January 17, 2017

Congressman Alcee Hastings skipping Donald Trump's inauguration



U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings will not attend Donald Trump's inauguration.

Hastings will spend the day in his district instead, spokesman Evan Polisar said. Hastings, who lives in Delray Beach, represents portions of Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry counties. No further details were immediately available about why Hastings is skipping the inauguration and what he will do in the district. Hastings rallied African-Americans to support Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The other two Democrats who represent Broward -- Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton -- will both attend the inauguration.


Meet the South Florida protesters heading to the Women's March on Washington

via @harrisalexc

As the November election results came in and tears rolled down her face, Carrie Feit couldn’t stop thinking about her nieces.

Unlike her own 6-year-old daughter, Feit’s 12- and 14-year-old nieces were old enough to ask their mother about what they heard Donald Trump say on television. They wanted to know about the leaked “Access Hollywood” tape, of crude groping language infamy.

“My sister had to wake up the next day and tell her daughters that he won,” Feit said. “That ‘we’ elected him, that he won, that this country was OK with all that.”

Feit, 42, turned her anger into action. Two days after Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton, Feit was area captain for the Miami-Dade County section of the Women’s March on Washington, a catch-all demonstration for a slew of liberal causes planned for Saturday, the day after Trump’s inauguration. It’s expected to draw some 200,000 people from across the country.

“I thought about my nieces and all little girls that we want to empower,” Feit said. “The idea that they and other girls would think they did not deserve as much respect as anyone else pained me to the core.”

A robust contingent of Florida women is headed to the march any way they can. One bus from Miami-Dade — a nearly 20-hour ride away — sold out weeks before the trip. For those who can’t make it to D.C., a simultaneous local rally is planned at Bayfront Park.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

January 16, 2017

In Miami, Lewis responds to Trump by invoking civil-rights struggle

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Perhaps, in U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ prepared speech to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Miami, there was a direct response to President-elect Donald Trump over the political feud between the two men over the past three days in TV interviews and on Twitter.

But when Lewis took the microphone Monday, he put his script aside.

“I prepared a speech, but I’m not going to use it,” he told hundreds of people assembled at Jungle Island’s treetop ballroom. “I’ve been deeply inspired by being here.”

And so Lewis launched into a rousing, 32-minute oration — which at times felt like a church-pulpit sermon — about his remarkable life of civil-rights activism, the heroes that inspired him and the faith that a younger generation will succeed them.

He didn’t mention the end of the first black presidency, or the start of new presidency headed by an executive who paints many African Americans as residents of inner-city “hell.” But it was impossible to ignore the political context of Lewis’ remarks.

“Never, ever hate,” Lewis implored the young men of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, the mentoring and scholarship program that hosted the breakfast. “The way of love is a better way. The way of peace is a better way.”

Perhaps it amounted to a response to Trump after all.

More here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

Donald Trump foe Rep. John Lewis, in Miami today, on PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter

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Civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who sparked Donald Trump's ire when he said he doesn't view Trump's presidency as "legitimate" is the keynote speaker today at the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence event in Miami.

Trump fired back on twitter saying that the Georgia 5th congressional district, represented by Lewis, is "in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested)."

PolitiFact ruled that claim Mostly False. The district isn’t in as terrible economic shape as Trump suggests. While it has higher unemployment and poverty rates than the national average, it still has a thriving economic hub in Atlanta and higher educational attainment. Atlanta does have a much higher crime rate than the national average, but like most major cities, that has been in decline. (Read Linda Qiu's fact-check here.)

Here's a look at Lewis's Truth-O-Meter record including his claims about black children and school discipline, crime and prison statistics and the costs associated with the Voting Rights Act.

Miami congresswoman to Trump: ‘Please do not tweet anymore’


U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson plans to skip Friday’s inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump – but not because she’s boycotting it, exactly.

The Miami Gardens Democrat never intended to attend, because her goddaughter’s getting married Saturday. A handful of Democratic members of Congress have said they won’t go to the inauguration in protest of Trump.

“My constituents have been calling and emailing me, asking me not to go to the inauguration,” Wilson told reporters in Miami on Monday. “They’re disturbed.”

Wilson said after Trump became the Republican nominee, she steeled herself to work with him – despite their ideological disagreements – on criminal justice issues. But Trump’s appointments have made her question her resolve.

“I’m wondering, ‘How can I work with him?’” she said.

Wilson spoke at a breakfast for her signature mentoring program, 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project. Her invited guest for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event was U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who said Friday Trump isn’t a “legitimate president” because of Russian interference in the election. Trump followed up by slamming Lewis, a leader of the civil-rights movement, on Twitter.

“To have a president who responds to everything someone says on Twitter is disgraceful,” Wilson said. “He’s not a good role model for our children.”

“Please do not tweet anymore,” Wilson implored Trump. “All it does is, it causes divisions in our country. People have the right to express their opinions. You don’t have to tweet a response to everything a public official says. That is so unpresidential.”

Rubio still mulling vote on Tillerson confirmation


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Monday he has yet to decide whether to vote to confirm former Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson as President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state.

The Florida Republican said he’s awaiting responses to written questions to Tillerson following last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

“We’re going to go through the transcripts of the hearing, which I’ve begun to do,” Rubio told reporters in Miami. “We need to have a foreign policy that while always acting in the national interest of the United States is always rooted in our values as a nation.”

Rubio was the toughest Republican to question Tillerson on Trump’s foreign policy, which is unspecific and often at odds with Rubio’s hawkish views.

Over the weekend, Trump told the German newspaper Bild that NATO is “obsolete," though he added that the alliance is still "very important to him."

“NATO is not obsolete,” Rubio said Monday. “It most certainly needs to be reinvigorated, given the new challenges of the 21st century.”

“Mr. Tillerson said, by the way, that he does believe in NATO’s importance,” Rubio added.

The senator was scheduled to speak at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast for the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a mentoring and scholarship program for African-American boys. The morning’s keynote speaker will be U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who got into a feud with Trump after questioning the legitimacy of his election Friday and saying he won’t attend Trump’s inauguration. On Saturday, Trump blasted Lewis, a civil rights icon, on Twitter, prompted immediate public backlash.

“I have tremendous admiration for Congressman Lewis, not only for what he’s done but what he stands for,” Rubio said. “I don’t agree with him that President-elect Trump is illegitimate. I also don’t agree with his decision not to attend the inaugural, though it certainly is his right. It’s not about President-elect Trump – it’s a peaceful transfer of power.”

Regarding Trump’s Twitter response, however, Rubio added: “I also would have hoped that the president-elect would have responded differently.”

January 14, 2017

Miami political players, including county mayor's son, meet with Trump

El Pais

The lobbyist son of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Democratic political consultant Freddy Balsera of Coral Gables met quietly with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York this week to chat about Latin America.

Balsera and C.J. Gimenez were part of a foursome that also included Julio Ligorría, a former Guatemalan ambassador to the U.S., and David Duckenfield, a former deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the state department. The meeting was first reported by El País, a Spain-based newspaper.

Duckenfield works at Balsera Communications, Balsera's namesake public affairs and media relations firm. Until recently, so did Gimenez, a Republican attorney who in the past has lobbied locally for Trump's businesses, recently started his own consulting and lobbying shop with Ligorría. Balsera advised President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign.

The four men sat down with Trump on Thursday. Among the topics discussed: U.S. policy toward Venezuela and the "northern triangle" nations -- El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala -- in Central America. They also posed for what has become the classic thumbs-up Trump photo.

"Obviously I have a longstanding relationship with Mr. Trump and the organization," Gimenez told the Miami Herald on Saturday. "We had a discussion with folks on his team that thought it would be beneficial for us to sit down with him for a few minutes and bring up issues related to Latin America." 

Balsera told El País that Trump "was very interested in knowing our opinion about what's going on, about what's going to happen and about what has yet to happen" in Venezuela. Trump also inquired about Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and opposition leader Leopoldo López, both political prisoners in the South American country.

"He knew everything we were talking about and responded with good questions and comments," Gimenez told the Herald. "We want to see freedom come back to Venezuela, and prosperity."

He said the meeting lasted 15-20 minutes. 

The men also discussed Argentina, which has sought closer relations with the incoming administration. "I think we can create opportunities for business and cultural ties with Latin America," Gimenez told the Herald.

Not mentioned: Trump's more contentious comments about Hispanics, including his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Now that he's our president, I think it's very important that we find a way to work, to cooperate, with him, to have our voice heard in conversations taking place about Hispanics here or in Latin America," Balsera told El País. "If we want to influence his thinking and his policies, we have to have some sort of interaction with Mr. Trump."

Gimenez and his father, Mayor Carlos Gimenez, plan to attend Trump's inauguration next week, on their own dime. The elder Gimenez, a Republican in a nonpartisan post, was invited even though he said he voted for Hillary Clinton for president.

This post has been updated.

Photo: Screenshot of El País website 

Miami GOP lawmakers won't ask Trump to reinstate special immigration status for Cubans

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@PatriciaMazzei @lesleyclark @ngameztorres

For all the bluster Miami’s Cuban-American Republicans in Congress delivered after President Barack Obama’s stunning decision Thursday to dispose of a decades-old U.S. policy favoring Cuban immigrants, the likelihood of President-elect Donald Trump reversing the decision seems almost nonexistent.

And Cuban-American lawmakers seem to know it: By Friday, some of them were reluctantly conceding that they don’t even intend to ask Trump to reinstate “wet foot/dry foot,” the policy that allowed any Cuban who arrived on U.S. soil to legally remain in the country.

“It was going to happen, sooner or later: some reform, some change,” U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen acknowledged to the Miami Herald.

She criticized Obama for making a sudden, “arbitrary” move with no lawmaker input. But she also predicted the policy would not have lasted another year.

“Congress would have done away with it — we would have reformed it. Something needed to be done,” she said. “Shame on us for not fixing it. But to do this within one week of his presidency ending?”

Trump, who last year said Cubans’ special treatment wasn’t “fair,” remained uncharacteristically silent Friday about Obama’s move, saying nothing on his preferred platform — Twitter — or through his transition team, which ignored repeated emailed requests for comment.

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

January 13, 2017

How Miami got its own inauguration Women's March


A few days after Donald Trump won the presidential election, Stephanie Myers scrolled down her Facebook feed and read a post by Laura Broder, an old Miami Palmetto Senior High School classmate she hadn’t spoken to in two decades.

Did anyone want to organize a South Florida event timed with the Women’s March on Washington, the big protest planned for the day after Trump’s inauguration?

Myers quickly wrote back: Me!

And so Myers, who has no history of political activism, and Broder, who does, began putting together what would become the Women’s Rally of South Florida.

“We really felt it was important for the rest of the country — and people around the world — to stand in solidarity with the people who can’t make it to D.C.,” said Myers, 42, who lives in Fort Lauderdale. “The rhetoric of this cycle was just so divisive.”

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

Rubio backs Mattis to lead defense department

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio on Friday announced his support for James Mattis as defense secretary.

“Just as he has done throughout his decorated 44-year military career, General James Mattis will serve our nation honorably and effectively as our next secretary of defense. General Mattis will bring an unparalleled level of real-world experience, a pragmatic and clear-eyed view of the world and America’s unique role in it, and a principled commitment to America’s values,' Rubio said in a statement.

"The United States and our allies live in a dangerous world, with enemies and adversaries that fundamentally hate our values and way of life and are intent on destroying us. As General Mattis clearly and unequivocally articulated in his confirmation hearing this week, the United States is ‘under the biggest attack since World War II,’ and ‘that's from Russia, from terrorist groups and with what China is doing in the South China Sea.’ He understands these prime threats, and the many others he will encounter as defense secretary, including the need to rebuild our nation’s military after years of devastating defense cuts. General Mattis has answered the call to serve our nation well, and I believe he will improve the state of readiness in our military to defend this great democracy. For these reasons, I support his nomination.”

The statement does not address one area of apparent disagreement. While Rubio has called for scrapping Iran nuclear deal, Mattis testified that, while "imperfect," it should be honored because “when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times