August 22, 2017

Rubio to make special appearance at Curbelo fundraiser


Sen. Marco Rubio will help raise campaign money for Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Thursday in Bal Harbour.

The evening reception will be held at the home of the Falic family, which has been politically active for years, particularly on issues related to Israel. In the past, family members have supported conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz -- as well as Weston Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine , a Democrat in a nonpartisan post.

An invitation to the fundraiser obtained by the Miami Herald shows contribution levels ranging from $2,700 to $10,400 a person.

Curbelo, a prolific fundraiser, has been ramping up his money efforts ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. He's got a fundraiser scheduled for Wednesday with several well-known local Democrats.

August 17, 2017

Venezuelan lawmaker tied to Rubio threat: ‘We don’t care about you’

Venezuela Political Crisis (2)

The powerful Venezuelan lawmaker tied to a potential death order against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio dismissed the notion late Wednesday that he has a personal interest in getting the Florida Republican killed.

“The things we’ve said here about Narco Rubio are responses to his attacks,” Diosdado Cabello said, repeating his preferred slur against the senator. “But from my telling you that, to coming up with a plan to assassinate someone — you don’t know us. We always deal with things head on. We don’t use imperialism’s methods.”

Cabello made the comments on his state-run television program, “Con el Mazo Dando” (Hitting with the Sledgehammer), three days after the Miami Herald revealed that U.S. intelligence linked an unverified death threat against Rubio to Cabello last month. A security detail organized by Capitol Police has been protecting Rubio in Washington and Miami since then.

Rubio’s office declined to comment Thursday on Cabello’s remarks. It has also declined comment on the security detail and the death threat.

The U.S. believes Cabello, a former military chief, controls all of Venezuela’s security forces. Rubio, a close White House adviser on Latin America, has forcefully advocated for the U.S. to penalize Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government over the inauguration of a new legislative assembly elected under suspected fraud

Cabello, a delegate to the new constituent assembly and top leader of the ruling socialist party, spent most of his Wednesday program lashing out at President Donald Trump for saying offhandedly last week that his administration might consider a “military option” against Venezuela. But Cabello also devoted some time to needling Rubio, one of his favorite U.S. targets.

“I’m not the one who has a brother-in-law in prison for drug trafficking, and I’m not the one who as a senator has stuck his hand out to help him,” Cabello said. “That’s you.”

More here.

Photo credit: Ariana Cubillos, Associated Press

August 15, 2017

Republicans again denounce Trump after he again accuses 'both sides' of violence in Charlottesville


Check out Miami Republicans' tweets from Saturday and now, again, from Tuesday, in response to President Donald Trump's insistence that "both sides" -- and not just white supremacists and neo-Nazis -- were to blame for violence over the weekend Charlottesville. The three lawmakers are Hispanic.

Continue reading "Republicans again denounce Trump after he again accuses 'both sides' of violence in Charlottesville" »

August 13, 2017

Venezuelan lawmaker may have issued death order against Rubio

Trump Russia Probe

One of Venezuela’s most powerful leaders may have put out an order to kill Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a fervent critic of the South American country’s government, according to intelligence obtained by the U.S. last month.

Though federal authorities couldn’t be sure at the time if the uncorroborated threat was real, they took it seriously enough that Rubio has been guarded by a security detail for several weeks in both Washington and Miami.

Believed to be behind the order: Diosdado Cabello, the influential former military chief and lawmaker from the ruling socialist party who has publicly feuded with Rubio.

At a July 19 Senate hearing, the same day he was first spotted with more security, Rubio repeated his line that Cabello — who has long been suspected by U.S. authorities of drug trafficking — is “the Pablo Escobar of Venezuela.” A week ago on Twitter, Cabello dubbed the senator “Narco Rubio.”

The death threat was outlined in a memo to several law enforcement agencies disseminated last month by the Department of Homeland Security. The memo, designated “law enforcement sensitive” but not classified, was obtained by the Miami Herald.

More here.

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

August 11, 2017

Credit Suisse's Venezuela trading ban and Marco Rubio


Citing Venezuela's tumultuous political climate, Credit Suisse banned certain bond trades with Venezuela on Thursday -- the sort of action encouraged for months by opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, including Sen. Marco Rubio.

An internal memo detailed the bank's new policy, which will add a layer of screening to financial transactions involving the Venezuelan government.

The Swiss bank's decision comes after Maduro pushed through an all-powerful legislative body elected in a vote widely seen as fraudulent. The international community has condemned his government as a dictatorship; a prolonged economic collapse has resulted in food and medicine shortages and led to months of street unrest.

Financial giant Goldman Sachs faced heavy criticism for buying deeply discounted Venezuelan state-oil company bonds in May, weeks after Maduro's political opposition -- and Rubio -- had begun urging banks to avoid bailing out the oil-rich South American country. 

"I have the obligation to warn you that by supporting such a gold swap you would be taking actions favoring a government that's been recognized as dictatorial by the international community," Julio Borges, the opposition president of parliament, had written to major banks.

On May 5, Rubio wrote Urs Rohner, chairman of Credit Suisse's board, asking him to heed Borges' warning that banks agreeing to exchange the country's gold reserves for cash would circumvent parliament's authority and risk damaging their reputations by financing Maduro's cash-strapped government. 

"As you know, Venezuela is suffering a massive political meltdown, an economic depression, and a humanitarian crisis due to the Maduro regime's moves towards authoritarianism and other violations of democratic norms; to its rampant corruption, disregard
for the impartial rule of law, and fiscal mismanagement; and to its violent-and increasingly lethal--crackdown against the country's growing peaceful protest movements," wrote Rubio, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

Rubio noted previous drug-trafficking sanctions imposed by the U.S. against Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami and said more penalties could come. The Trump administration has stepped up its sanctions against members of Maduro's governments in recent weeks, as punishment for electing and then inaugurating the new assembly.

On June 2, Rohner responded from Zurich that Credit Suisse "is committed to human rights and respects them as a key element of responsible business conduct."

"We will very carefully evaluate any new business involving the government of Venezuela, taking into account these factors as well as the concerns that you outlined in your letter," Rohner said.

Read Rubio's letter to Credit Suisse.

Read Credit Suisse's response.

Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images


Anti-Castro politicians talk tough on Cuba after suspected attack on U.S. diplomats

Cuba embassy


As the Trump administration prepares to write new regulations regarding travel to Cuba, Havana and Washington are involved in a diplomatic tug of war that seems straight out of the 1960s.

American diplomats in Cuba left the country after experiencing severe hearing loss attributed to a sonic device, according to U.S. officials. In response, the U.S. government expelled two Cuban diplomats from Washington.

The Raúl Castro government vehemently denied any involvement, and there’s chatter the Russians could have been behind it.

“In terms of the timing ... if this was an intentional thing by the Cuban government, the timing couldn’t be worse or stranger,” said Collin Laverty, president of a company that arranges group trips to Cuba and is in favor of improved relations with Havana. “Relations were good when Obama was in office. This just seems completely out of context.”

Anti-Castro elements of the U.S. government, including Republicans from Miami, are capitalizing on the latest news as a sign that Havana cannot be trusted, even though it isn’t clear yet that the Cuban government tried to harm U.S. diplomats.


“The Cuban government has been harassing U.S. personnel working in Havana for decades,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement. “This has not stopped with President Obama’s appeasement.”

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise the Castro regime can’t guarantee the safety of our diplomats,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, said. “The escalation described in these reports is unacceptable and clearly indicates that the previous administration’s policy of unilateral concessions failed to advance U.S. interests.”

“The Castro regime has a long and documented history of acting in a manner adverse to U.S. national interests,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, said. “The expulsion of two Castro regime officials sends a clear message that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated.”

Rubio played a big role in the Trump administration’s decision earlier this summer to limit some types of travel to Cuba, and the president was eager to please conservative Cubans in Miami who helped him win the 2016 election.

But there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the incident, and the State Department declined to go into detail about what happened to the diplomats.

“We first heard about these incidents back in late 2016,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “When we talk about medical issues, about Americans, we don’t get into it. We take those incidents very seriously, and there is an investigation currently under way.”

A White House official said the State Department and White House are “monitoring” the situation in Cuba.

On Wednesday, an unnamed U.S. official told The Associated Press that investigators were looking into the possibility that Russia or another third party could have carried out the attack without the Cuban government’s knowledge.

But Otto Reich, a former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs under President George W. Bush, said it’s highly unlikely that the Cuban government would not be aware of a sonic device installed at the house of a diplomat.

Read more here.

August 10, 2017

Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio: All options on table for North Korea



Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio sounded deep concern over the situation with North Korea and say all options should be on the table, including a U.S. military strike.

“North Korea poses a serious threat to the U.S. and all options should be on the table to protect the American people,” Nelson said in a statement. “We either do nothing, go to war or negotiate a stand down, and so far we’ve seen no sign that they’re willing to negotiate.”

Rubio said the nation is moving toward a big decision whether to live with a North Korea with the capability of striking the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. “I think it’s an unacceptable risk and our options are limited,” he told reporters in Jacksonville on Wednesday.

“They all come with significant risks. But I think the unacceptable outcome would be to allow them to possess these weapons and the ability to strike us.”

Rubio said he was not advocating for a strike but, “as bad as that would be, it would be worse to live in a world held hostage by this man’s ability to strike the United States with a weapon.”

He defended President Donald Trump against criticism of using overly aggressive rhetoric.

“I don’t think the rhetoric is the problem,” Rubio said. “I think the problem is there is a lunatic in North Korea with nuclear weapons and the ability to put them on a missile that can reach the United States … And he was working on those nuclear weapons before Donald Trump was president. Trump is not the cause of a North Korea crisis.”

A reporter, however, questioned if Trump is inflaming things.

“I don’t have any concern about inflaming anything,” replied Rubio. “All the inflaming here is coming from this crazy guy in North Korea. Even if Donald Trump was the most diplomatic person in the world, he would be still be building a weapon and he would still be developing his missiles.”

August 08, 2017

Marco Rubio and Mike Pence meet to discuss Venezuela (Updated)



While Donald Trump holds court in New Jersey, Vice President Mike Pence met with Sen. Marco Rubio and two other members of Congress in Washington on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan confirmed in a statement that the meeting was about "important issues in the Western Hemisphere that impact our national interests, including the crisis in Venezuela."

A spokesman for Duncan declined to provide a detailed readout of the meeting, deferring to Pence's office. Representatives for Pence did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The meeting between Pence and Rubio is the latest example of the Florida senator's close relationship with the White House on Latin American foreign policy issues, particularly the situation in Venezuela. Rubio and other South Florida lawmakers are lobbying Trump and Pence to impose sweeping sanctions on Venezuelan oil imports.

The White House and Treasury Department have not announced a timeline for future sanctions beyond freezing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's U.S. assets after he held an election for a constituent assembly tasked with rewriting the nation's constitution in favor of Maduro. Maduro is the fourth foreign leader after Bashar Assad of Syria, Kim Jong-un of North Korea and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe to be personally sanctioned by the U.S. government. 

Tuesday's meeting also included Cuban-American Democratic Rep. Albio Sires of New Jersey, according to Politico. Sires is the ranking member of the House Western Hemisphere subcommittee and Duncan is the chairman. 

"I am grateful that the Trump administration is soliciting input on these matters from Congressional leaders," Duncan's statement said. "I applaud the Administration for its continued actions to pressure the Venezuelan dictatorship and am encouraged by the courageous steps being taken by international partners in support of democracy and the people of Venezuela." 

Update 6:00pm: Pence tweeted about the meeting. 






Rubio PAC keeps stable of consultants

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Marco Rubio continues to spend money on longtime consultants while giving out a modest amount to candidates, campaign finance records show.

His Reclaim America PAC donated $11,000 to three candidates this year: $5,000 to Ohio Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel; $5,000 to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch; and $1,000 for New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik

The bulk of Rubio’s spending through June of this year, $75,000, went toward consultants, fundraising and travel.

Nearly $14,000 went to Clint Reed, who managed Rubio’s 2016 re-election campaign and is now his chief of staff. Longtime aide Todd Reid was paid $6,700 for "strategic consulting.” Something Else Strategies, the firm that includes Heath and Malorie Thompson and Todd Harris, was paid $16,000, also for consulting.

All told, Reclaim America PAC took in $121,000 from an array of PACs and individuals, including members of the Fanjul family and lobbyist Brian Ballard, and spent $86,000. The committee had $211,000 in the bank as of June 30.

Rubio’s primary campaign committee – established for a 2022 re-election effort – raised $754,000, including a $122,000 refund from Smart Media Group, an ad buying firm.

It spent about $800,000, and Something Else Strategies got a good chunk of that, $152,000 for media production and consulting. Another $30,000 went to Firehouse Strategies, the firm started by former Rubio spokesman Alex Conant and 2016 presidential campaign manager Terry Sullivan. Tens of thousands went toward digital advertising and direct mail.

The re-election committee had $135,000 cash on hand at the end of June and $379,000 in debt, according to FEC records.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

August 07, 2017

Marco Rubio says Trump-sponsored immigration bill is "not going to pass"



Sen. Marco Rubio threw cold water over a plan backed by President Donald Trump that would curtail legal immigration and prioritize highly skilled English-speaking immigrants over immigrants with family ties to the United States during an interview with CBS 4 interview on Sunday. 

"That bill's not going to pass," Rubio said to CBS 4's Rick Folbaum. "I think the White House knows that you don't have 60 votes for that in the Senate."

Rubio expressed support for prioritizing immigrants with skills after the White House backed the plan last week. But he stopped short of explicitly endorsing the bill, authored by Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, dubbed the Raise Act. 

"It actually has elements of it that were part of the 2013 proposal," Rubio said, referring to his bipartisan immigration overhaul effort which failed after the House decided not to vote on it. "In 2013 the very controversial Gang of Eight, four Democrats and four Republicans, proposed moving legal immigration to a merit-based system." 

Rubio said he supports a point-based system that rewards immigrants for skills like knowing English. 

"It wouldn't be entirely merit-based but it would be more merit-based and it has to be in the 21st century," Rubio said.

Folbaum pressed Rubio over what a merit-based system would mean for immigrants like Rubio's parents, who worked in a variety of low-skilled jobs after they immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s. 

"When my parents came here in 1956 we had a very different economy," Rubio said. "We had an economy that had a plethora of low-wage, low-skilled jobs. That's not the case anymore and our immigration system needs to reflect it. Our laws always are adjusted for the era in which we lived in." 

Though Rubio supports giving more points on merit and less points for family connections, he did differ from Trump, Cotton and Perdue on one part of the proposal: cutting the number of legal immigrants in half.

"I don't want to limit legal immigration, I certainly want to change the way we conduct it," Rubio said. "Where I probably have a big difference of opinion with this bill is that it sets an arbitrary cap on the number of people that are able to come through with a green card. I don't think that should be an arbitrary cap, that number should be driven by demand."

Rubio was also asked about the possibility of running against Trump in 2020 if the president continues to struggle in the polls. 

Not surprisingly, Rubio said he wasn't interested.

"I am enjoying my service in the Senate," Rubio said. "I think that’s a hypothetical that isn’t even worth exploring because it isn't going to happen that way. I expect the performance in the White House will improve significantly now with Gen. (John) Kelly there."