June 15, 2016

President Obama (finally) calls Gov. Rick Scott


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


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

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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


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'


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


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.

After Orlando shooting, Sen. Bill Nelson pushes bill to prevent terror suspects from buying guns

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson on Monday joined fellow Democrats in pushing for a bill that would prevent terror suspects from obtaining guns and explosives.

The FBI, Nelson said, was "handicapped" in dealing with the Orlando shooter, who had been investigated before but the cases had closed. The "Denying Firearms And Explosives To Dangerous Terrorists Act" would ban people on a terrorist watch list from getting weapons.

Said Nelson: "If the FBI did not have to close those cases, could make a notation, then when that fellow went in last week to purchase an AR-15 and an automatic handgun, he would have come up on their radar."

<<< Politifact: "Terrorist watch list no obstacle to buying guns, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy says" >>>

The legislation, which Democrats noted began under President George W. Bush, came up last year and was defeated on a party-line vote. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the sponsor, said she hoped Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would support the legislation.

Nelson also said he was "disgusted" by some of the politics surrounding the shooting. "What we've got to do is come together as a country," he said. "That's the American spirit."

Democrats said it would be the first in a series of gun regulations they would push in light of Orlando.

Gov. Rick Scott speaks with former President Bush on Orlando shooting

In Orlando, Gov. Rick Scott received a phone call Monday morning from former President George W. Bush, his office announced. Scott's official Twitter account said:

"Thank you President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush for your call today. We appreciate your prayers."

Scott's office confirmed Monday that he has not heard from President Barack Obama since the massacre occurred. The president said at the White House Sunday that he has spoken with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

The president said Sunday: "This morning I spoke with my good friend, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and I conveyed the condolences of the entire American people.  This could have been any one of our communities.  So I told Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need -- they are going to get it.  As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow and for all the days to come."

Orlando shooting: Gov. Rick Scott requests federal emergency declaration


Following Sunday's deadly nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida Gov. Rick Scott this morning requested that President Barack Obama issue an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act "so that the full resources of the federal government can be made available for all those impacted by this horrific massacre."

"Yesterday’s terror attack was an attack on our state and entire nation," Scott said in a statement.

"I have remained in constant communication with federal, state and local law enforcement. I have spoken with our hospitals who are caring for those who are wounded and recovering. I have also been in contact with some of the victims’ families to let them know we are grieving with them and will be there for them every step of the way," Scott said. "Our state is mourning, but the Orlando community is strong. We are all coming together, and we will get through this together. I ask every American to continue to pray for our state and nation and all those affected by this terror attack."

Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera added: "We are devastated, angry and disgusted by the horrifying act of domestic terrorism that took place here in our state. I have been on the ground in Orlando, and the sense of community and love we see here is proof that we are a resilient people. We as Americans have shown and will continue to show that we cannot and will not be intimidated into changing our way of life by evil. The State of Florida has offered all resources available, and will continue to be in constant contact with all agencies involved. Our prayers are with those and their families devastated by last night’s act of terror, and we will be doing everything possible to support."

In a two-page letter to the White House and FEMA, Scott specifically requested emergency assistance in the form of "provision of health and safety measures" and "management, control and reduction of immediate threats to public health and safety."

Read the request here.