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Political football: For some, Super Bowl reflects U.S. divide

Not even the grandest of American sports spectacles is immune to the nation’s deep political divisions.

Patriots fans have spent nearly two full seasons being reminded of the close friendship between President Donald Trump and their team’s three top figures — owner Robert Kraft, star quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick.

As the Super Bowl approaches, that has put the typically united Patriots Nation at odds over how hard to celebrate a team chasing its fifth Super Bowl win under Brady and Belichick. New England faces the Atlanta Falcons on Feb. 5.

Some fans in the northeastern states that backed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November presidential election say they’re struggling to reconcile their football loyalties with their distaste for Trump. Many other fans — more than 1 million people voted for Trump in Massachusetts alone, Clinton won by less than 3,000 votes in New Hampshire and Trump picked up one of four electoral votes in Maine — say critics are simply injecting politics where it doesn’t belong.

“It’s pathetic. We have a double standard where if you admit you like Trump, you get blasted by the media,” said Brian Craig, a Lowell, Massachusetts, Republican who voted for Trump. “If Brady endorsed Hillary, no one would care.”

Plenty of people put politics aside completely when they root for their teams. But after an election that magnified the country’s deep differences of opinion, the Super Bowl matchup offers easy symbolic foils for anyone inclined to play politics.

Trump’s friendship with Brady has been fodder for sports talk radio and local news in New England since September 2015, when one of Trump’s trademark red “Make America Great Again” hats was spotted in Brady’s locker and the quarterback said it would be “great” if the GOP hopeful in a crowded primary field won it all.

Most of Atlanta is represented by longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who has been excoriated by Trump because he boycotted the inauguration and doesn’t consider Trump a “legitimate” president because of intelligence reports of Russian involvement in the election. Trump won Georgia in November with more than 2 million votes.

“It’s been very tough,” said Segun Idowu, a Boston civil rights activist who grew up in Massachusetts, went to college in Atlanta, voted for Clinton and will likely be rooting for the Patriots. “The Trump versus Lewis metaphor seems apt to me.”

Patrick Dugan, a Clinton voter from West Hartford, Connecticut, said his Patriots fanhood has become “increasingly lukewarm” because of the team’s Trump connections.

“You can’t put that genie back in the bottle,” he said. “It’s out there at this point. And once it’s out there, it colors how you look at them, whether you want it to or not.”

Trump drew attention to his relationships with the Patriots several times throughout his campaign and leading up to his inauguration, including an election eve rally where he read a glowing letter from Belichick and claimed Brady voted for him, prompting a denial from the quarterback’s supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen.

Brady, for his part, hasn’t revealed his vote and questioned this week why his long friendship with Trump is “such a big deal” after being asked whether he called the Republican to congratulate him, as Trump claimed in a speech attended by Kraft the night before his inauguration.

“If you know someone, it doesn’t mean that you agree with everything they say or do,” Brady said.

Indeed, few recent marriages of sports and politics have caused this much hand-wringing. There was relatively little furor when basketball megastar LeBron James — fresh off winning a title for the Cleveland Cavaliers — endorsed and stumped for Clinton in his home state of Ohio, which Trump won anyway; or when now-ousted Bills coach Rex Ryan introduced Trump at a campaign rally in Buffalo last year.

As president, Trump drew on his sports connections when he tapped New York Jets owner Woody Johnson as the next U.S. ambassador to Britain. And Peyton Manning, the retired Denver Broncos quarterback who won the Super Bowl last year, joined Trump and other leaders in Philadelphia on Thursday night as Republican lawmakers gathered to map out their congressional agenda.

Conversations on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks show the Patriots have certainly won over some new fans because of the Trump ties.

And many in Patriots Nation are certainly dreaming of sweet revenge if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has to hand the championship trophy to Brady. Goodell suspended Brady for four games at the start of this season for using underinflated footballs in a playoff game, a case that winded through two federal courts and spurred lots of disdain for Goodell among Patriots fans.

For plenty of others, the Trump association is just another reason to dislike a franchise that’s enjoyed unprecedented success but has also been the part of two high-profile cheating scandals (“Spygate” and “Deflategate”) and whose coach cultivates a gruff, stand-offish persona.

“I want the Falcons to win for normal sports fan reasons, but I want the Patriots to lose in embarrassing fashion for political reasons,” said Todd Moye, who grew up in Atlanta and now lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

As the Super Bowl approaches, some skeptical New Englanders say they’ve made their peace with politics and, for now, are just focused on the game.

“I have family members who support Trump. I’m not going to write them off, either,” said Clinton voter Jack Peterson of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. “You just try to compartmentalize.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

No, Donald Trump did not win the popular vote!

Shortly after defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump claimed he would have won the popular vote if not for “millions of people who voted illegally. He then revived those comments after the inauguration in a Twitter post that set off a political firestorm.

Trump has called for “a major investigation” of voter fraud, although the issue has been widely examined by legislative bodies and academic scholars. The conclusions have almost always been the same:  fraud happens, but it is limited and isolated. It has not taken place on the massive scale that Trump implies.

Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million votes, and no one can find 300 cases of vote fraud in the election, let alone 3 million.

President Trump stands alone in his claim of massive electoral fraud, even among his Republican colleagues. Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters he found no evidence of vote fraud and South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham told Trump to “knock this off.” Graham argued that Trump is undermining his own political legitimacy and credibility in pursuing his bogus claims.

Even President Trump’s own attorneys disagreed with him in defending him against the voter recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania brought by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Trump’s lawyers told the court that “all available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

State supervisors of elections, most of whom are Republicans, have uniformly claimed there was little evidence of fraud, especially the massive amounts claimed by Trump.

Ohio Supervisor of Elections Jon Husted commented that there was “no evidence of widespread fraud.” The National Association of Secretaries of States wrote that “we are not aware of any evidence that supports the vote fraud claims by President Trump, but we are open to learning more about the administration’s concerns.”

Critics of the president find it surprising that Trump sees fraud where his own party members see none, but that he fails to see the Soviet influence in the presidential election although the American intelligence community uniformly concluded that the Soviets were directly involved in attempting to influence the election.

What is Trump’s evidence that voter fraud exists?  According to Sean Spicer, President Trump’s press secretary, Trump believes that ‘vote fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence people have brought to him.”

I would love to see that evidence. So would every political reporter and supervisor of election in America.

Spicer cites a Pew report from 2008 that he claims found that 14 percent of voters were non-citizens. Unfortunately, the authors of that study say it does not say that.

Spicer also cites a 2012 Pew study that found there were almost 2 million dead voters and 2.7 million voters were registered to vote in two cities or states. No one denies that there are dead voters on the registration rolls or that many people are registered to vote in two places. This is not illegal unless the dead attempt to vote along with those registered in multiple jurisdictions.

It was somewhat embarrassing when it was found that Trump’s daughter Tiffany was registered to vote in both New York and Pennsylvania. Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign and political adviser, was registered in Sarasota and New York and his nominee for Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, was registered in California and New York.

Election officials are constantly “cleansing” the rolls of dead voters and those who have moved. Unless an individual notifies election officials of their move, it will take some time to remove them from the rolls.

So, did almost 3 million individuals illegally vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 allowing her to win the popular vote. No, is the simple answer. If you can get 3 million people to cast illegal votes, you ought to make sure they vote in the closely competitive states where the electoral vote was needed.

According to the highly-respected Brennan Center, vote fraud in elections generally runs between .00004% and .0009%. Trump is wasting his time, as well as the nation’s time, in focusing on an issue he has no credibility. He is also impugning the integrity of the electoral process which may have devastating long-term consequences.

President Trump, don’t waste your time and political resources in trying to prove the unprovable. You won. Move on to more important things.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at Unioversity of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Bill Nelson sounds off on Donald Trump’s “rocky” first week in office

Although U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s press conference on Wednesday in Tampa was ostensibly to discuss President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to spend up to one trillion dollars improving the nation’s infrastructurehe spent considerable time discussing – and criticizing- some of the moves that the newly-inaugurated president has made in his first week in office.

Nelson has voted against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Mike Pompeo for CIA Director, and he says he’ll oppose Rex Tillerson when the former ExxonMobil CEO’s name comes up for a confirmation vote for Secretary of State. When asked why at a press conference in Tampa, Nelson said just two words.

“Vladimir Putin.”

When asked to elaborate, Nelson simply said he didn’t feel comfortable with Tillerson’s past relationships with the Russian leader.

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, Florida’s other U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, was remarkably aggressive in questioning Tillerson, asking him at one point if he thought Putin was a war criminal. But Rubio ultimately voted for Tillerson in committee earlier this week.

Regarding Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s choice as Treasury Secretary, Nelson said he has not made up his mind, even after speaking with him personally.

“There are a number of things that trouble me about him,” he said about the former partner of Goldman Sachs and hedge fund manager. “He’s got some tax issues. But the main thing is it’s kind of an attitude that – ‘I know better than you’ – and for a Treasury Secretary who has the tremendous responsibility to keep our economy on an even keel, that concerns me.”

Mnuchin initially failed to disclose $100 million in assets last week, which he called an “unintentional” oversight.

Meanwhile, Democrats have accused a potential conflict of interest for Tom Price, Trump’s selection at HHS, saying he held more than $100,000 in stock in companies that could have benefited from legislation he promoted.

In 2009, former Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle withdrew  his nomination by Barack Obama to become Health and Human Services secretary, amidst a scandal involving unpaid taxes. When asked if there had been a lowering of standards in vetting cabinet selections, Nelson said they had not been lowered in terms of how he votes.

Meanwhile, Trump repeated his false claim on Wednesday hat at least three million illegal immigrants cast ballots for Hillary Clinton, calling for an investigation into voter fraud, even though his own legal team has previously argued that no such fraud occurred.

Nelson said it “well documented” how little voter fraud there actually is in the U.S., and told the reporter who asked that it was “illustrative of our times that you have to ask that question.”

He grew quite passionate, however, in claiming that there’s been voter suppression in Florida and around the nation, and spent several minutes discussing specific examples in and outside of Florida.

Nelson also was dismissive of Trump’s call on Wednesday to begin plans to construct a border security fence on the Mexican border, saying that a “multiplicity of things” can be done to  protect our borders.

“This, unfortunately has gotten into a political issue,” he said, “and one particular demographic group is being singled out and I think unfairly,” referring to Mexicans.

When asked to describe Trump’s first week in office, Nelson described it simply as “rocky.”

NBA figures turning up rhetoric on Donald Trump

It is safe to say President Donald Trump has a few detractors. Many of his supporters tend to keep their views to themselves, but those opposed to him, especially those in the entertainment world, often have a lot to say.

Sports figures, including those aligned with the NBA, are beginning to share their views. Players such as LeBron James make no secret of their disdain for the 45th President. Some coaches and owners are joining the forum.

Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich might be on opposite sides when their teams meet on the court, but there is something they have in common. The Golden State Warriors‘ coach and San Antonio Spurs‘ head man are not big fans of the President.

Both coaches were prompted to comment on the tumultuous opening days of the Trump Administration on days their teams scored impressive road victories. One took the humor route, while the other was significantly harsher.

On Sunday, after the Warriors blew away the Orlando Magic, Kerr had the chance to use sarcasm instead of venom.

Kerr, who briefly played for the Magic in 1992-93, was introduced before the game by Magic PA Announcer Paul Porter as a “former Magic star.” Kerr was asked in the postgame interview if that was an example of “alternative facts,” the term used to describe an incorrect statement provided by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday.

Kerr averaged 2.6 points per game during his brief Magic stay, so he took the chance to jab Spicer.

“Sean Spicer will be talking about my Magic career any second now,” Kerr told reporters. “14,000 points. Greatest Magic player ever.”

Popovich, on the other hand, was far more direct. Before his team scored a huge victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was prompted to comment on the President.

“All of the things he said (during the campaign), if our children would have said it, we would have grounded them for six months,” he said. “But we ignore all of that, because…because why? That says something about all of us.”

It’s not the first time either coach has commented on Trump and it likely will not be the last. Shortly after the election, Popovich described the fact Trump is leading our country as “disgusting.”

Sports figures, like anyone else, are free to offer their political opinions. They have the right to say what they think, just as much as those hearing the message can tune it out or react negatively to it.

Popovich and Kerr are at the top of their profession and can feel free to comment without significant fallout from their fan base as long as their teams keep winning. How many coaches with losing records are commenting on political issues?

Another well-known NBA figure with anti-Trump views is Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban. The star of “Shark Tank” openly campaigned for Hillary Clinton and called Trump “bat **** crazy” on the trail.

Yet, he is taking a “wait-and-see” attitude on President Trump. To the surprise of many, Cuban is not piling on.

“Rather than shadow boxing about what he might do, I’d rather deal with what he does,” Cuban said. “And there are some positive things and some negative things, just like with any president.”

If the economy grows like Trump predicts, entrepreneurs like Cuban will benefit, which makes his comments a smart approach. He has far more business interests than just the Mavericks.

If the Spurs or the Warriors win the NBA Championship, will the team accept invitations to the White House as other champions before them? If the Cavaliers repeat, there will clearly be some issues, according to forward Richard Jefferson. James will “cross that bridge” when it appears.

Who will be next to step in the spotlight?

Senate panel approves Nikki Haley nomination to U.N.

The Latest on activities in Congress (all times EST):

12:25 p.m.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has overwhelmingly approved South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley‘s nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

By voice vote, the panel recommended President Donald Trump‘s selection of Haley to the full Senate. She is expected to be confirmed easily.

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, backed Haley’s nomination. Cardin says what Haley lacks in foreign policy experience, “she makes up for in capability, intelligence, and a track record of building coalitions in South Carolina.”

During her confirmation hearing, Haley declared her support for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The shift may trigger increased violence in the Middle East.

Haley also took a hard line against Russia. She says she doesn’t think Moscow can be trusted right now.

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12:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s pick for health secretary is adamant that the new administration will protect people with pre-existing medical problems even as it moves to repeal the Obama-era law prohibiting insurance discrimination.

Georgia Rep. Tom Price told the Senate Finance Committee that “we need to make sure nobody loses their insurance or is unable to gain insurance because of pre-existing conditions.” Price was being questioned by Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

But the way Republicans would go about guaranteeing coverage could be very different. They are looking at special “high-risk” insurance pools as a last resort for people who can’t get coverage otherwise. That hasn’t worked well in the past, providing costly coverage to a limited number of people.

Price said “nobody ought to be priced out of the market for having a bad diagnosis.”

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12:15 p.m.

Health care plan? What health care plan?

Laughter erupted during a tense Senate confirmation hearing when Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, asked President Donald Trump’s health nominee if it’s true that the new administration is close to having a final health care plan — as Trump himself has hinted.

“It’s true that he said that, yes,” responded Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who’s been picked by Trump to run the Health and Human Services department. Trump and congressional Republicans have committed to repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, but they haven’t provided details on how that can be done without harming millions who’ve gained coverage.

Price said he has had conversations with Trump about health care policy. And Brown didn’t press him for more details.

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11:52 a.m.

Health secretary nominee Tom Price says science shows that vaccines do not cause autism. That’s a position that goes against views espoused by President Donald Trump, who has voiced skepticism about vaccine safety.

Price’s comments Tuesday came in response to questions by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., at a Finance Committee hearing on his nomination.

Price also disputed claims that abortion leads to breast cancer. He said the science is relatively clear that it does not.

If confirmed to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Price pledged to make certain that factual information, validated by science, is provided to the public. Under the umbrella of HHS are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration.

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11: 45 a.m.

Donald Trump’s pick to head the White House budget office says Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid need significant changes to be preserved for future generations.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney‘s testimony before Congress stands in sharp contrast to Trump’s campaign promises not to cut the programs. Mulvaney, a South Carolina Republican, said he wouldn’t propose to cut Social Security or Medicare benefits for people already receiving them.

But, he said, younger workers should expect to work longer than their parents. He also said Medicare should be means tested, which means benefits would be limited for wealthy retirees. They already pay higher premiums.

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11:25 a.m.

President Donald’s Trump’s pick for budget director says he failed to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a babysitter because he did not consider her a household employee.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney said, “We made a mistake.” The South Carolina Republican said his wife had triplets in 2000 and they hired a babysitter. She worked for the family for four years but, Mulvaney said, she did not live with them.

Mulvaney said he didn’t realize that he should have paid the taxes until he was preparing for the nominating process. He said he has since paid the taxes.

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11:20 a.m.

Rep. Tom Price — President Donald Trump’s nominee for health secretary — is defending his decision to invest in health care companies as a powerful member of Congress.

Price’s nomination hearing Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee quickly turned testy.

Top Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon questioned Price about his investment in Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian drug company trying to develop a treatment for multiple sclerosis. A fellow Republican congressman is a board member and a major stockholder.

Finance committee staffers found that Price undervalued around 400,000 shares of Innate stock he purchased last August. He reported the shares were worth $50,000 to $100,000, but those shares were worth up to $250,000.

Price blamed a “clerical error” and answered “no” when Wyden asked if he’d used poor judgment.

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11:10 a.m.

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee has unanimously approved President Donald Trump’s nominee for housing secretary, Ben Carson.

The former Republican presidential candidate and celebrated neurosurgeon would lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a sprawling agency with 8,300 employees and a budget of about $47 billion. His nomination now heads to the full Senate.

Committee Chairman Michael Crapo of Idaho praised Carson and his impressive career, saying HUD “will benefit from having a secretary with a different perspective and a diverse background.”

Ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown said he had some reservations but welcomed Carson’s promises to address lead hazards in public housing.

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11:10 a.m.

Former wrestling entertainment executive Linda McMahon is emphasizing her experience in building a business from scratch as she seeks to become the next administrator of the Small Business Administration.

McMahon says in a confirmation hearing Tuesday that she and her husband started out sharing a desk and went on to build a company with more than 800 employees.

She also notes that she and her husband once declared bankruptcy and lost their home, saying “I know what it’s like to take a hit.”

McMahon resigned from WWE in 2009 before running unsuccessfully on two occasions for the U.S. Senate.

She spent about $100 million of her own money in those races and was a big contributor to political action committees seeking to help Donald Trump in November’s election.

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11:00 a.m.

President Donald Trump has invited the Senate leadership to the White House to discuss the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

That’s the word from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican said Tuesday that he, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the leaders of the Judiciary Committee would meet with Trump on Tuesday afternoon.

The court has had one vacancy since last February when Justice Antonin Scalia died. McConnell and Republicans refused to consider former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

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10:55 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says President Donald Trump’s nominee for budget director should be disqualified because he failed to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household worker more than a decade ago.

Sanders, an independent from Vermont, is the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. The committee held a confirmation hearing Tuesday on Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina.

Sanders noted that Mulvaney voted for a bill in 2015 that would disqualify people with serious tax delinquencies from being federal employees.

Mulvaney said he discovered the unpaid taxes while preparing for the nominating process. He has since paid the taxes.

Unpaid taxes have derailed some previous Cabinet picks, but others were confirmed anyway. Mulvaney’s tax problem is unlikely to derail his nomination if Republicans remain united behind him.

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10:50 a.m.

A Senate panel has easily approved the nomination of Elaine Chao to lead the Transportation Department.

Chao was labor secretary in President George W. Bush‘s administration and deputy transportation secretary under President George H.W. Bush. She is also the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and was known to many senators before President Donald Trump tapped her for his Cabinet.

Chao told senators during a hearing on her nomination this month that she hopes to “unleash the potential” of private investors to boost infrastructure spending.

She is expected to play a major role in Trump’s effort to fulfill his campaign promise to generate $1 trillion in infrastructure investment. The administration is expected to release its infrastructure plan this spring.

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10:45 a.m.

A Senate panel has approved President Donald Trump’s choice of conservative billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department.

Ross has specialized in buying distressed companies that still have a potential for delivering profits. He has known Trump for more than 20 years, was an early supporter of his presidential campaign and an economic policy adviser to Trump’s team.

The Senate commerce committee approved his nomination by a voice vote. The full Senate must still vote on the nomination.

Ross has been a critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, which he blames for a loss of U.S. jobs. He has also accused China of protectionist policies.

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10:35 a.m.

The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee has forced a one-week delay in the committee vote on attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein says one reason she asked for the delay until Jan. 31 is because of women who marched in Washington and other locations on Saturday. Feinstein said the women want equal rights and pay, rights for workers and protections for the environment.

“It is these principles, these values that the attorney general must defend,” Feinstein said at a committee meeting Tuesday.

She said “we owe it to” those women to be careful in considering the nomination.

Feinstein said the committee received 188 pages of new material Sunday that need to be reviewed. Committee rules allow any member of the committee to delay a vote.

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10:20 a.m.

Breaking with President Donald Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan says he has seen no evidence that 3 million to 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally voted last November and cost the Republican the popular vote.

Ryan told reporters on Tuesday: “I’ve already commented on that I’ve seen no evidence to that effect.”

His comments came hours after Trump incorrectly claimed at a White House reception with congressional leaders, including Ryan, that he lost the popular vote to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton because of the vote by those here illegally.

That’s according to a Democratic aide familiar with the exchange who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.

Another Republican, Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, said Trump needs to move on. “The election is over,” Dent said, and Trump “won fair and square.” Trump needs to “get to the serious business of governing,” Dent said.

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10:05 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has invited President Donald Trump to address a Joint Session of Congress on Feb. 28.

Ryan announced the invitation on Tuesday, informing reporters after a meeting with House Republicans. Ryan had met with Trump Monday night at the White House. Trump also met with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders on Monday.

Trump was sworn in as the 45th president on Friday. It would be his first speech to Congress.

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10 a.m.

Congressional analysts are projecting that President Donald Trump has inherited a stable economy and a government that is on track to run a $559 billion budget deficit for the ongoing budget year.

The new estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office also say the economy will hold relatively steady. Economic growth is projected to rise slightly to 2.3 percent this year and unemployment to average less than 5 percent for the duration of Trump’s term.

The latest CBO figures are in line with previous projections. They come as Trump and Republicans controlling Congress are working to repeal much of former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, boost the Pentagon budget, and reform the loophole-cluttered tax code.

Balancing the budget would require cuts to domestic agencies and big health programs like Medicare.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Hillary Clinton: Protesters ‘marching for our values’

The Latest on the Women’s March on Washington and associated protests around the world (all times EST):

10:10 a.m.

Hillary Clinton is praising those attending the Women’s March on Washington.

The former Democratic nominee for president is thanking attendees on Twitter for “standing, speaking and marching for our values.” She says it’s as “important as ever.”

Clinton is also reviving her campaign slogan and says in the tweet she believes “we’re always Stronger Together.”

Clinton’s show of support for the march comes a day after she attended President Donald Trump‘s inauguration at the U.S. Capitol.

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9:40 a.m.

A city official in Washington says the turnout estimate for the Women’s March on the National Mall now stands at 500,000 people. That’s more than double the initial predictions.

Kevin Donahue is Washington’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice. He says on Twitter that organizers of the march are increasing the turnout estimate to half a million.

There were early signs across Washington that Saturday’s crowds could top those that gathered on Friday to watch President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Metro subway stations and train cars are full in many locations, while ridership on Friday was well off the numbers from Barack Obama‘s first inaugural.

The march’s National Park Service permit estimated a turnout of 200,000, but the District of Columbia’s homeland security chief had previously predicted turnout would be higher.

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8:55 a.m.

Thousands are massing on the National Mall for the Women’s March, and they’re gathering, too, in spots around the world.

A couple hundred people rallied in the Czech capital of Prague on Saturday in support of the march.

In Wenceslas Square in freezing conditions, they waved the portraits of President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, as well banners that read: “This is just the beginning.”

Organizer Johanna Nejedlova says: “We are worried about the way some politicians talk, especially during the American elections.” Similar rallies unfolded in London, Berlin, Rome and other cities.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, protesters in the march’s trademark pink woolen hats met outside the U.S. Embassy. Says participant Sherin Khankan, “An alternative to the growing hatred must be created.”

At a rally in Stockholm, Sweden, organizer Lotta Kuylenstjerna says “we do not have to accept his message,” in a reference to Trump.

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8:30 a.m.

Rose Wurm got on her bus at 7 a.m. in Hagerstown, Maryland, ready for the ride to Washington and the Women’s March.

The 64-year-old retired medical secretary from Bedford, Pennsylvania, carried two signs. One asks President Donald Trump to stop tweeting. Another asks him to fix ex-President Barack Obama’s health care law, rather than get rid of it.

Wurm is riding one of the roughly 1,800 buses that have registered to park in Washington on Saturday. That translates into nearly 100,000 people coming for the march just by bus.

One company has buses coming from more than 200 cities in 26 states. It’s using school buses to bring people to the march from Maryland.

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8 a.m.

Look to the National Mall in Washington for lots of bright pink hats and signs that say “less fear more love” and “the future is female.”

Thousands of women are set to make their voices heard on the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington expect more than 200,000 people to attend the gathering.

Other protests are expected in other U.S. cities and around the world.

Rena Wilson came to Washington for the march on Friday from Charlotte, North Carolina. She says she hopes to send the message to Trump that they’re “not going anywhere.”

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3:05 a.m.

The mission statement of the Women’s March on Washington says event participants are “hurting and scared” as Donald Trump takes office — and they want a greater voice for women in political life.

Organizers of Saturday’s rally and march expect more than 200,000 people to come out — and that number could rival Trump’s swearing-in ceremony Friday.

The event follows a chaotic day in the nation’s capital when protesters set fires and hurled bricks in a series of clashes with police.

More than 200 people were arrested.

Republished with permission of the nAssociated Press.

Organizers expect thousands at Women’s Solidarity March in St. Petersburg on Saturday

While a crowd of over 200,000 people is expected to jam the streets of Washington D.C. on Saturday to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration, similar rallies are being held around the world. The biggest event in the Tampa Bay area will take place in St. Petersburg.

The Women’s Solidarity March St. Pete is scheduled noon to 3 p.m, beginning at Demens Landing on the waterfront in downtown St. Pete (that’s at 2nd Avenue SE and Bayshore).

“Maybe we were sleeping at the switch, but no more,” says Suzanne Benton, one of the organizers of the event, says about the result of last November’s election. She says she expects as many as 15,000 people to attend the rally.

“We’re not going to let democracy slip away from us,” Benton adds.”We’re going to be a model for the world. They’re very worried for us. We have to show here in St. Petersburg – this state went for the opposition – we have to show the world that we know how to protect our democracy and we’re not going to let it slip away.”

Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by 1.2 percentage points in Florida on November 8.

Marianny De Leon is a twentysomething activist and staffer with Planned Parenthood in Tampa. She’ll be participating in a similar rally in Tallahassee on Saturday (there are protests being held up and down the state on both Friday and Saturday)

“We do have a lot of uncertainty ahead of us, but this march is going to be a unified women’s movement,” she says. “We strived very hard to be as intersectional as possible and we really want to make sure that women have access to the health care that they need. We need to make sure that people who are low-income, people who don’t speak English, we just want to ensure that everybody has the same rights.”

There have been media reports this week that some women who are not pro-choice but considers themselves feminists have been banned from the major protest in D.C. this Saturday. But organizers for the rally in St. Petersburg say there’s no litmus test to participate.

“We’re proud that’s a part of our platform,” says organizer Amy Weintraub regarding the support for abortion rights. “But we can also find plenty of other things that we would agree with everyone, and that’s going to be the key to this social change movement.

“When we engage with people in our community who may have voted differently than we did during the election, we’ve got to find 51 percent that we agree on, ” Weintraub added, “and once we do, we’ll be able to talk with them, educate and potentially change their vote next time around.”

After Georgia Democratic Representative John Lewis announced last weekend that he would not attend the inauguration, saying he didn’t believe believe Trump was a “legitimate” president, dozens of his colleagues now say they won’t attend on Friday, including Florida Democrats Alcee Hastings and Darren Soto. Benton said she understood why congressional Democrats would choose to attend the ceremony, but said she at least hoped they would wear black at the event.

You can get more information on Saturday’s event by going to the Facebook page. Those who do choose to attend should note that some local meteorologists have predicted that there could be a chance of rain.

Promises, pomp and protests as Donald Trump sworn in

Pledging to empower America’s “forgotten men and women,” Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States Friday, taking command of a deeply divided nation and ushering in an unpredictable era in Washington. His victory gives Republicans control of the White House for the first time in eight years.

Looking out over the crowd sprawled across the National Mall, Trump painted a bleak picture of the nation he now leads, lamenting “American carnage,” shuttered factories and depleted U.S. leadership. President Barack Obama, the man he replaced, sat behind him stoically.

Trump’s address lasted just 16 minutes. While his inauguration did draw crowds to the nation’s capital, the numbers appeared smaller than for past celebrations.

Demonstrations unfolded at various security checkpoints near the Capitol as police helped ticket-holders get through. After the swearing-in, more protesters registered their rage in the streets of Washington. Police in riot gear deployed pepper spray and made numerous arrests after protesters smashed the windows of downtown businesses, denouncing capitalism and Trump.

The new president’s first words as commander in chief were an unapologetic reprisal of the economic populism and nationalism that fueled his improbable campaign. He vowed to stir “new national pride,” bring jobs back to the United States, and “eradicate completely” Islamic terrorism.

“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only, ‘America First,'” Trump said.

His address lasted just 16 minutes. While Trump’s inauguration did draw crowds to the nation’s capital, the numbers appeared smaller than for past celebrations.

In a remarkable scene, Trump ripped into Washington’s longtime leaders as he stood among them at the U.S. Capitol. For too long, he said, “a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.”

For Republicans eager to be back in the White House, there was little mention of the party’s bedrock principles: small government, social conservativism and robust American leadership around the world. Trump, who is taking office as one of the most unpopular incoming presidents in modern history, made only oblique references to those who may be infuriated and fearful of his presidency.

“To all Americans in every city near and far, small and large from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again,” he said.

The new president was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts, reciting the 35-word oath with his hand placed upon two Bibles, one used by his family and another during President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.

Trump and wife, Melania, bid Obama and outgoing first lady Michelle Obama farewell as they departed the Capitol grounds in a government helicopter. Trump and Obama’s political paths have been linked in remarkable ways. Before running for the White House, the billionaire businessman led efforts to promote falsehoods about the 44th president’s citizenship and claim on the office.

Obama addressed a staff gathering at Joint Base Andrews before departing for a vacation in California. “You proved the power of hope,” he said.

Trump’s journey to the inauguration was as unlikely as any in recent American history. He defied his party’s establishment, befuddled the media and toppled two political dynasties on his way to victory. His message, calling for a resurgence of white, working-class corners of America, was packaged in defiant stump speeches railing against political correctness. He used social media to dominate the national conversation and challenge conventions about political discourse. After years of Democratic control of the White House and deadlock in Washington, his was a blast of fresh air for millions.

But Trump’s call for restrictive immigration measures and his caustic campaign rhetoric about women and minorities angered millions. And Trump’s swearing-in was shadowed by questions about his ties to Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies have determined worked to tip the 2016 election in his favor.

More than 60 House Democrats refused to attend his swearing in ceremony in the shadow of the Capitol dome. One Democrat who did sit among the dignitaries was Hillary Clinton, Trump’s vanquished campaign rival who was widely expected by both parties to be the one taking the oath of office.

At a post-ceremony luncheon at the Capitol, Trump asked the Republicans and Democrats present to recognize her, and those in the room rose and applauded.

At 70, Trump is the oldest person to be sworn in as president, marking a generational step backward after two terms for Obama, one of the youngest presidents to serve as commander in chief.

Trump takes charge of an economy that has recovered from the Great Recession but has nonetheless left millions of Americans feeling left behind. The nation’s longest war is still being waged in Afghanistan and U.S. troops are battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The American health care system was expanded to reach millions more Americans during Obama’s tenure, but at considerable financial costs. Trump has vowed to dismantle and rebuild it.

Trump faces challenges as the first president to take office without ever having held a political position or served in the military. He has stacked his Cabinet with established Washington figures and wealthy business leaders. Though his team’s conservative bent has been cheered by many Republicans, the overwhelmingly white and male Cabinet has been criticized for a lack of diversity.

Before attending an inaugural luncheon, Trump signed his first series of orders, including the official nominations for his Cabinet. He joked with lawmakers, including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, and handed out presidential pens.

In a show of solidarity, all of the living American presidents attended Trump’s inaugural, except for 92-year-old George H.W. Bush, who was hospitalized this week with pneumonia. His wife, Barbara, was also admitted to the hospital after falling ill.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Builders Stephen Bittel and Donald Trump have things in common

Everyone in America knows the name of President Donald Trump. On the other hand, few are familiar with Stephen Bittel, even in his home state of Florida.

As of noon on Friday, Donald Trump officially became the President of the United States. As of January 14, Bittel became the latest Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.

For all of the obvious differences of party affiliation, the two men have some things in common. Both are wealthy developers. Both are known to say what is on their mind.

To no one’s surprise, Trump has a 55 percent negative rating (as does Hillary Clinton). One of the key factors leading to that score is the perception, true or not, that Trump is a bully.

As the vote for Democratic Chairman approached, Bittel faced four challengers unimpressed with his style. Dwight Bullard, Alan Clendenin, Lisa King and Leah Carius thought Bittel was pushing his weight around too much.

“Somebody in this race has been trying to bully and intimidate people,” Clendenin said.

Sound familiar?

In fact, the quartet had their own unofficial “Anyone but Bittel” cabal. They claimed to control 60 percent of the votes, thereby denying Bittel the chairmanship.

“We are standing shoulder to shoulder,” added Clendenin.

Sound familiar? Backed in large part by the Democratic establishment, Bittel won on the first ballot.

Democrats hate, to different degrees, what Trump is all about. They don’t like the way he won and the type of supporters he attracted.

The guess here is that in Bittel, Democrats have elected a chairman that will behave in some ways like Trump. In other words, he promises to be an aggressive, active chairman that seeks to make the Florida Democratic Party great again. #MFDPGA?

The task before Trump is well known. What confronts Bittel is understood mainly by those entrenched in party politics.

Trump knows a $20 trillion debt is daunting. In the world of Florida politics, so is the job facing Bittle and the Democrats. An example is illustrative.

My friend and former colleague Jason Gonzalez recently posted this “gee-whiz” nugget on Facebook. In the bluest of blue counties, Leon, here are the Republicans who affect those constituents on the state and federal level:

President and Vice-President; Speaker of the House and Majority Leader in the Senate; Governor of Florida and all three Cabinet positions; Speaker of the Florida House and President of the state Senate.

Here’s the final straw. With Dr. Neal Dunn’s victory in Congressional District 2 (Gwen Graham did not seek re-election), Republicans control all of those positions at the same time for the first time ever as of noon on Friday.

(NOTE: some Leon County residents, like this writer, reside in the district served by Rep. Al Lawson, a decent guy).

Bittel has heard the criticism of the state party for not helping develop a “farm team” or “bench” of young, charismatic candidates. Florida is far from alone in facing problems brought on by an overloaded focus on presidential elections at the expense of winning locally.

Look no further than the trouble Democrats have in nonpresidential year elections for an illustration. A must-read piece in Politico Magazine by Edward-Isaac Dovere shows the national dilemma confronting Democrats with Florida serving only as a microcosm.

Only 16 of our country’s governors are Democrats, while 32 state legislatures are controlled by the GOP. Democrats lost 1,034 state and federal legislative seats over the past eight years.

“There’s no bench, no bench for a bench, no one able to speak for the party as a whole,” Dovere wrote.

Over the years, Bittel has raised large sums for Democrats. As chairman, he has a chance to close some of the canyon-sized gap in money Florida Republicans have enjoyed for years.

If he employs some of Trump’s qualities in bringing disaffected Democrats, their passion and their money to the cause — and starts building a bench — being a bully won’t be such a bad thing. I am not in the business of giving Democrats advice, nor would they want it.

That being said, for one of the few times in recent memory, Florida Democrats may have made a good move in electing Stephen Bittel. Republicans should keep an eye and ear on him.

 

Hillsborough County Democratic Party says they are united in holding Donald Trump accountable

Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Ione Townsend says that while the local party takes pride in the smooth transition of power that will take place on Friday, she says they are united in holding Donald Trump accountable for the policies and programs in plans for the American public.

In a statement released just hours before Trump succeeds Barack Obama as the leader of the free world, she says that the party will be diligent that America’s 45th president “does NO HARM TO MIDDLE AND WORKING CLASS AMERICANS.”

“Trump’s Cabinet picks are worrisome, we have already seen an assault on the Affordable Care Act, and next we fear the dissolving of policies that protect our environment, public education, a woman’s right to choose and equality,” says Townsend. “Wherever possible we will join forces and create alliances with community leaders across Hillsborough, the state, and nation to fight unfair and detrimental Trump administration policies. Our voices will be heard. We will be there for voters that bought into Trump’s illusions that he alone can solve national and world problems.”

Townsend then lists the rights that she says the Democratic party believes in, and says that they will fight any Trump administration proposals “that could decimate what Democrats have strived for and will continue to work toward achieving.”

Those rights include:

1. Health care for all

2. Expanding the middle class

3. Raising the minimum wage to $15

4. Keeping jobs in America

5. Affordable college education

6. A woman’s right to choose and make her own health care decisions

7. Ending institutional racism in our country and any other form of discrimination

8. Immigration reform with a path to citizenship

In recent presidential election years, Hillsborough County enjoyed the reputation as being one of the leading bellwether counties in the country when it came to choosing the president. That changed last year, however, as Hillary Clinton won the county by more than eight percentage points, but lost the vote overall in Florida, and of course, lost in the Electoral College to Trump.

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