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Mitch Perry Report for 11.1.16 — Russian involvement’ in presidential election still a mystery

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Tampa Bay area gets one last, large dose of Bill and Hillary Clinton today.

Hillary makes her first campaign appearance in what used to be considered a crucial bellwether — Pasco County, for an appearance this afternoon at Pasco-Hernando State College.

Bill Clinton, meanwhile, makes his second appearance in the past 14 days in Pinellas County, speaking in South St. Petersburg.

With a week to go before the presidential election wraps up, the most significant national story in the papers this morning is the report in the New York Times that the FBI has been looking into Russia’s possible role into messing with the election. However, “Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.”

So, in a nutshell, the report says there is no collusion between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, as conspiracy-minded Democrats have alleged this summer. However, this story says there may be evidence that Putin is interested in mucking up this major national U.S. election — so those who believe that idea aren’t necessarily being paranoid.

“The most serious part of the FBI’s investigation has focused on the computer hacks that the Obama administration now formally blames on Russia,” Times reporter Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers write. “That investigation also involves numerous officials from the intelligence agencies. Investigators, the officials said, have become increasingly confident, based on the evidence they have uncovered, that Russia’s direct goal is not to support the election of Mr. Trump, as many Democrats have asserted, but rather to disrupt the integrity of the political system and undermine America’s standing in the world more broadly.”

I guess we won’t know what is the deal here until sometime after the election, but it’d be good to get some proof, one way or another of actual Russian involvement. Right?

In an interview with CNN last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed claims his country is interfering in the U.S. presidential election as “ridiculous.”

Lavrov said it was “flattering” that American officials think Russia is meddling in the election, but the accusations were baseless. Vladimir Putin has said he didn’t see why Russia was a “main issue in the election campaign,” and that it was “gratifying but puzzling.”

In other news …

Anti-Amendment 2 groups were expressing fears last week that Halloween could mean marijuana-laced candy, a charge pro-Amendment 2 types labeled yesterday as “scare tactics.”

Bob Graham hasn’t exactly endorsed that many Democrats running for statewide office this fall, so whether Bob Buesing can exploit that endorsement with just a week to go remains unclear.

Florida Democrats are accusing Ross Spano of sexism after he questions his HD 59 Democratic opponent Rena Frazier‘s experience.

HART officials talk about bus service that would run from downtown Tampa, St. Petersburg, and the Carillon area to Tampa International Airport.

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long thinks the Tampa Bay region needs something dramatic to bring it together to act as one when it comes to transportation, as she introduce her proposal to the HART board yesterday.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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