February 16, 2017

Anti-Trump protesters in Florida try to figure out what comes next

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@PatriciaMazzei

Three weeks after they wore pink knitted hats, waved homemade protest signs and marched in Washington and in Miami, the women determined to keep confronting President Donald Trump filed into the pews of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Coconut Grove — if not to pray, then at least to commune.

“If you feel comfortable closing your eyes, please do so: We’re in a safe space,” Natalia Vásquez urged as she led an opening moment of meditation that felt a lot like the start of a yoga class. “Ask yourself, ‘Why am I here? What is important to me right now? And how can I become involved in loving action?’”

They breathed and applauded and cheered together. And then came the hard work: trying to figure out how to turn their anti-Trump fervor into a long-term political movement — one more akin to the tea party, which quickly dominated U.S. elections, than to Occupy Wall Street, which didn’t.

The women’s marches held on Jan. 21, the day after Trump’s inauguration, drew such extraordinary crowds that organizers across the country have spent the past few weeks dealing with the consequences of their unexpected success. Protesters wanted to know what more they could do — now and over the next four years.

No one had planned that far in advance.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

Trump names Miamian Alex Acosta to lead labor department

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@jayhweaver @PatriciaMazzei @NickNehamas

President Donald Trump nominated R. Alexander Acosta, a former Miami U.S. attorney and the current dean of Florida International University’s law school, as labor secretary Thursday after Trump’s initial choice failed to gain support in the Republican-led Senate.

Acosta, a 48-year-old Republican who served as South Florida’s top federal prosecutor during President George W. Bush’s second term before joining FIU’s faculty, not only boasts stellar conservative credentials but is also recognized locally as a political pragmatist.

“He has had a tremendous career,” Trump said Thursday. “He will be a tremendous secretary of labor.”

Trump made the announcement from the White House East Room. Acosta wasn’t present, suggesting Trump decided on his new nominee so quickly that Acosta didn’t have enough time to make it to Washington.

Acosta, who is Cuban-American, would be the first and only Hispanic on Trump’s Cabinet, and the third Cuban-American Cabinet secretary in history, after Mel Martinez and Carlos Gutierrez. Acosta’s full name is Rene Alexander Acosta; he goes by Alex and lives in Coral Gables.

The president spent most of the news conference Thursday laying into reporters, whom he characterized as unfair. Trump has scheduled his first post-inauguration political rally for Saturday afternoon in Melbourne. 

More here.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file

Miami lawmakers praise Trump's new labor pick, a local

@PatriciaMazzei

Even before President Donald Trump announced Alexander Acosta as his new secretary of labor pick, a Miami Republican lawmaker started singing Acosta's praises.

NBC News reported Thursday -- ahead of Trump's White House press conference announcing his choice -- that it would be Acosta, the dean of Florida International University's law school and former U.S. attorney for the southern district of Florida. Acosta would be Trump's first and only Hispanic Cabinet member.

The still-unconfirmed news prompted immediate support from U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:

I am excited to learn of Alex Acosta’s nomination for Labor Secretary. He has an impressive record of achievement, having served on the National Labor Relations Board, as well as receiving  presidential appointments to both U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Florida and Assistant Attorney General during his career. Alex has also been an exemplary Dean of one of the best law schools in the state, leading FIU to earn the highest bar passage rates in Florida for three years in a row. He is a man of great principle, integrity, and courage, and I am confident he will do an excellent job serving our nation.

Here's the reaction from U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami:

And from U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami:

And from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida:

I know Alex Acosta well, and he is a phenomenal choice to lead the Department of Labor. Whether it was his distinguished service as U.S. attorney in Florida’s Southern District or as dean of Florida International University’s school of law, Alex has succeeded in all endeavors he has taken on, and managing the Department of Labor will be no different. I look forward to his confirmation hearing, where I’m confident he will impress my colleagues and secure the support necessary to be the next secretary of labor.

February 15, 2017

Trump meets with wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader

@PatriciaMazzei

President Donald Trump met unexpectedly Wednesday night at the White House with the wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, and called for his release.

The president tweeted a photograph of himself, Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the Oval Office with Lilian Tintori, who was making the rounds in Washington to keep up U.S. attention on her husband's case.

Venezuela should allow Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner & husband of @liliantintori (just met w/ @marcorubio) out of prison immediately. pic.twitter.com/bt8Xhdo7al

Trump's schedule didn't list a meeting with Tintori -- but it did include dinner with Rubio, one of the most vocal critics in Congress against the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Trump told a Gannett reporter Wednesday that the dinner -- which included his wife, Jeanette, and First Lady Melania Trump -- was a "social invitation."

"Whatever we discuss, I'm not going to tell you," Rubio told Gannett's Ledyard King.

Earlier Wednesday, Tintori and Mitzy Ledezma, the wife of jailed Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, went to Capitol Hill, where they sat down with several lawmakers, including Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Weston Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- all of whom, like Rubio, represent a growing number of Venezuelan Americans. López has been detained since 2014 and Ledezma since 2015.

On Monday, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions against Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, accusing him of being a drug lord. On Wednesday, Maduro called those allegations a "grotesque lie."

Separately, the Maduro administration on Wednesday suspended CNN en Español from the South American country's airwaves, following an investigative report into fake passports issued by the Venezuelan government.

Ambassador Jeffrey Loria?

Marlins Sale Baseball
@PatriciaMazzei

Sacré bleu! The New York Post reports that Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is being floated by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus as the next U.S. ambassador to France.

"So far, Priebus has pushed — and won signoffs — for Miami Marlins owner Jeff Loria to head to France, GOP activist Georgette Mosbacher to Luxembourg, financier Lew Eisenberg to Italy and hedge funder Duke Buchan to Spain," the Post reports.

The White House and the Marlins declined to comment about the Post's story.

Loria, a New York art dealer who donated at least $125,000 to President Donald Trump during the campaign, is reportedly in talks to sell the team to a group that includes Joshua Kushner, the brother of Trump son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner.

--with Barry Jackson

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

Miami U.S. attorney, who was appointed by Obama, to step down

via @jayhweaver

U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, who served almost seven years in the longest tenure for South Florida's top law enforcement official, said Wednesday that he will be stepping down on March 3.

Ferrer, who will be replaced temporarily by his first assistant, career prosecutor Ben Greenberg, announced his resignation so he can begin considering other opportunities in the legal community while the newly elected president, Donald Trump, decides his permanent successor.

Ferrer, the son of Cuban immigrants who rose to the top of his class at Hialeah Senior High School and the University of Miami before obtaining his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, told the Miami Herald that it has been a “sad day, but it was time.”

Ferrer, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2010, oversaw an office with nearly 250 lawyers that stretches from Key West to Fort Pierce. It has been recognized for decades as one of the busiest and most colorful districts for federal criminal prosecutions in the country.

More here.

In campaign throwback, Trump schedules Saturday rally in Melbourne

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@PatriciaMazzei    

President Donald Trump will return to his favorite part of campaigning -- holding massive public rallies -- Saturday when he once again returns to Florida for the weekend.

Trump has scheduled a 5 p.m. rally in Melbourne, according to an event listed on the website Trump used as a candidate. It will be held Orlando-Melbourne International Airport's AeroMod Hangar.

The president will spend the third consecutive weekend at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach estate. He's expected to arrive in Florida on Friday.

Photo credit: John Locher, Associated Press (from a September rally in Melbourne)

February 14, 2017

Rubio and wife to dine with Trumps at White House

GOP 2016 Rubio
@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and his wife, Jeanette, will dine privately Wednesday night with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

The Rubios will join the Trumps at 6:30 p.m. in the Blue Room, according to the White House. Trump has met with a number of lawmakers in Washington, but none has had a one-on-one dinner, wives included, on the schedule.

Trump and Rubio put aside the colorful exchanges they had during the Republican presidential primary (think "Little Marco" and...hands) once Rubio sought reelection to the U.S. Senate and received Trump's endorsement. Rubio also backed Trump's candidacy, even after a slew of controversies, though he didn't publicly campaign with him.

Rubio harshly questioned Rex Tillerson when Trump nominated him for secretary of state but ultimately voted for his confirmation.

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

Chaffetz wants answers on Mar-a-Lago security

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - A top House Republican wants the White House to answer questions about President Trump's handling of sensitive information while at Mar-a-Lago as North Korea tested a ballistic missile.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz sent a letter Tuesday to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asking for details about documents seen in photographs, whether classified information was discussed in open and the vetting of Mar-a-Lago guests.

The inquiry comes as Trump's administration is reeling from the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn -- a matter Chaffetz says he won't investigate.

The White House contends classified information wasn't discussed in public and scenes of Trump, Japanese officials and others at Mar-a-Lago reflect planning for a news conference to address North Korea.

The letter:

Continue reading "Chaffetz wants answers on Mar-a-Lago security" »

Trump's Mar-a-Lago visits have cost Palm Beach County sheriff $1.5M and counting

From the Associated Press:

Donald Trump's visits to his South Florida estate since he was elected president have cost the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department $1.5 million in overtime costs.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw is confident the money his department has spent while assisting the Secret Service will be reimbursed by the federal government.

"I do hope he is correct," said Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker.

The county sent letters to federal officials in December seeking reimbursement for the overtime security costs from Trump's five-day visit to the estate called Mar-a-lago in November, the Palm Beach Post reported Tuesday.

Those costs were originally estimated at $250,000, but Bradshaw said the total will be closer to $300,000. Based on the revised number, the sheriff said told the newspaper the security costs are amounting to about $60,000 a day during Trump's visits to the county.

More here.