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October 12, 2016

Donald Trump in Ocala questions presidential debates, Congress but doesn't mention leaked video


Even while he touted his Sunday debate, saying he “annihilated the enemy,” Donald Trump hinted in an Ocala rally Wednesday afternoon that he’s frustrated with the Commission on Presidential Debates.

“I have no respect for that group, by the way. I’m done,” he said. “Aye, aye, aye, what a rigged deal this is.”

He and Hillary Clinton are supposed to debate again on Oct. 19.

At the Southeastern Livestock Pavillion in Ocala, Trump declared his disappointment in Congress, including Republican leadership after Speaker Paul Ryan said this week that he would stop campaigning for Trump. (“There’s a whole sinister deal going on,” Trump said.)

And he brought out old campaign favorites, like calls for a wall on the country’s southern border and decrying the private email server Clinton used as secretary of state.

“I have a feeling that the NSA has it,” he said of missing email files. “They don’t want to get it, I have a feeling.”

But in more than an hour on stage, Trump did not mention the leaked video of him making lewd comments about women and describing groping and sexually assaulting them.

Not once.

Before Trump took the stage, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho did mention the comments. 

“I do not make excuses about somebody that says something 11 years ago in a locker room, but let’s be realistic about this,” said Yoho, incorrectly placing Trump in a locker room instead of wearing a microphone to be on TV. “A true leader will take responsibility for that. Mr. Trump is a leader.”

Trump supporters at the rally were largely unfazed by the remarks.

Liana Lopez, a University of Florida student, said that “women have to tolerate” lewd comments on occasion.

“I’m a college student. I know what men are capable of saying when they’re together,” she said. “And I don’t condone what he said and I don’t think it was right, but that’s not going to stop me from agreeing with his policies.”

Following news that a federal judge delayed Florida’s voter registration deadline to Oct. 18, Trump called on attendees to register and request mail ballots.

“Is there anybody in here not registered?” he asked. “If you’re not registered, get the hell out of here, okay?”

On climate change and a Tuesday Clinton rally in Miami that featured former Vice President Al Gore, Trump said he supports conservation efforts but downplayed the role of climate change, which he has previously called a hoax.

“I want immaculately clean water and I want immaculately clean air,” he said. “That’s what I want.”

And Trump doubled down on remarks that caused a stir earlier this summer, when he said President Barack Obama “essentially founded” ISIS.

“I’m kidding,” Trump said Wednesday. “But really not that kidding.”

Incoming House Speaker predicts Rick Scott's job incentives program won't exist for next 4-6 years


Gov. Rick Scott's cherished job incentive program is not only dead this year, but will likely be so for years to come, incoming Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran told a group in Texas today.

Corcoran acknowledged he was a big reason Scott's proposal for $250 million last year for Enterprise Florida never passed the Legislature and predicted Scott's $85 million request for next year will face a tough fight. Corcoran said the Florida House has a series of conservative leaders in place over the next six years that will not look favorably on future job incentive programs that hand out tax dollars to certain private businesses in exchange for them creating jobs.

"I don't think that fund will exist for at least the next four to six years given the Republican leadership in the House," Cocoran told a audience at The Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin.

Corcoran called the incentive programs "corporate welfare" that reward some businesses over others. He called the concept of job incentives "de facto socialism" because it takes money from the masses and gives it to a select group. 

"That is not the proper role of government," Corcoran said.

He recounted a story of Scott inviting him and Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, to his a meeting and saying to them he knew they were the one's really responsible for sinking his $250 million job incentives request. Corcoran said as he searched for a diplomatic response, but Oliva blurted out: "Oh yea, it's us."

The forum included pro-economic incentive advocates from Texas, who challenged Corcoran on the prospect that Florida could lose out to other states if it stops giving out incentives. Corcoran said he didn't believe it was true. He said the state stopped handing out incentive money for professional football teams, yet none of the teams have left the state and found private ways to fund their stadiums. He said the film industry didn't get new incentives, yet films are still being made in Florida. He said the new Republican leadership in the Florida House is firmly against the idea of taking taxes from the masses and handing it to selected winners in the corporate world.

He said instead of spending billions on corporate welfare, Florida would be better served in putting the money into improving the education system and state infrastructure, which would better position the state to lure other businesses to Florida.

Corcoran's comments come just weeks after Scott promised to keep fighting the Legislature to get money in the incentive program, which he credits for bringing hundreds of thousands of jobs to the state.

"I ran on a mission to turn Florida's economy around, and while we have added over 1 million jobs in just 5½ years, I will keep fighting for jobs until my very last day as governor," Scott said.

Emails show Clinton team plotted to undercut Jeb Bush's 'credibility'

via @learyreports

Back when Jeb Bush was the big dog in the hunt for the GOP presidential nomination,Hillary Clinton’s team was concerned about his economic message and plotted how to undercut his “credibility,” according to hacked campaign emails.


“I think we need a very strong push back on Bush and link him to his brother,” reads an email among top Clinton officials from August 2015. The email outlined how to make that connection, focusing on the Iraq war.

Another email, from February 2015, shows the appeal of an Bush’s economic speech Bush gave in Detroit. “Very little in this speech that HRC wouldn’t say,” said Mandy Grunwald, a longtime advisor to the Clintons.

The emails were posted on WikiLeaks and American officials have blamed Russian hackers. Last week we wrote how the Clinton team was impressed with Marco Rubio's presidential announcement speech.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Trayvon Martin's mother endorses Miami-Dade mayor for reelection


Sybrina Fulton, a former Miami-Dade employee who became an activist following the 2012 fatal shooting of her teenage son, Trayvon Martin, is appearing in radio ads supporting the reelection of county Mayor Carlos Gimenez

"I know Mayor Gimenez, and I know that he cares about our community," Fulton says in one of two ads that began airing this week.  "Even in my darkest hours, he was there for me, too. Mayor Gimenez has served all Miamians with integrity and respect. Let's keep Miami-Dade County moving forward together with Mayor Carlos Gimenez." 


The ad comes on the heels of disappointing primary for Gimenez, where he under-performed with black voters and fell short of the 50-percent threshold needed to avoid a fall runoff. His 48 percent finish left him to face top challenger Raquel Regalado, a school-board member, on Nov. 8. 

The two have clashed over both police spending and Gimenez's successful effort to have Miami-Dade issue body cameras to its officers this year. Regalado called the body-camera plan a rushed effort for political purposes, while Gimenez touts the technology as a way to defuse tension over the kind of police incidents that have caused unrest in other communities. 

Since her son's death, Fulton left Miami-Dade government and became a national activist against gun violence and social-justice issues. She spoke at the Democratic National Convention and endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. In her radio ad, Fulton said she met with Gimenez after the 2012 shooting of her unarmed,  17-year-old son by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. (Zimmerman was acquitted the following year.) 

"I have to live with this everyday," Fulton said in another, 60-second Gimenez ad.  "I just feel that it's people like the mayor that can get the ball rolling. I'm doing my part. I certainly know the mayor will do his part."

Pence to appear at Miami-Dade GOP Lincoln Day dinner


The Miami-Dade County Republican Party got a last-minute addition to their annual Lincoln Day fundraiser Friday: Mike Pence.

The VP nominee added the dinner to his schedule Wednesday. It will be his first South Florida appearance.

Headlining the event is U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. The local GOP had originally hoped to land Donald Trump himself.

Pence is slated to speak at a Republican Party of Florida dinner Saturday in Tampa. So is U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who said Tuesday he won't attend Trump-Pence campaign events, in the wake of a tape showing Trump making lewd, sexual comments about women.

Nelson Diaz, the Miami-Dade GOP chairman, said over the weekend he's sticking with Trump despite the tape.

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

Former Sen. Bob Graham praises new law allowing 9/11 victims' families to sue Saudi government

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Former Sen. Bob Graham played a major role in compelling the long-delayed release three months ago of a classified document showing possible ties between Saudi officials and some of the 9/11 hijackers.

Now the Floridian, who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee when the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks killed almost 3,000 people, is hailing congressional passage and veto override of a new law allowing the victims' families to sue the Saudi government for alleged complicity.

"Several positive things are going to happen now," Graham told the Miami Herald. "The victims' families will have an opportunity for justice. And Saudi Arabia will be disabused of any idea that it has immunity from responsibility for its role in 9/11."

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. Several of them lived in Sarasota before the attacks and, while living there, had contacts with high-ranking Saudi officials. They also left the United States shortly before the attacks.

Graham said that even when he was head of the Senate Intelligence Committee and held a high security clearance, the U.S. government withheld information about the Saudis' ties to 9/11 from him and other members of Congress.

"But from what I know today, there is ample evidence that 9/11 would not have happened but for the assistance provided by Saudi Arabia," Graham said. "The results of that assistance was (nearly) 3,000 persons murdered, 90 percent of them Americans. And a new wave of terrorism with Saudi financial and operational support has beset the world."

The House and the Senate, by overwhelming margins in both chambers, voted last month to override President Barack Obama's veto of the bill permitting lawsuits against Saudi Arabia.

Obama said such lawsuits would expose the U.S. government to legal challenges against it for actions abroad by American armed forces. CIA Director John Brennan said lawsuits against Saudi Arabia would threaten U.S. national security.

After the Senate voted 97-1 to override Obama's veto of the measure, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest criticized the move as "the most embarrassing thing the Senate has done since 1983," when it had overwhelmingly rejected a veto by President Ronald Reagan.

That override, however, involved a much less consequential land dispute between the government and six retired people.

Earnest last week said the law will force judges to determine whether a government sponsors terrorism, a decision properly left to the president, the State Department and U.S. national security agencies. 

"That was a piece of legislation and now a law that sought to target Saudi Arabia, a country that has not been designated a state sponsor of terrorism," Earnest said. "It does open up a scenario where you have judges at a variety of levels and a variety of different courtrooms, reaching different conclusions about whether or not another country is complicit in sponsoring terrorism.  That's not an effective way for us to confront state sponsors of terror."

The Saudi government bitterly criticized the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, called JASTA, targeting Riyadh.

"The erosion of sovereign immunity will have a negative impact on all nations, including the United States," the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.

But a 9/11 victims advocacy group called September 11th Advocates hailed the new law.

"JASTA will keep Americans safe from terrorists and terrorist funders like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by setting a strong deterrent in holding the Kingdom accountable for its funding and logistical support of terrorist group," the group said Tuesday.

Despite Saudi claims since 9/11 that it is going after radical Islamic citizens, Graham said the changes have been minor.

"What I don't think they've changed is their Wahhabist commitment to the extreme form of Islam, which has served as the primary motivation for thousands of people to adopt jihad as their life goal," he said.

Graham, who retired from the Senate in January 2005 after three terms, said the Obama administration and that of President George W. Bush likely could have prevented Congress from allowing suits against Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. government should have released more information about possible Saudi ties to 9/11, Graham said, and it could have negotiated a settlement enabling the Saudi government to pay victims of the tragedy.

As an example, Graham cited the 2008 deal in which Libya agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the families of 270 people killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 two decades earlier, in exchange for the dropping of U.S. sanctions.

"It was self-inflicted," Graham said. "The Bush and Obama administrations could have avoided JASTA if they had negotiated with Saudi Arabia through diplomatic channels and if they had voluntarily made more information available about responsibility for 9/11."

Photo credit: Tim Chapman, Miami Herald








Campaign video by Miami-Dade challenger: "We can take back County Hall"


A recent ad by Miami-Dade challenger Raquel Regalado seeks to put her on the side of residents angry about their county government. 

"As a school board member and a single mother, i know that our county government has failed us," Regalado, 42, said in a 30-second ad that began with footage of her and her two school-age children. "Tolls are costing us hundreds of dollars. Water rates are up 8 percent. Traffic congestion is unbearable. And violent crimes are threatening the lives of our children."



The ad appears to be the latest effort by Regalado to position herself as more grounded option over Carlos Gimenez, 62, a lifelong government employee who has been mayor since 2011.

The former Miami city manager's campaign has cast Regalado as "in over her head" when it comes to running Miami-Dade, and has cited a 2014 foreclosure and an improper property-tax deduction as evidence of poor management skills. Regalado emphasizes her role as a parent who relate to residents dealing with financial hardship, and is promising to make government more responsive to everyday needs. 

"Together, we can take back County Hall," she said in the ad. "My priorities are your priorities. Together we can do better" 


Some prominent Florida Republicans proudly stand by Trump


While some Florida Republicans are keeping their distance from Donald Trump in the wake of lewd comments about women leaked in a video last week, others were more than happy to stand alongside the presidential nominee at his Ocala rally Wednesday.

“Is this election about what’s said in a locker room?” said Rep. Ted Yoho. “This election is about the survival of the constitutional republic we call the United States of America.”

(It’s worth noting that Trump’s comments about groping women were not made in a locker room but rather were caught on a video recording when Trump was wearing a microphone during a 2005 TV appearance.)

Alongside Yoho, U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster called out that the country was “spiraling down.”

So were: 

Joe Gruters, Florida co-chair for Trump and a candidate for the state House
State Rep. Dennis Baxley, recently elected to the Florida Senate
Ralph Massullo, recently elected to the Florida House
Stan McClain, a House candidate

Some Republicans have been less supportive of Trump in the wake of such comments.

On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio said he still plans to vote for Trump but said he disapproves of his comments. Rubio has not appeared with Trump, who he competed with in the presidential primary.

Gov. Rick Scott, who chairs a pro-Trump super PAC was scheduled to be in Tallahassee on Wednesday afternoon. He has not ended his endorsement of Trump but this weekend called his remarks in the leaked video “pretty disgusting.”

Notably, Attorney General Pam Bondi was absent Wednesday, as she has been from other recent Trump events, ever since recent news reports fanned the flames on a $25,000 contribution Trump made to her reelection around the time other states were going after his for-profit college. Florida never opened an investigation into Trump University.

Florida GOP strategist, voting for Hillary Clinton, still supports Marco Rubio for Senate


Veteran GOP strategist Mac Stipanovich has been talking for a couple of days now about his decision to vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump, but on CNN this morning, Stipanovich said he's still voting for Marco Rubio in Florida's U.S. Senate race -- even though Rubio is standing by Trump in the wake of leaked footage showing Trump making lewd comments about women.

"I'm not too proud of Marco," Stipanovich told CNN in a telephone interview from Tallahassee.

He said Rubio "is not exactly a profile in courage" for maintaining his endorsement of Trump, after newly released "Access Hollywood" footage showed Trump making the now-infamous remarks in which he boasted about groping women without their consent.

But Stipanovich said maintaining a Republican majority in the Senate is vital, so that's why Rubio will get his vote in Florida's race. Rubio faces Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter.

Rubio said in a statement Tuesday that he has "consistently rejected [Trump's] offensive rhetoric and behavior" but he maintains his endorsement for him.

"I wish we had better choices for president. But I do not want Hillary Clinton to be our next president. And therefore my position has not changed," Rubio added.

Before Rubio re-affirmed his support for Trump, Stipanovich first told public radio on Monday that he was going to split the ticket and cast his ballot for Clinton and Rubio.

Federal judge extends Florida’s voter registration deadline through Tuesday


U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on Wednesday ordered the extension of Florida’s voter registration by one week, until next Tuesday, because of Hurricane Matthew.
“No right is more precious than having a voice in our elections,” Walker said Wednesday during a 40-minute hearing in a Tallahassee courtroom.

The Florida Democratic Party had asked for an extension of the deadline in the wake of the disarray left behind by Hurricane Matthew, which led to evacuation orders of more than 1 million residents.

Attorneys for Gov. Rick Scott, who had opposed the extension, and Secretary of State Ken Detzner spoke only to acknowledge their presence. They didn’t argue a position before Walker.

Democrats filed a lawsuit Sunday against Scott, arguing that Scott refused to extend the deadline for the very residents he ordered to evacuate for the storm.

“Many Floridians who would have registered to vote prior to the Oct. 11 registration deadline have been displaced or otherwise prevented from registering,” the lawsuit stated.

On Monday, Walker granted an emergency order extending the deadline for one day to allow for today’s hearing.