blame for our current situation. Looking for an example of how the press doesn’t always get it right always, he chided an Associated Press story this week that initially reported that North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis needed CPR after exerting himself too strenuously this week proved to be incorrect.

“I’m not saying it was malicious,” he said about the AP report (who he praised as generally being straight up in its reporting), “but imagine if it was public policy or decisions of national magnitude. Should we not know the facts?”

Rubio didn’t leave himself out of his critique. Remember when he began attacking the size of Trump’s hands on the campaign trail last year and got live coverage from the cable news networks?

“I know that I spend all my time working on the VA bill and so forth — we will get very little coverage that doesn’t get a lot of clicks and a lot of attention, but if I spend time saying something outrageous, I’ll get a lot of coverage, so I’m incentivized to do that,” he admitted.

The media critique was the highlight of what was one of Rubio’s less inspired speeches seen in some time. Then again, he’s part of the Republican dominance of Washington D.C. that doesn’t appear to be getting much done. Well, there is that VA bill that’s gaining some momentum.

Before the event, a crowd of over 200 protestors gathered at the entrance to the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park. Activists have been demanding that Rubio hold a town hall meeting, something that he has yet to do in 2017.

There were layers of security both outside and inside the hotel.

UPDATE: On Saturday on Twitter, Rubio criticized the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the story, which highlighted his critiques on the media, tweeting, “They actually ran the exact headline I predicted they would run to get clicks!”

That supposition neglects the fact that very little else in his speech was newsworthy.

(Photos courtesy of Kim DeFalco).

Donald Trump attorney didn’t want him to sign financial disclosure

President Donald Trump’s attorneys initially wanted him to submit an updated financial disclosure without certifying the information as true, according to correspondence with the Office of Government Ethics.

Attorney Sheri Dillon said she saw no need for Trump to sign his 2016 personal financial disclosure because he is filing voluntarily this year. But OGE director Walter Shaub said his office would only work with Dillon if she agreed to follow the typical process of having Trump make the certification.

The Associated Press obtained the letters under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Trump led his family’s private company until becoming president, and even now maintains financial ties to it. He has avoided full transparency about his finances by breaking the long tradition of major party political candidates making their tax returns public.

His attorney’s effort to sidestep certification of his personal financial disclosure marks another departure from the norm. Each year, the OGE processes thousands of those forms, all of which are certified.

“This is not at all typical; in fact I’ve never heard of anyone trying this,” said Marilyn Glynn, an OGE employee for 17 years before retiring in 2008. Her positions included acting director and general counsel. “It would be as unusual as not signing your taxes.”

The certification means that if a person knowingly included incorrect financial information, the OGE can seek a civil penalty such as a fine, or even make a referral to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.

Glynn said OGE has indeed used those tools to enforce the integrity of certification.

The letters indicate Shaub and Dillon talked through the importance of Trump presenting true information and signing off on it as such. OGE typically works with federal employees and their representatives and also certifies the financial disclosures.

“As we discussed, OGE will provide this assistance on the condition that the President is committed to certifying that the contents of his report are true, complete and correct,” Shaub wrote in a May 10 letter. “When we met on April 27, 2017, you requested that he be excused from providing this certification.”

In her letter to Shaub, Dillon says the president will “sign and file” documents regarding his 2016 financials by mid-June — an indication that she agreed to the requirement.

Dillon also stressed in her letter, dated May 9, that Trump is under no obligation to file a financial disclosure this year and is doing so voluntarily. “President Trump welcomes the opportunity to provide this optional disclosure to the public, and hopes to file it shortly,” she wrote.

Personal financial disclosures include an accounting of a person’s personal income, assets and liabilities. Trump’s 2016 form will span his general election candidacy, election and transition to power — potentially shedding light on the immediate impact his Republican nomination and election had on his Trump Organization.

Last May, then-candidate Trump’s disclosure form showed his business empire had grown in value while he was running for office. However, the information is no substitute for tax returns, which Trump has chosen not to release. Tax documents would show his effective rate of income tax and detail the extent of his charitable giving.

Trump’s decision to file a personal financial disclosure puts him in the company of past Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and others. The law gives presidents a reprieve from filing financial disclosures in their first year, but citing transparency, they typically file anyway on or before May 15.

Shaub references that history in the first line of his letter to Dillon: “Thank you for your letter dated May 9, 2017, regarding the President’s decision to adhere to the longstanding tradition of voluntarily filing a public financial disclosure report in the first year after taking office.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Marco Rubio to headline Pinellas GOP Lincoln Day Dinner tonight

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is the featured speaker at the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee’s 2017 Lincoln Day Dinner, one of the region’s premier political events.

The Miami Republican will keynote the event tonight at the Hilton Carillon Hotel in St. Petersburg’s Gateway community. Cocktail hour begins at 6 p.m., and doors open at 7 p.m.

The annual event not only celebrates recent local GOP victories but has grown to become one of the key fundraising events to support future races.

Lincoln Day dinners are annual GOP celebrations held nationwide by various Republican Party organizations. After Ronald Reagan’s death in 2004, Lincoln Day festivities evolved into a celebration of the former president’s life and achievements, as well as an occasion to honor the party’s conservative successes over the past year.

Certain for inclusion in the celebration is the recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as Donald Trump’s first choice for the U.S. Supreme Court.

As Pinellas GOP Chair Nick DeCleglie said in an April 7 Facebook post: “With the help of a Republican-controlled Senate, whose members stood up to the Democrats’ partisan filibuster, Donald Trump will successfully follow through on what I consider to be his most important campaign promise — to appoint conservative jurists to the Supreme Court. Judge Neil Gorsuch is a jurist who will hold true to the Constitution, much like his predecessor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. I am proud of our Republican Senators who used the precedent set by Harry Reid and the Democrats in 2013 to end debate and confirm this qualified member of the legal community.

“It is a great day for the rule of law in the greatest country the world has ever known,” DiCeglie added. “God Bless Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump, and the United States of America.”

The event also traditionally announces the winner of the C.W. “Bill” Young Public Service Award.

The Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon is at 950 Lake Carillon Drive in Saint Petersburg.

Darryl Paulson: The Founders were right — democracy is flawed

I expect the title of this op-ed will generate enough hate mail to keep me busy for a month. How can anyone oppose democracy?  If the Founders hated democracy, who am I to disagree?

The Founders recognized the inherent dangers of democratic government. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, called democracy “one of the greatest evils.”

Alexander Hamilton, better known for being a Broadway phenomena that one of the most significant individuals in the establishment of the United States of America, wrote that ancient democracies “never possessed one feature of good Government. Their very character was tyranny.”

James Madison, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, along with Hamilton, argued that there was nothing in a democracy “to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual.” Over 200 years ago, Madison envisioned a future leader like Donald Trump.

Madison, in Federalist # 10, wrote that democracies “have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short-lived as they have been violent in their deaths.”

Madison and most of the Founders believed republics were preferable to democracies because they protected against the tyranny of the majority. They created a system of indirect election of the president and checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

Most Americans know that we pledge allegiance “to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands,” and not to the “democracy for which it stands.”

Critics of democracy claim that it is unstable and subject to frequent change. As a result, in 2017, 159 of the 206 sovereign states use “republic” as part of their name.

20th-century Italian political thinkers Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca viewed democracies as an illusion. According to Pareto and Mosca, democracies portray themselves to be dominated by the rule of the people when, in reality, they are dominated by political elites due to the apathy of the masses.

As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote a century ago, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

The 2016 election illustrates the limits of democracy. The normally sedate masses can be aroused by a leader who offers simple solutions to complex problems. Trump convinced enough voters that unless he was elected, America was at its end as a world power.

Trump was also able to convince enough voters that he was the leader to transform America from its downward spiral and that he would “Make America Great Again.” As America’s political savior, Trump promised his political supporters that “I alone can fix it. I alone am your voice.”

Many Americans are convinced that Trump is a new kind of leader who will restore America to greatness. I am more inclined to believe we have selected a false prophet who will lead America down a path of danger and destruction.

___

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst treatment ever, Donald Trump grumbles; Dems demand deep probe

Surrounded by multiplying questions, President Donald Trump complained Wednesday that “no politician in history” has been treated worse. Democrats demanded an independent commission to dig into his firing of FBI Director James Comey, but Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan cautioned against “rushing to judgment.”

Ryan said Congress needs to get the facts, but “it is obvious there are some people out there who want to harm the president.” Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on a key House oversight panel, countered that Ryan and the Republicans had shown “zero, zero, zero appetite for any investigation of President Trump.”

The White House has denied reports that Trump pressed Comey to drop an investigation into Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. In addition Trump is facing pointed questions about his discussions with Russian diplomats during which he is reported to have disclosed classified information.

Also Tuesday, in an extraordinary turn of events, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to turn over to Congress records of Trump’s discussions with the diplomats.

The White House has played down the importance and secrecy of the information Trump gave to the Russians, which had been supplied by Israel under an intelligence-sharing agreement. Trump himself said he had “an absolute right” as president to share “facts pertaining to terrorism” and airline safety with Russia. Yet U.S. allies and some members of Congress have expressed alarm.

Republicans and Democrats alike were eager to hear from Comey, who has increasingly emerged as a central figure in the unfolding drama.

The Senate intelligence committee on Wednesday asked Comey to appear before the panel in both open and closed sessions. The committee also asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to give the committee any notes that Comey might have made regarding discussions he had with White House or Justice Department officials about Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Putin told a news conference that he would be willing to turn over notes of Trump’s meeting with the Russian diplomats if the White House agreed. He dismissed outrage over Trump’s disclosures as U.S. politicians whipping up “anti-Russian sentiment.”

Asked what he thinks of the Trump presidency, Putin said it’s up to the American people to judge and his performance can be rated “only when he’s allowed to work at full capacity,” implying that someone is hampering Trump’s efforts.

Trump himself hasn’t directly addressed the latest allegations that he pressured Comey to drop the Flynn investigation. But the swirling questions about his conduct were clearly on his mind when he told graduates at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut that “no politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

Striking a defiant stance, he added: “You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams. … I guess that’s why we won. Adversity makes you stronger. Don’t give in, don’t back down. … And the more righteous your fight, the more opposition that you will face.”

As for Comey, whom Trump fired last week, the FBI director wrote in a memo after a February meeting at the White House that the new president had asked him to shut down the FBI’s investigation of Flynn and his Russian contacts, said a person who had read the memo. The Flynn investigation was part of a broader probe into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

Comey’s memo, an apparent effort to create a paper trail of his contacts with the White House, would be the clearest evidence to date that the president has tried to influence the investigation.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, sent a letter to the FBI on Tuesday requesting that it turn over all documents and recordings that detail communications between Comey and Trump. He said he would give the FBI a week and then “if we need a subpoena, we’ll do it.”

John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said late Tuesday that the developments had reached “Watergate size and scale.”

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, said simply, “It would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the White House.”

The person who described the Comey memo to the AP was not authorized to discuss it by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. The existence of the memo was first reported Tuesday by The New York Times.

The White House vigorously denied it all. “While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” a White House statement said.

Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13, on grounds that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his contacts with Russians.

The intensifying drama comes as Trump is set to embark Friday on his first foreign trip, which had been optimistically viewed by some aides as an opportunity to reset an administration floundering under an inexperienced president.

Said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: “He’s probably glad to leave town, and a lot of us are glad he’s leaving for a few days.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons