January 13, 2017

Miami congressman joins bipartisan group extending Trump offer to work together on infrastructure, tax reform

@PatriciaMazzei

A bipartisan group of members of Congress extended an invitation to President-elect Donald Trump on Friday to work together on issues with broad appeal across political-party lines, such as rebuilding infrastructure and reforming the tax code.

Among the 23 representatives taking part in the self-titled "Problem Solvers" caucus: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican who didn't vote for Trump but said he's willing to work with him in areas where they share common ground. Curbelo was recently appointed to the Ways and Means Committee that writes tax law.

"Washington is running out of time to restore citizens' trust in our government," they wrote. "People are angry and they have a right to be. But we believe the next administration and Congress have a brief window to turn it around; to show the people that we are capable of coming together to fix the problems that are harming the health, wealth and well-being of so many families."

Read their letter here.

January 12, 2017

What Trump said as a candidate about wet foot, dry foot

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@PatriciaMazzei
 
At least twice as a candidate, President-elect Donald Trump was asked about the wet foot, dry foot immigration policy toward Cubans that President Barack Obama ended Thursday.
 
Trump has yet to weigh in on the Obama repeal, though the White House told Cuban Americans on a call Thursday evening the Trump transition team had been briefed about the decision, according to a person on the call.
 
In February of last year, the Tampa Bay Times asked Trump if it was fair for Cubans who arrive in the U.S. to automatically get legal status, a path to citizenship and federal welfare benefits.
 
"I don’t think that’s fair. I mean why would that be a fair thing?" Trump responded. "I don’t think it would be fair. You know we have a system now for bringing people into the country, and what we should be doing is we should be bringing people who are terrific people who have terrific records of achievement, accomplishment.... You have people that have been in the system for years [waiting to immigrate to America], and it’s very unfair when people who just walk across the border, and you have other people that do it legally."
 
Pressed again in August, Trump deflected a question from the Miami Herald specifically about whether he would end wet foot, dry foot. (Video below.)
 
"Well, interestingly, I'm having a meeting on that in about a week with a lot of people from Cuba, originally from Cuba, and Cuban Americans," he said. "And I'm going to be talking about that. I'm going to have a decision probably pretty quickly on that. But I want to get their feeling. I want to listen to what the people are saying. And I want to listen specifically to what Cuban people who came to this country, and who have lived in this country, Cuban Americans. I want to hear how they feel."
 
Trump's meeting with Cuban Americans in Miami didn't take place until more than a month later -- and no policy specifics were discussed.
Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

Bush camp says it had nothing to do with Russian dirt on Trump

via @learyreports

A BBC report this week asserted that the super PAC supporting Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign had paid for salacious opposition research on Donald Trump that the president-elect vigorously dismissed yesterday as “FAKE NEWS.”

But Bush’s camp says that nonsense and has gotten the BBC to correct its story. The dossier had circulated among news organizations for months but none ran with it because the claims could not be verified.

BuzzFeed this week published the document, drawing Trump’s wrath.

“To be clear, Right to Rise USA had nothing to do with the research or dossier and has sent a cease & desist letter to the BBC demanding a correction,” Charlie Spies, a lawyer for Right to Rise USA, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Mel Martinez joins other past HUD chiefs in backing Ben Carson

@PatriciaMazzei

Former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez joined three other past Housing and Urban Development secretaries Thursday in backing President-elect Donald Trump's nominee, Ben Carson, for the post.

In a statement released by Trump's transition team, Martinez, Henry Cisneros, Alphonso Jackson and Steven Preston reminded the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs that they all came to HUD with varying degrees of experience -- or lack thereof -- in the field. Carson, whose confirmation hearing is later Thursday, is a retired neurosurgeon.

"We all succeeded thanks to the help of the cadre of dedicated civil servants -- a team of respected, career leaders who have stood alongside each one of us, helping us guide the agency to succeed in its mission," the men wrote. "The singular, common piece of advice every HUD secretary is given is to listen."

Martinez served as HUD secretary from 2001-03 under President George W. Bush.

Here's the four ex-secretaries' full letter:

Continue reading "Mel Martinez joins other past HUD chiefs in backing Ben Carson" »

January 11, 2017

Tillerson says he'd urge Trump to keep Cuban embargo

@PatriciaMazzei

Sen. Marco Rubio got Rex Tillerson to make news Wednesday afternoon about Cuba.

In Rubio's second round of questioning President-elect Donald Trump's secretary of state nominee, he asked Tillerson of he'd urge Trump to veto any potential legislation calling for doing away with the U.S.-Cuba trade embargo. Yes, Tillerson said.

He also said he'd oppose allowing unfettered travel by Americans to the island, though Tillerson added that any changes to President Barack Obama's Cuba reengagement policy would come only after a top-to-bottom Trump administration review.

More here.

Fact-checking Donald Trump's first press conference since winning presidency

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via @katielsanders

In his first press conference since winning the presidency, Donald Trump vehemently denied unverified opposition research reports that he has been compromised by the Russian government and scolded media organizations that published the information.

"It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen," Trump said.

The night before the press conference, CNN reported that U.S. intelligence chiefs presented a  summary of the reports to President Barack Obama and Trump as part of classified briefings on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The documents allege that Moscow had compromising personal and financial information on Trump. As far as we know, no one in the intelligence community or in the media have been able to confirm the claims. Buzzfeed published them in full, which Trump and his administration admonished as "pathetic."

For the first time, Trump himself acknowledged the finding of the intelligence community that Russia ordered cyberattacks to interfere in the election.

"I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people," he said.

The news conference also featured Trump’s attorney, Sheri Dillon, explaining how he would handle his businesses as president.

Here are highlights from some of Trump’s comments. We’ll be fact-checking some of his statements and updating this report as we complete our work.

Keep reading PolitiFact's story by Linda Qiu and Katie Sanders.

January 10, 2017

The intriguing subplots -- featuring Trump and Breitbart -- of the race for Florida GOP chairman

via @adamsmithtimes

Florida Republicans will elect their party chairman on Saturday and, knowing current Chairman Blaise Ingoglia knack for whipping and counting votes, I'd be surprised if Sarasota State Committeeman Christian Ziegler knocks him off. But state Rep. Ingoglia is not a lock, does face a serious challenge, and the race has some pretty juicy undercurrents and sub plots thanks to Ingoglia's second job as a member of the Florida House.

As a state Representative, Ingoglia is widely viewed as House Speaker "Richard Corcoran's guy." And Corcoran, fairly or not, is viewed as the de facto state GOP boss. That's especially true since Gov. Rick Scott pretty much disowned the Republican Party of Florida after its leaders elected Ingoglia party chairman, rather than his preferred candidate. Neither the governor nor the Florida Senate nor any Cabinet members is aggressively raising money for the Republican Party of Corcoran/Ignolia.

That's why this Florida GOP chairman's race at least symbolically represents several intra-party proxy battles:

**Scott vs. Corcoran (though there is no sign Scott is actively helping Ziegler).

**Likely gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam vs. potential gubernatorial candidate Corcoran.

**Scott vs. Marco Rubio. Rubio endorsed Ingoglia, while Scott has stayed officially neutral. Who really leads the Florida GOP today, the senator working well with the state party and could challenge President Trump in 2020 or the strong Trump supporter likely 2018 senate candidate who relies on his own political committee?

**Donald Trump, Scott vs. the GOP establishment. Corcoran was vocal early on with his contempt for "repugnant" President-elect Trump, and Ingoglia certainly kept his distance from Trump, regularly refusing to discuss his party's nominee publicly. Trump himself was mistrustful of Ingoglia during Florida's March, 2016 primary.

Continue reading "The intriguing subplots -- featuring Trump and Breitbart -- of the race for Florida GOP chairman" »

Rubio backs Trump's choice of Pruitt, a climate-change denier, to head EPA

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@PatriciaMazzei

Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday he backs President-elect Donald Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who has been an outspoken denier of climate change, a critical issue threatening Florida.

"The next EPA administrator should be someone who understands the important balance between protecting our air, water and environment without needlessly hurting workers with excessive regulations," Rubio said in a statement that made no mention of climate change. "Attorney General Pruitt ‎is the right choice to bring a much-needed dose of common sense to a department where overzealous, out-of-touch regulators have been allowed to operate seemingly unchecked. I look forward to working with him on the many important environmental issues facing Florida."

Pruitt has been a leading opponent of the EPA's Clean Power Plan to limit fossil-fuel emissions from power plants -- a key step to slow climate change. 

Former Gov. Jeb Bush has also praised Pruitt. Trump, who will be inaugurated in 10 days, said last month "nobody really knows" if climate change is real -- though scientists agree it is.

Photo credit: Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press

Bush writes Senate on behalf of Trump education pick DeVos

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Jeb Bush is making a push for Donald Trump’s choice to run the Department of Education, arguing Betsy DeVos will be an advocate for school choice.

“Betsy is a champion of families, not institutions,” Bush writes in a letter to leaders of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “For her, local control of education decisions means local control. She trusts parents to choose what is in their unique child's best interests, and she believes in providing every parent with the resources to pursue those decisions.

“I’m confident that, as Secretary, Betsy will pursue every opportunity to improve all of our nation's schools and empower states, districts and parents to maximize the number of high-quality learning opportunities available to our kids.”

DeVos’ policy positions have sparked fierce opposition from Democrats and Sen. Patty Murray, the lead Democrat on the committee, said the nomination should be postponed until DeVos’ ethics review is complete. On Monday night it was announced the hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, will push to next week.

Bush writes that he has known DeVos for more than 20 years — in recent years she has served on the board of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education — and that DeVos “has become the voice of mothers and fathers who for too long have lacked one in America's education system.”

He goes on to explain “two false narratives about the parental choice movement are pertinent to this nomination and to the future of our education system.”

Read his full letter below.

Continue reading "Bush writes Senate on behalf of Trump education pick DeVos" »

January 06, 2017

Tenured Miami Dade College professor tweets about impeaching Obama, 'the Kenyan'

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via @KyraGurney

Ed Calle may not be a household name, but he is well-known in the music industry as a gifted saxophonist who has played alongside everyone from Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan to pop stars Rihanna and Shakira. The Latin Grammy winner and five-time Grammy nominee is also a professor at Miami Dade College, where he teaches music business and production.

But on Sunday, a tweet from Calle struck a sour note, unleashing a Twitter storm and calls for MDC to fire the tenured professor.

In response to a tweet from a political activist about impeaching President-elect Donald Trump, Calle tweeted: “Yeah, right. Let’s work on impeaching the Kenyan first.”

Dozens of people expressed outrage at Calle’s suggestion that President Barack Obama was not from the United States, tweeting to Calle and MDC that he should be sacked. The thoroughly debunked allegation has been espoused by so-called “birthers,” including Trump himself until he finally dropped it during the presidential campaign in September.

Calle subsequently deleted his Twitter account, but he posted a letter on his website under the heading “Response to Twitter Mob” in which he defended his right to free speech and argued that Obama’s birth certificate was fake.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff