President Obama Archives - Page 4 of 25 - SaintPetersBlog

Bill Nelson seconds Rick Scott’s call for Hermine disaster declaration

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has joined Gov. Rick Scott’s appeal to the Obama administration to declare much of Florida a disaster zone.

“I am writing to urge that you approve the State of Florida’s request for a major disaster declaration related to Hurricane Hermine as soon as possible,” Nelson wrote in a letter to President Obama dated Wednesday.

“The eye of Hurricane Hermine made landfall on Sept. 2, 2016, in northern Florida, but the impacts of the storm affected many counties across the state, including flash flooding far down the western coast of Florida,” Nelson said.

“State and local government officials have led a concerted effort to help their communities recover, but federal assistance is needed. A major disaster declaration from you would provide vital resources to bolster Florida’s response and recovery.”

Scott wrote his letter to Obama Tuesday, noting that Hermine left $36 million in damage in the state.

A presidential disaster declaration would provide federal resources to support recovery efforts, both in individual assistance for families and public assistance to state agencies and local governments.

Thirty-eight counties have declared local state emergencies, 39 opened emergency operations centers and 34 opened shelters, Scott said.

“During the preceding 12 months, the state of Florida experienced repeated emergencies that required the development of significant state resources,” he wrote. “Individually these incidents may not have overwhelmed the ability of the State of Florida to respond. Cumulatively, however, these emergencies significantly impacted the state’s capability to provide financial support following Hurricane Hermine.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, a Democrat whose district includes Tallahassee, also supported a federal disaster declaration.

“I fully support Governor Rick Scott’s request for federal assistance and renew my call on President Obama to approve all available and applicable help for North Florida quickly,” Graham said Tuesday.

Mitch Perry Report for 9.16.16 — What will become of Edward Snowden?

Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” arrives in theaters today, and with it comes a campaign to have the former NSA contractor receive a pardon from the commander in chief.

At a press conference Wednesday, representatives from the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International spoke out in support of getting President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden.

“Cases like Edward Snowden’s are precisely why the presidential pardon power exists,” said Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s executive director, who referred specifically to cases when mitigating circumstances merit forgiveness for a crime.

But comments by the current occupant of the White House and the two people competing to replace him don’t indicate any newfound desire to grant him that pardon. Hillary Clinton has said Snowden shouldn’t be brought home “without facing the music,” while Donald Trump has said, “I think he’s a total traitor and I would deal with him harshly.”

In an op-ed published in the New York Times Thursday, Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch and Salil Shetty with Amnesty International wrote, “The enormous value of Mr. Snowden’s revelations is clear. What was their harm? Scant evidence has been provided for many officials’ ominous statements. Some officials have warned that the terrorism-related activity of certain groups has become harder to monitor, but the most dangerous adversaries have always taken precautions against surveillance, with at least one independent study showing little impact from the Snowden revelations.”

They went on to write that, “what has changed is that since the staggering extent of government surveillance became known, the public has sought greater privacy, and corporations have begun to provide it on widely used platforms. No doubt, among the millions of users of encrypted technologies there are a few who hide criminal activity. But the rest of us just want our privacy back.”

Members of our military, however, say Snowden gave away a lot. In 2014, then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said that “the vast majority of the documents … had nothing to do with exposing government oversight of domestic activities,” but “were related to our military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques, and procedures.”

I loved Oliver Stone’s films from the ’80s like “Salvador,” “Wall Street,” and “Platoon.” Can he still come up with the goods? It’s got a high bar to cross: Laura Poitras’ electrifying documentary on Snowden, “Citizenfour,” won the 2015 Oscar for Best Documentary.

In an interview with USA Today, Stone says the U.S. is doing far more than people know when it comes to cyber-warfare, which makes sense, actually.

“They see the surface of the news — the Russians are attacking us, the Chinese are hacking us — but they never hear we’re hacking them first,” he says. “But when you do this kind of warfare, it comes back to haunt you.”

In other news …

The Tampa City Council has approved red-light cameras in the city for at least another two years.

Councilman Charlie Miranda went off an epic rant about taxpayer support for major league sports franchise stadiums, and other things yesterday.

Patrick Murphy joined nearly all of his House Democratic colleagues (sans Gwen Graham) in opposing a GOP bill preventing any more transfers of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

Dennis Ross co-sponsors bill to prohibit ransom payments to Iran

Last month, the Wall Street Journal first reported that the Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran.

The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran over a long-held dispute over a failed arms deal just before the Shah of Iran lost power in 1979.

After that news broke, White House spokesman Josh Earnest rejected suggestions the money transfer to Iran was ransom or a secret.

Two weeks later, however, the State Department confirmed the U.S. conditioned the release of that cash payment to Iran on the departure of American prisoners from Tehran.

The news outraged Republicans, with some calling for a congressional hearing to discuss the matter further.

Now comes legislation co-sponsored by Polk County Republican Dennis Ross that will prohibit further cash payments to the Iranian government.

“I co-sponsored H.R. 5931 because the president must be held accountable for putting American lives and our national security at risk,” Ross said in a statement on Tuesday. “The $400 million cash ransom the Obama Administration easily handed over to Iran is unsettling and calls into question the president’s actions as they pertain to the ‘no concessions’ policy.”

Congressional Republicans never signed on to the landmark nuclear deal that the U.S. made with the P5 +1 group of world powers last fall, and the report about the $400 million cash made public last month has only angered them further.

“The Obama Administration continues to mislead the American people about this horrible deal, while Iran repeatedly violates the deal with no repercussions,” Ross said. “Not only has Iran been permitted to improve its capability of producing enriched uranium, it also has been allowed to develop advanced uranium centrifuges, deny IAEA inspectors access to its facilities, acquire nuclear technology, and deploy an advanced Russian missile defense system to protect its uranium enrichment facility from airstrikes.”

Ross says that this bill, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce of California, ensures a similar transfer of funds to Iran can’t happen again. “H.R. 5931 makes clear the Obama Administration violated longstanding U.S. policy by releasing prisoners and paying ransom for the return of Americans held hostage by Iran, prohibits cash payments to Iran, and demands transparency on future settlements to ensure they are not used to pay ransom.”

The bill has drawn 44 Republican co-sponsors, and will be brought up before the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

The Senate introduced a similar bill under Florida Sen. Marco Rubio that would prohibit the federal government from paying ransom. It would also stop payments to Iran from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund until Iran returns money it received and pays American victims of Iranian terrorism what they are owed.

Ross is running for re-election to his seat in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, running against Democrat Jim Lange.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.26.16 – Mason-Dixon says the presidential race in Florida is super close

Attention, Florida Democrats: Time to get off you a** if you want Hillary Clinton to win the state in November.

A Mason-Dixon poll shows the Trump-Clinton battle in a virtual tie, with the former secretary of state up by two points, 44 percent to 42 percent.

As has been said a thousand times, Trump cannot win the presidency without winning Florida, but according to this poll 10 days before Labor Day, he could win the Sunshine State in November.

By any stretch, this has been one of the most extraordinary weeks of the presidential campaign to date. Trump’s flip-flop on immigration has been absolutely fascinating to watch (as is seeing his surrogates trying to explain where he’s now at). And Clinton’s speech on the alt-right in Reno yesterday was something I don’t know if we’ve ever heard in a national campaign like this.

“When he was getting his start in business, he was sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black and Latino tenants,” Clinton said. “Their applications would be marked with a ‘C’ — ‘C’ for ‘colored’ — and then rejected. Three years later, the Justice Department took Trump back to court because he hadn’t changed. And the pattern continued through the decades. State regulators fined one of Trump’s casinos for repeatedly removing black dealers from the floor. No wonder the turnover rate for his minority employees was way above average.”

That’s tough stuff.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has a major story today on Saudi Arabia and rigid and fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism. Concurrently, some members of Congress this week have penned a letter to President Obama, calling on him to withdraw his Congressional approval for a $1.15 billion sale of weapons to the Saudis, “until Congress can have a broader debate about American military support for the Saudis,” according to the Times. 

Will Obama listen to them?

In other news..

Ben Diamond and Eric Lynn confronted each other in the waning moments of the radio debate between the two House District 68 Democratic candidates on Thursday.

Tim Canova made history yesterday by announcing he has received more than 200,000 individual contributions in his campaign to defeat Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District next Tuesday. Unfortunately, not a whole lot of them are inside the district, which is why DWS remains the favorite in the race.

More than 86,000 voters have participated in the primary election in Hillsborough County as of Thursday morning.

Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward says his department continues to cite bicyclists less.

A Southern Heritage group is tagging state Rep. Ed Narain with an F-minus grade, but the SD 19 candidate isn’t losing any sleep over it.

Pat Frank campaign ad riles some of those photographed with her

An ad featuring a photo of Hillsborough Clerk of the Courts Pat Frank surrounded by a group of African-Americans in the Florida Sentinel-Bulletin is upsetting some of those photographed. They say that it appears that they support her candidacy, when in fact they say they don’t.

Frank is running for re-election to the clerk’s position, a position she’s held since 2004. She’s facing a primary challenge in fellow Democrat Kevin Beckner in the Aug. 30 primary.

The ad in question ran in a recent edition of Sentinel-Bulletin, the bi-weekly newspaper serving the Tampa Bay Area African-American community. With the exception of Andrew Warren, a Democrat running for state attorney in Hillsborough this fall, everyone else in the photo happens to be black — and in comments on Facebook, a few of those featured in the ad are unhappy about it.

Jeffery Alex James Johnson, wrote, “That picture wasn’t taken for an endorsement. I’m pictured in their (sic) and that wasn’t purpose of the picture.”

Sam Wright Sr. writes, “She wants the community to know that Negroes are supporting her. She should be ashamed to exploit Negroes in that matter!”


Ian Whitney is a spokesman for the Frank campaign. In a statement sent to SPB Tuesday afternoon, he said Frank will replace the photo in the ad with a photo of her with President Obama.

As a school board member, Pat Frank was on the front line of the fight to desegregate Hillsborough County schools. She fought for equal resources for schools in traditionally black neighborhoods. As a legislator, she wrote the law creating mandatory kindergarten and worked tirelessly to fund Florida A&M University. She fought to create Martin Luther King Jr. Day and was a leader in the efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. As Clerk, Pat Frank fought against an attempt to turn probation services over to controversial for-profit corporation that the New York Times said created a perpetual cycle of poverty.
She is proud to have met with this group of influential African-American pastors, hear their concerns and talk about her office. Black pastors have always played a most critical and fundamental role in the fight for civil rights, voting rights, and justice. Even though this meeting took place as a tropical storm made landfall and government offices were closing, she wouldn’t have missed it.
A few other candidates also attended the meeting, and were included in a photo that our campaign specifically took for inclusion in the Florida Sentinel Bulletin. The campaign included the photo to showcase Clerk Frank’s outreach to the African-American community in an ad that also featured the endorsement of Clerk Frank by the Florida Sentinel Bulletin. We did not intend to imply the support of any individual candidates or individuals.”
“We are replacing the photo in this ad with one of Clerk Frank and President Obama, and would like to emphasize that this is not intended to imply that Clerk Frank has been endorsed by the president, though she would be delighted if she were. It does, however, reflect her strong support of the president.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.22.16 — Who’s down with TPP?

Good morning, y’all. Welcome to the last full week of campaigning before your Aug. 30 primary election in the Sunshine State.

Before we get into the news of the day, how was your weekend? I went and saw a couple of good, if somewhat overrated movies (“Come Hell or High Water,” “Don’t Think Twice”), and finished reading an underrated novel (Jay McInerney‘s “Bright, Precious Days”).

I also voted, as the majority of Floridians will do, before next week’s primary election. Not much more to say about that, other than I now have to contact the supervisor of elections to return to being a Non-Party Affiliated voter.

One of the issues Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree on is they don’t like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the regional trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations.

Although a lot of progressives don’t trust Clinton’s conversion on the agreement and fear she’ll turn around and push for it if she’s elected in the fall, the fact of the matter is, the agreement may already be approved before either her or Trump is inaugurated in January.

As the New York Times Jackie Calmes reports, President Obama will be making a big push for Congress to pass the agreement during the lame duck session of Congress, probably in December.

John Kerry, Ash Carter, Michael Mullen, and former GOP Maine Senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen will also be making the rounds to campaign for the TPP.

Will it be enough? Obama will also have surrogates like Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn pushing that the deal will be good for the Tampa Bay and Florida economy.

But with opposition to trade deals being a major tangible issue that both the far-right and far-left can agree on, can POTUS get that last legislative and diplomatic achievement added to his ledger as he closes out his presidency?

In other news …

A poll published yesterday has Debbie Wasserman Schultz leading Tim Canova in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District by 10 percentage points.

After our story last week about the fact that it looked Eric Lynn and Ben Diamond wouldn’t be engaging in a one-on-one debate before the Aug. 30 primary, we offered up the weekly radio show I host as a possible venue — and the candidates have accepted.

HD 60 candidate Jackie Toledo has been talking tough on immigration, despite the actions of her spouse a few years ago.

Kevin Beckner reacted Friday to Mike Deeson‘s report about the Hillsborough PTC pulling their money out of the clerk of the court’s office.

The candidates in the Senate District 19 race met up at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club forum on Friday.

Tim Schock hasn’t said much about Jim Norman‘s “issues” in their Hillsborough County Commission District 6 Republican race — until now.

Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin was all over the Tampa Bay area this weekend making the rounds for her new book on the U.S.- Saudi Arabia relationship. You can read our interview with her here.

Medea Benjamin on her new book examining the U.S.-Saudi Arabia alliance

Although Medea Benjamin has been an activist for nearly four decades, most of the country didn’t come to know her until shortly before the Iraq war, when she infiltrated her way into congressional hearing rooms to shout down people like Donald Rumsfeld to protest the upcoming war.

She’s best known as the co-founder of the anti-war activist group Code Pink, which has a history of infiltrating and briefly disrupting events, including the Senate hearing of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the confirmation for CIA Director John Brennan, and most recently, Donald Trump during his speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Benjamin is bipartisan in her targets. She also heckled President Obama three times during a speech he was giving on military policy in 2013, prompting the president to say, “the voice of that woman is worth paying attention to.”

She’s also the author of a new book, “Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.- Saudi Connection,” and is making several appearances in the Tampa Bay area this weekend to promote it. This reporter (who has known and covered Benjamin since we both lived in San Francisco in the mid 1990s) interviewed her on Thursday afternoon.

MP: Why Saudi Arabia?

MB: Well I realized that neither I, nor my progressive friends, knew anything about Saudi Arabia except that it was a mysterious kingdom that the U.S. was allied with. And the more I looked into it, the more I realized that we’re never going to stop these endless wars in the Middle East, or for that matter, get off the oil consumption, if we don’t confront this issue with Saudi Arabia. And the more I looked into it, the more appalled I became at how repressive this regime is, not only externally because we’ve been to Bahrain and saw how they crushed the Democratic uprising there. We’ve been to Yemen and seen how they’ve been involved in how they’ve created this catastrophe in Yemen, but also learned about how much they repress their own people, and the millions of migrant workers who have really built the desert up into what it is today.

MP: We’ve had a strong relationship with them for decades, transcending presidents and political parties. Should it be such a strong relationship?

MB: It shouldn’t be at all. It’s appalling that it is and it’s appalling that it’s gone on for such a long time, through both Democratic and Republican administrations, and it’s appalling that progressive folks who have been involved in an anti-war movement have not taken on this issue of Saudi Arabia, so it’s appalling on all kinds of levels. And I think especially now when the Saudis are involved in an internal conflict with Yemen, and the U.S. is providing the weapons and the logistical support for it, it’s really a time to say that enough is enough. And just this last week, after the administration announced that it was planning to sell another $1.5 billion worth of weapons, the Saudis go ahead and bomb Doctors Without Borders hospitals, a potato chip factory, a school, a residential neighborhood and how long can we not just allow this to happen but know that the blood is on our hands as Americans because we’re so intimately involved in all of this.

MP: You’re like the Zelig of activists because you’re always there in the mix. What’s it like to be this activist that’s always getting in the faces of the powerful for so many years?

MB:It’s been really fascinating being in Washington D.C., because the first time I went to a hearing I was still living in San Francisco, they (the Bush administration) were going to have Donald Rumsfeld testify about why we were going to go to war in Iraq. And I remember thinking that I thought I had to sneak in as a journalist, in a pants suit and a little pad of paper, carrying a copy of  the Washington Post, because I didn’t even know that these were public hearings, and I got there really early to stand in line and nobody from the public showed up. Nobody was really going to these meetings, and it just amazed me because they were open to us and we weren’t taking advantage of the opportunity to confront these people. So I kind of got hooked on this, going to these hearings. We shut down several hearings. We shut down the hearing with General Petraeus. We shut down the hearing with CIA Director John Brennan and all you need is about 20 people to get into a hearing making a ruckus and they can’t even continue, so it’s been a great education to come from the Bay Area, where we don’t have that reverence for power, especially power that doesn’t deserve that reverence, and are willing to get arrested, willing to confront members of Congress, presidents, secretaries of state, defense ministers, weapons manufacturers, lobbyists for the NRA, any of these people, and then to bring our friends and colleagues in from around the country to join us. It’s created a different culture in Washington (where she’s lived since 2008).

MP: How would you describe America in terms of its social progress in 2016?

MB: We’ve certainly made gains in terms of a lot of social issues, rights for people in the in LGBTQ community, or women’s rights, I’m not denying that there’s been great progress in certain areas, but when it comes to our foreign policy, we have not evolved very much.

If you look at Obama’s foreign policy, it’s very similar to the one of the Bush administration. Nobody has come in and said, ‘Oh my goodness, we have 800 (military) bases around the world, what do we need them for? Let’s start closing them down.’ Or, ‘Oh my goodness, why are we giving taxpayer dollars to these repressive regimes like Egypt or Honduras, let’s just stop doing them.’ So it’s been very much the status quo that benefits the weapons manufacturers, and the military contractors. So I think we have to make a major shift in the way that we interact with the world.

MP: In 2012 you wrote “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control,” which was of the first books to look at the rise of robot warfare. Do you think enough Americans know and/or care what we’re doing overseas with our drone warfare program?

KB: When Code Pink started working on the issue, almost nobody knew about it because the government refused to even talk about it publicly. These were covert operations by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command, and even when groups like the ACLU would take the government to court over the killing of innocent people, the government refused on national security grounds to even discuss the program, so at least that has changed over the years and reinforced our own government to tell us more about what they’re doing. I think unfortunately though, the media rarely gives us news of U.S. drone strikes or lets the the families of innocent victims get a chance to speak in mainstream media, and so people really haven’t developed empathy with the populations that have become the victims of our drone strikes. Because, it’s not just the missiles hit and kill a particular person, the threat of living under these drones that has been a sort of collective punishment for entire swaths of populations in places like Yemen and Pakistan, so not enough people know about it, and not enough people are upset enough about it to do something.

MP: What do you think of how the mainstream media is doing in covering news and politics?

MB:I think the media’s horrendous. I have to look toward alternative media or to overseas media to get any news that I feel has enough substance to it. The U.S. media keeps regurgitating the same issues, over and over and over, like, what did Donald Trump say today? I think it gets very boring and so narrow, so I think the media does us a tremendous disservice. Yet, despite that, it’s amazing how much Bernie Sanders was able to inspire people and build a movement when the media — at least in the beginning — pretty much ignored him, and it’s amazing that despite the lack of media to our issues, we are able to build movements. The Black Lives Matter movement has not only spread across the entire U.S., but it’s become international; and the environmental movement is a strong and ever-growing international movement. So I think that these movements that we create from the grassroots grow up pretty much despite the problems we have of a media that covers the wrong issues in the wrong way.

Medea Benjamin will be making five different appearances in the Tampa Bay area this weekend. You can find her schedule here. On Sunday, she will be speak at Unitarian Universalists in St. Petersburg (100 Mirror Lake Dr. N.) at 1 p.m., and at Inkwood Books in Tampa (216 S. Armenia Ave.) at 3:30 p.m.








Mitch Perry Report for 8.10.16 — Aleppo needs water

I’m sure that after you got yourself up this morning, you might have reached for a cup of coffee, juice or water.

It’s something that we don’t have to think too hard about, usually.

Now let’s go across the globe — to Aleppo, Syria.

The United Nations on Tuesday called for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting in Aleppo to allow for immediate access to repair the electricity and water networks. They report that between 250,000-275,000 people have been trapped in east Aleppo for more than a month following the closure of a local road, the last road into that specific area.

“Since 6 August, Khanasser road, the main access route into west Aleppo has also been cut, bringing the total number of civilians living in de facto fear of besiegement to over two million,” their statement said yesterday.

Yes, I’m referring to the civil war in Syria, now deep into its fifth year, and a war that rages on without any immediate hope in the future. But as the fighting continues, there’s literally 2 million people in Aleppo who can’t get access to fresh drinking water.

This should be unacceptable in 2016. There’s obviously a reason why this war rages on — President Obama has said President Bashar al-Assad must go as a precondition for any settlement talks. But that was before the Islamic State began conquering large swathes of land in Syria. Then there was Russia’s intervention a year ago, supposedly to go after the terrorists. However, it’s hard to tell if they’re there just to go after the group’s who want to bring down Assad.

It’s a total mess, and has been for years. And there’s been little discussion of Syria on the campaign trail.

So the world doesn’t really pay too much attention to it. But today, 2 million people are in need of water in Aleppo.

In other news …

Eric Lynn has a poll out showing him leading Ben Diamond in the HD 68 race by 12 percentage points. But wait, Diamond has his own poll that shows him leading Lynn by 9 points.

The Kevin Beckner campaign accuses Pat Frank of failing women and minorities in the hiring and paying of salaries at the clerk’s office — but Frank fires back, and says Beckner has never hired a person of color in his office.

A Latina activist blasts the Florida Democratic Party for failing to hold to their promise and hire a bilingual communications official.

A sampling of conversations with Hillary Clinton supporters in St. Petersburg shows they fell confident she’ll be able to work with Republicans in Congress is elected in the fall.

The Hillsborough County PTC meets this morning, the first time since Chairman Victor Crist was cleared of an ethics complaint.

Mark Bircher says if David Jolly can’t “get there” in backing Donald Trump for president, Pinellas GOP should back him, and not Jolly, in the name of party unity.

Daniel Webster has another ad up in the CD 11 contest.

The Debbie Wasserman Schultz campaign doesn’t think much of Tim Canova’s complaint with the FEC that she was conspiring against him by using DNC resources.

Mark Bircher says if David Jolly can’t support Donald Trump, Pinellas GOP should back his candidacy in CD 13 primary

All the talk about the David Jolly vs. Charlie Crist battle in Florida’s 13th Congressional District contest ignores the fact that Jolly does have an opponent in the Republican primary later this month.

He’s retired Marine General Mark Bircher, and he says that in the name of party unity, the Pinellas County Republican establishment should rally around his candidacy later this month, unless his opponent sees the light and gets behind Donald Trump‘s candidacy for president.

“We cannot accept divided loyalties when so much is at stake,” Bircher says in a statement. “If Rep. Jolly refuses to endorse Mr. Trump, the Pinellas Republican Party Leadership should throw its full support to the 13th Congressional District House candidate who supports the nominee. If the Party will not support Party unity, then the voters must do so on the ballot.”

Bircher is running for the Republican nomination for Congress for the second time in two-and-a-half years. He finished third behind Jolly and state legislator Kathleen Peters in the special Republican primary election in January of 2014, just a few months after the late C.W. Bill Young died after more than 42 years in office.

“Mr. Trump was not my first choice during the primary, but he is my first choice now,” Bircher says regarding who he will vote for president in November. “Any candidate for Federal office who directly or indirectly supports Mrs. Clinton in her quest to preserve the Obama legacy and and continue to “fundamentally transform” America is unacceptable.  We can rely upon Gov. Crist to promote the Clinton/Obama agenda in the general election; we do not need our Republican candidate to reinforce that effort in our own party primary. The Republic has withstood eight years of deliberately destructive policy; the outcome may be in doubt under four more years of the same.”

Bircher is running an uphill battle to topple Jolly, who originally announced last year that he would not run for reelection to the congressional seat, and instead would attempt to become a U.S. Senator, succeeding Marco Rubio.

However, Rubio changed the political trajectories of several Republicans who were running for Senate when he reentered the race in June. In Jolly’s case, he had just enough time to qualify to run for reelection to his congressional seat.

Jolly has not definitely said that he will not vote for Trump. Instead, he has said that “he is not there yet” in recent months when asked if he could support the Donald in November.

Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chair Nick DiCeglie responded in an email.

“In order for local parties to endorse in the primary a two thirds vote is required. Our last meeting prior to the August 30th Primary took place last night (8/8) and there are no additional meetings prior to the Primary Election for such a vote to take place. The Republican Party of Pinellas County is looking forward to focusing our efforts to defeat Charlie Crist in November.”

He also notes that the Pinellas County Republicans held a straw poll on Sunday with over 220 members and activists casting ballots, and Jolly defeated Bircher, capturing 79 percent of the vote.

The Jolly campaign said the issue was between Bircher and the party, and declined to comment.


Vern Buchanan tells President Obama to stop accepting Syrian refugees

Taking his cue from a warning by FBI Director James Comey of “a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before,” Sarasota area GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan is calling on the White House to put an immediate halt in accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S.

“Terrorists are leaving Syria disguised as refugees and carrying out attacks in the West,” Buchanan wrote in a letter addressed to President Obama on Thursday. “The prudent course of action is to halt all admissions of Syrians into the U.S. until the safety of Americans can be guaranteed.”

In response to the emerging migrant crisis in Europe and the Middle East last summer, Obama ordered his administration last September to dramatically “scale up” the number of Syrian refugees welcomed into the United States by the end of the fiscal year, setting a target of 10,000.

The U.S. admitted more than 2,300 Syrian refugees in June, sending the fiscal year total soaring past the 5,000 mark, the Washington Times reported in late June. According to data from the State Department Refugee Processing Center, a total of 7,751 Syrian refugees have been admitted into the U.S. since the beginning of last October, and nearly 5,000 in the last two months alone.

In his letter, Buchanan is seizing on Comey’s comments before Congress last week that the defeat of ISIS soldiers in Syria and Iraq will likely result in dispersing terrorists elsewhere, including America. “At some point there is going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before.” Comey added, “Not all of the Islamic State killers are going to die on the battlefield.”

Homeland Security head Jeh Johnson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 30 that Washington had “added security checks to the process where they are warranted” and overcome early hurdles, but Buchanan clearly was not placated by that statement.

Read his letter below:

August 4, 2016

The Honorable Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I urge you to immediately stop accepting Syrian refugees as a matter of national security. The chilling prediction by FBI Director James Comey of “a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before” warrants an immediate freeze on Syrian refugees.

Director Comey warned the nation last week that the defeat of ISIS soldiers in Syria and Iraq will likely result in their dispersal elsewhere, including America.

The FBI director’s warning that the collapse of the caliphate will mean increased attacks in Western Europe and the United States mirrors an alarming consensus among intelligence officials.

We are seeing a clear pattern in which a number of recent attacks have been carried out by ISIS terrorists with ties to Syria, including: the July 24 bombing of a music festival in Germany; the July 26 killing of a French priest; and the July 24 murder of a German woman with a machete. Syrian refugees played a part, either as attackers or accomplices, in all three attacks.

In the context of this clear threat, your goal of admitting 10,000 Syrians as a part of a so-called “surge operation” is extremely troubling, particularly given that White House press secretary Josh Earnest recently admitted that the screening process “typically takes 12 to 18 months….the reason for that process is that the safety and security of the U.S. homeland comes first.”

I urge you to work with world leaders to create a safe zone for refugees inside Syria or in a neighboring country. According to data from the Center for Immigration Studies, the U.S. could support the resettlement of 12 refugees in the Middle East for the cost of caring for one refugee in the U.S.

Terrorists are leaving Syria disguised as refugees and carrying out attacks in the West. The prudent course of action is to halt all admissions of Syrians into the U.S. until the safety of Americans can be guaranteed.


Vern Buchanan

Member of Congress

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