June 15, 2016

President Obama (finally) calls Gov. Rick Scott

@ByKristenMClark

Florida Gov. Rick Scott finally got the call he's been waiting for three days to get.

President Barack Obama called the governor at 12:40 p.m., according to a revised public schedule Scott's office released just before 3 this afternoon.

It's unclear how long the call lasted. Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in an email to the Herald/Times: "The president called to offer his condolences. Governor Scott reiterated his request for the emergency declaration requested on Monday."

No details were immediately available about the length of the call or what the two discussed.

During cable news interviews the past several days, Scott and top members of his administration -- including fellow Republicans, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera -- have pointedly mentioned the fact that Obama hadn't called Scott in the wake of Sunday's shooting massacre in Orlando.

Scott's office issued similar after-the-fact, revised public schedules for the governor this week to reflect that he had been called by both former President George W. Bush and senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Notably, the advisory from Scott's office this afternoon came 90 minutes after Scott made himself available to the media at a press conference -- in which local and state officials offered an update into the investigation of Sunday's attack.

Scott spoke during the press conference and also took questions from reporters, but he didn't let on then that he'd spoken with Obama an hour earlier.

Obama will be in Orlando on Thursday to meet with victims' families. While there, he's also expected to attend a prayer vigil at the Amway Center.

Scott plans to greet Obama on the tarmac when Air Force One lands in Orlando.

Obama to attend prayer vigil at the Amway Center in Orlando Thursday

ObamaPresident Barack Obama will attend a vigil at the Amway Center in Orlando Thursday as part of his trip to pay respects to the victims of Sunday's nightclub shooting and to stand in solidarity with the community, Orlando officials told the Herald/Times.

The White House has not provided details about the trip yet but the president is expected to also visit other venues before he leaves as scheduled at 5:30 p.m., one source said.

"The president will be here tomorrow,'' said Mayor Buddy Dyer at a press conference early Wednesday. "I was in touch with the president and will be in touch with the White House in the last several days. He indicated he would like to come visit and comfort and show support for Orlando and the victims but did not want to get in the way. Obviously, a presidential visit comes with a lot of security and things you have to do so we decided this Thursday to get past the initial stages of this."

Dyer said Obama will be here "through the course of the day" and said the details of the locations he will visit would be released later today. 

Obama canceled what was to be his first campaign event with presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton Wednesday after the shooter killed 49 and wounded 53 before being killed by police. 

 

The purpose of Obama's visit is "to pay his respects to victims' families and to stand in solidarity with the community as they embark on their recovery," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said when the trip was announced Monday.

Gov. Rick Scott will greet President Obama in Orlando

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@ByKristenMClark

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is planning to be on the tarmac as Air Force One lands in Orlando on Thursday -- when President Barack Obama is expected to visit with victims' families from Sunday's shooting massacre at Pulse nightclub.

Scott and Obama have not yet spoken directly in the three days since the shooting -- magnifying ongoing tension between the two -- but Scott's spokeswoman Jackie Schutz confirmed to the Herald/Times late Tuesday that "yes, the governor will be on the tarmac" for Obama's arrival.

It's unclear yet whether any public events will be held during Obama's trip or whether Obama and Scott will have time to talk privately, particularly about Scott's request for a federal emergency declaration for Orlando. The Florida Times-Union reported Scott's ask is unprecedented after a mass shooting.

The Orlando tragedy is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, with 50 people dead (including the shooter Omar Mateen) and 53 injured.

The purpose of Obama's visit is "to pay his respects to victims' families and to stand in solidarity with the community as they embark on their recovery," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said when the trip was announced Monday.

Photo credit: U.S. President Barack Obama is welcomed by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Florida Governor Rick Scott, as he arrives at MIA with Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, for a town hall meeting on immigration at Florida International University on Wednesday February 25, 2015. Pedro Portal / El Nuevo Herald

June 14, 2016

White House: 'Hopefully' President Obama, Gov. Rick Scott will talk Thursday

@ByKristenMClark

While President Barack Obama and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have yet to speak directly after the Orlando shooting massacre, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters earlier today that "hopefully" the president and governor will meet up when Obama is in Orlando on Thursday.

Scott pointedly noted this morning on Fox News that he's had phone calls from Donald Trump and former President George W. Bush -- but his communication with the White House has been limited to a Monday night phone call with senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Asked today if Obama has plans to reach out to Scott, Earnest responded:

Well, first of all, the President has had the opportunity to speak with Buddy Dyer, who is the mayor of Orlando.  Other senior White House officials have been in touch with Governor Scott directly, and there have been a number of conversations between Obama administration officials and their counterparts in Florida to ensure that we are effectively coordinating the efforts of federal authorities with state and local authorities as well.

So that is an important principle here, to make sure that all our efforts are concentrated on investigating this situation, getting to the bottom of it, but also standing in solidarity with a community that's grieving.  And, as we announced last night, the President will be traveling to Orlando on Thursday.  And, as we always do, we will invite the governor to be a part of the President's arrival.  And hopefully the President will have the opportunity to see Governor Scott there.

When asked if Scott had plans to meet with Obama on Thursday or if he would greet the president on the tarmac when Air Force One lands, Scott's spokeswoman Jackie Schutz told the Herald/Times in an email this afternoon: "No details yet." 

Gov. Rick Scott says President Obama hasn't called him

Gov. Rick Scott wants a call from President Obama. Appearing on Fox & Friends this morning:

On whether President Obama has reached out to him since the shooting:

“No. He has not called, a staffer’s called but no, he’s not called. Look, the second amendment didn't kill anybody; evil, radical Islam, ISIS, they killed. We have got to start standing up for this country. This is our country. We have to say, we’re gonna vet people before they come into our country. If you disagree with what with what our country believes in, why in the living daylights are you allowed in our country? We have 49 people dead. Dead. Murdered, right here. 43 people in the hospital. I was at the hospital last night - still having surgeries. They're not sure they're going to live. When do we stop this?”

On his call with former President George W. Bush following the shooting:

“Well he said he and Laura were praying for us and anything he could do he’d love to be helpful.”

On his call with presumptive GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump regarding the shooting:

“He called. He called to just ask how I was doing, say you know like everybody else is praying for us.”On whether he will be given background information on any Syrian refugees coming to Florida:

“After the Paris attacks I was on a call with the White House and I said, will you share vetting information from anybody that comes into our state - you're going to send to my state and they said no.”

“The White House said they will not share that information with the Florida law enforcement. They said, oh, that -- those people have privacy rights. What about our security rights? The  security and making sure if you live in my state, you’re gonna be safe. I’m responsible for the safety of the people in my state. I’m fed up with the fact that we’re not destroying ISIS. We’re not vetting these people; we’re not taking care of our own citizens.”

On the importance of naming the enemy:

“Here's the deal. If not now, when are we going to take this seriously? This is an attack on Orlando, a gay nightclub, it’s an attack on gays, an attack on Hispanics and our country. When are we going to say enough is enough and say we are going to absolutely destroy ISIS, we're going to stop the evil of radical Islam. We’ve got to at some point, is 49 enough? How many more can there be?”

On meeting with the families of victims:

“I met with a mom that knew her son bled to death. Somebody in Pulse, the gay nightclub, was there when he bled to death. She believes her son was a hero. I talked to a dad, who didn’t want to talk about his son that he lost; he said this has to stop. We have to think about how we're going to share information, how we're going to destroy ISIS. I mean, the stories – I talked to a family who thought their son was dead and just found out he was alive. I talked to a young man that has three gunshot wounds in his back and he just feels so lucky and his family that he’s alive.”

- Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times

President Obama will visit Orlando Thursday

President Barack Obama will visit Orlando Thursday to pay his respect to victims' families and stand in solidarity with the community, his spokesman said.

No further details about his trip have been released yet.

Gov. Rick Scott hasn't spoken directly with Obama and has no additional details about his trip.

"The only president who has reached out is George W Bush," Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said. "Last night he spoke with Valerie Jarrett in the White House." 
 
Jarrett is a senior adviser to Obama. The president said at the White House Sunday that he had spoken to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Fifty people were killed and 53 injured in a shooting massacre at Pulse nightclub Saturday night.

June 13, 2016

Orlando shooting: Gov. Rick Scott requests federal emergency declaration

@ByKristenMClark

Following Sunday's deadly nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida Gov. Rick Scott this morning requested that President Barack Obama issue an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act "so that the full resources of the federal government can be made available for all those impacted by this horrific massacre."

"Yesterday’s terror attack was an attack on our state and entire nation," Scott said in a statement.

"I have remained in constant communication with federal, state and local law enforcement. I have spoken with our hospitals who are caring for those who are wounded and recovering. I have also been in contact with some of the victims’ families to let them know we are grieving with them and will be there for them every step of the way," Scott said. "Our state is mourning, but the Orlando community is strong. We are all coming together, and we will get through this together. I ask every American to continue to pray for our state and nation and all those affected by this terror attack."

Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera added: "We are devastated, angry and disgusted by the horrifying act of domestic terrorism that took place here in our state. I have been on the ground in Orlando, and the sense of community and love we see here is proof that we are a resilient people. We as Americans have shown and will continue to show that we cannot and will not be intimidated into changing our way of life by evil. The State of Florida has offered all resources available, and will continue to be in constant contact with all agencies involved. Our prayers are with those and their families devastated by last night’s act of terror, and we will be doing everything possible to support."

In a two-page letter to the White House and FEMA, Scott specifically requested emergency assistance in the form of "provision of health and safety measures" and "management, control and reduction of immediate threats to public health and safety."

Read the request here.

June 12, 2016

President Barack Obama's comments on the Orlando shooting

Here are President Barack Obama's comments about the Orlando shooting:

Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder -- a horrific massacre -- of dozens of innocent people.  We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts.  We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city.  Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate.  And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.

I just finished a meeting with FBI Director Comey and my homeland security and national security advisors.  The FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation, in partnership with local law enforcement.  I’ve directed that the full resources of the federal government be made available for this investigation. 

We are still learning all the facts.  This is an open investigation.  We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer.  The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism.  And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what -- if any -- inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups.  What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred.  Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.

This morning I spoke with my good friend, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and I conveyed the condolences of the entire American people.  This could have been any one of our communities.  So I told Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need -- they are going to get it.  As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow and for all the days to come.

We also express our profound gratitude to all the police and first responders who rushed into harm’s way.  Their courage and professionalism saved lives, and kept the carnage from being even worse.  It’s the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement professionals make every single day for all of us, and we can never thank them enough.

This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends -- our fellow Americans -- who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live.  The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub -- it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights. 

So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American -- regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation -- is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.  And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.

Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history.  The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle.  This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub.  And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be.  And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

In the coming hours and days, we’ll learn about the victims of this tragedy.  Their names.  Their faces.  Who they were.  The joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world.  Say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families -- that God give them the strength to bear the unbearable.  And that He give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change.  We need to demonstrate that we are defined more -- as a country -- by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us.

As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts -- friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives.  In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another.  We will not give in to fear or turn against each other.  Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.    

May God bless the Americans we lost this morning.  May He comfort their families.  May God continue to watch over this country that we love.  Thank you.

June 03, 2016

Obama to Democrats: 'I want us to run scared'

Obama (4)

@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama might have thought that, by this point, Democrats would have already settled on a nominee to try to follow him into the White House. That way, Obama would be free to traverse the country to defend his legacy and support his preferred successor.

Instead, it’s the first week of June, and Hillary Clinton is still fending off Bernie Sanders, at least until Tuesday, when she’s expected to reach the magic number of delegates to make her the party’s choice.

So when Obama traveled to Miami on Friday to raise money for Democrats, he couldn’t devote himself to bragging about a specific presidential candidate who will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

What he did instead was boast about his own record, particularly on the economy.

“If what you’re deeply concerned about is the state of the middle class and the ability of people to work hard and get ahead and pass on opportunities to your kids and your grand-kids — if that’s what you’re concerned about, then this election shouldn’t be close,” Obama said at a fundraiser held at the Coconut Grove home of attorney Robert Rubenstein.

Republicans, he continued, have not offered a “coherent economic theory” but rather rhetoric that “is feeding resentments.”

“So being able to say that it’s immigrants or it’s gays or it’s somebody that is taking something away from you — that’s the essence of the message that the Republican nominee is delivering, and frankly has been the message that’s been delivered by this Republican Congress for too long,” he said. “And it’s divisive, and it’s factually wrong.”

More here.

Photo credit: Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

In Miami, Obama praises Wasserman Schultz

@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama gave a shout-out in Miami on Friday to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who faces a contested primary election.

Wasserman Schultz is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, which hosted Obama for a fundraiser at the Coconut Grove home of attorney Robert Rubenstein. Her opponent, Tim Canova, has been endorsed by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Obama described Wasserman Schultz as "somebody who I don't know how she does it, because she's everywhere all the time, non-stop, and she's a mom and a wife and has been just incredibly supportive of my agenda."

"She's taken tough votes when they're the right thing to do, and she's somebody who I have counted on consistently," Obama said. "She's had my back. I want to make sure we have her back."

The about 90 donors gathered at the dinner gave her a standing ovation.

Obama also gave shout-outs to several other attendees, including former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now running for Congress in St. Petersbur ("a great friend," Obama said). And he praised a candidate who wasn't there: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter. Earlier Friday, Obama attended a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser for Murphy on Miami Beach.

"I think he's going to be outstanding in the United States Senate," Obama said.

Photo credit: Andrew Harnik, Associated Press