July 13, 2018

12 Russians accused of hacking Democrats in 2016 have plenty of Florida connections

Trump Russia Probe

@alextdaugherty

The Department of Justice’s indictment on Friday that accused 12 Russian military officials of directly meddling in the 2016 election has myriad connections to South Florida, where stolen emails eventually brought down Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, stolen internal documents aired unflattering details about a Democratic primary race and a Florida-based provocateur with connections to President Donald Trump was in contact with the hackers.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 Russian military officials with engaging in cyber operations that involved releases of stolen documents from the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, the DNC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The indictment, announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, claims the Russian agents were trying to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, and tried to hide their connections to the Russian government by creating false identities and using cryptocurrency to pay for the operation.

Emails stolen by hackers showed that then-DNC chair Wasserman Schultz expressed frustration with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, contradicting claims by Wasserman Schultz that the Democratic Party remained neutral during the presidential primary between Clinton and Sanders. Wasserman Schultz resigned as DNC chairwoman on the eve of the 2016 Democratic convention.

“The Democratic National Committee was the first major target of the Russian attack on our democracy, and I strongly believe that every individual who helped carry it out — foreign or domestic — should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, said in a statement. “I’m pleased that the Justice Department is following the facts wherever they may lead, despite Donald Trump’s dangerous distortions and his refusal to acknowledge the conclusions reached by the American Intelligence Community.”

Russian government officials using the pseudonym Guccifer 2.0 also released hundreds of internal documents from the DCCC, the organization that seeks to elect Democrats to Congress. The documents included information on former Miami Rep. Joe Garcia and current state Sen. Annette Taddeo, who were running in a primary to unseat Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

The information in the documents was unflattering for Garcia and Taddeo, as Democrats talked candidly about each candidate’s shortcomings, though the information itself was not new. But the indictment said Guccifer “received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for U.S. Congress” on Aug. 15, 2016, the same day that the stolen DCCC documents related to five Florida congressional campaigns and research files on seven Democratic candidates in Florida were released to the public by the hackers. Guccifer hackers later released more documents on congressional races in other states.

In the indictment, the Justice Department did not name the congressional candidate who sought stolen documents.

“The hacks impacted Democrats’ chances, because the information was solely focused on anti-Democrat messaging and no Republican candidates were touched,” said Juan Penalosa, the executive director for the Florida Democratic Party who helped run Garcia’s campaign in 2016. “Democratic candidates had to spend a month responding to the information included in the documents, even when it wasn’t new — while Republicans were able to focus on issues. And today’s information that candidates, most likely Republicans, reached out to Russians for information that would influence American elections is particularly disturbing.”

Read more here.

May 14, 2018

Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis attend U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem

Gov Rick Scott

@alextdaugherty

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is in Israel today for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and gubernatorial hopeful Ron DeSantis will also be on hand as members of the Trump administration tout the president's decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv.

Donald Trump's decision to move the embassy was praised by Scott last year and he is also meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a schedule released by Scott's office. The decision to move the embassy has been praised by many Florida Republicans while South Florida Democrats in districts with large Jewish populations also supported the move.

Some of Trump’s top Cabinet officials opposed the decision, arguing that the move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital would needlessly inflame tensions between Israel and Palestinians and potentially put people in danger. Demonstrations on the Israel-Gaza border on Monday killed 41 Palestinians demonstrating along the border fence with 1,600 wounded, according to the Washington Post. The protests mark the bloodiest day in Gaza since a 2014 war with Israel, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. 

Scott is traveling to Israel in his official capacity as governor and not through his Senate campaign. He is scheduled to return to Florida on Tuesday. 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also attended the embassy opening with a host of Republicans in Congress. 

 

March 19, 2018

NRA hits Corcoran by name for supporting post-Parkland gun bill

2018-03-19 13_50_29-NRA-ILA _ Florida Alert_ We Were Born at Night But It Wasn’t Last Night  Mr. Spe
A screen grab from the NRA email blast


As Republican Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran mulls over a run for governor, the National Rifle Association signified in an email blast Monday that it won't be making things easy for him.

"Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran (R) is adding insult to injury by calling the betrayal of law-abiding firearms owners 'one of the greatest Second Amendment victories we've ever had,'" reads the release, written by longtime Florida NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer. "That is complete nonsense and ignores the unconstitutional gun control included in the bill."

Although the post does not mention Corcoran's potential run for governor, it appears to be the first about any of the candidates in this race.

Hammer is referencing a report by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, in which Corcoran talked about the Legislature's response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting while he attended the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club's monthly meeting.

According to the paper, Corcoran was specifically referring to the measure to end "gun-free zones" on school campuses through an optional program to arm school staff. The new law, already signed by Gov. Rick Scott, is tied to $400 million's worth of funding for more mental health professionals and armed cops on campus.

It also prohibits the sale of bump stocks, raises the minimum age to purchase any firearm from 18 to 21 and creates a three-day waiting period for gun buys — problematic for the NRA.

Corcoran was previously given an "A" rating from the NRA, but has stood firm with moderates in the Florida Legislature that the bill was the right thing to do following the deaths of 17 students and staff in Parkland. The NRA announced it is suing the state merely hours after Scott signed it.

Corcoran, an underdog in terms of fundraising and name recognition, has said he will decide in coming weeks if he will join the Republican race for governor.

If so, he will likely face more attacks from the right from his opponents, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis.

Putnam has said he is against raising the age to purchase a gun, meanwhile on Fox News, DeSantis predicted the Constitution will be on the side of the NRA.

March 09, 2018

Miami Republicans urge Trump to denounce potential Raúl Castro successor

Machado

@alextdaugherty

The entire Miami-Dade Republican congressional delegation along with a gubernatorial contender urged President Donald Trump to denounce Raúl Castro's successor as illegitimate unless Cuba schedules "free, fair, and multiparty elections." 

Sen. Marco Rubio, along with Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Reps. Ron DeSantis (who is running for governor) and Ted Yoho all sent a letter to Trump on Friday voicing their concerns. 

Text of the letter below: 

Dear Mr. President,

We write today to thank you for holding the Castro regime accountable for its oppression and ongoing human rights abuses against the Cuban people, and for furthering U.S. national security and foreign policy interests of promoting democracy. We also request, within all applicable rules and regulations, that you continue to work toward empowering the Cuban people in their struggle for liberty. As you said in your June 16, 2017 announcement on Cuba policy from Miami:

For nearly six decades, the Cuban people have suffered under communist domination. To this day, Cuba is ruled by the same people who killed tens of thousands of their own citizens, who sought to spread their repressive and failed ideology throughout our hemisphere, and who once tried to host enemy nuclear weapons 90 miles from our shores. . . This is the simple truth of the Castro regime. My administration will not hide from it, excuse it, or glamorize it. And we will never, ever be blind to it. We know what’s going on and we remember what happened.

Toward that goal, we respectfully ask that you denounce Castro’s successor as illegitimate in the absence of free, fair, and multiparty elections, and call upon the international community to support the right of the Cuban people to decide their future.

As you know, dictator Raúl Castro has said that he will step down from the presidency on April 19, 2018. However, we know that a predetermined, charade election orchestrated by regime officials will continue the dictatorship.

This sham election is yet another example of the regime’s dictatorial repression of fundamental freedoms which must not be recognized by those who value freedom and democracy. This, along with your ongoing efforts to restrict financial transactions with the Cuban military that aid the Castro regime, will assist the Cuban people in their goal of self-government.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to continuing to work with your Administration on this matter.

February 09, 2018

Ron DeSantis: Capitol Hill loner, Fox News fixture, Trump favorite in Florida governor’s race

Ron3 desantis lnew cmg

via @adamsmithtimes @learyreports

At Dunedin High School, classmates knew him as a super jock and a brilliant student.

At Yale, the baseball coach barely hesitated naming the former team captain when an interviewer in 2002 asked if he ever managed someone of presidential material.

Now running for Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, 39, has won the backing of President Donald Trump, billionaire donors across the country, and by many accounts is the most likely Republican nominee to lead America's third-largest state.

"I'm getting calls from people who are supporting Adam Putnam for governor, but they also want to give to Ron," said Nancy McGowan, a conservative activist raising money for DeSantis in the Jacksonville area. "And people tell me, 'I've committed to Adam, but I think Ron's going to win, and I'd like to talk to him.' "

DeSantis' personal story helps drive the buzz. Dunedin's Little Leaguer went from Yale to Harvard Law, becoming a decorated military lawyer who deployed with the Navy Seals in Iraq and was elected to Congress.

Since entering politics six years ago, DeSantis has bounced from race to race, leaving few tangible accomplishments over his steady political rise as a Fox News favorite and pitbull Trump defender. Even some admirers question his credentials for governor and think he's more attuned to the ideological battlefield of Washington.

The son of a nurse and a Nielsen TV ratings box installer is following the lessons he learned in 1991 leading his team to the Little League World Series: Set big goals, and then leave it all on the field in pursuit of them.

Read more here.

February 08, 2018

Budget deal forces Ron DeSantis into a box

O-RON-DESANTIS-facebook

via @learyreports

If he weren't running for governor, Rep. Ron DeSantis could be counted on to vote against the sprawling, two-year budget deal before Congress.

Conservative groups — including the Freedom Caucus DeSantis helped found and the Club for Growth that was key to him becoming a congressman — have mounted opposition to the deal.

"The House Freedom Caucus opposes the deal to raise spending caps on discretionary spending by nearly $300 billion over two years," read a statement. "We support funding for our military, but growing the size of government by 13 percent adds to the swamp instead of draining it. This is not what the American people sent us here to do."

But DeSantis is running for governor and the deal carries numerous benefits for Florida, not least of which is billions in disaster relief.

Imagine if DeSantis were to vote against help for the citrus industry. It would hand Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam a sharp attack point in the GOP primary.

Then again, voting for the deal would raise questions of DeSantis' fealty to the conservative cause.

His office did not respond to a question Thursday on how he'd vote.

Read more here.

January 11, 2018

Targeting Florida Republicans in 2018 will be tricky for Puerto Rican leaders

Governor Ricardo Roselló0183 JAI (1)

@alextdaugherty

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló intends to throw his political weight around in the 2018 elections, mobilizing Puerto Ricans who recently moved to the mainland to vote against lawmakers he says “turned their back” on the U.S. territory in its time of need.

Rosselló’s threats are ostensibly aimed at Republicans in Congress tasked with doling out billions in disaster aid and in charge of an overhaul of the nation’s tax system, where Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory creates rules that don’t exist on the mainland. He called out Sen. Marco Rubio by name in December, saying he was “disappointed” in his tax bill vote, though Rosselló stopped short of offering any specific political retribution against the Florida Republican.

“Once it’s crunch time for the elections, that’s when our organization is going to start saying, ‘These are the folks who have been for Puerto Rico and these have been the folks that are against Puerto Rico,’” Rosselló said this week in Washington.

But carrying out political advocacy in swing state Florida, where Puerto Ricans who are Democrats and Republicans hold elected office, is a tricky balancing act for Rosselló, a Democrat.

Puerto Ricans in Florida could form a large enough voting bloc to affect statewide elections for governor and U.S. Senate in 2018. But Florida Republicans like Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott enjoy widespread support among many members of Rosselló’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party, in contrast to heavily Democratic states with many Puerto Ricans, like New York, Illinois and Connecticut.

“You don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” said state Rep. Bob Cortes, one of two Puerto Rican Republicans in the state Legislature.

Read more here.

January 05, 2018

Rep. Ron DeSantis declares run for Florida governor

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via @lmower3

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis said Friday that he's running for Florida governor, boosted by an endorsement by President Donald Trump.

"With the support of the president, I'm in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work Rick Scott has done," DeSantis said on Fox News' Fox & Friends this morning.

DeSantis, 39, is a former Navy lawyer who made his name over the last year attacking special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The Palm Coast Republican has made several appearances on Fox News, and on Dec. 22, Trump apparently took notice, tweeting that DeSantis was a "brilliant young leader" who would "make a GREAT Governor of Florida."

DeSantis' run was widely expected.

Just last week, DeSantis boasted an impressive list of billionaire backers, including Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Breitbart co-owner Rebekah Mercer. David Bossie, the president of Citizens United and Trump's deputy campaign manager in 2016, is also among the backers.

That support will make him a formidable opponent to the current Republican front-runner, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and likely candidate Richard Corcoran, the Florida House speaker who has yet to declare.

Putnam, interviewed before DeSantis' announcement, said he can only focus on his own campaign.

"I'm focused on my grass-roots conservative message, which is that we're going to invest in work-force training and we're going to put vocational and technical education training back in our middle schools and high schools," he said.