February 20, 2017

Palm Beach County sheriff meets with Trump

IMG_0254@PatriciaMazzei

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw met on Monday with President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago to discuss, among other things, reimbursement for the county's security expenses to protect Trump in his frequent visits.

"It was an honor to meet with President Trump today and be able to discuss Homeland Security issues," the sheriff said in a statement. "As Chairman of Regional Domestic Security for South Florida having the support of the President for Law Enforcement and border security is important. I want to thank the President for taking time to listen to Local Law Enforcement’ s concerns and his commitment to an ongoing dialogue which ensures the opportunity to address other issues such as reimbursement for Presidential visits. Keeping our community safe and secure is always my first and foremost concern."

Before this past weekend, PBSO had already spent about $1.5 million in overtime to staff Trump's South Florida trips.

Photo courtesy PBSO

Trump golfed more than a 'couple' holes in West Palm

Trump (9)
via @learyreports

The White House on Monday acknowledged that President Trump played more than a "a couple" holes of golf Sunday in Florida.

"As stated yesterday the President played golf. He intended to play a few holes and decided to play longer," spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. "He also had a full day of meetings, calls and interviews for the new NSA, which he is continuing today before returning to Washington, D.C. Tonight."

Turns out Trump was golfing with Rory McIlroy. Trump also played Saturday, though his spokeswoman described it as "a couple" holes and would not identify his partners.

Trump has been in Florida since Friday -- his third consecutive weekend visit to Mar-a-Lago.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Susan Walsh, Associated Press

Fact-checking Trump's false claim about Sweden

TrumpMelbourneAP

via @allisonbgraves

Defending his immigrant travel ban at a Feb. 18 campaign rally, President Donald Trump referred to several places that have taken in a large number of refugees and have recently been attacked.

Trump mentioned well-documented terrorist attacks in Europe alongside an apparently sinister occurrence we had not heard about — in Sweden.

"We've got to keep our country safe. You look at what's happening. We've got to keep our country safe. You look at what's happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden," Trump said at the Melbourne, Fla., event. "Sweden? Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.

"You look at what's happening in Brussels," he continued. "You look at what's happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris."

Was there an immigrant-linked incident in Sweden the night before Trump’s rally? Call it the "Bowling Green massacre," part II.

Sweden has let in a large number of immigrants and refugees. But we couldn’t find any evidence that indicates Sweden’s immigration policy is causing the types of problems with terrorist incidents that Trump suggested — and we couldn’t find any record of an attack by terrorists or immigrants in Sweden on the night of Feb. 17, or any night recently.

So, what really happened in Sweden on Friday? Not much.

Keep reading Allison Graves' fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

February 18, 2017

Trump reverts to campaign mode in Melbourne rally

Trump (7)
@joeflech @PatriciaMazzei

MELBOURNE -- President Donald Trump reprised his favorite role — that of a rousing campaigner — on Saturday, holding a massive rally that offered him a respite from the tribulations of his first four weeks in the White House as he tried to regain control of his political message.

Faced with a series of early setbacks, including the firing of his national security adviser, the rejection by the courts of his immigration ban and low approval ratings, Trump reverted to the comfort of his candidate stump speech. To an ecstatic crowd of 9,000 at an Orlando-Melbourne International Airport hangar, Trump repeated his campaign promises, in some cases word for word — making it seem for a moment as though the months on the calendar had somehow flipped back to 2016.

Now, however, the Trump of 2017 stood behind a lectern bearing the presidential seal.

“I’m here because I want to be among my friends and among the people,” he declared.

Holding a rally less than a month after inauguration is not unheard of for American presidents. But in the past, such public events have been choreographed to push a specific policy, a priority of the nascent administration’s first weeks in office.

Trump, who has yet to send any proposed legislation to Congress, didn’t make a case for a single issue. He urged lawmakers to work with him on tax reform, an infrastructure spending plan and the replacement of the Affordable Care Act but did not dwell on the particulars.

He also rattled off a list of his accomplishments, such as nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, restarting construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, and pursuing a more aggressive deportation policy for “gang members and drug dealers who are right now, as I speak, being thrown out of the country.”

“And they will not be let back in,” he said. “We will have strong borders again.”

More here.

Photo credit: Susan Walsh, Associated Press

February 17, 2017

Fearing Trump, Miami-Dade commission drops county's "sanctuary" protections

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@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

Miami-Dade commissioners on Friday backed Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s controversial decision to detain jailed inmates sought for deportation by the federal government, citing funding threats by President Donald Trump and ignoring hours of emotional testimony from residents who implored the board to stand up to the mayor.

With a 9-3 vote, commissioners stood behind Gimenez despite listening to scores of residents who spent the day at County Hall hoping to persuade them to protect Miami-Dade’s immigrant identity.

“Shame on you!” the crowd cried after the vote, hurling bits of paper at the dais and standing up to yell and stomp out of the chambers. “May God have mercy on your soul,” one woman hollered.

Voting to endorse Gimenez’s Jan. 26 directive were Chairman Esteban “Steve” Bovo, Vice Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson and Commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Sally Heyman, Joe Martinez, Dennis Moss, Rebeca Sosa and Javier Souto. Voting against were Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava, Jean Monestime and Xavier Suarez. Commissioner Barbara Jordan was absent.

“Miami-Dade is not — has never considered itself — a sanctuary community” Gimenez said.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, Miami Herald staff

Accused ‘frontman’ in Venezuelan drug ring is member of Trump’s Doral golf resort

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via @ChuckRabin

The Trump administration this week froze the assets of a wealthy Venezuelan businessman named Samark Lopez Bello, accusing him of being the “frontman” in a narco-trafficking scheme run by the country’s vice president.

It turns out that Lopez Bello, a petroleum distribution executive in Venezuela, is also a member of one of President Donald Trump’s luxury golf course resorts in South Florida.

His name is on a confidential membership roster at Trump National Doral provided to The Herald. Several members also confirmed the businessman is a member at the luxury resort purchased by President Trump in early 2012, where memberships run as high as $50,000 plus annual fees. It wasn’t clear Friday how long Lopez Bello had been a member there or if he joined before Trump’s purchase of the renowned golf destination.

Helen Ferre, special assistant to the president and director of media affairs, responded to questions about Lopez Bello with a short email statement: “This is not a White House issue, the President is divested from the business.”

More here.

Restore county's 'sanctuary' stance, residents urge Miami-Dade commission

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@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

One after another, the people who crammed the Miami-Dade County Commission chambers Friday delivered an extended, impassioned and often eloquent defense of immigration, imploring their elected leaders to defend South Florida’s diversity under the presidency of Donald Trump.

More than 150 people signed up to speak, almost all of them against Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to require local jails to detain inmates at the request of federal immigration authorities. Commissioners are scheduled to vote to accept or reject Gimenez’s directive later Friday.

The mayor has cast his action as a purely financial one, intended to avoid a federal funding cut threatened by a Trump executive order banning cities and counties that act as a “sanctuary” for immigrants who are in the country illegally.

But for most speakers — the vast majority of them Hispanic — Gimenez’s move to essentially revoke the county’s sanctuary stance represented an unacceptable rebuke to Miami-Dade’s immigrant identity.

“I’m heartbroken by this debate,” said Manuel Ernesto Gutierrez, who described himself as a U.S. Navy veteran. “What bothers me — and should bother you — is the fundamental issue of what kind of community do we want to be. Do we want to be a welcoming community?”

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, Miami Herald staff

February 16, 2017

Trump looms over ‘sanctuary’ showdown in Miami-Dade

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@doug_hanks @PatriciaMazzei

President Donald Trump’s crackdown on communities offering “sanctuary” from immigration enforcement faces its first big test Friday when the Miami-Dade County Commission convenes to decide whether local jails should continue holding inmates sought by the feds for deportation.

After weeks of protests and demonstrations, the 13-member commission wades into a legislative battlefield over Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s Trump-friendly detention policy, which must receive board approval to stand. At the rare special meeting, set to begin at 10 a.m., competing resolutions call for backing Gimenez’s authority, reversing him, and condemning Trump’s original threat of the loss of federal funds as an unconstitutional assault on local government.

Combined, the agenda offers a local venue for the national debate — and a chance for a heavily blue county largely populated by immigrants to weigh the consequences of cooperating with the Trump administration.

“Obviously, this is something that the country is wrangling with,” said commission Chairman Esteban “Steve” Bovo, a Republican who backs Gimenez’s detention policy. “It’s serious stuff for people. We have to treat it that way. I don’t have a lot of tolerance for the political grandstanding.”

At stake is Miami-Dade’s identity as one of America’s most prominent immigrant capitals. Looming over the vote is Trump’s threat to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars, which could squash the county’s hopes for an expanded rail system.

More here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, el Nuevo Herald

From the Miami Herald archives: At Justice Department, Acosta focused on human trafficking

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via @DriscollAmy

This story was originally published in June 2004.

When Alex Acosta talks about the Justice Department's battle against modern-day slavery, the passion in his voice comes from one stark image in his memory.

It's a photograph he saw a few years ago of a tiny room where a 14-year-old Mexican girl was held captive: just three walls, a curtain and a twin bed.

The girl slept there, lived there and was forced to have sex there with man after man, up to 30 a day, he said. There was only one personal item in the room: a teddy bear, the last remnant of her lost childhood.

"This is human trafficking, " he said, punctuating each word, as he announced a new antislavery initiative last week in Tampa. "It is evil. It is hideous. It is one of the most horrendous crimes of our society."

Last August, Acosta became the first Hispanic to lead the Department of Justice's civil rights division. The Cuban American from Miami who entered Harvard University at age 17 is now the point man in the government's drive to halt trafficking of an estimated 15,000 people a year into the United States for slavery.

More here.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file

Trump says his Cuba views are 'very similar' to Rubio's

RUBIO Y TRUMP
via @ngameztorres

President Donald Trump said during a press conference Thursday that he shares Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s views on Cuba.

“We had dinner with Senator Rubio and his wife, who was by the way, lovely, and we had a very good discussion about Cuba, because we have very similar views on Cuba,” Trump told journalists.

“Cuba has been very good to me, in the Florida elections, you know, the Cuban people, Americans,” he added in reference to the support of Cuban American voters.

Former rival Rubio and his wife had dinner with Trump and First Lady Melania on Wednesday night, after the president received Lilian Tintori, the wife of the Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López in the White House. A smiling Rubio posed for a photo with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Tintori.

The comment suggests a possible change in Cuba policy since Rubio was one of the staunchest critics of former President Barack Obama’s engagement with Cuba, especially in the area of human rights.

More here.

Photo credit: Rainier Ehrhardt, Associated Press