June 16, 2016

Obama's somber trip to Orlando underscored by tension with Gov. Scott

Omar2 06 EKM

@ByKristenMClark

Yet again making the all-too-familiar trip to console and grieve with victims of a mass shooting in an American community, President Barack Obama will travel to Orlando on Thursday.

The trek has become a sadly frequent one for Obama, whose presidency has coincided with other high-profile mass shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., Charleston, S.C., and Newtown, Conn.

But Sunday’s slaying of 49 people at a gay nightclub holds special significance as the worst of them all — the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

While in Orlando, Obama will visit with families of the dead and the 53 people who were injured. The president also plans to meet with surgeons, doctors and nurses who treated the wounded, and law enforcement officials and first-responders who were on the scene in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Specific details on the visit haven’t been released. But Obama is expected to also attend a prayer vigil at the Amway Center, Orlando officials told the Herald/Times.

Obama wants to offer “comfort and support to a community that’s grieving,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday, adding that he expects it will be “an emotional trip” for the president.

While the visit will be a somber one, it will also be underscored by some recent political tension between Obama and Republican Gov. Rick Scott — despite other public displays of bipartisanship in a time of tragedy.

Read more here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot / Miami Herald

June 15, 2016

Anderson Cooper: Pam Bondi 'either mistaken or not telling the truth' about CNN interview

Capture

@ByKristenMClark

Hold the phone, Pam Bondi.

In Act 3 of a two-day saga, CNN host Anderson Cooper says Florida's Republican attorney general is "either mistaken or she's not telling the truth" about the pretenses of her now-viral interview with him Tuesday afternoon.

Cooper had questioned the 'sick irony' of Bondi talking about her support for the LGBT community in the wake of the Orlando shooting massacre, when she previously had fought for years efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Florida.

On Wednesday morning, Bondi responded to the interview by going on a New York talk radio show -- the host of which, Todd Schnitt, called Bondi his "long-time friend." Bondi and the radio hosts criticized Cooper for interviewing her under false pretenses.

She said "the interview was supposed to be about helping victims families" by educating the public about potential donation scams and Tuesday wasn't "the time nor the place" to discuss a "constitutional issue."

But on "AC 360" Wednesday night, Cooper said Bondi's preferred topic actually wasn't the purpose of the interview at all.

He said, before they went on air, he asked Bondi -- as he does all his guests -- what she'd like to talk about. He chose to lead the interview with that, but then he said he wanted to hold her accountable for the contradiction between her past and present comments about LGBT people.

"Let's be real here," Cooper said, "Ms. Bondi's big complaint seems to be that I asked in the first place, in the wake of a massacre that targeted gay and lesbian citizens, about her new statements about the gay community and about her old ones."

He added: "It's my job to hold people accountable. And if on Sunday, a politician's talking about love and embracing 'our LGBT community,' I don't think it's unfair to look at their record and see if they have actually ever spoken that way publicly before -- which I've never heard her say."

Watch Cooper's full response to Bondi here:

The full-length version of her original CNN interview -- which Cooper refers to and which Bondi had complained wasn't posted online -- is available here:

Here, again, was Bondi's response to Cooper on the radio show Wednesday morning:

More police collaboration could have meant 'different outcome' in Orlando, Rep. Murphy says

@ByKristenMClark

Joining the bevy of Florida politicians making the rounds on cable news this week, Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy got nine minutes of airtime with CNN's Wolf Blitzer Wednesday evening to talk about the Orlando shooting investigation, as well as his bid for U.S. Senate.

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, represents the district where the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen lived. Murphy is also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which has been briefed on Sunday's attack and the ongoing investigation into it.

"Every day, (the committee is) learning more and more about this," Murphy said.

"In this era of lone-wolf attacks," Murphy said the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub -- which left 50 dead (including Mateen) and 53 injured -- highlights the need for better collaboration and coordination between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

"I believe there's stuff out there that local law enforcement might have had that, if combined with what the federal government had and the FBI during these investigations -- we might have had a different outcome," Murphy said. "The investigation is going to let us know what happened, and I don't want to point a finger yet -- but it is more important than ever that law enforcement work together."

He added: "It seems that all the pieces weren't connected in this situation. ... But there seems to be enough pieces of information here that perhaps (Mateen) should have been monitored, perhaps we should have kept an eye on him a little bit closer."

Blitzer probed Murphy for more details on the pending investigation, including the potential for Mateen's wife, Noor, to be charged as an accomplice and whether he thought she should be.

There was a lot Murphy said he "couldn't speak to" because of the investigation, but he did say: "It sure seems that she had enough information at this point that she should have certainly said something and (she) awfully seems like an accomplice to me."

On whether authorities will release the 911 tapes from Sunday morning -- which a coalition of media, including the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times, is urging law enforcement to do under Florida’s Sunshine Law -- Murphy said: “At a certain point, most of those things usually do come out but I haven’t heard one way or the other. … We’ve heard just high-level information about them, nothing more actually.”

President Obama (finally) calls Gov. Rick Scott

@ByKristenMClark

Florida Gov. Rick Scott finally got the call he's been waiting for three days to get.

President Barack Obama called the governor at 12:40 p.m., according to a revised public schedule Scott's office released just before 3 this afternoon.

It's unclear how long the call lasted. Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in an email to the Herald/Times: "The president called to offer his condolences. Governor Scott reiterated his request for the emergency declaration requested on Monday."

No details were immediately available about the length of the call or what the two discussed.

During cable news interviews the past several days, Scott and top members of his administration -- including fellow Republicans, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera -- have pointedly mentioned the fact that Obama hadn't called Scott in the wake of Sunday's shooting massacre in Orlando.

Scott's office issued similar after-the-fact, revised public schedules for the governor this week to reflect that he had been called by both former President George W. Bush and senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Notably, the advisory from Scott's office this afternoon came 90 minutes after Scott made himself available to the media at a press conference -- in which local and state officials offered an update into the investigation of Sunday's attack.

Scott spoke during the press conference and also took questions from reporters, but he didn't let on then that he'd spoken with Obama an hour earlier.

Obama will be in Orlando on Thursday to meet with victims' families. While there, he's also expected to attend a prayer vigil at the Amway Center.

Scott plans to greet Obama on the tarmac when Air Force One lands in Orlando.

Pam Bondi: Yesterday wasn't 'time nor place' for CNN's Anderson Cooper to ask about her record on LGBT rights

via @adamsmithtimes

Attorney General Pam Bondi today appeared on the radio show of her friend Todd Schnitt, criticizing CNN's Anderson Cooper for focusing on her record on LGBT rights -- rather than questions about helping victims of the Orlando shooting which she had expected to address.

"The interview was supposed to be about helping victims families not creating, more anger and havoc and hatred," she said.

Listen to the interview below.

Read here for more on the original CNN interview.

After Orlando shooting, Democrats want special legislative session

@ByKristenMClark

Three Orlando-area Democrats will call this morning for Republican legislative leaders to convene a special session of the Florida Legislature, so lawmakers can consider a proposal in response to Sunday's shooting massacre at Pulse nightclub.

Expected to attend the 10 a.m. announcement in front of the Orange County Courthouse are state Sens. Darren Soto and Geraldine Thompson, both of Orlando, state Rep. John Cortes, of Kissimmee, and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.

The lawmakers and local official plan to unveil their "tactical proposal to prevent future tragedies."

But the proposal -- details of which are yet unknown -- isn't expected to go very far.

Katie Betta -- the spokeswoman for Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando -- told the News Service of Florida in an email Tuesday: "The president does not support expending taxpayer dollars on a special session unless there is definitive support within the Senate for a concrete legislative proposal that requires time-sensitive action. Absent those elements, the president has a hard time viewing press conferences calling for a special session three days after the worst act of terrorism in this country since Sept. 11 as anything more than political posturing by two senators who have declared their intention to run for Congress."

Both Soto and Thompson are leaving the state Senate this year and are campaigning for seats in the U.S. House.

Gov. Rick Scott will greet President Obama in Orlando

Pra26 PObama NEW PPP

@ByKristenMClark

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is planning to be on the tarmac as Air Force One lands in Orlando on Thursday -- when President Barack Obama is expected to visit with victims' families from Sunday's shooting massacre at Pulse nightclub.

Scott and Obama have not yet spoken directly in the three days since the shooting -- magnifying ongoing tension between the two -- but Scott's spokeswoman Jackie Schutz confirmed to the Herald/Times late Tuesday that "yes, the governor will be on the tarmac" for Obama's arrival.

It's unclear yet whether any public events will be held during Obama's trip or whether Obama and Scott will have time to talk privately, particularly about Scott's request for a federal emergency declaration for Orlando. The Florida Times-Union reported Scott's ask is unprecedented after a mass shooting.

The Orlando tragedy is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, with 50 people dead (including the shooter Omar Mateen) and 53 injured.

The purpose of Obama's visit is "to pay his respects to victims' families and to stand in solidarity with the community as they embark on their recovery," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said when the trip was announced Monday.

Photo credit: U.S. President Barack Obama is welcomed by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Florida Governor Rick Scott, as he arrives at MIA with Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, for a town hall meeting on immigration at Florida International University on Wednesday February 25, 2015. Pedro Portal / El Nuevo Herald

June 14, 2016

White House: 'Hopefully' President Obama, Gov. Rick Scott will talk Thursday

@ByKristenMClark

While President Barack Obama and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have yet to speak directly after the Orlando shooting massacre, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters earlier today that "hopefully" the president and governor will meet up when Obama is in Orlando on Thursday.

Scott pointedly noted this morning on Fox News that he's had phone calls from Donald Trump and former President George W. Bush -- but his communication with the White House has been limited to a Monday night phone call with senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Asked today if Obama has plans to reach out to Scott, Earnest responded:

Well, first of all, the President has had the opportunity to speak with Buddy Dyer, who is the mayor of Orlando.  Other senior White House officials have been in touch with Governor Scott directly, and there have been a number of conversations between Obama administration officials and their counterparts in Florida to ensure that we are effectively coordinating the efforts of federal authorities with state and local authorities as well.

So that is an important principle here, to make sure that all our efforts are concentrated on investigating this situation, getting to the bottom of it, but also standing in solidarity with a community that's grieving.  And, as we announced last night, the President will be traveling to Orlando on Thursday.  And, as we always do, we will invite the governor to be a part of the President's arrival.  And hopefully the President will have the opportunity to see Governor Scott there.

When asked if Scott had plans to meet with Obama on Thursday or if he would greet the president on the tarmac when Air Force One lands, Scott's spokeswoman Jackie Schutz told the Herald/Times in an email this afternoon: "No details yet." 

Pam Bondi on CNN: 'I've never said I don't like gay people'

@JeremySWallace

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Tuesday defended her actions two years ago to fight same-sex marriage during a tense interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Cooper questioned if it were a "sick irony" for Bondi to say in interviews since the shootings in Orlando that anyone who attacks the gay community will be gone after to the fullest extent of the law when she argued in court years ago that allowing marriage equality would "impose significant public harm." He said there are people in the gay community who think she's a hypocrite for her actions.

Cooper asked Bondi if she saw herself as a champion of the gay community.

Bondi responded that she was defending the state constitution, as she is sworn to defend.

"I've never said I don't like gay people," Bondi said. "That's ridiculous."

A 4-minute clip of the interview is posted on CNN.com; CNN reporter Brian Stelter also tweeted out a longer, 5-1/2 minute version (above). 

June 13, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott activates Florida Disaster Fund to help victims, families of Orlando shooting

@ByKristenMClark

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has activated the Florida Disaster Fund to provide financial support to organizations that will help victims of Sunday's shooting massacre and their families.

"We are committed to ensuring that every resource is available to help those in need following yesterday’s horrific terror attack in Orlando," Scott said in a statement. "Since the attack, we have seen Floridians unite together and our state has received an incredible outpouring of prayers and support. Activating the Florida Disaster Fund will give individuals across the country the opportunity to assist survivors and the loved ones of the victims. We will continue to work together in the coming days to do all we can to help this community heal."

The fund is the state's official private fund to help communities respond to and recover from emergencies and disasters. Scott's office said 100 percent of funds raised will go toward those in need. Donations to the Florida Disaster Fund are made to the Volunteer Florida Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and are tax deductible.

Contributions can be made by credit card online at www.FloridaDisasterFund.org or by check to: Volunteer Florida Foundation, Attention: Florida Disaster Fund, 3800 Esplanade Way Suite 180, Tallahassee, FL  32311.

Checks should be made payable to the "Volunteer Florida Foundation" and should include “Florida Disaster Fund” in the memo line.

For more information, email info@volunteerflorida.org or call (850) 414-7400.