October 14, 2016

Obama to campaign for Hillary Clinton Oct. 20



President Barack Obama will campaign for Hillary Clinton in South Florida Thursday one day after her final debate with Donald Trump, according to Clinton's campaign.

In addition to the political event, Obama will give a speech about the Affordable Care Act at Miami Dade College. He had initially planned to deliver those remark in Tampa, but the appearance was postponed due to Hurricane Matthew. 

The Clinton campaign has not yet announced the location of the rally for Clinton. The storm had also forced Obama to postpone a rally earlier this month at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens.

Obama will appear days before voters in Miami-Dade and Broward counties start casting ballots at early voting sites Oct. 24. Voting by mail is already underway.

The public can RSVP to the Clinton rally here.


Rubio slams latest Cuba policy changes

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio continues to watch President Obama peel back decades of policy toward Cuba and today blasted new executive actions that will allow travelers to bring back as much Cuban run and cigars as they want (for personal use) and promotes more medical research, among other changes.


"The Obama Administration is making more concessions to the Castro regime, and the United States is getting nothing in return,” Rubio said. “Cash makes the Castro regime's grip on power stronger, its repression harsher and its exportation of misery throughout the hemisphere, especially Venezuela, easier‎. The Obama Administration, in collusion with American companies, is now responsible for essentially bankrolling a communist dictatorship which works each day to undermine America's security and national interests. By encouraging U.S. companies to do business with Cuban military-owned entities, the Obama Administration is giving them an open invitation to violate existing U.S. law.”

The sweeping changes toward Cuba come as politics at home have shifted as well. Hard line Cuban Americans are being replaced with a younger generation that is supportive of change and is voting more Democratic. That increasingly isolates Rubio, 45, whose outrage hasn’t resonated on Capitol Hill.

"After two years of President Obama's Cuba policy, the Castro regime has made out like bandits and received numerous concessions from the U.S. without lifting a finger to return the fugitives it is harboring from American justice, pay Americans for their stolen property, or allow the Cuban people to exercise their God-given freedoms. Today's announcement reaffirms the fact that President Obama's Cuba policy puts the Castro regime's interests first, profits ahead of America's national security, and the Cuban people's rights and dignity dead last."

Obama: "Challenges remain – and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights – but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values. The progress of the last two years, bolstered by today's action, should remind the world of what's possible when we look to the future together."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

October 12, 2016

Former Sen. Bob Graham praises new law allowing 9/11 victims' families to sue Saudi government

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Former Sen. Bob Graham played a major role in compelling the long-delayed release three months ago of a classified document showing possible ties between Saudi officials and some of the 9/11 hijackers.

Now the Floridian, who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee when the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks killed almost 3,000 people, is hailing congressional passage and veto override of a new law allowing the victims' families to sue the Saudi government for alleged complicity.

"Several positive things are going to happen now," Graham told the Miami Herald. "The victims' families will have an opportunity for justice. And Saudi Arabia will be disabused of any idea that it has immunity from responsibility for its role in 9/11."

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. Several of them lived in Sarasota before the attacks and, while living there, had contacts with high-ranking Saudi officials. They also left the United States shortly before the attacks.

Graham said that even when he was head of the Senate Intelligence Committee and held a high security clearance, the U.S. government withheld information about the Saudis' ties to 9/11 from him and other members of Congress.

"But from what I know today, there is ample evidence that 9/11 would not have happened but for the assistance provided by Saudi Arabia," Graham said. "The results of that assistance was (nearly) 3,000 persons murdered, 90 percent of them Americans. And a new wave of terrorism with Saudi financial and operational support has beset the world."

The House and the Senate, by overwhelming margins in both chambers, voted last month to override President Barack Obama's veto of the bill permitting lawsuits against Saudi Arabia.

Obama said such lawsuits would expose the U.S. government to legal challenges against it for actions abroad by American armed forces. CIA Director John Brennan said lawsuits against Saudi Arabia would threaten U.S. national security.

After the Senate voted 97-1 to override Obama's veto of the measure, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest criticized the move as "the most embarrassing thing the Senate has done since 1983," when it had overwhelmingly rejected a veto by President Ronald Reagan.

That override, however, involved a much less consequential land dispute between the government and six retired people.

Earnest last week said the law will force judges to determine whether a government sponsors terrorism, a decision properly left to the president, the State Department and U.S. national security agencies. 

"That was a piece of legislation and now a law that sought to target Saudi Arabia, a country that has not been designated a state sponsor of terrorism," Earnest said. "It does open up a scenario where you have judges at a variety of levels and a variety of different courtrooms, reaching different conclusions about whether or not another country is complicit in sponsoring terrorism.  That's not an effective way for us to confront state sponsors of terror."

The Saudi government bitterly criticized the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, called JASTA, targeting Riyadh.

"The erosion of sovereign immunity will have a negative impact on all nations, including the United States," the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.

But a 9/11 victims advocacy group called September 11th Advocates hailed the new law.

"JASTA will keep Americans safe from terrorists and terrorist funders like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by setting a strong deterrent in holding the Kingdom accountable for its funding and logistical support of terrorist group," the group said Tuesday.

Despite Saudi claims since 9/11 that it is going after radical Islamic citizens, Graham said the changes have been minor.

"What I don't think they've changed is their Wahhabist commitment to the extreme form of Islam, which has served as the primary motivation for thousands of people to adopt jihad as their life goal," he said.

Graham, who retired from the Senate in January 2005 after three terms, said the Obama administration and that of President George W. Bush likely could have prevented Congress from allowing suits against Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. government should have released more information about possible Saudi ties to 9/11, Graham said, and it could have negotiated a settlement enabling the Saudi government to pay victims of the tragedy.

As an example, Graham cited the 2008 deal in which Libya agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the families of 270 people killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 two decades earlier, in exchange for the dropping of U.S. sanctions.

"It was self-inflicted," Graham said. "The Bush and Obama administrations could have avoided JASTA if they had negotiated with Saudi Arabia through diplomatic channels and if they had voluntarily made more information available about responsibility for 9/11."

Photo credit: Tim Chapman, Miami Herald








October 10, 2016

Congress more stingy on providing disaster relief than it once was


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The final damage tally from Hurricane Matthew across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas isn't yet known, but it’s certain those states will ask Congress for billions in disaster aid.

President Barack Obama, after speaking with their governors, suggested that he’ll be seeking emergency funds for damage from Matthew and earlier storms when lawmakers convene after the Nov. 8 election, and Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio said Florida was certain to seek assistance.

“While the state has yet to commence an assessment of damage due to unsafe conditions remaining in many areas, we must be prepared for the long road of recovery ahead,” Rubio wrote Friday in a letter backing up a request from Scott that Obama declare Matthew a “major disaster” for his state, a designation that would allow it to seek more emergency aid from Washington.

For more, read here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, El Nuevo Herald


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article106789687.html#storylink=cpy


October 09, 2016

President Obama signs new disaster declaration for Hurricane Matthew's impact in Florida


@ByKristenMClark & @JeremySWallace

President Barack Obama signed a new disaster declaration for Florida on Saturday, freeing up additional federal funding and resources to help with clean-up and recovery efforts after Hurricane Matthew.

The White House announced Obama's act early Sunday morning.

While Obama already granted a preliminary disaster declaration before the storm, a second one after the storm is required to trigger post-storm recovery funding.

The new declaration makes available federal funding to state and eligible local governments and certain non-profits on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in eight Florida counties. Those counties span the east coast from the Treasure Coast to northeast Florida -- areas which felt the brunt of Matthew in the state: Brevard, Duval, Flagler, Indian River, Nassau, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia.

More here.


Photo credit: Kevin Dietsch, Bloomberg

October 07, 2016

Lawmakers ask Obama to postpone Haitian deportations after Hurricane Matthew


More than 50 Democratic and Republican members of Congress asked President Barack Obama on Friday to postpone deportations to Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, which left a toll so far of more than 800 dead in the Caribbean nation.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced plans last month to resume deportations of Haitians in the U.S. illegally, following a surge of Haitians entering the U.S. by way of Brazil. The lawmakers, including Miami Gardens Democrat Frederica Wilson and Miami Republicans Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, argue that the conditions in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake have made deportations for Haitians without criminal records inhumane.

"Given Haiti's vulnerable state and lingering challenges, we respectfully request that you reconsider this decision and ensure that undocumented Haitians are provided full and fair asylum hearings, effective assistance of counsel, and information on all sorts of relief," they wrote.

The letter was also signed Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.

Read the full letter here.

October 06, 2016

President Obama signs Florida emergency declaration for Hurricane Matthew

@PatriciaMazzei @ByKristenMClark

President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for Florida on Thursday afternoon, anticipating extensive damage from the approaching Hurricane Matthew.

Gov. Rick Scott had requested the federal designation Wednesday. He and Obama spoke by phone early Thursday afternoon, according to Scott’s office, and the White House announced the emergency declaration shortly after.

Federal agencies will now be authorized to coordinate disaster relief efforts and use federal aid to assist state and local governments in dealing with the storm. The emergency designation applies to 28 counties all along Florida’s coast, from Monroe in the Florida Keys to Nassau on the Georgia border.

Scott had criticized Obama for not signing an emergency declaration as quickly as the governor would have liked after Hurricane Hermine hit Florida last month. The president eventually approved the designation for six counties.

On Thursday ahead of Matthew, Scott and Obama spoke for a few minutes just after 12:30 p.m., Scott’s spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said.

More here.

Photo credit: Kevin Dietsch, Bloomberg

October 05, 2016

Unable to travel to Miami, Obama calls into hip-hop station instead

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Hurricane Matthew kept President Barack Obama from traveling to Miami as planned Wednesday to campaign for Hillary Clinton. So instead, the president hopped on the phone with a friendly local radio station during afternoon drive-time — the second time he’s done so in as many months.

His political task was to urge voters — especially African Americans — to register ahead of the Tuesday deadline in Florida. But first things first: Obama couldn’t avoid a storm question.

“The one thing I want everybody to do is to make sure they’re listening to their local authorities,” he told host Felisha Monet, host of “The Afternoon Hustle” on WEDR-FL, better known as 99 Jamz. “I was supposed to be in Florida today, but I couldn’t do it because I didn’t want to take away assets as people are preparing.”

Monet noted the popular hip-hop station had canceled a voter-registration drive because of the storm.

“Everybody who’s been paying attention to this campaign should know: We’ve got a big choice ahead of us. When I came into office, the country was in terrible shape,” Obama said, before pivoting to the upcoming election to say Donald Trump would “reverse” his legacy.

“Hillary Clinton would continue it,” Obama said. “So people need to make a decision about whether we’re going to continue on the progress that we’ve made.”

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

October 04, 2016

Hurricane Matthew postpones Obama rally for Clinton in Miami


President Barack Obama has postponed his planned trip to Miami to campaign for Hillary Clinton in light of Hurricane Matthew.

Obama had been scheduled to rally supporters Wednesday at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. Miami-Dade County was placed under tropical storm watch Tuesday.

The Clinton campaign has yet to reschedule the event. The president had been expected to urge South Floridians — especially African Americans — to register to vote ahead of the state’s Oct. 11 deadline.

Photo credit: Michael Bryant, TNS

October 03, 2016

Obama says Rubio was 'all over the map' on Syria

via @learyreports

President Obama, in an extensive interview with New York Magazine, criticized Sen.Marco Rubio for unevenness on Syria.

Rubio in 2013 called for a tough approach against Syria but then voted against air strikes. In a speech explaining his vote, Rubio said he was never for military engagement. He did call for arming rebels.

Here is Obama:

You take the case of Syria, which has been chewed over a lot. But it continues to puzzle me, the degree to which people seem to forget that we actually got the chemical weapons out of Syria. The notion seems to be that, “Well, you should have blown something up, even if that didn’t mean that you got chemical weapons out.” There continues to be, I think, a lack of examination of the fact that my decision was not to let Assad do whatever he wanted. My decision was to see if we could broker a deal without a strike to get those chemical weapons out, and to go to Congress to ask for authorization, because nowhere has Congress been more incoherent than when it comes to the powers I have.

You had people, I think, like Marco Rubio, who was complaining about us not doing anything, and when I said, “I’m gonna present to Congress,” suddenly he said, “Well, I’m gonna vote against it.” Maybe it was Ted Cruz. Maybe both. They’re all over the map. The primary principle—and this is not true for all of them, but for many of them—was “Just make sure that we don’t get blamed for whatever decision you make.”

Full interview here.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times