January 17, 2018

Rubio’s push for swift Russia sanctions is latest quiet break from Trump

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@alextdaugherty 

Marco Rubio’s new bill that would swiftly punish Russia for any future election meddling is the latest evidence of a subtle split between the Florida Republican and certain elements of his party who parrot President Donald Trump’s argument that the investigations into Russian meddling amount to a partisan witch hunt.

Rubio recently worked with the liberal Washington, D.C., city council to rename the street in front of the Russian embassy after slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. He continues to assert confidence in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as other Republicans question Mueller’s motives. And his election-meddling bill, co-sponsored with Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen, would give more power to Congress instead of the president when it comes to sanctioning Russia over election interference.

But Rubio’s supporters on Capitol Hill insist that the second-term senator isn’t changing his ideals, and his actions aren’t driven by animus towards the president. Instead, Trump’s attitude towards Russia and the investigations that have already resulted in the indictments of four former Trump campaign officials, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, are making anti-Russia hawks like Rubio more of an outlier within a Trumpian GOP.

“I think he’s true to his values and the values of our Republican Party,” Miami Republican congresswoman and Trump critic Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said. “It’s just now that instead of the Republican Party, it’s the Trump Party. But Marco is a true-blue Republican in the old-fashioned sense of the phrase. Who would think that being wary, suspicious of anti-Russian strongarm tactics would be deemed as outliers?”

For Rubio, the hard talk on Russian meddling goes back to the 2016 election, when he dropped out of the presidential race after losing to Trump in the Florida Republican primary. Rubio said last year that his former campaign staffers were targeted by unknown Russian IP addresses.

“In July 2016, shortly after I announced I’d seek re-election to the U.S. Senate, former members of my presidential campaign team who had access to the internal information of my presidential campaign were targeted by IP addresses with an unknown location within Russia,” Rubio said at a Senate hearing. “That effort was unsuccessful. I do think it’s appropriate to divulge this to the committee, since a lot of this has taken a partisan tone.”

Read more here.

 

January 16, 2018

New Rubio bill would punish Russian meddling in future U.S. elections

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Chris Van Hollen have a message for Moscow: Any interference in future U.S. elections will be met with swift punishment if Congress acts.

The Florida Republican who ran for president in 2016 and the Maryland Democrat will introduce a bill on Tuesday that sets explicit punishments for the Russian government — and other countries — if they meddle in future federal elections and directs the Director of National Intelligence to issue a report on potential election interference within one month of any federal election.

Rubio and Van Hollen’s bill comes as President Donald Trump has characterized two congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election as Democrat-led “witch hunts” and cast doubt on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that has already indicted four former Trump campaign officials, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

“For 11 months, they’ve had this phony cloud over this administration, over our government, and it has hurt our government,” Trump said. “It’s a Democrat hoax that was brought up as an excuse for losing an election.”

But as some Republicans have joined Trump in questioning Mueller’s motives, Rubio has expressed confidence in the special counsel’s investigation and continues to argue that Russian interference is an ongoing threat for future U.S. elections. A 2017 report by the Director of National Intelligence determined that Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary (Hillary) Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

Rubio and Van Hollen’s bill, called the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, is the first bill since the 2016 presidential election that sets specific punishments for the Russian government and other countries that interfere in U.S. political campaigns.

“We cannot be a country where foreign intelligence agencies attempt to influence our political process without consequences,” Rubio said in a statement. “This bill will help to ensure the integrity of our electoral process by using key national security tools to dissuade foreign powers from meddling in our elections.”

The bill, if passed, codifies specific penalties for the Russians that must implemented within 10 days if the Director of National Intelligence determines that interference took place.

Read more here.

November 06, 2017

Former DNC chairwoman blasts Wasserman Schultz’s leadership in new book

Debbie Wasserman Schultz 3

 

@alextdaugherty 

Donna Brazile isn’t a fan of tropical pink-painted walls, apparently.

The former Democratic National Committee chairwoman has spent the past five days tearing into Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s DNC leadership and organizational skills ahead of the release of her new book, “Hacks,” on Tuesday, one year after Donald Trump’s victory.

Brazile blasted the Weston Democrat’s choice to paint the walls of her DNC office tropical pink and a host of perks associated with the leadership role, like a Chevrolet Tahoe fully staffed with a personal entourage — including an assistant known as a “body woman” — according to an advance copy of Brazile’s book obtained by the Washington Post.

According to Brazile, the DNC was dependent on Hillary Clinton’s campaign cash for survival and Wasserman Schultz was more than willing to let the Clinton campaign pay most of the DNC’s debt in exchange for a measure of control within the party organization, which is supposed to remain an impartial umbrella organization for all Democratic presidential candidates.

Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination, repeatedly charged that the DNC under Wasserman Schultz was “rigged” in favor of Clinton.

“Debbie was not a good manager,” Brazile said in a book excerpt published by Politico. “She hadn’t been very interested in controlling the party —she let Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn do as it desired so she didn’t have to inform the party officers how bad the situation was.”

Wasserman Schultz declined to address the specific criticisms levied by Brazile in an emailed statement.

“It was a tremendous honor to be asked by President Obama to serve as chair of the DNC,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I am proud of the work our team did to support Democrats up and down the ballot in the 2016 election and to re-elect the President in 2012. With Donald Trump in the White House, Democrats must stay focused on enacting a progressive agenda to protect our citizens, our values and our democracy and remain united towards our goal of electing Democratic congressional majorities in 2018.”

Read more here.

October 03, 2017

Miami politicians received donations from the National Rifle Association in 2016

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty 

Three of the four Republicans who represent Miami-Dade County in Washington received at least $2,000 from the National Rifle Association during the 2016 campaign, according to campaign finance records from the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Sen. Marco Rubio, who was in the midst of a reelection campaign against former Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, received $9,900 during the 2016 campaign. That total was the largest amount the NRA gave to any Florida lawmaker in Congress. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who won an expensive reelection bid against former Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, received $2,500 while Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart received $2,000.

Diaz-Balart is also the single largest recipient of NRA cash among Floridians in Congress since 1998, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. Diaz-Balart has received $26,450, according to the Post. 

The National Rifle Association is facing pressure from Democrats and anti-gun activists in the wake of a mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 59 people dead and over 500 people injured after a lone gunman fired on an outdoor concert from a high-rise hotel.

An NRA-backed bill that would make it easier to obtain gun silencers is facing fresh opposition after law enforcement officers in Las Vegas said that tracking the sounds of the shooting allowed them to find the gunman faster. None of the Miami lawmakers are cosponsors on that bill. 

Critics of the nation's largest gun lobby argue that the NRA blocks sensible measures in Congress that would reduce the chances of a mass shooting. In the 2016 cycle, the NRA contributed $839,215 to federal candidates nationwide and the Post reports that the NRA gave over $3.5 million to members of Congress since 1998. 

The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Representatives for Rubio, Curbelo and Diaz-Balart's campaigns did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

August 29, 2017

Fact-checking Marco Rubio's heckler about oil and gas campaign donations

RubioAP

@amysherman1

A college student and climate activist interrupted U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio during a recent speech to question Rubio's ties to the energy industry.

September Porras, a Swarthmore college student who is a member of the Sunrise Movement, a national group of climate change activists, challenged Rubio's links to fossil fuels at the Seminole County GOP fundraiser held at a hotel in Altamonte Springs on Aug. 22.

Here is a partial transcript of the exchange:

Porras: "Senator, if you really care about young Americans, why did you take three-quarters of a million dollars from fossil fuel executives in your last Senate election?"

Rubio: "I’m so glad I live in America where she can say that, in a lot of countries you go to jail, I am grateful that I live in America where ... (applause drowns out a few words) ... I don’t have a problem with protesters..."

Porras: "I’m not a protester, I just want to know why you aren’t answering our questions."

Rubio: "I don’t have a problem with hecklers. I don’t have a problem with any of that. You know why? Because one of the issues I am working on now involves nations where that’s not possible," a reference to his work related to U.S. policy on Cuba and Venezuela. "I am grateful that I live in a nation where people can disagree, I am grateful that I live in a nation where people get to vote every two to four years. I am grateful that I live in a place where people can speak their minds and they can settle their differences at a ballot box."

Rubio then made a call for the United States to achieve energy independence:

"I believe as a cornerstone of allowing us to succeed economically we need to be able to power a 21st century economy, and I believe technological advances are making that energy more efficient and cleaner than ever before. I absolutely believe that America needs to be energy independent. We are crazy as a nation if we don’t utilize all of the resources that God’s blessed this great land with and I will continue to be a strong supporter of that."

The part of the exchange we will fact-check is whether Rubio took three-quarters of a million dollars from fossil fuel executives during his 2016 Senate bid. 

More here from PolitiFact Florida.

August 25, 2017

Federal judge dismisses DNC fraud lawsuit against Debbie Wasserman Schultz

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@alextdaugherty 

A South Florida federal judge threw out a lawsuit on Friday that alleged Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee committed fraud after leaked emails showed former DNC staffers discussing ways to hurt Bernie Sanders' campaign for president.

Federal judge William Bloch stated in an order that even if the allegations are true, the court cannot find an injury to supporters of Sanders from the DNC or Wasserman Schultz "that is traceable to the DNC and its former chair’s conduct" so the lawsuit cannot be tested in court. 

"Plaintiffs have not presented a live case or controversy and the Court must dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction," the order said. 

Wasserman Schultz left her post as DNC chair in August 2016 after leaked emails from Wikileaks riled supporters of Sanders, who lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. She then defeated law professor Tim Canova, who argued the DNC had rigged the primary in favor of Clinton. Canova is challenging Wasserman Schultz again in 2018 after losing by 13 percentage points in the 2016 Democratic primary.  

August 24, 2017

Could Daisy Baez lose her House seat because of where her house is?

Daisy Baez@MaryEllenKlas

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has created a special committee to determine whether freshman Miami state Rep. Daisy Baez should be sanctioned for potentially violating a state law that requires her to reside in her district.

The Miami Herald reported in May that it appeared that Baez, a Democrat, does not reside in House District 114 that she represents but instead lives in a Coral Gables house about half a mile away. Florida requires lawmakers to live and vote in the districts they represent by Election Day.

Before Baez was elected on Nov. 8 of last year she changed her voter-registration address to a Coral Gables apartment within the District 114 boundaries, election records show.

Reached at the property in May, which is located in House District 112, Baez told the Herald: “I have kept this home, and I have a rental. I am renovating this house to put it on the market.”

House Chairman of the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, wrote in a letter to Corcoran Tuesday that a complaint was received by the Florida Commission on Ethics and referred to the House. He said the evidence appears to “support a finding of probable cause” and urged him to create the subcommittee. Story here. 

August 09, 2017

Seth Rich murder: Separating fact from speculation

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via @jonzgreenberg

People who work in politics and suffer violent death are not often left in peace by conspiracy theorists. These aides and staffers don’t simply die, the theories go -- they die for a reason.

The story of the 2016 shooting death of Democratic party worker Seth Rich has followed that pattern, with one important difference. A recent lawsuit alleges that Fox News and the Trump administration fueled an unsubstantiated narrative that Rich was the source of hacked Democratic National Committee emails that showed up on WikiLeaks.

The suit’s message is that both Fox News and the White House used the Rich story in an effort to neutralize the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was behind the stolen emails.

If true, this would raise serious questions about the role of the media and the government in spreading fake news.

But what do we really know at this point, and how much insight does the lawsuit really offer?  We set out to separate the facts from the speculation.

Keep reading Jon Greenberg's report from PolitiFact.

July 28, 2017

Florida fulfills request for voter data by Trump election commission

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@amysherman1

Florida provided voter-roll data to President Donald Trump’s election-fraud commission Friday despite a lawsuit by the ACLU of Florida attempting to prevent the state from providing the information.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner complied with the request by the commission after a federal judge in Washington D.C. cleared the way Monday for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to resume its effort to collect voter data from all states. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected a request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center to block the data collection.

“Today the Department of State pursuant to Florida law fulfilled the public records request that we received from the Presidential Advisory Commission,” said Sarah Revell, Detzner’s spokeswoman. “As we have said all along, we will follow Florida law and will only submit information that is already available and regularly provided to anyone who requests it.”

Keep reading here.

Broward elections supervisor to testify in federal voter roll lawsuit filed by conservative group in Miami

Snipescourt

@amysherman1

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is expected to testify Monday in a lawsuit that alleges she has failed to adequately purge voter rolls of ineligible voters including those who have died.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the conservative American Civil Rights Union in federal court in 2016. (Hat tip to the Sun Sentinel about Snipes' upcoming testimony.)

The ACRU is being represented by the Public Interest Legal Foundation which has filed similar lawsuits in other states including North Carolina, Virginia and Texas. The president and general counsel of the foundation, J. Christian Adams, is a member of President Donald Trump's commission on voter integrity which has sought to collect voter roll data from all of the states. Trump's allegations about widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election have repeatedly been debunked by PolitiFact, a Miami Herald news partner.

The complaint filed against Snipes alleges that she has violated federal law by failing to conduct reasonable voter list maintenance for federal elections. It does not allege that ineligible voters cast ballots. The lawsuit seeks that a judge order her to make improvements in handling list maintenance.

The complaint states that Broward's voter rolls have "either more total registrants than eligible voting-age citizens or, at best, an implausibly high number of registrants," according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Election Assistance Commission.

At the time of the 2014 general election, approximately 103 percent of the citizens of voting age were registered to vote, the complaint states.

Among actions the plaintiffs seek is for Snipes to request jury recusal forms from the clerk of courts to determine if anyone who has declared themselves a non-citizen has registered to vote. (Florida's controversial attempt to purge non-citizens from the voter rolls before the 2012 election led to about 85 being removed statewide.)

Snipes disputed the allegations in a letter she wrote to ACRU in February 2016. Snipes wrote that Broward "adheres strictly" to the state's guidelines about voter list maintenance. Court records show Broward removed about 240,000 voters between 2014 and 2016.

"At no time in my tenure, which began in November 2003, has the number of registered voters outnumbered the live persons living in Broward County," she wrote.

Before filing the suit, in January 2016 the plaintiffs sent letters raising concerns about voter roll maintenance to multiple Florida counties in addition to Broward including Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, Clay, Flagler and Santa Rosa. However, a lawsuit was only filed against Broward County. 

When asked why the plaintiffs ultimately only sued Broward, a spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation pointed to Adams's opening statement in which he said that Snipes was unwilling to "engage in substantive discussions -- essentially saying all counties in Florida who received a letter from the ACRU must be involved in those discussions."

Broward has about 1.2 million voters and has the highest number of registered Democrats -- about 600,000 -- in the state. Snipes, a Democrat, was first appointed to fill a vacancy in 2003 by then Gov. Jeb Bush and has subsequently won elections.

The trial began July 25th and is being presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom. Burnadette Norris-Weeks is representing Snipes.

A spokesman for the plaintiffs said that Snipes is expected to begin testifying at 9 a.m. Monday.

Miami Herald photo of Brenda Snipes testifying in a separate matter pertaining to ballots in 2016.