September 20, 2018

Bill Nelson is 'tired of waiting' to meet with Kavanaugh, will make decision next week

Bill Nelson

@martindvassolo @alextdaugherty

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson expressed frustration that he has yet to meet with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and said he will make a decision next week, even if he cannot meet with Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick during a week where Kavanaugh may testify again to the Senate Judiciary Committee after he was accused of sexual assault. 

"I’ll announce it," Nelson said at a Hurricane Maria recovery meeting on Thursday. "I have tried to see him for months. That is the respectful thing to do. And I am tired of waiting. So, today, we have requested again to see him next week. And if they ignore that request, I will make a decision." 

Nelson says he has asked five times to see Kavanaugh, who has met with most Republicans and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the body responsible for confirmation hearings. Republicans want Kavanaugh's accuser to testify on Monday or else they are prepared to move forward with the nomination. 

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward by name after multiple outlets reported on the existence of a letter to California Rep. Anna Eshoo and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein that described a non-consensual encounter of a sexual nature between Kavanaugh and Ford when the two were in high school. Ford said that Kavanaugh groped her and tried to pull off her clothes and stopped when a friend of Kavnauagh's jumped on top of them. Kavanaugh denies the accusation. 

"I think it would be a mistake on Mitch McConnell's part if he continues to ram this through," Nelson said. "I think as I’ve said sever times over the last several days, that there should be an investigation. It’s what is done when any new information comes up. It's the right thing to do. We’ll see if Sen. McConnell follows through of if he doesn’t. But at any rate, I’m ready to make my decision next week and especially if they deny me access to the judge."
 
Nelson is in the midst of a contentious and expensive reelection campaign against Gov. Rick Scott

September 18, 2018

Rubio says Kavanaugh accuser should be heard, respected

Marco Rubio

@alextdaugherty

If Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh turn out to be true, Marco Rubio says it would disqualify President Donald Trump's pick for the lifetime seat. 

But Rubio also wants to hear what Ford and Kavanaugh have to say in an official hearing, which could happen on Monday, before determining what should happen next. 

"The secondary matter is he’s categorically, strongly denied it," Rubio said of Kavanaugh. "So at this point if in fact any of it is proven true he’s also lying to the committee about it. But he has strongly denied and he has a right and should be given the opportunity to be heard." 

Rubio said the allegations are "very serious" and need to be "fully listened to." The Florida Republican is not a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee so he is not directly involved in Kavanaugh's confirmation process. If the nomination passes the committee chamber the full Senate can vote on it. 

"The allegations are very serious and substantial and need to be fully listened to as well and hopefully that will happen on Monday," Rubio said. "My only wish is that this information had been available earlier, which I believe it could have been, in a setting that would not have violated the confidentially that the accuser has asked for. But hopefully Monday, there will be sufficient information to begin judgment on the matter." 

Rubio's comments come after Sen. Bill Nelson, who also is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, said "there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him" and that he looks forward to meeting Kavanaugh in person. Nelson's opponent Rick Scott said there should be a "fair hearing" on the allegations. 

Ford came forward by name on Sunday after multiple outlets reported on the existence of a letter to California Rep. Anna Eshoo and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein that described a non-consensual encounter of a sexual nature between Kavanaugh and Ford when the two were in high school. Ford said that Kavanaugh groped her and tried to pull off her clothes and stopped when a friend of Kavnauagh's jumped on top of them.

Rick Scott says Kavanaugh accuser should testify before U.S. Senate

Scott and nelson

@alextdaugherty

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the Senate Judiciary Committee should allow the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault decades ago to testify, potentially lengthening or derailing the confirmation process for Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick. 

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward by name on Sunday after multiple outlets reported on the existence of a letter to California Rep. Anna Eshoo and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein that described a non-consensual encounter of a sexual nature between Kavanaugh and Ford when the two were in high school. Ford said that Kavanaugh groped her and tried to pull off her clothes and stopped when a friend of Kavnauagh's jumped on top of them. Kavanaugh denies the allegation and both Kavanaugh and Ford have said they will testify under oath if necessary. 

Scott accused Feinstein of sitting on the allegations to further delay the confirmation process. Feinstein says she didn't disclose the letter because Ford wanted to remain anonymous and Ford came forward only after multiple news outlets reported on the letter's existence.

"The Judiciary committee needs to seek the truth here," Scott said in a statement. "Truth is not partisan, and truth is more important than politics. These very serious allegations should have been investigated months ago. But Democrat Senator Feinstein pulled a slick Washington trick and intentionally hid this from the Senate during the hearings. Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious. And Judge Kavanaugh deserves to have the chance to clear his name." 

Scott is running against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who said in a statement yesterday that "there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him" and that he looks forward to meeting with him. Scott also criticized Nelson for not meeting with Kavanaugh, though scheduling conflicts for both are the reason a meeting hasn't happened yet. 

Nelson and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio are not members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, so they have not been directly involved in Kavanaugh's confirmation process. 

September 11, 2018

Bill Nelson not on board with Andrew Gillum’s progressive proposals

NELSON_PUERTO RICO0138 JAI

via @scontorno

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is excited about the energy that Andrew Gillum brings to the Democratic ticket as the party's nominee for governor.

He is less enthusiastic about some of the ideas Gillum ran on to win his primary.

Take Gillum's call to abolish the agency known as ICE, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "in its current form." Nelson isn't on board.

"I don't want to abolish ICE. I want to abolish Trump," Nelson said in a sit-down Monday with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board. "ICE is merely the administrative agency. It's the policies in that agency that is problem."

What about Gillum's support for universal healthcare, often called Medicare for all? "I've got enough trouble just trying to save Obamacare," Nelson said. "I'm into results."

A $15 minimum wage?

"I have supported a $12 minimum wage," Nelson said, "but I am certainly open to suggesting anything that will improve the lot of the average working man."

Nelson has staked his political career — and, perhaps, the Democratic Party's chances at winning the U.S. Senate — on the assumption that a purple state prefers a moderate politician with a penchant for crossing the aisle. "One of America's most independent senators," a recent ad touted.

But his party received a jolt last month when Democratic voters picked Gillum in the gubernatorial primary over a more moderate choice, Gwen Graham, and three others. Suddenly, Nelson, 75, is sharing the spotlight with a 39-year-old, African American mayor backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders who ran and won on an unapologetically progressive agenda.

After his stunning victory, Gillum declared a "political revolution" was afoot.

The coming months will determine: Is Nelson out of step with this movement?

"He's bringing a lot of new energy to the table and I think it's going to produce more African Americans, I think it's going to produce more young people," Nelson said. "And hopefully I might have some value that I bring to the ballot as well."

Gillum has advocated for many of the liberal policies en vogue among new age Democrats — some of which Nelson has tried to disassociate himself from as he battles for Florida's middle.

Gillum contends he has given Democratic voters a reason to show up on election day.

"Some of the people in this race for governor believe we've got to run as Republican flight in order to win Florida," Gillum said at an August rally with Sanders. "Our voters are going to stay home if they have choose between someone pretending to be a Republican and someone who is a real Republican."

Nelson's opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, has already tried to lump the two together. Scott, like Gillum opponent Ron DeSantis, has thrown around the word "socialist" around a lot to describe the Democratic ticket.

"This election offers Floridians a clear choice: continue the success of the last 8 years, or embrace the job-killing socialist policies of Senator Nelson and Andrew Gillum," Scott tweeted last week.

Independent fact-checking website PolitiFact deemed it False to call Gillum's agenda socialist.

For his part, Nelson has certainly embraced Gillum while maintaining his distance on contentious issues. Marijuana is one of them. Gillum wants to legalize marijuana, still considered a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Nelson backs medical marijuana, including in smokable form. This week he unveiled a bill that allows the Department of Veteran Affairs to prescribe marijuana for its patients. But he doesn't support full legalization.

Gillum has also advocated for Trump's impeachment. Nelson won't go that far.

Nelson rightfully points out that nearly all these topics are federal in nature, meaning likely outside of the next governor's purview. When it comes to areas Gillum could affect, Nelson said he thinks they are more closely aligned.

"Look at the things that we agree on and look at the things that he has jurisdiction on that we agree," Nelson said. "Take for example, health care. Andrew certainly agrees that we ought to expand Medicaid for the 800,000 (would-be eligible Floridians)."

Though Nelson won't get behind some of Gillum's proposals, he has already shown a willingness to cede where the future of the party may be headed. At last month's post-election unity rally in Orlando, the elder statesman offered to speak first, leaving the headlining slot for the fresh face of the Democratic Party.

"I'm entirely comfortable with Andrew," Nelson said Monday. "And he with me."

August 28, 2018

After a hammering from Rick Scott, Bill Nelson going on TV with his first ad

IMG_AP_18218743953603.jp_3_1_8BE895CJ_L409731346

via @learyreports

After a continuous pounding on the airwaves from his wealthy rival, Sen. Bill Nelson is going up with his first TV ad, portraying himself to Florida voters as a voice of reason.

"I believe a public office is a public trust. You're there to serve the people, not the special interests. Just wake up every day and do what's right," the three-term incumbent Democrat says in the ad, titled "Oath," which touches on Nelson's service in the Army, his voyage to space and political office.

The statewide ad begins Wednesday, the day after the primary, and is the opening salvo in an $18 million ad buy from Nelson. Senate Majority PAC has put down another $23 million for ads to begin in October.

It's an answer to the onslaught from Gov. Rick Scott, who has been churning out ads since he entered the race in April. Scott and his allies have spent more than $47 million on ads, according to Kantar Media research reviewed by USA Today, and three-quarters of it has been negative toward Nelson.

Despite that, the race remains close, though some public polls show Scott with a slight edge.

To Nelson's campaign, that validates the conservative approach to spending, though he has benefited from millions in TV ads from outside groups, so it's not as though he's been completely dark.

The ad does not invoke Scott but by playing up the "public trust," it seems to portend a line of attack against the governor, who has faced numerous news stories about his personal wealth and decisions while governor.

Scott on Tuesday announced a new ad that highlights his humble beginnings.

Watch the ads below. 

Nelson: 

Scott: 

August 21, 2018

FBI, Homeland Security say Russians aren’t inside Florida election systems

Scott and nelson

@alextdaugherty

The two federal agencies tasked with informing state and local officials about ongoing interference in Florida’s election systems say they have not seen any new or ongoing Russian attempts to compromise local election infrastructure.

“Although we have not seen new or ongoing compromises of state or local election infrastructure in Florida, Russian government actors have previously demonstrated both the intent and capability to conduct malicious cyber operations,” said a letter from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “DHS and the FBI will continue to notify any victim of a successful cyber intrusion into their election network in any jurisdiction nationwide.”

The letter comes two weeks after Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson first mentioned that Russians “penetrated” Florida’s election systems ahead of the 2018 election. He declined to go into further detail, arguing that the basis of his assertion was classified.

Since then, the Miami Herald and NBC News reported that government officials say there is information that shows Nelson is right, though the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information is classified.

Nelson is in the midst of a contentious and expensive reelection bid against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who oversees the Florida secretary of state’s office.

“Secretary Detzner sent a letter to DHS and the FBI and we have now received their response which continues to offer no evidence or information to corroborate Senator Nelson’s claims,” a statement from the secretary of state’s office said.

Nelson’s spokesperson said there’s nothing in the letter that proves Nelson wrong.

“In my opinion, there’s nothing in this letter that contradicts what Sen. Nelson said he was told a few months ago, and what he and Sen. Rubio have tried to warn about in order to guard against Russian meddling in our elections,” Nelson spokesperson Ryan Brown said in a statement. “The governor of Florida has a security clearance and could have quickly and directly received information, answers and posed any questions instead of engaging in these confusing and partisan histrionics of the past week.”

Read more here.

August 18, 2018

Florida election officials seek info as support builds for Nelson’s Russian-hack claim

Scott and nelson

@alextdaugherty @greggordon2

Florida election officials said Saturday they are seeking more information to combat any possibility of ongoing hacking efforts on county voting systems, as support mounted over the weekend for Sen. Bill Nelson’s recent claims that Russian operatives have “penetrated” some county voter registration databases in Florida ahead of the 2018 elections.

A U.S. government official familiar with the matter confirmed to McClatchy on Saturday an NBC news report that Nelson was right when he said Russian hackers had “penetrated” some of Florida’s county voting systems. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee told Nelson recently that operatives working for Russia penetrated some county voter registration databases in Florida. That appears to represent new information about fallout from a Russian hacking operation nearly two years ago and not evidence of a fresh attack, the government official familiar with the matter said.

And on Saturday, Nelson defended himself against claims by Gov. Rick Scott, his likely opponent in a hotly contested U.S. Senate election, that he was careless with classified information.

“I did exactly what the leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee — both the Republican chairman and the vice-Chairman — asked Marco Rubio and I to give that warning. And to give it to the supervisors, which we did,” Nelson said at a campaign stop in Tampa. “I think now that Marco Rubio and I have brought it to everybody’s attention, despite the attempts at politicization of it by Gov. Scott, I think now that it’s out there on the open on what is the potential threat, I think the supervisors will make sure that their systems are secure.”

However, the U.S. government official who spoke to McClatchy said Nelson overstated the threat in saying on Aug. 7 that, after penetrating county voter registration databases, Russian cyber operatives “now have free rein to move about.” Nelson since has voiced concerns that the Russians could tamper with voter registration databases, suppress votes and create chaos at the polls on Election Day.

Details of the extent of any election security threat from the Russians’ penetration of Florida counties are classified, and the limited information that has leaked presents a confusing picture.

Florida officials faced with the prospect of ongoing hacking attempts say they’ve seen no evidence of voter information being altered as early primary voting continues in counties around the state.

Paul Lux, the supervisor of elections for Okaloosa County and the president of the state Association of Supervisors of Elections, said county-level election officials have not been informed of concrete steps they should take to inoculate themselves from the specific threat of ongoing Russian hacking attempts that Nelson has alluded to. Florida officials who do have access to classified information regarding the state’s voting systems typically receive briefings from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

Read more here.

August 17, 2018

Nelson declares vindication on Russia hacking claim

Scott and nelson

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson declared vindication Friday over his still unsubstantiated claim that Russians hacked into some county election systems in Florida, pointing to a news report that stated there is a "classified basis for Nelson's assertion."

The Florida Democrat tweeted a breaking news alert from NBC News. "Bill Nelson wasn't making things up when he said Russians hacked Florida election systems," it read.

The report was based on "three people familiar with the intelligence."

Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson for re-election, has accused Nelson of leaking classified information or simply fabricating the story, first disclosed to the Tampa Bay Times more than a week ago.

The Times has reported how top Republicans in Washington, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Sen. Marco Rubio, have issued statements that neither confirm or contradict what Nelson said.

[Bill Nelson: The Russians have penetrated some Florida voter registration systems]

The Florida Department of State did not respond to the NBC News report.

Instead, a spokeswoman pointed to a Thursday letter sent to Nelson from Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Paul Lux, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, asking for evidence to support his claims.

"The Department of State has no evidence to support his claims at this time. We look forward to his response," the spokeswoman said Friday, responding for the governor as well.

As governor, Scott has a security clearance and could have requested a briefing from Washington officials but did not. A spokesman said that Detzner's office was handling communication with federal authorities.

Republican groups hammering away at Nelson reacted to the report by questioning if the Democrat "broke the law" by revealing classified information.

Rules for the Senate Intelligence Committee do say senators are not to disclose material and can be referred to the ethics committee if they do.

July 31, 2018

Bill Nelson wants to ban 3D printer-made plastic guns that can evade metal detectors

Plastic Guns

@alextdaugherty

In less than 24 hours, it could be possible to legally download blueprints that allow anyone with access to a 3D printer to make guns out of plastic.

Bill Nelson wants to ban it.

The Florida Democrat introduced a bill on Tuesday that would block the online publication of gun blueprints after the Trump administration decided to settle a lawsuit by a Texas anarchist who built a gun out of plastic in 2013 and posted the instructions online.

The Obama administration ordered the instructions to come down at the time, and the Department of Justice defended the government’s action in court after the anarchist sued for the right to publish until the Department of Justice reversed course in June.

“It just defies common sense and yet this is what the Trump administration has done,” Nelson said. “Just think of the billions of dollars we spend trying to protect national security. And now, suddenly there is going to be published on the internet the plans for making a gun that can evade the detection systems in airports and seaports and all of these governmental buildings as well as some sports stadiums.”

The blueprints could go online by midnight Wednesday unless Trump reverses course. On Tuesday morning Trump tweeted, “I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

Read more here.

July 20, 2018

Republicans peddle false attack against a Miami doctor who doesn't like Rick Scott

Gov Rick Scott

@alextdaugherty

On Wednesday, Rick Scott's Senate campaign and the Republican Party responded to an anti-Scott ad by arguing that a Miami doctor who attacks Scott "refuses to accept Medicaid patients" after railing against Scott's healthcare record in the 30-second TV spot paid for by a Democratic super PAC. 

Turns out, they were wrong. 

On Thursday, The Daily Caller, a conservative outlet, ran an article that parroted the attacks on Dr. David Woosley, a South Florida internist who works at Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Miami VA Medical Center. Their initial headline was "The Doctor in a Bill Nelson Medicaid-expansion ad doesn't accept Medicaid." 

But The Daily Caller updated their article on Friday with a new headline and the following editor's note: 

"The original published version of this article said Dr. David Woolsey himself does not accept Medicaid. While the Florida Department of Health states Jackson Memorial Hospital, the hospital where he practices, does not participate in Medicaid, the hospital clarified that it actually does accept patients on this program. Doctors are only permitted to accept insurance companies approved by the hospital or practice for which they work." 

The new headline is completely different: "Doctor in a Bill Nelson ad tries to hammer Rick Scott's health care stance." 

Scott's campaign initially aired the attack on Woosley in a press release on Wednesday, and the RNC followed suit on Thursday. The National Republican Senatorial Committee included the Daily Caller story in its weekly roundup of negative Senate news for Nelson. 

Senate Majority PAC communications director Chris Hayden, whose PAC spent $2.6 million on the advertisement, said the Scott campaign responded to a negative advertisement by lying about a constituent. 

"Dr. Woolsey treats patients with Medicaid at both of the hospitals he works at. He does not have a private practice," Hayden said in an email. "Florida's health care system is in a crisis and Governor Scott's response is to lie about a well-respected doctor. Governor Scott badly mismanaged Florida's health care system, and he should personally apologize for falsely attacking one of his constituents." 

Scott is spending tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to oust Nelson, Florida's only statewide elected Democrat. National groups are also expected to spend millions on a Senate seat that could decide which party controls the upper chamber of Congress.

UPDATE: Scott's campaign says their initial release pointed out that Woosley doesn't accept Medicaid based on the Florida Department of Health's website

"The release did NOT say that Jackson Memorial does not participate in Medicaid; it pointed out that this specific doctor has chosen not to participate," Scott spokesperson Kerri Wyland said in an email. "As a Florida doctor, he chooses whether or not to participate in the Medicaid program – with the knowledge that whatever answer he chooses will be publicly displayed for Floridians looking for healthcare professionals through the FLHealthSource webpage" 

 

 

Watch the ad below: