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Marco Rubio not ready to say Jeff Sessions should recuse himself regarding Russian meetings

Marco Rubio wants to know more about why Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to disclose that he met twice with the Russia’s U.S. Ambassador during the presidential campaign.

Despite that, the Florida senator isn’t willing to say that he should recuse himself from investigating ties between Donald Trump‘s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.

Not yet anyway, despite the fact Sessions said in his Senate confirmation hearing last month that he’d never met any Russian officials during Trump’s campaign.

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

The Florida Senator went on to say that “in the interest of fairness, and in his best interests, should potentially ask someone else to step in and play that role. Again, we’re not there yet, but we could be, and so we just need to start thinking about those things.”

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that one of the meetings between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

Sessions himself told NBC News today that if it were appropriate, he would recuse himself. However, Sessions insisted that he had not met “with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign.”

Two House Republicans — Utah’s Jason Chaffetz and California’s Kevin McCarthy, said on Thursday that Sessions should recuse himself from any investigation regarding the Russians.

“I’m not interested in being part of a witch hunt, but I also will not be a part of a cover-up,” Rubio told NPR, adding that “Nobody has been tougher on the Russia issue than I have, I believe, and I will continue to be.”

Marco Rubio kicked out of Tampa office because of protesters

In the new year, it’s been the go-to spot for those who are part of “The Resistance” – activists against Donald Trump and GOP establishment now in control of all branches of the federal government.

We’re talking about Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s Tampa District office in the Westshore area, where protestors have gathered on a weekly basis since early January.

But no more.

That’s because the landlords at the Bridgeport Center at 5201 Kennedy Blvd. – America’s Capital Partners – notified Rubio’s office on Feb. 1 that it will not renew his lease because the weekly protests are too disruptive to the other tenants and are costly for the company.

The story was originally reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

“Our lease has expired and the building management informed us they would not be renewing it,” Rubio spokeswoman Christina Mandreucci said in a statement sent to SPB. “We are actively looking for new office space, and our goal is to remain accessible and continue providing prompt and efficient service to all Floridians. Until we find a permanent new home in the Tampa Bay area, we will have a representative from our Tampa Bay office available to assist constituents on a daily basis and reachable at 1-866-630-7106.”

Not only has the small sidewalk in front of Rubio’s Tampa office been the site of regular protests against the Florida Senator, it’s where protestors went to back on the night of January 28 to protest President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning citizens from some predominantly Muslim nations from coming to the United States. Those activists had originally gone to Tampa International Airport, where similar protests were taking place across the nation, but we’re told that they could not protest on private property.

Joe Negron, Pulse mother and doctor, a DREAMer, among guests for Donald Trump’s address to Congress

As is traditional, Florida’s congressional delegation is using its invite tickets to President Donald Trump‘s first address to a joint session of Congress mostly to make points, although U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is maybe making his points with his wife.

Each member of Congress gets one SOTU invitation to pass out. Democrat Nelson’s goes to his wife of 44 years, Grace Nelson.

Republican U.S. Sen Marco Rubio‘s bringing Florida Sen. President Joe Negron, who is in Washington this week for meetings with Rubio and other state legislators regarding federal-state issues.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando is bringing Christine Leinonen, mother of Christopher Leinonen, who was one of the 49 victims killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. Leinonen has been sharply critical of Trump for using the June 12, 2016, Pulse shooting to justify an immigration crackdown, particularly on Muslims.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park is bringing Dr. Marc Levy, Orlando Regional Medical Center surgeon who saved the lives of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting last summer. Levy has called for more scientific and medical research on gun violence – from root causes to improved medical treatment.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando is bringing a potential DREAMer, a recent graduate of the University of Florida named Jose who migrated from Honduras to the United States at the age of 11 with his parents. Jose is seeking to avoid deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policies of former President Barack Obama, which Trump stated he intends to rescind.

No word yet on what Republican U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis, Bill Posey and Daniel Webster intend to do with their tickets.

Marco Rubio joins Tammy Baldwin in bill requiring Nazi art theft restitution

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has joined with Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin on a bill that would force the return of, or restitution for, art and other belongings stolen by Nazis from Jews in the Holocaust.

The bill, entitled ‘‘Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act of 2017’’ would seek to use the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art of 1998 and the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Assets and Related Issues of 2009 to prosecute claims and return stolen property or award restitution.

The United States was a signatory to both treaties.

The bill also would require the State Department to report on certain European countries’ compliance with the goals of the 2009 Terezin Declaration, and what actions those countries are taking to resolve the claims of U.S. citizens.

“Seventy years after World War II, when Nazis and their collaborators illegally confiscated Jews’ property in Central and Eastern Europe, this theft remains a largely unresolved issue and a source of lasting pain for many Holocaust survivors and their heirs,” Rubio stated in a news release. “This bipartisan legislation will help address this lasting injustice from a dark chapter in human history by facilitating the restitution of Jewish communal, private and heirless property. American leadership on this issue is vital, and I’m proud to join Senator Baldwin in introducing this bill.”

Co-sponsoring the bill are 14 senators, split between Democrats and Republicans, ranging from Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to Orrin Hatch of Utah.

The release states that groups supporting the JUST Act include the World Jewish Restitution Organization, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federations of North America, B’nai B’rith International, HIAS refugee assistance organization, and the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, agreed to June 30, 2009.

Marco Rubio wimps out on town halls. Are we surprised?

As we saw during the last campaign, Marco Rubio can be awfully good at not showing up. His latest no-show has nothing to do with his attendance in the U.S. Senate, though. Now, he doesn’t want to show up at town hall meetings because people might be rude.

“They’re not town halls anymore, and I wish they were because I enjoy that process very much, going back to my time as speaker of the house. I hosted over a hundred idea (meetings) around the state,” he said in an interview with CBS4 in Miami.

“But the problem now is – and it’s all in writing, I’m not making this up – what they want is for me to organize a public forum. They then organize three, four, five, six hundred liberal activists in the two counties or wherever I am in the state.”

No, he isn’t making it up.

He is, however, wimping out.

Are we surprised?

Yes, those forums do offer those pesky Florida liberals a rare opportunity to remind Republicans that a whole lot of people want their representatives to protect health care coverage.

This is not some political talking point, either. For these folks, it’s emotional and personal, so they do heckle, they shout, they boo and they are loud. That bothers Florida’s very junior U.S. senator – although it didn’t bother him in 2010 when he was swept in by the tea party wave that wrote the book on heckling, shouting, booing and doing that at high volume.

As a first-time senate candidate, it was OK to be supported by disruptors. Those rallies took place around the country, organized at the grassroots level through websites like the Tea Party Patriots. The plan was to put the “riot” in patriot.

It worked. Rubio was elected.

Facing angry constituents didn’t stop U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis from showing up recently at multiple Pasco County meetings, nor has it stopped many of Rubio’s house and senate colleagues from facing the 50 percent of the country that doesn’t agree with them.

But not Rubio. Change of heart, I guess, after an opposition group now called Indivisible, which supports Democrats, copied those tea party guerilla tactics. The group has a game plan called “A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.” It’s available on the internet for all to see.

In his interview, Rubio said, “They then, according to the document, they get there early and take up all the front seats. They spread themselves out. They cheer when the questions are asked. They are instructed to boo no matter what answer I give.

“They’re instructed to interrupt me if I go too long and start chanting things. Then, at the end, they’re instructed not to give up their microphone when asked. It’s all in writing in this Indivisible document.”

That’s sort of true, but also sort of not.

Indivisible supporters are indeed told to get there early, sit in the front, spread out. They also are instructed to “be polite but persistent, and demand real answers.”

It adds, “MoCs (members of Congress) are very good at deflecting or dodging question they don’t want to answer. If the MoC dodges, ask a follow-up. If they aren’t giving you real answers, then call them out for it. Other group members around the room should amplify by either booing the congressman or applauding you.”

Rubio is awfully good at deflecting and dodging. He gets into trouble when strays from the talking point. In a friendly town hall, that’s OK. In a hostile setting, he might get exposed (further) as a lightweight or, as then-candidate Donald Trump liked to call him, “Little Marco.”

CBS4 host Jim DeFede started to ask, “So you don’t believe these are real …”

“They’re real people,” Rubio quickly said. “They’re real liberal activists and I respect their right to do it, but it’s not a productive exercise. It’s all designed to have news coverage at night saying, ‘Look at all these angry people screaming at their senator.’”

So instead the story becomes, look how their senator runs and hides.

Yeah, that plays well.

Pam Bondi still a rock star with Florida’s GOP voters, new AIF poll shows

Florida’s top lawmakers and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are struggling with low name identification among likely Republican voters, but that isn’t the case for Attorney General Pam Bondi according to a new poll from statewide business advocate Associated Industries of Florida.

The AIF poll of likely Republican voters obtained by FloridaPolitics.com found that 54 percent approve of the job the second-term Attorney General is doing, while just 12 percent have an unfavorable view and 17 percent said they had no opinion.

Among Florida’s top elected Republicans, Bondi’s ratings only trailed Gov. Rick Scott, who had a net 67 percent approval rating, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who netted 57 percent approval.

Putnam, who is considered an early frontrunner to take over for Scott, scored 38 percent approval from the same crowd, with 3 percent voicing disapproval and 20 percent saying they had no opinion.

Putnam did come out on top in the mock ballot test for the Republican primary for Florida governor with 22 percent support, though 71 percent said they were undecided. The next highest vote-getter was House Speaker Richard Corcoran with 4 percent support.

AIF also tested the waters for the cabinet positions opening up in 2018, though each scenario featured “undecided” winning over 80 percent of the vote.

In other words, “there’s no news here,” notes Ryan Tyson, Vice President of Political Operations for AIF.

The low level of support for Corcoran likely stems from the fact only 44 percent 0f those polled knew who he was. Of those, 16 percent said approved of the job he was doing, while 4 percent disapproved and 24 percent had no opinion.

Senate President Joe Negron and Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala had even lower name ID than the House Speaker, with just 41 percent and 25 percent recognizing their names, respectively.

Still, both enjoyed relative approval from the Republican base: Negron had a plus-11 approval rating and Latvala came in with plus-8.

AIF surveyed 800 likely Republican voters who had voted in at least one of the last three Republican Primaries, but not the presidential preference in 2016. The group said 81 percent of those polled were over 50 years old and 90 percent were white.

GOP leaders get high marks from their Republican base, new Associated Industries of Florida poll shows

Republicans are getting a good report card from Florida voters according to a new poll conducted by Associated Industries of Florida and obtained by FloridaPolitics.com.

AIF found that 71 percent of likely Republican voters think the state is headed in the right direction, and an astounding 81 percent approve of the job President Donald Trump is doing through his first month in the White House.

The Trump numbers are a far cry from the most recent Gallup national poll on his popularity, which showed him with a 40 percent approval rating on Feb. 17.

Naysayers measured in at 20 percent for the direction of the state and 14 percent for Trump’s job approval, leading to a net 51 percent approval and 67 percent approval, respectively.

Survey participants also had no qualms with Gov. Rick Scott, who garnered 81 percent support compared to 14 percent who said he his performance wasn’t up to snuff.

While Scott and Trump are enjoying glowing reviews from likely Republican voters, second-term U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t faring as well.

Though 69 percent of those polled said they thought he was doing a good job, the bulk of those supporters stated that they only “somewhat approved” of the Miami Republican, leaving him with a softer approval rating than Scott or Trump.

AIF surveyed 800 likely Republican voters who had voted in at least one of the last three Republican primaries, but not the presidential preference in 2016. The group said 81 percent of those polled were over 50 years old and 90 percent were white.

Marco Rubio to attend meetings in Europe this week – not in Tampa

While federal workers get Presidents’ Day off, Congress takes off the entire week.

For some lawmakers, that means coming home to host townhall meetings, which for many GOP lawmakers have become contentious affairs.

Others are traveling overseas this week, such as Florida’s U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio.

The recently re-elected Senator is traveling to Europe to speak with officials regarding the U.S. relationship with the European Union, NATO operations and Russian aggression in Europe.

That’s according to Rubio’s Facebook page. The post says that, “Senator Rubio is traveling overseas this week to attend multiple bilateral meetings with heads of state and senior government officials in Germany and France, two countries with upcoming elections who are facing concerns about Russian interference. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Appropriations Committee, and Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Rubio is conducting this official oversight trip to discuss the U.S./E.U. relationship, NATO operations, counter-ISIS activities, foreign assistance programs, and Russian aggression in Europe.”

What that means is that Rubio won’t be attending any townhall events, including one that was created by activists who had hoped he would attend this Wednesday night at the Tampa Letter Carriers Hall.

“Sadly, we have all grown accustom [sic] to our absent Senator,” writes Melissa Gallagher, who created the event on Facebook. She says that the townhall will go on without Rubio.

“The fact his team refuses to even consider him skyping in or connecting with us is beyond disappointing,” she writes.

“As part of the strategy of disruption outlined in their online activist manual, the organizers are deceiving people by falsely advertising this event, which is not connected to us in any way,” responds Rubio spokesman Matt Wolking.

“The protesters – some of whom failed to show up for meetings they scheduled with our staff – continue to fundraise off of it even though we informed them days ago Senator Rubio will not be there,” Wolking says. “We have been fully accessible and responsive to constituents, and our staff has already met with dozens of these liberal activists at our offices across Florida. As their manual reveals, their goal is to flood offices with calls and emails, disrupt our ability to respond, then complain to the press that they aren’t getting a response.”

Organizers had created a GoFundMe page to rent the hall for Wednesday, and as of Monday morning had raised $2,242, short of their $3,000 goal. The original fee was much lower, but Gallagher says that it was increased “after the venue received several calls from police in Tallahassee and Orlando.”

Marco Rubio files bills cracking down on Iran, Russia

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio announced Friday that he is sponsoring a pair of bills to crack down on Iran and Russia.

Rubio, along with Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse and Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue, filed a bill to crack down on Iran’s use of commercial aircraft in support of terrorism.

The Iran Terror-Free Skies Act would require the executive branch to regularly report to Congress on whether Iran has used civilian planes for military purposes, such as transporting weapons or military personnel, to terrorist groups within its borders or abroad.

“As the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, Iran continues to systematically use its commercial airlines to supply the murderous Assad regime in Syria as well as to Hezbollah and other foreign terrorist organizations,” Rubio said. “If America turns a blind eye to the Iranian terror regime’s efforts to destabilize the Middle East and endanger the lives of innocents worldwide, we risk being complicit.”

The Miami Republican also joined up with Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton and Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson on a bill to bring Russia back into compliance with the INF missile treaty.

“Russia’s mounting violations of the INF Treaty, including testing and now brazenly deploying ground-launched cruise missiles with intermediate range, pose grave threats to the United States and our European allies,” Rubio said. “This legislation makes clear that Russia will face real consequences if it continues its dangerous and destabilizing behavior.”

The bill includes provisions to build up missile defense and place intermediate range missile systems within allied countries, among other things.

Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe and Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rodgers are sponsoring the bill’s House companion.

Marco Rubio to chair commission on China

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced Wednesday that he has been appointed chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

The commission was created in 2000 to monitor human rights and legal issues in China and submit an annual report to the president and Congress.

Rubio previously served as chair of the 23-member body, which includes nine senators, nine representatives and five senior administration officials appointed by the president.

“I am honored to continue leading the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and I remain committed to exposing the brutality of the Chinese government and the heroic efforts of brave Chinese dissidents,” Rubio said in a news release.

Rubio said the CECC’s political prisoner database contains more than 1,400 active cases of political and religious prisoners and that “the commission will shine a bright light on these abuses and press the Chinese government to change its behavior.”

Also Wednesday, the second-term Florida senator joined Sens. Bob Menendez, Lisa Murkowski and Amy Klobuchar in reintroducing a bill to create a national registry for firefighters diagnosed with cancer

“Firefighters put their lives on the line each and every time they are called on to protect civilians from dangerous fires, making them susceptible to multiple health complications, including cancer,” the Miami Republican said. “I am proud to support a bill that aims to prevent and protect firefighters from deadly diseases.”

The registry, which failed to pass through the last Congress, would create a database of information submitted by health care providers on cancer incidence rates among firefighters and make that de-identified information available to researchers developing safeguards and safety protocols for firefighters.

In addition to the four senators announcing their support for the bill Wednesday, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act is co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Steve Daines and John McCain, as well as Democrats Ed Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Al Franken, Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Jon Tester.

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