December 11, 2018

Ros-Lehtinen's Nicaragua sanctions bill passes Congress

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

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The House of Representatives formally approved a bill by Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen that would limit U.S. loans to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government until the longtime president carries out democratic reforms. 

Ros-Lehtinen's Nicaraguan Investment and Conditionality Act, which passed the U.S. Senate earlier this month with additional penalties on Nicaragua sponsored by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, now heads to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature. The bill passed the House by a voice vote on Tuesday.

"With the final passage of the amended NICA Act, Congress took a leap forward in creating further accountability against the heinous abuses committed by Ortega and his puppets," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "In a desperate effort to cling to power, Ortega and his thugs have continued to clamp down on free speech and peaceful demonstrations. The United States has answered the call of the Nicaraguan people and will continue to do so in support of much needed electoral and human rights reforms.”

The bill also includes more sanctions for individuals who can be connected to violent acts against anti-Ortega protestors.

Though the NICA Act passed the House of Representatives earlier this year by a voice vote, Florida Republican Rep. Francis Rooney and Nicaraguan businessman reportedly lobbied against its passage in the Senate. Ros-Lehtinen was also worried that the bill's passage could get hung up on procedural grounds at the end of this Congress. Any bill that doesn't pass by the end of the year would need to start over in the next Congress, and Ros-Lehtinen is retiring. 

"We are one step closer to expanding sanctions and other pressures against the oppressive Ortega regime and sending a clear message that the United States will not tolerate the ongoing human rights violations,"Rubio said in a statement. "I thank Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who spearheaded these efforts, for her tireless work in support of democracy in the Western Hemisphere."

November 12, 2018

Trump, Scott and Rubio continue to push claims of Florida voter fraud without evidence

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President Donald Trump and Florida’s two highest-ranking Republicans are continuing to push unfounded claims of voter fraud as the state recounts votes to decide closely watched races for governor, U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner.

The president said valid ballots in Florida should be thrown out because “an honest vote count is no longer possible.”

Governor Rick Scott said his Democratic U.S. Senate opponent, Bill Nelson, is “clearly trying commit voter fraud to win this election.”

And Republican Senator Marco Rubio said “Democrat lawyers... are here to change the results of the election and Broward is where they plan to do it.”

There is no evidence of voter fraud in Broward County, according to election monitors from the state’s Division of Elections who have been stationed there since at least Election Day. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has not received a request in writing to investigate voter fraud from Scott. And the Florida Department of State said Monday their staff has “not seen any evidence of criminal activity in Broward County at this time. ”

The president suggested Monday that Florida should certify the election based on Election Night vote tallies — even though the state is in the midst of a legally mandated recount. He had previously tweeted that Democrats were trying to “steal two big elections in Florida,” suggesting that Broward County withheld votes during the 2016 presidential election because they were “getting ready to do a ‘number’” on Trump’s margin of victory in Florida and that Democrats “’found’ many votes” in Broward County to help Nelson and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” Trump tweeted, while providing no evidence. “An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

Read more here.

October 04, 2018

Rubio bill that penalizes corrupt drug-treatment centers passes Congress

Rubio

@alextdaugherty

Marco Rubio isn’t a big fan of the U.S. Senate’s often slow-moving ways, but he managed to get a bill passed in less than six months that allows the federal government to crack down on non-reputable drug recovery homes.

In the midst of partisan fighting over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, Congress passed a sweeping bipartisan opioid package on Wednesday, a massive bill introduced at the beginning of 2017 that eventually included Rubio’s legislation, after he worked with Democratic Palm Beach County state attorney Dave Aronberg, to fight against a drug recovery system that allows unscrupulous treatment homes to collect thousands in private insurance payments from addicts and their families.

“The way this place works, to get from an idea in June to a law in October is not common. I don’t think I’ll be saying this much,” Rubio said. “We were brainstorming what we could do at the federal level and came up with a federal law that goes after the middlemen who make all this money. They’re basically trapping people and they put them back into rehab.”

The opioid package includes dozens of smaller bills like Rubio’s aimed at different parts of the opioid crisis, including preventing opioids from being sent through the U.S. Postal Service from foreign countries and various other aspects of prevention, treatment and recovery. The package passed the House with nearly 400 votes in favor and passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday in a 98-1 vote. The few no votes came from conservatives who vehemently oppose expanding the size of the federal government.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation into law.

Many of the bills included in the package were sponsored by lawmakers facing tough reelection fights in the coming months, including Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican who sent a press release titled “U.S. Senate Passes Buchanan Opioid Bill” because it included a proposal by Buchanan that creates a national database of medical providers who safely provide pain medication to patients. Rubio isn’t facing reelection until 2022.

Read more here.

September 28, 2018

Bill Nelson will vote no on Kavanaugh nomination

Bill Nelson

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Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson will vote against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination a day after Donald Trump’s pick for the nation’s highest court defended himself to the U.S. Senate on allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman 35 years ago.

Nelson, who is running for reelection against Gov. Rick Scott, made his opposition official on Friday morning after calling for an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh last week and expressing displeasure that the two had not met in person.

“I will vote no on Judge Kavanaugh,” Nelson tweeted.

Scott has called on Nelson to meet with Kavanaugh but has not explicitly called on Nelson to vote in favor of confirmation. Multiple allegations of sexual assault have surfaced against Kavanaugh over the last 10 days after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused Kavauangh of attempting to rape her at high school party in 1982. Kavanaugh denies all the allegations against him.

In a lengthy and emotional confirmation hearing yesterday that was called after Ford’s allegations became public, Ford recalled chilling details of the alleged assault saying that she “will never forget the laughter” from Kavnauagh and his friend Mark Judge as the assault took place. Kavanaugh offered an emotional defense of his own, breaking into tears while going over his schedule in detail during the summer of 1982.

Nelson, who is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, was not a part of Thursday’s hearing and hasn’t met face-to-face with Kavanaugh since Trump nominated him for the lifetime position in July.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday night that he planned to review Kavanaugh and Ford’s testimony overnight before making a final decision.

Other Republicans who were thought to be on the fence like Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker have publicly said they plan to vote for Kavanaugh, though Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski are seen as the crucial swing votes as Republicans only have room for one dissenter if Democrats are united against Kavanaugh.

September 20, 2018

March For Our Lives founder leaves the group, regrets trying to ‘embarrass’ Rubio

School Shooting Florida

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Cameron Kasky became one of the most recognizable faces of the March For Our Lives Movement after he helped raise millions of dollars in a matter of days for a gun-control rally and confronted Sen. Marco Rubio on television after the nation’s deadliest high school shooting .

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior spent weeks organizing a massive march in Washington that morphed into a nationwide movement and summer bus tour, with an eye toward the upcoming November election.

Now, Kasky is leaving the group.

“I’m proud of everything my friends have done, everything they’re doing, and my focus on opening these conversations to people who disagree with me makes me even more invested in just how important the work they’re doing is,” Kasky said in an email.

Kasky first announced his decision to leave March For Our Lives in an interview with Fox News Radio’s Guy Benson on Wednesday, where he also expressed regret for the way he talked to Rubio during a town hall event broadcast on CNN. At the town hall, Kasky said, “Senator Rubio, it’s hard to look at you and not look down a barrel of an AR-15 and not look at Nikolas Cruz, but the point is you’re here and there some people who are not.” He then grilled the Republican senator over accepting political contributions from the National Rifle Association.

“I look back on that and I say, you know what, there were people who had just been buried and when you’re looking at somebody that you find might in some way have been complicit in this murderer obtaining the weapon it’s hard not to say something like that,” Kasky said to Fox. “But, I went into that wanting less conversation and more to embarrass Rubio and that was my biggest flaw.”

Kasky also said he regrets referring to Cruz by name during the town hall and that he met people during the March For Our Lives bus tour this summer in Texas who share different political beliefs than his, but that he came away wanting to understand more about their differences.

“This summer when March For Our Lives went on the summer tour that we embarked on I met that person in Texas who got that semi-automatic weapon because that’s how they like to protect their family,” Kasky told Fox. “I met the 50-some-odd percent of women who are pro-life, even though I thought it was preposterous that a woman could be pro-life and not pro-choice at the time. I learned that a lot of our issues politically come from a lack of understanding of other perspectives and also the fact that so often young conservatives and young liberals will go into debate, like I said earlier, trying to beat the other one as oppose to come to an agreement... I’m working on some efforts to encourage bipartisanship or at least discussion that is productive and help a lot of people avoid the mistakes that I made.”

Read more here.

September 18, 2018

Rubio says Kavanaugh accuser should be heard, respected

Marco Rubio

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If Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh turn out to be true, Marco Rubio says it would disqualify President Donald Trump's pick for the lifetime seat. 

But Rubio also wants to hear what Ford and Kavanaugh have to say in an official hearing, which could happen on Monday, before determining what should happen next. 

"The secondary matter is he’s categorically, strongly denied it," Rubio said of Kavanaugh. "So at this point if in fact any of it is proven true he’s also lying to the committee about it. But he has strongly denied and he has a right and should be given the opportunity to be heard." 

Rubio said the allegations are "very serious" and need to be "fully listened to." The Florida Republican is not a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee so he is not directly involved in Kavanaugh's confirmation process. If the nomination passes the committee chamber the full Senate can vote on it. 

"The allegations are very serious and substantial and need to be fully listened to as well and hopefully that will happen on Monday," Rubio said. "My only wish is that this information had been available earlier, which I believe it could have been, in a setting that would not have violated the confidentially that the accuser has asked for. But hopefully Monday, there will be sufficient information to begin judgment on the matter." 

Rubio's comments come after Sen. Bill Nelson, who also is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, said "there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him" and that he looks forward to meeting Kavanaugh in person. Nelson's opponent Rick Scott said there should be a "fair hearing" on the allegations. 

Ford came forward by name on Sunday after multiple outlets reported on the existence of a letter to California Rep. Anna Eshoo and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein that described a non-consensual encounter of a sexual nature between Kavanaugh and Ford when the two were in high school. Ford said that Kavanaugh groped her and tried to pull off her clothes and stopped when a friend of Kavnauagh's jumped on top of them.

Rubio wants Justice Department to investigate John Kerry's recent dealings with Iran

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is calling for the Justice Department to investigate former Secretary of State John Kerry for meeting with high-level Iranian officials after leaving his position when President Donald Trump took office. 

Kerry, the architect of the Iran Nuclear Deal that most Republicans oppose, was President Obama's top diplomat during the latter half of his administration. The Boston Globe reported in May that Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif more than a year after leaving office to discuss ways to keep the deal intact. 

In recent days, current Secretary of State and Rubio ally Mike Pompeo blasted the meetings as “beyond inappropriate" and Trump took to Twitter to voice his displeasure. 

"John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people," Trump tweeted. "He told them to wait out the Trump Administration! Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!" 

Rubio's letter, which was first reported by Fox News, asks Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate whether Kerry violated the Logan Act, a law that prohibits unauthorized individuals from negotiating with foreign governments. 

"Last week former Secretary Kerry publicly admitted that he has met with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif 'probably three or four times' including in the United States, since leaving office," Rubio's letter said. "The Department of Justice should therefore make a determination on whether or not former Secretary of State John F. Kerry's recent actions related to the [Iran Deal] potentially violate the Logan Act or the Foreign Agents Registration Act." 

Kerry, a former U.S. Senator, unsuccessfully ran for president in 2004 before serving as secretary of state.

Marco Rubio says he was ‘pissed’ when he saw #Saltbae filleting steak for Maduro

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@alextdaugherty

Marco Rubio was not happy while scrolling through Twitter on Monday night.

The Florida Republican came across video of celebrity chef Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae, gyrating his hips while serving expensive steak to a cigar-wielding Nicolás Maduro at his restaurant in Turkey. Rubio initially tweeted his displeasure, referring to Maduro as “an overweight dictator” and Gökçe as a “weirdo.”

Then Rubio found out that Gökçe, who achieved viral fame for his intricate salting of meat, owns a restaurant in Miami. He tweeted out the address and phone number of Brickell’s Nusr-Et steakhouse, a move that drew some criticism online.

Gökçe “is not a guy who I disagree with on some domestic political issue,” Rubio told the Miami Herald on Tuesday. “This is someone who is celebrating a criminal. Nicolás Maduro is systematically starving the people of Venezuela. This guy’s here celebrating him as some sort of hero. I don’t know. I got pissed. Is that a good answer?”

Rubio said he made the decision to post the publicly available information because Gökçe has a massive following on social media, with more than 300,000 followers on Twitter and 15 million on Instagram, and voicing his displeasure draws more awareness to the ongoing situation in Venezuela, where a recent poll found that 30 percent of the country eats only one meal a day.

First he praised Castro. Now ‘Salt Bae’ chef lavishes Venezuela’s Maduro with steak dinner

“All I gave is the phone number,” Rubio said. “They should call the restaurant and complain about what the owner of the restaurant did. This is an expensive restaurant, probably overpriced according to some of the reviews that I read, but I don’t care what people’s politics are domestically. I’ve never gone after anybody in business because they have a view of politics different than mine on a domestic matter. This is not a domestic political disagreement.”

A host of other Miami politicians also criticized Gökçe, with Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo calling the video “repulsive,” Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala saying “the dictator will give himself this kind of feast without any shame” while his people starve, and Miami mayor Francis Suarez calling it “disgusting.” A protest outside Salt Bae’s Brickell restaurant is planned for Wednesday afternoon.

Read more here.

First he praised Castro. Now ‘Salt Bae’ chef lavishes Venezuela’s Maduro with steak dinner, Rubio disapproves

Marco Rubio 3

via @carlosfrias

First the chef known as Salt Bae riled Cuban Americans by dressing up in honor of the late dictator Fidel Castro.

Now Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, the man who became a meme by sprinkling salt over manhandled meat, has incensed the internet again, this time by hosting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as that country grapples with widespread food scarcity.

In three since-deleted Instagram video posts to his 15.7 million followers, Gökçe, who has a restaurant in Miami, performs his usual routine at his Nusr-Et restaurant in Istanbul. He slaps and flips sides of cooked meat for the visiting Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores — sprinkling it with the flourish that earned him tacit internet fame. The Miami Herald downloaded the video before it was deleted.

In it, Maduro smiles and laughs while smoking a cigar as Gökçe finishes the meat— “Look how he salts it!” someone says off camera. Gökçe later presents Maduro with a T-shirt of himself sprinkling salt, draping it over the leader like a bib.

As Maduro feasted, his country starves, according to several recent reports. Nearly a third of Venezuelans say they regularly eat only once a day and nearly 30 percent say they ate “nothing or close to nothing” at least one day a week, according to a poll by Meganalisis. The country also faces a mass exodus, as an estimated 2.3 million have fled to live abroad because of the current government instability, according to the United Nations.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is of Cuban-American descent, tweeted the video with the telephone number to Gökçe’s Miami restaurant.

There was no such scarcity of food in Gökçe’s video Monday.

Gökçe slices blushing medium-rare lamb chops for Maduro with a flick of his knife. At his Miami restaurant by the same name, the signature Tomahawk steak — the item that will coax Gökçe over to finish tableside — costs $275. Both restaurants are part of Gökçe’s reported $1.5 billion restaurant empire that spans several continents.

“Nusr-Et is just another steakhouse (and a very expensive Instagram photo),” Miami Herald restaurant reviewer Jodi Mailander Farrell wrote in March. “It will take more than a viral flick of the wrist for it to survive in this town.”

In Istanbul, Maduro ended his meal with a hearty embrace of Gökçe.

Read more here

September 05, 2018

DeSantis picks Miami state legislator Jeanette Nuñez as running mate

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Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis has picked Miami Rep. Jeanette Nuñez as his running mate, the Miami Herald has confirmed.

Nuñez, a Kendall-area politician who was first elected to the state House in 2010, would be the first Cuban-American woman to serve as the state’s second in command if she and DeSantis are elected in November. She recently served as Speaker pro tempore under House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Nuñez’s selection was first reported by Politico. The Herald confirmed her selection through a source familiar with the campaign’s vetting process.

Nuñez, 46, was hesitant to agree, but was swayed by an 11th hour pitch from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, according to Politico.

During the 2016 presidential primary, Nuñez, who was supporting Rubio, said Donald Trump supports the Klu Klux Klan on Twitter. DeSantis won his primary after Trump made an aggressive pitch to Republican voters to support the congressman over agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Wake up Florida voters, Trump is the biggest con-man there is,” Nuñez tweeted. “#nosubstance #anti-Israel #supportsKKK VOTE Marco Rubio #RUBIO.”

Neither the DeSantis campaign nor Nuñez would comment Wednesday evening.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a loyal DeSantis supporter throughout the primary, said Nuñez would make a great choice on the ticket with DeSantis.

“I served with Jeanette Nuñez for 6 years in the State House. I have long extolled her her virtues, and I think she would make a great pick for lieutenant governor,” Gaetz said, adding that he could not confirm himself that the pick is official.

Nuñez’s selection is expected to be announced at a GOP unity rally in Orlando on Thursday. DeSantis is scheduled to visit Little Havana later in the day to discuss his push in Congress to indict Cuban leader Raul Castro for the shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996.

“I think tomorrow is going to be a big day,” Gaetz said.

Read more here.