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80 posts from July 2018

July 31, 2018

Bill Nelson wants to ban 3D printer-made plastic guns that can evade metal detectors

Plastic Guns


In less than 24 hours, it could be possible to legally download blueprints that allow anyone with access to a 3D printer to make guns out of plastic.

Bill Nelson wants to ban it.

The Florida Democrat introduced a bill on Tuesday that would block the online publication of gun blueprints after the Trump administration decided to settle a lawsuit by a Texas anarchist who built a gun out of plastic in 2013 and posted the instructions online.

The Obama administration ordered the instructions to come down at the time, and the Department of Justice defended the government’s action in court after the anarchist sued for the right to publish until the Department of Justice reversed course in June.

“It just defies common sense and yet this is what the Trump administration has done,” Nelson said. “Just think of the billions of dollars we spend trying to protect national security. And now, suddenly there is going to be published on the internet the plans for making a gun that can evade the detection systems in airports and seaports and all of these governmental buildings as well as some sports stadiums.”

The blueprints could go online by midnight Wednesday unless Trump reverses course. On Tuesday morning Trump tweeted, “I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

Read more here.

What former HHS Secretary Shalala says she did with profits from UnitedHealth stock


Former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala supports universal access to health care but remains heavily invested in one of the country’s largest for-profit health insurers.

A newly filed financial disclosure shows that Shalala, a leading Democrat in the campaign to replace U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress, continues to hold as much as $1.1 million in stocks and options in UnitedHealth Group. Shalala took a seat on the corporate board after leaving President Bill Clinton’s cabinet and was compensated in part through company shares before stepping down in 2007.

Though her relationship with UnitedHealth is well-known, the extent of Shalala’s continued investment in the company — and her sale of more than $100,000 in UnitedHealth stock last year — was detailed for the first time Friday when she filed her federally required financial disclosure. The form, which requires candidates to disclose their assets and income in ranges, placed her net worth somewhere between $4.6 million and $13.5 million.

Shalala is running in the Democratic primary against Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, David Richardson and Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. After seeing Shalala’s disclosure, Richardson suggested she’s reluctant to back a Medicare-for-all bill filed in Congress due to her stake in the industry.

“It is now clear that Donna Shalala has refused to support the ‘Medicare for All’ bill in Congress because it takes profits out of our healthcare system,” said Richardson, who’s run commercials casting Shalala as a flip-flopper on universal healthcare.

Shalala bristled Tuesday when asked if her financial stake in the industry influenced her public positions.

She has said she doesn’t support the bill Richardson mentioned because it lacks provisions for nursing-home care and home healthcare and other forms of “long-term care.” She supports a public healthcare option over Medicare for All, she says, because she wants to ensure people won’t be forced to give up private health plans in order to adopt less comprehensive public insurance.

Shalala told the Miami Herald that her position on health care has been consistent dating back to when she oversaw Hunter College in the 1980s, and said her stake in UnitedHealth has never swayed her politics.

“It doesn’t. It never has. I’ve never changed my position on universal healthcare from the time I’ve been working on the issue. Literally from the time I’ve been working on the issue,” she said. “I’ve been working in healthcare a long time and I’ve been teaching the politics and economics of health care for 30 years. So I’m considered an expert on the policy issues.”

Click here to read the rest.

What Trump's visit means for Florida's GOP race for governor

Trump speaks during a 2016 rally at the University of South Florida Sun Done in Tampa. [Tampa Bay Times]

If mere tweets of support from President Trump can skyrocket one man's campaign for governor from relative obscurity to being a front-runner ... what can an in-person visit do?

That's the question on Florida Republicans' minds on Tuesday as Tampa prepares for an evening rally intended to boost support for Trump's favorite Florida governor candidate: Ron DeSantis. Most agree it's no small moment.

It's highly unusual for a sitting president to take sides in a primary of his own party, in a state race no less. But Trump has made it clear that's exactly what he intends to do.

It was early January when Congressman Ron DeSantis announced he was running for governor — and in perfect step with his usual schedule, he did so on Fox News.

Even then it wasn't a secret that he was the favorite of President Trump's, likely in no small part because of DeSantis's constant critiques of the Russia investigation and defenses of the president. Trump has tweeted multiple times about DeSantis, calling him a "leader" and complementing his military service and Ivy League degrees.

The latest tweet was a formal endorsement, clearing any suspicion that his earlier support meant that his supporters should exclusively vote for DeSantis over his rival, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. Since that tweet, DeSantis has surged in the polls and overtaken Putnam by a significant margin.

Putnam, a Florida political fixture, has tried to refocus this race on state issues, and has released policy "plans" throughout the campaign on issues like public safety and veterans. During a June debate in Orlando he "welcomed" DeSantis to Florida, profiling him as an out-of-touch creature of Washington.

Yet DeSantis won't bite. Other than e-verify and appointing judges to the state supreme court, DeSantis has refrained from discussing state issues as much as national ones, and it quickly became apparent at the Orlando debate that Trump would be discussed (and praised) more than any other topic. DeSantis has even been adopting some of Trump's signature hand gestures, it seems.

Read more: And the winner of DeSantis vs. Putnam debate? Trump!

Trump's outsized influence on this race was also apparent in the latest TV ads both candidates released within less than a week of each other, in the final stretch before the primary where the candidates prepare to lay down their final cards.

Putnam went for the jugular, pointing to DeSantis’s support of a Congressional proposal that would have raised the national sales tax to 23 percent – without mentioning that it also would have eliminated other taxes, like the income tax. The impact of such a radical proposal on the middle class and seniors has been disputed, and the ad was intended to strike fear about economic security.

Read more: PolitiFact: Misleading Putnam ad twists DeSantis stance on taxes

DeSantis, meanwhile, featured his two very young children and his wife in an ad where he pretended to teach his toddler daughter how to “Build the Wall” with building blocks — and featured his 4-month-old son on a "Make America Great Again" cherry-red onesie.


San Juan's mayor backs Levine for governor

Yulin Cruz Levine

In another sign that Puerto Rican politics is Florida politics, and vice-versa, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Tuesday endorsed Philip Levine in his bid to become Florida's next governor.

Cruz, who is expected to run for Puerto Rican governor in 2020 and has been endorsing Florida Democrats this week, could give a boost to Levine in a state that is home to more than 1 million Puerto Ricans. She cut an emotional video for Levine's campaign, telling the story about how Levine chartered a private plane filled with supplies to the island immediately after Hurricane Maria last year.

"From out of nowhere, now I get a call from this guy I'd never heard of, never met. 'Hi mayor, my name is Philip Levine.... and I've been watching you and your people. And I'm going to get on a plane and I'll be there Saturday with medicine, food and supply.' Here's a guy who didn't know me and felt our pain," Cruz says. "You don't feel alone anymore. If he did that for San Juan, someone he didn't know, just think what he could do for you."

Cruz's profile has risen significantly since the hurricane, partly because of her back-and-forth with President Donald Trump, who remains immensely unpopular with Puerto Ricans. She has also endorsed Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate and Darren Soto for Congress.

Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach, is running in the Democratic primary against Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene and Chris King.

Jeff Greene praised Trump as a "great guy" after 2016 election

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Palm Beach billionaire developer Jeff Greene, speaks during a debate held at Florida Gulf Coast University's Cohen Center on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Billionaire Jeff Greene is doubling down on the anti-Trump rhetoric this week by parking a campaign bus emblazoned with "Trump's worst nightmare" outside of Trump's rally in Tampa today.

It's not quite the same message he gave 20 months ago.

Unlike his Democratic opponents in the governor's race, Greene praised Donald Trump on national television and in a magazine interview in the days after the 2016 election, calling for Democrats to unite around the president-elect, whom he called a "great guy."

"I supported Hilliary Clinton as a Democrat. I’m delighted Donald Trump is the alternative," Greene said on Fox Business on Nov. 9, the day after the election. "He’s a great guy. I know Donald Trump."

He continued, "I only hope that the Democrats do the exact opposite of what the Republicans did when Mitch McConnell and John Boehner said we want Barack Obama to be a one term president.

"Let’s hope that Donald Trump succeeds for all of us."

And in an interview with Forbes that published the next day, he again repeated that he wanted the Democrats to rally around Trump.

"At this point, my neighbor has won and I am behind him 100% as we all should be," he said.

That rhetoric wasn't unusual in the days after the election. While many Democrats were horrified and despondent at Trump's unlikely victory, some did wish for Trump's success. Even President Barack Obama said, "We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country."

But those types of statements are toxic in the 2018 Democratic primaries, where liberals despise Trump and are appear fired up to vote against Republicans.

And of all the Democrats running for governor this year, Greene has the closest ties to the president. Greene lives down the street from Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club, where he's a member. And he's also spoken of Trump in more personal terms, noting at various times how Trump is a "gracious guy," and a "personable guy."

Apparently realizing the vulnerability, Greene has billed himself recently as the anti-Trump candidate, even featuring an apparent confrontation with Trump in one of his commercials.

(His opponent, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, has also been criticized for not being strong enough against Trump.)

Greene's spokeswoman, Claire VanSusteren, said Monday that he's had an extreme change of heart about the president since the election.

"Like many Americans, I’d say, (Greene) wanted to give Trump a chance, hoping the rhetoric he gave on the campaign was something to grab attention and grab headlines and clinch the vote," she said. "He very, very quickly realized that was not the case."

She said he doesn't regret his statements because "everyone should hope for the success of our president and our country."

"I think he stands by wishing and hoping for the success of our president, but he’s clearly become the bully in chief," VanSusteren said. "Jeff will say he rules with humiliation and provocation, and that’s not within the value system of the United States of America."

It's still tight: Rick Scott 47%, Bill Nelson 44% in new poll

A new poll in Florida's very competitive U.S. Senate race shows Republican Gov. Rick Scott with a 3-point lead over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, 47 to 44 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

Considering the poll's 4-point margin of error, the race appears essentially tied.

"There has been a small but clear shift toward Scott," Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy says. Its previous poll in February showed Nelson clutching a 1-point advantage, 45 to 44 percent.

Nelson's numbers have been static since February of 2017 when he polled at 46 percent to Scott's 41 percent. Now, Nelson is at 44 percent and Scott is at 47 percent, with enough undecideds to swing this race either way.

Scott does better among white voters and men, and runs strongest in north and southwest Florida -- traditional Republican strongholds. Nelson does better among women, blacks and Hispanics and in southeast Florida, the home of about one-third of all Democratic voters in the state.

Mason-Dixon says the I-4 corridor in central Florida is slowly trending in Scott's favor.

Scott is viewed more favorably than Nelson in the poll, 44 percent to 36 percent. President Donald Trump is viewed favorably by 43 percent and unfavorably by 46 percent.

Nelson is a runaway favorite among young voters, aged 18 to 34. He leads with that group 56 percent to 33 percent. But Scott leads or is tied among voters in all other older age groups.

Democrats likely cannot take back the Senate unless Nelson wins a fourth term in November.

Nelson is viewed as the most vulnerable red-state Democrat in the country this cycle, and he's the only Democratic incumbent who's being outspent by his Republican opponent, a point Nelson himself makes regularly in his fund-raising pitches to supporters.

Mason-Dixon surveyed 625 voters who said they were likely to vote this fall. The survey was conducted July 24-25 and has a 4 percent margin of error. Quotas were assigned to reflect past county voter turnouts.

July 30, 2018

Is there space in governor's race for two wealthy, Jewish Democrats from South Florida?


Have you heard about the Jewish businessman who was born in Boston, grew up in South Florida, built a fortune and now wants to become the state’s next governor?

Chances are good that you have — especially since there are two of them.

As Democratic voters begin to cast mail-in ballots and prepare for early voting in August’s primary elections, Jeff Greene and Philip Levine may be each other’s biggest complication. Despite massive financial advantages that have helped them promote their campaigns in ways that Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King can not, Greene and Levine are pitching platforms and back-stories to voters that are so similar they almost sound like they’re promoting the same candidate.

“Both men have extremely similar profiles — politically experienced, successful business owners who are white, male, Jewish and from South Florida,” Brad Coker, CEO of Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, noted last week after a poll showed Greene climbing into third place and Levine falling into second behind Graham. “With this overlapping appeal, the two are drawing a combined 30% of voters — slightly more than Graham.”

The Mason-Dixon findings are similar with other recent polls showing that the former Miami Beach mayor appears to have slipped since Greene, a 63-year-old Palm Beach billionaire, entered the race in early June. Once the frontrunner, Levine, who at the age of 56 lists his net worth at $133 million, is now polling alongside or behind Graham.

Levine had built an advantage over the field heading into the summer thanks in part to a habit of criss-crossing the state in a luxury tour bus wrapped in campaign logos and an advertising blitz funded by his own money, which he’s used to match his donors’ contributions. But that was before Greene spent $13 million of his own dollars in seven weeks.

Now, while Levine’s other opponents are either just getting on television or avoiding South Florida’s expensive TV market altogether, Greene is suddenly sharing air time with Levine in Miami and out-spending him around Florida.

Click here to read the rest.

New lighthearted Ron DeSantis ad features his family, Trump jokes

Ron DeSantis teaches his toddler daughter, Madison, to "build the wall" | YouTube screen grab

It's that time of year: Less than a week after Adam Putnam's campaign launched a statewide negative ad calling him "D.C. DeSantis" and saying he voted to raise sales tax to 23%, Ron DeSantis has launched a statewide ad of his own.

This ad is a 180 from his previous ones, which were flashy and serious. Instead, this ad features his family, including his wife, Casey DeSantis, who is a TV host, and their two very young children.

"Everyone knows my husband Ron DeSantis is endorsed by President Trump," says Casey DeSantis, in the opening of the ad. "But he's also an amazing dad. Ron loves playing with the kids."

It then cuts to the Florida Congressman teaching his toddler daughter to "build the wall" out of building blocks and how to say "Make America Great Again," as well as him reading Trump's book, "The Art of the Deal" to his 4-month-old son, who is later pictured wearing a tiny red jumper in the style of a MAGA hat.

The ad will hit the airwaves starting Tuesday. The campaign spokesman, David Vasquez, would only say that its airing cost "millions."

This Republican could hold onto his blue-district seat even if Dems sweep


via @katieglueck    

Carlos Curbelo was fuming.

It was a sticky Friday afternoon in early July, and the Republican congressman had spent the last hour traipsing through a University of Florida research center, languidly asking academics about their work on environmental challenges confronting this more rural area south of Miami.

But as Curbelo emerged, blinking in the sunlight, I told him that his latest fight with the Trump administration had just metastasized.

The Department of Health and Human Services had already blocked Curbelo’s planned visit that day to a nearby shelter for children separated from their parents while crossing the border illegally, enraging Curbelo, who said that morning that his team had worked for weeks to follow protocol in arranging the visit. Now, HHS—embroiled in the enormously controversial if short-lived Trump administration policy of family separation—was complaining about the “significant and unnecessary strain” placed by visiting members of Congress.

“I don’t feel sorry for them at all,” Curbelo shot back. “We fund all of their operations and all of their salaries, so they should make the time and effort to allow us to see the work they’re doing, especially if they’re confident in the work they’re doing.”

Curbelo, seeking a third term, represents the most Democratic-leaning district held by a Republican running for reelection this cycle. That willingness to sharply criticize the Trump administration—evidence, allies say, of his independent profile—helps explain why he has thrived here so far.

But as Democrats plot a path back to the majority in the House of Representatives, their journey begins in districts like Curbelo’s: diverse, overwhelmingly Democratic, where Hillary Clinton won by double digits even as more centrist Republican House members managed to hang on in 2016.

Republicans in these districts, from Curbelo, whose sprawling district runs from Miami to Key West, to Barbara Comstock in Virginia, are battle-tested and considered some of the GOP’s strongest candidates. But based on the pure political realities of their districts at a time when the president is unpopular and progressives are energized, a Democratic loss in districts such as Florida 26 would call into question whether the political environment this election year is really so bad for Republicans after all.

“Curbelo is a very crafty politician, so it’s difficult, but…yes, we should be winning this seat on a consistent basis,” said Mike Abrams, a former state legislator and former chairman of the Dade Democratic Party.

Now, this race is shaping up as a national test of whether environment alone is enough to boost a bevy of lesser-known Democratic candidates—or if a strong personal brand still matters on a district-by-district level.

Pointing to Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Curbelo’s likely Democratic opponent, Abrams said: “If Debbie wins, I think you’re going to say it was a bellwether test of the state of Trump. At least in Miami-Dade County, the political climate was important. If she doesn’t win, I think then you would say, hey, there are Republican candidates that can overcome Trump’s innate unpopularity.”

Read more here.

Parkland’s ‘most hated pro-gun advocate’ thrills conservatives



A crowd of 800 teenagers, caffeinated on colorful Starbucks drinks that did not appear to contain coffee, sprang to their feet as Kyle Kashuv, the 17-year-old conservative Parkland student who gained a national following as a counterweight to the March For Our Lives, emerged on stage.

“Guys, we have a surprise for you,” Kashuv said as the riff from AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” played in the background. “You know what that means?”

David Hogg?” one student shouted back.

“We have shirts. We have shirts! We. Have. Shirts!” Kashuv replied, flinging T-shirts into the frenzied crowd like Frisbees.

Kashuv was in Washington last week for the culmination of months of work with the pro-Trump group Turning Point USA, where he now serves as the director of high school outreach. The teenagers in attendance at the group’s high school leadership conference at George Washington University had already been treated to a host of big-name conservative speakers invited by Kashuv, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Instead of giving a talk to the students, Kashuv took questions.

One student who described herself as being from a “deep blue” part of Connecticut asked Kashuv what it was like dealing with liberal teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“A teacher tried to give me like an 89.4 and purposely gave me one point lower on a quiz to an 89.4 so I couldn’t get an ‘A’ in the class,” Kashuv replied. “But I power-moved her. I went to the administration and we made it happen.”

The crowd went wild.

Another asked him, what is his favorite dinosaur?

“T-Rex,” Kashuv said, before pausing and declaring his affinity for triceratops instead, prompting a smattering of jeers and cheers.

Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, a 24-year-old conservative who gained fame for protesting what he sees as liberal bias on college campuses and who was barred from speaking on Stoneman Douglas’ campus after the shooting, said Kashuv’s involvement with his group has given it more prominence within the conservative community, and it has benefited massively from Kashuv’s work to get dozens of Trump administration officials, members of Congress and celebrities like Mark Cuban to attend the conference.

“All the credit goes to Kyle,” Kirk said. “We’re nothing but an infrastructure that’s helped make this possible. We are a movement, don’t get me wrong, we were doing this before, but Kyle comes in and brings it to the next level. The energy, the enthusiasm, the speakers. He put his time, his talents behind this, and that’s a great partnership because we both benefit from this.”

Kashuv continues to talk about school safety and his support for the Second Amendment six months after the nation’s deadliest high school shooting and has appeared on TV dozens of times, but he’s branched out politically after successfully lobbying for a school safety bill in Congress earlier this year.

“He’s done an amazing job,” Scaramucci said, also emphasizing that his short term as White House communications director that ended after a vulgar rant recorded by a reporter was 11 days, not 10. “I think Kyle’s voice frankly is a much needed voice because it fits into a narrative of school safety, but recognizing that the founding fathers of our country wanted people to have the right to bear arms. I applaud all of these kids though.”

Read more here.