September 13, 2018

Trump claims without evidence that Democrats distorted Hurricane Maria death toll

Puerto Rico Trump

@alexdaugherty @davidjneal

President Donald Trump argued Thursday, without evidence, that the deaths of thousands of Puerto Ricans due to Hurricane Maria was a political stunt by Democrats “to make me look as bad as possible” and that government officials and university researchers “just added” people who died from natural causes to the official list.

The accusation comes a week ahead of the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico, which set off a logistical and humanitarian crisis for the U.S. territory’s 3.3 million U.S. citizens.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” Trump tweeted, referring to Hurricanes Maria and Irma, which skirted the island two weeks before Maria hit. “When I left the island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers like 3000...This was done by Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

The official death toll from last year’s storm stood at 64 until late August, although doubts had been cast on that estimate. Harvard University researchers door-to-door check produced an estimate of over 4,000, though there was a significant variation on the actual death total.

On Aug. 27, the Puerto Rican government put the number of dead at 2,975, a total that includes deaths caused or not prevented because the island’s infrastructure was blasted. The study was conducted by George Washington University researchers on behalf of the Puerto Rican government. On Tuesday, President Trump called the U.S. government’s response “an incredible unsung success.”

Earlier this week, Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rosselló, who had avoided criticizing President Trump’s handling of the disaster for months, said that thousands of people died in Puerto Rico and that the relationship between San Juan and Washington is not successful.

“No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called ‘successful’ because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights enjoyed by our fellow Americans in the states,” Rosselló said in a statement. “The historical relationship between Puerto Rico and Washington is unfair and unAmerican. It is certainly not a successful relationship. This was the worst natural disaster in our modern history. Our basic infrastructure was devastated, thousands of our people lost their lives and many others still struggle.”

State Rep. Bob Cortes, a Puerto Rican Republican who serves as Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis’ director of Puerto Rican outreach, told WFTV that he does not dispute the government’s estimated death toll.

“Every morning there is something new that the president tweets,” Cortes said. “I have no reason to doubt the number of 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico.”

Other Republican officials, including Miami Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, criticized the president’s remarks.

Read more here.

September 11, 2018

Trump called Haiti a ‘sh--hole’ campaigning in Miami in 2016, Woodward’s book says

US NEWS LASVEGAS-SHOOTING 21 ABA

@alextdaugherty

When Donald Trump visited Little Haiti during the 2016 presidential campaign, he told the Haitian-American community: “I really want to be your biggest champion.”

Minutes later, he was calling Haiti a shithole.

In Bob Woodward’s new book released on Tuesday, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” the veteran reporter wrote that Trump used the vulgarity to describe Haiti after a campaign stop in Little Haiti.

“The idea of ‘shithole countries’ was not a new one for Trump,” Woodward wrote. “During the 2016 campaign, Trump had visited Little Haiti in Miami. Former Haitian leaders had come to the microphones and accused the Clintons of corruption and stealing from Haiti.”

“After the event, in private, Trump seemed down. ‘I really felt for these people. They come from such a shithole.’”

The comments in 2016 came after a Trump campaign event where the then-candidate told Haitian-Americans they shared “a lot of common values” and railed against the Clinton Foundation’s spending in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

“Whether you vote for me or not I really want to be your biggest champion,” Trump said in prepared remarks. “Clinton was responsible for doing things a lot of the Haitian people are not happy with. Taxpayer dollars intended for Haiti and the earthquake victims went to a lot of the Clinton cronies.”

Michael Barnett, the vice chairman of the Florida Republican party who helped organized the Little Haiti event, said he will continue to believe the president when he says he didn’t say it. 

"I am still willing to give the President the benefit of the doubt," he said. "I would like to know where these allegations have come from; who are the sources? Until I see any concrete proof, I am willing to believe the president when he says he didn't say it."
 
Barnett was tasked with getting the Little Haiti community to show up to the Trump campaign event. He said he doesn’t recall the president having any private meeting after and that “he got into his vehicle and left the cultural center. I don’t know where he went after that.”

Trump’s use of the vulgarity set off a barrage of criticism earlier this year when the president referred to Haiti and some African nations as “shithole countries” during a much-publicized January meeting on immigration.

But it wasn’t the first time Trump used the term, according to Woodward.

Read more here.

September 10, 2018

Maria Elvira Salazar will vote for "any type of tower, any type of guards" at U.S.-Mexico border

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@alextdaugherty

Republican Maria Elvira Salazar wants to reform the nation's immigration system, but will vote to spend money on Donald Trump's border priorities if elected to Congress. 

Salazar, running to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a Miami-based seat that Trump lost by more than 19 percentage points in 2016, did not directly endorse Trump's border wall in a Sunday night interview with MSNBC host Kasie Hunt, but she did endorse specific parts of a border security plan that most Democrats do not support. 

"I would definitely vote in order to secure the border," Salazar said when asked about the wall. 

"Does that mean the wall that the president wants, the big, beautiful wall?" Hunt responded. 

"That means any type of tower, any type of technology, any type of guards for border security that will secure the border because we do not want (imprisoned Mexican drug lord) El Chapo or his friends smuggling drugs," Salazar said. "Listen, the undocumented people do not want to be undocumented. That's why we need to reform our immigration system and we need to give visas to those that are coming to pick up Jalapeno peppers in Southern California or to clean toilets in Orlando or in Manhattan. They need some type of legality so they can stay here, they can pay taxes, they can contribute to the economy and continue working as they are right now without a criminal record." 

Salazar blamed Barack Obama for prioritizing Obamacare over an immigration overhaul while in office and Bill Clinton for passing immigration laws that laid the framework for Trump's family separation policy. 

"This is not a matter of Democrats or Republicans, when it comes to immigration everybody's at fault," Salazar said. 

Hunt also asked Salazar, a broadcast journalist for decades until January, about Trump's comments declaring the press as the enemy of the people. Salazar disagreed with his remarks.

"We have the best press in the world," Salazar said. "The press, the press we need always." 

Salazar faces Democrat Donna Shalala and pro-Trump independent Mayra Joli in the general election. 

Watch the interview here.

September 04, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh declines to shake Parkland parent’s hand at confirmation hearing

Senate Supreme Court

@alextdaugherty

Brett Kavanaugh stood up for a lunch break, began to button up his jacket and turned around to find the outstretched hand of Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland mass shooting on Valentine’s Day.

Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, declined to shake it.

“Just walked up to Judge Kavanaugh as the morning session ended,” Guttenberg tweeted. “Put out my hand to introduce myself as Jaime Guttenberg’s dad. He pulled his hand back, turned his back to me and walked away. I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence.”

The three-second exchange instantly went viral, as Democrats are trying to muster attacks on Kavanaugh even though they likely don’t have the votes to stop his eventual confirmation. The first leg of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing on Tuesday was frequently interrupted by protesters in the room, with encouragement from Democrats.

The White House said Guttenberg, a vocal advocate for increased gun-control measures who has traveled to Capitol Hill frequently over the last six months to push for changes in legislation, was “an unidentified individual” and that security intervened before Kavanaugh could shake his hand.

“As Judge Kavanaugh left for his lunch break, an unidentified individual approached him,” White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah tweeted. “Before the Judge was able to shake his hand, security had intervened.”

Guttenberg called Shah's version of events "incorrect." 

Read more here.

August 20, 2018

Florida congressman jokes ‘it would be a catastrophe’ if Trump were saved from drowning

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@alextdaugherty

Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings joked about President Donald Trump drowning in the Potomac River during a campaign rally on Sunday night, prompting laughter from the audience.

Hastings, a longtime congressman who represents a heavily Democratic district in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, relayed a joke he learned from the son of Barry Silver, a former state representative.

“Do you know the difference between a crisis and a catastrophe?” Hastings said, quoting Silver’s son. “A crisis is if Donald Trump falls into the Potomac River and can’t swim... and a catastrophe is if anybody saves his ass.”

Hastings was speaking at the “Stronger Together” rally in Sunrise, which included Sen. Bill Nelson and four of the five leading Democratic candidates for governor. By the time Hastings made the joke, Nelson and the gubernatorial candidates had left, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, which first reported Hastings’ comments.

The longtime Democratic lawmaker, who once served as a federal judge until he was impeached in 1989 before winning his congressional seat in 1992, is known for making colorful comments about Trump and other Republicans. He also called Trump a “sentient pile of excrement” during the final stages of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Hastings’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“There is no question that something is tragically wrong with the president of the United States in his mind,” Hastings said, adding that Trump will be brought down by Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the former White House adviser and reality TV contestant on Trump’s show “The Apprentice” who says she has recordings of Trump using racial epithets, along with porn actress Stormy Daniels and Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Read more here.

August 01, 2018

Rubio votes against defense spending bill amid China concerns

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Sen. Marco Rubio joined a small minority of the most liberal and conservative members of the U.S. Senate to vote against a massive defense spending bill named after ailing Sen. John McCain on Wednesday after Republican leaders declined to punish Chinese telecom giant ZTE, a company that ran afoul of U.S. sanctions against North Korea and Iran. 

Rubio voted against the yearly defense spending package along with nine other senators, eight of them Democrats including potential presidential hopefuls like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who will likely use their opposition to military spending as a campaign issue in a future Democratic primary. 

It's the first time that Rubio has voted against a defense spending bill since joining the U.S. Senate. He missed a vote on the package in 2015 while running for president. 

"We got a lot of good things in it that we fought for, but the ZTE, the threat that China poses in my mind, overrides everything," Rubio said.

In June, the Trump administration announced that Chinese telecom giant ZTE will pay a $1 billion fine and fund an in-house compliance team staffed by U.S. experts after the company was caught shipping communications equipment to North Korea and Iran, and lied to U.S. investigators about it. The ZTE deal came after the Commerce Department announced a seven-year ban on ZTE buying American parts, an action that President Trump said would lead to "too many jobs in China lost."

Trump then instructed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to cut a deal, over the objections of Rubio and most lawmakers on Capitol Hill from both parties.

But Republican leaders recently took out a provision in the military spending bill that would have prevented ZTE from buying American technology in a rebuke to Trump. The decision was met with derision by some Republicans and Democrats, though it wasn't enough to sway most senator's votes. Instead, the bill includes a provision that limits government purchases of ZTE technology such as cell phones and handsets. 

"Sadly we failed this chin check," Rubio tweeted a few hours before the vote. "The U.S. saved as a goodwill gesture to Xi. And responded to this overly generous gesture of “goodwill” by blocking Qualcomm pur­chase of NXP Semi­con­duc­tors NV even after asked them for it in return. Learn the lesson!" 

Rubio said he's not worried about voting against a bill the the president pitches as a win for the military, saying service members and veterans understand why it was important to send a symbolic rebuke to China. 

Curbelo, Diaz-Balart campaigns to receive campaign contributions from Trump

Curbelo (1)

via @anitakumar

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo didn't vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, but his campaign is about to get a cash infusion from the president as he fights for reelection. Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who did vote for Trump and is facing a competitive reelection himself, is also set to receive money along with Trump supporter and U.S. Senate hopeful Rick Scott. The Florida Republicans are part of a group of 100 Republicans nationwide that are receiving direct financial support from the president as the GOP seeks to maintain control of Congress. 

Read more below: 

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is giving money to a surprising group of Republican candidates this fall — those who are not only more moderate than he is, but also those have openly defied him on key issues of immigration and trade.

Some didn’t even vote for him.

Reps. Jeff Denham of California and Carlos Curbelo of Florida, who led a failed effort opposed by the White House to circumvent House leaders and force a vote on granting citizenship to so-called Dreamers, are getting Trump’s money, according to a list of favored candidates obtained by McClatchy.

Some vulnerable Republicans may not welcome the donations, fearful that Democrats will seize on the money as they look to tie the GOP to a controversial president in districts he lost in 2016 or where he remains unpopular.

“We have neither solicited nor received said contribution,” said Joanna Rodriguez, a spokesperson for Curbelo, who represents the most Democratic-leaning House district in the country held by a Republican seeking re-election.

Curbelo of Miami is a frequent critic of Trump and did not support him in the 2016 race.

The Trump campaign announced last week that it would donate the maximum amount allowed by law — $2,000 per candidate — to 100 Republicans running for Congress in November, perhaps a sign that the GOP is worried it will lose its majorities in Congress. Democrats need to pick up a net of 23 seats in the House and two in the Senate to gain control of the chambers.

The Trump campaign did not disclose which candidates would receive contributions and did not respond to subsequent questions about how the candidates were selected, but McClatchy obtained a detailed list.

Read more here.

July 17, 2018

Republicans say Rubio’s bill is the way for Congress to deter Russian meddling

Mueller

@alextdaugherty

Conservatives are lining up behind Marco Rubio’s plan to automatically sanction Russia for any future election meddling a day after President Donald Trump’s meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin drew widespread derision from the entire political spectrum. 

Trump supporters like Fox News host Laura Ingraham, moderates like Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Senate leaders like Mitch McConnell have all expressed support for Rubio’s bill, signaling that Congress could pass substantive legislation that would swiftly punish Moscow if U.S. intelligence determines that the Kremlin tries to meddle in future U.S. elections. 

“There are some possibilities, Senator Rubio, for example, has got a bill that targets the 2018 election cycle we’re right in now which is, as I understand it, is potential penalties if the Russians do it again,” McConnell, who controls the U.S. Senate, said on Tuesday. “So yeah, there’s a possibility that we may well take up legislation related to this.” 

The push by conservatives for a bill that was introduced in January by Rubio and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland comes a day after Trump and Putin met privately for two hours and the president said he believes Putin instead of U.S. intelligence over the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The joint press conference sparked widespread outrage and condemnation from Democrats and Republicans, though Trump tried to walk back his comments on Tuesday by saying he misspoke. 

Rubio and Van Hollen’s bill, called the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, is the first bill since the 2016 presidential election that sets specific punishments for the Russian government and other countries that interfere in U.S. political campaigns.

“Congress has already taken various steps when it comes to Russia and its interference in 2016, this will just be one moving forward that hopefully would deter future attacks, which I believe is the real threat here ultimately,” Rubio said on Tuesday. “It’s not what happened, but what could happen in the future. Hopefully we’ll get to a critical mass and momentum that we can get going on it and get it passed.”

Rubio’s bill, if passed, codifies specific penalties for the Russians that must implemented within 10 days if the Director of National Intelligence determines that interference took place.

The penalties include “sanctions on major sectors of the Russian economy, including finance, energy, defense, and metals and mining” and blacklisting every senior Russian political figure or oligarch identified in the Russian sanctions bill that became law in 2017 over the initial objections of Trump after a supermajority in Congress approved it.

The bill lays out specific acts by foreign governments that constitute election interference. Foreign governments are forbidden from purchasing advertisements to influence elections, using social and traditional media to spread “significant amounts” of false information, hacking election or campaign infrastructure such as voter registration databases and campaign emails, and blocking access to elections infrastructure such as websites that provide information on polling locations.

Read more here

July 16, 2018

Florida lawmakers blast Trump for not calling out Putin

Donald trump 2

via @learyreports

Florida lawmakers on Monday blasted President Trump over taking Vladimir Putin's word that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election, a conclusion that stands in dramatic contrast to widely held views among the intelligence community and on Capitol Hill.

"I don't see any reason why" Russia would do that, Trump said in Helsinki.

"What the president said today is not accurate," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said during an Atlantic Council event.

Florida Democrats were the first to react and in sharper terms.

"The president's refusal to acknowledge that Putin interfered in our elections should alarm us all," Sen. Bill Nelson tweeted. "Putin is a threat to our democracy and our upcoming election, that's a fact. The president's unwillingness to stand up to him and defend our nation is unacceptable and embarrassing."

"Today @RealDonaldTrump became an illegitimate president when he showed the world that his loyalty lies more with than the people of the United States," Miami Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson tweeted. 

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did not directly criticize Trump but did say "Foreign policy must be based on reality, not hyperbole or wishful thinking."

Rubio was more specific during an Atlantic Council event.

"What the president said today is not accurate," the Florida Republican said, adding that "all I can speculate" is that Trump was trying to be nice to Putin to establish a better working relationship.

"The flaw is that Vladimir Putin is not interested in a better working relationship," Rubio said.

Miami Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen directly criticized Trump. 

"The President's comments in Helsinki were deeply alarming," Curbelo said in a statement. "Russia's meddling in the 2016 election is fact – and the recent indictment from Director Mueller and the evidence it outlines proves that. It is unacceptable that an American President not only stood there and said nothing while Vladmir Putin spewed fiction at that press conference, but also questioned the hard work and findings of American intelligence and law enforcement investigators. The U.S. relationship with Russia has deteriorated to its current state because of Russia's criminal interference in our elections, lack of respect for human rights, and invasive and militant actions against its neighbors and our allies around the world. Blaming it on anything else, is unacceptable."

"No, @POTUS. Mueller investigation on election manipulation by is not 'a disaster for our country,'" Ros-Lehtinen tweeted. "It is law enforcement doing work our country needs it to do. What has 'kept us apart' is failure to condemn Russia, lack of any sign that you’ll stop it from happening again." 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart avoided directly criticizing Trump in his statement. 

"As our own intelligence experts and the House Intelligence Committee have asserted, Russia interfered in the United States' 2016 election just as it meddles in the elections of its neighbors," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "Throughout the world, Russia is often on the opposite side of U.S. interests in crucial areas such as Ukraine, Syria, and Iran. Under Putin's charge, Russia has become increasingly undemocratic, expelling pro-democracy NGOs from its territory, suppressing independent media, ignoring human rights, and manifesting a perilous environment for journalists. We must remember that Russia is not an ally of the United States, and that those responsible for attacks on our democratic institutions must be held accountable."

July 13, 2018

Mary Barzee Flores raises $450,000 in first quarter running against Diaz-Balart

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@alextdaugherty

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has a race on his hands. 

Democrat Mary Barzee Flores, who jumped from a crowded Democratic primary in retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's district to run against Diaz-Balart unopposed in May, raised over $450,000 in the latest fundraising quarter from April to June. 

Barzee Flores will likely have less cash to spend than Diaz-Balart, who reported $1.1 million on hand at the end of March, though she will likely have the backing of national Democrats and outside groups that can inject money into the Miami-to-Naples district. Her campaign says they have around $650,000 on hand. Diaz-Balart's campaign did not respond when asked for an updated fundraising total, which must be finalized by Sunday. 

Barzee Flores doesn't have to worry about a contested primary and is seeking to tie Diaz-Balart to President Donald Trump in her campaign. Diaz-Balart was the only member of Congress from Miami-Dade County who voted for Trump during the 2016 campaign, and he worked closely with the president and Sen. Marco Rubio to roll back portions of President Barack Obama's Cuba policies last year. 

Diaz-Balart hasn't faced a competitive election since 2008, and his district which covers Northwest Dade and stretches across the Everglades to suburban Naples, is the most conservative congressional district in Miami-Dade. Trump won Diaz-Balart's congressional district over Hillary Clinton by two percentage points, and Democrats are giddy at the prospect of taking control of all five Miami-based House seats after the 2018 election. 

UPDATE (7/16) 

Diaz-Balart raised $507,000 in the latest quarter and has $1.6 million on hand.