September 18, 2018

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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@newsbysmiley @alextdaugherty

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.

Infowars’ Alex Jones insults, touches Marco Rubio outside U.S. Senate hearing

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@alextdaugherty

As Marco Rubio was attempting to answer questions outside a U.S. Senate hearing with social media executives about Russian interference, someone interrupted him.

It wasn’t an impatient reporter or a liberal protester. It was Alex Jones, the far-right talk show host and conspiracy theorist. He tried to question Rubio about far-right conservative trolls who have been banned from social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube.

“What about the Democrats purging conservatives?” Jones said as Rubio was trying to answer a question from another reporter. “Republicans act like it isn’t happening. Thank God Trump is.”

 

“That’s weird, man,” Rubio replied with a smile on his face.

For the next three minutes, the one-time presidential candidate was inches away from Jones as Jones shouted insults and interrupted Rubio as he tried to answer questions.

“I just don’t know who you are, man,” Rubio said when Jones kept interrupting him.

Jones started bragging about his website, noting the millions of views his talk show receives on platforms like YouTube and Facebook, which have now banned the far-right host for peddling numerous conspiracy theories, misinformation and harassment of public officials across the political spectrum, including Rubio.

“Infowars.com, you know what it is full well,” Jones said. “That’s why you didn’t get elected, because you’re snake-like.”

Rubio then turned and laughed, and Jones began to mimic his response in a baby-like voice, calling Rubio a “little frat boy.”

“All right man, who are you? Who is this guy? I swear to God I don’t know who you are,” Rubio said.

Jones again bragged about his website’s millions of views, and patted Rubio on the shoulder.

“Don’t touch me again, man. I’m asking you not to touch me,” Rubio said. “I’m not going to arrest you, man, I’ll take care of you myself.”

Read more here.

August 02, 2018

Rubio wants to enact paid family leave by delaying social security benefits

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@alextdaugherty

Sen. Marco Rubio unveiled his plan to provide paid family leave for most working Americans on Thursday, an idea that would allow families to take weeks off work after having children in exchange for delaying social benefits at the time of retirement. 

"This is pretty significant reform, this is a dramatic change," Rubio said. "This is not something we intend to pass in a matter of weeks or days. I hope that by offering this bill we’ll start a conversation." 

Though Republicans are usually wary of adding new entitlements like paid family leave, Rubio says his plan passes the conservative smell test because it is paid for by families delaying their social security benefits instead of raising taxes. Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner plans to introduce a similar plan in the House of Representatives, though her plan would cut social security payouts by a small amount over a period of time to pay for family leave instead of lengthening the amount of time one would work until they can access federal retirement benefits. 

Rubio has worked closely with President Trump's daughter and White House advisor Ivanka Trump on a paid family leave plan for months, though Ivanka acknowledged Thursday that a paid family leave plan won't become law during this Congress. 

"I do believe there is one issue on which we all agree and that is we need to do everything we can to help our children," Rubio said. "It is hurting our children to have parents who are going into debt to spend more time with them." 

The Florida Republican said he's not worried that his bill would incentivize employers to axe existing paid family leave plans, arguing that only 15 percent of Americans receive such a benefit and that most businesses with paid leave plans are at the high end of the income and talent pool. If an employer cuts an existing paid family leave plan and they don't use the money to pay employees more they'll lose out to competitors, Rubio said. 

It's unclear whether Rubio's idea has the backing of Senate Republicans. The bill doesn't have any cosponsors and Rubio acknowledged he "got impatient" and introduced the bill to start a debate within the party. 

Democrats have also proposed paid family leave plans that would not cut social security benefits. Instead, plans like New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's would raise taxes to pay for it. 

Rubio's plan would apply to every working American and would allow mothers and fathers to share the benefit, and Rubio argued that extending the timeline for social security is a worthy tradeoff because more Americans are earning more money at the end of their careers than they are at the time they have children. 

"For the Republican Party it's a new issue, its an issue that’s traditionally associated with the Democratic Party and the left," Rubio said.

The U.S. is one of a handful of countries that does not provide paid time off for parents, though many countries only extend the benefit to mothers.

August 01, 2018

Rubio to introduce paid family leave plan

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via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday will finally reveal his paid family leave proposal allowing parents to draw from future Social Security benefits.

"Our proposal would be a consistent application of Social Security's original principle — to provide assistance to dependents in our care — to the challenges of today," Rubio writes in a USA Today op/ed. He is introducing the bill with Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo.

Democrats have already criticized the plan, which Rubio has talked about for months, because it affects Social Security. People would delay future benefits in order to draw them for family leave.

"We appreciate that Sen. Rubio and Rep. Wagner are looking for a way to provide the paid leave America's families urgently need, but a program that only covers parents caring for new children, provides no leave for family care and personal medical needs, and forces parents to choose between paid leave and retirement security is absolutely the wrong way to go," said the National Partnership for Women & Families. "In fact, it is reckless, irresponsible and ill-conceived. This is a Social Security benefit cut for the working people who need Social Security the most."

Rubio pitches it as a conservative solution to an idea long advocated by Democrats.

"Like Social Security, the benefits under our plans would be most generous to working class families. Parents taking the option would receive monthly payments that will help cover costs like rent, groceries and new baby supplies during a time of significant income constraints," Rubio writes. "The benefit will also be transferable between parents in the household. And unlike other paid parental leave proposals, this option would be available to working and stay-at-home moms and dads alike."

Rubio was expected to introduced the bill earlier in July but that was delayed.

The idea, backed by Ivanka Trump, matches one promoted by the Independent Women’s Forum, which called for 12 weeks of paid leave per parent. To get that, an adult would defer Social Security retirement benefits by six weeks.

Rubio votes against defense spending bill amid China concerns

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Sen. Marco Rubio joined a small minority of the most liberal and conservative members of the U.S. Senate to vote against a massive defense spending bill named after ailing Sen. John McCain on Wednesday after Republican leaders declined to punish Chinese telecom giant ZTE, a company that ran afoul of U.S. sanctions against North Korea and Iran. 

Rubio voted against the yearly defense spending package along with nine other senators, eight of them Democrats including potential presidential hopefuls like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who will likely use their opposition to military spending as a campaign issue in a future Democratic primary. 

It's the first time that Rubio has voted against a defense spending bill since joining the U.S. Senate. He missed a vote on the package in 2015 while running for president. 

"We got a lot of good things in it that we fought for, but the ZTE, the threat that China poses in my mind, overrides everything," Rubio said.

In June, the Trump administration announced that Chinese telecom giant ZTE will pay a $1 billion fine and fund an in-house compliance team staffed by U.S. experts after the company was caught shipping communications equipment to North Korea and Iran, and lied to U.S. investigators about it. The ZTE deal came after the Commerce Department announced a seven-year ban on ZTE buying American parts, an action that President Trump said would lead to "too many jobs in China lost."

Trump then instructed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to cut a deal, over the objections of Rubio and most lawmakers on Capitol Hill from both parties.

But Republican leaders recently took out a provision in the military spending bill that would have prevented ZTE from buying American technology in a rebuke to Trump. The decision was met with derision by some Republicans and Democrats, though it wasn't enough to sway most senator's votes. Instead, the bill includes a provision that limits government purchases of ZTE technology such as cell phones and handsets. 

"Sadly we failed this chin check," Rubio tweeted a few hours before the vote. "The U.S. saved as a goodwill gesture to Xi. And responded to this overly generous gesture of “goodwill” by blocking Qualcomm pur­chase of NXP Semi­con­duc­tors NV even after asked them for it in return. Learn the lesson!" 

Rubio said he's not worried about voting against a bill the the president pitches as a win for the military, saying service members and veterans understand why it was important to send a symbolic rebuke to China. 

July 27, 2018

Miami lawmakers plan to publicly rebuke Daniel Ortega for violence in Nicaragua

Nicaragua Unrest

@alextdaugherty

Daniel Ortega’s biggest foes in Washington are trying to draw more attention to Nicaragua’s ongoing human-rights crisis, though they acknowledge that military action by President Donald Trump against the leftist leader is unlikely.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami are leading efforts in the House and Senate to publicly rebuke violent attacks by masked gunmen linked to Ortega’s government who have killed 97 people since July 11. This week, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution written by Ros-Lehtinen that condemns the violence and calls on the use of sanctions for individuals that are connected to the killings. Rubio has proposed a similar resolution in the Senate.

The retiring Miami congresswoman said the successful resolution was the first step in a four-part plan to rebuke Ortega.

Additionally, she’s angling for the Senate to pass her bill that limits U.S. loans to Ortega’s government until the longtime president carries out democratic reforms; more sanctions for individuals who can be connected to violent acts against anti-Ortega protestors, and overturning the Trump administration’s decision to end a temporary immigration program that allowed 2,500 Nicaraguans to live and work in the U.S. without the fear of deportation.

“I would not want to compare atrocities, but Nicaragua is a smaller country than Venezuela, smaller population, and they had almost 400 people killed and the international community shrugs,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “If we’re going to say that it’s terrible in Nicaragua, why are we going to deport Nicaraguan Americans to Nicaragua when we are saying that it’s in political chaos?”

The Trump administration decided to end Nicaragua’s Temporary Protected Status in November 2017, a designation that was made in 1998 after Hurricane Mitch killed nearly 4,000 people and uprooted land mines around the country. Nicaraguans who have been living in the U.S. with TPS since 1998 now have until January 2019 to seek another form of legal residency or else return to Nicaragua.

“By next year, they will all be deported,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “These are law-abiding people, they are legal, they have permits to work, they’re being educated, they’ve got driver’s licenses and now we’re going to deport them to the violent hell that is Nicaragua? That’s just not right.”

Ros-Lehtinen’s letter to Trump urging him to change Nicaragua’s TPS designation was signed by four of Miami-Dade County’s five House members, including Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart. Miami-Dade is home to about one-third of all Nicaraguan Americans.

Rubio said there is already work being done to sanction individuals and entities in Nicaragua that are responsible for the violence. Ortega’s recent decision not to move up elections that were scheduled for 2021, as requested by the nation’s business community and Catholic clergy, moved him past the point of no return in Rubio’s eyes.

“There is a direct national security interest for the United States in seeing a return to democracy and stability in Nicaragua,” Rubio said in a statement. “The message from the U.S. to the Ortega regime was very clear: Call for early elections and allow legitimate elections. That did not happen. As Nicaragua follows Venezuela’s dangerous path, the U.S. should be prepared to take further action with our regional allies to address the threat of Ortega’s regime.”

Read more here.

July 17, 2018

Republicans say Rubio’s bill is the way for Congress to deter Russian meddling

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@alextdaugherty

Conservatives are lining up behind Marco Rubio’s plan to automatically sanction Russia for any future election meddling a day after President Donald Trump’s meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin drew widespread derision from the entire political spectrum. 

Trump supporters like Fox News host Laura Ingraham, moderates like Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Senate leaders like Mitch McConnell have all expressed support for Rubio’s bill, signaling that Congress could pass substantive legislation that would swiftly punish Moscow if U.S. intelligence determines that the Kremlin tries to meddle in future U.S. elections. 

“There are some possibilities, Senator Rubio, for example, has got a bill that targets the 2018 election cycle we’re right in now which is, as I understand it, is potential penalties if the Russians do it again,” McConnell, who controls the U.S. Senate, said on Tuesday. “So yeah, there’s a possibility that we may well take up legislation related to this.” 

The push by conservatives for a bill that was introduced in January by Rubio and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland comes a day after Trump and Putin met privately for two hours and the president said he believes Putin instead of U.S. intelligence over the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The joint press conference sparked widespread outrage and condemnation from Democrats and Republicans, though Trump tried to walk back his comments on Tuesday by saying he misspoke. 

Rubio and Van Hollen’s bill, called the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, is the first bill since the 2016 presidential election that sets specific punishments for the Russian government and other countries that interfere in U.S. political campaigns.

“Congress has already taken various steps when it comes to Russia and its interference in 2016, this will just be one moving forward that hopefully would deter future attacks, which I believe is the real threat here ultimately,” Rubio said on Tuesday. “It’s not what happened, but what could happen in the future. Hopefully we’ll get to a critical mass and momentum that we can get going on it and get it passed.”

Rubio’s bill, if passed, codifies specific penalties for the Russians that must implemented within 10 days if the Director of National Intelligence determines that interference took place.

The penalties include “sanctions on major sectors of the Russian economy, including finance, energy, defense, and metals and mining” and blacklisting every senior Russian political figure or oligarch identified in the Russian sanctions bill that became law in 2017 over the initial objections of Trump after a supermajority in Congress approved it.

The bill lays out specific acts by foreign governments that constitute election interference. Foreign governments are forbidden from purchasing advertisements to influence elections, using social and traditional media to spread “significant amounts” of false information, hacking election or campaign infrastructure such as voter registration databases and campaign emails, and blocking access to elections infrastructure such as websites that provide information on polling locations.

Read more here

July 16, 2018

Florida lawmakers blast Trump for not calling out Putin

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via @learyreports

Florida lawmakers on Monday blasted President Trump over taking Vladimir Putin's word that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election, a conclusion that stands in dramatic contrast to widely held views among the intelligence community and on Capitol Hill.

"I don't see any reason why" Russia would do that, Trump said in Helsinki.

"What the president said today is not accurate," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said during an Atlantic Council event.

Florida Democrats were the first to react and in sharper terms.

"The president's refusal to acknowledge that Putin interfered in our elections should alarm us all," Sen. Bill Nelson tweeted. "Putin is a threat to our democracy and our upcoming election, that's a fact. The president's unwillingness to stand up to him and defend our nation is unacceptable and embarrassing."

"Today @RealDonaldTrump became an illegitimate president when he showed the world that his loyalty lies more with than the people of the United States," Miami Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson tweeted. 

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did not directly criticize Trump but did say "Foreign policy must be based on reality, not hyperbole or wishful thinking."

Rubio was more specific during an Atlantic Council event.

"What the president said today is not accurate," the Florida Republican said, adding that "all I can speculate" is that Trump was trying to be nice to Putin to establish a better working relationship.

"The flaw is that Vladimir Putin is not interested in a better working relationship," Rubio said.

Miami Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen directly criticized Trump. 

"The President's comments in Helsinki were deeply alarming," Curbelo said in a statement. "Russia's meddling in the 2016 election is fact – and the recent indictment from Director Mueller and the evidence it outlines proves that. It is unacceptable that an American President not only stood there and said nothing while Vladmir Putin spewed fiction at that press conference, but also questioned the hard work and findings of American intelligence and law enforcement investigators. The U.S. relationship with Russia has deteriorated to its current state because of Russia's criminal interference in our elections, lack of respect for human rights, and invasive and militant actions against its neighbors and our allies around the world. Blaming it on anything else, is unacceptable."

"No, @POTUS. Mueller investigation on election manipulation by is not 'a disaster for our country,'" Ros-Lehtinen tweeted. "It is law enforcement doing work our country needs it to do. What has 'kept us apart' is failure to condemn Russia, lack of any sign that you’ll stop it from happening again." 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart avoided directly criticizing Trump in his statement. 

"As our own intelligence experts and the House Intelligence Committee have asserted, Russia interfered in the United States' 2016 election just as it meddles in the elections of its neighbors," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "Throughout the world, Russia is often on the opposite side of U.S. interests in crucial areas such as Ukraine, Syria, and Iran. Under Putin's charge, Russia has become increasingly undemocratic, expelling pro-democracy NGOs from its territory, suppressing independent media, ignoring human rights, and manifesting a perilous environment for journalists. We must remember that Russia is not an ally of the United States, and that those responsible for attacks on our democratic institutions must be held accountable."

July 11, 2018

Rubio symbolically rebukes Trump on tariffs

Marco Rubio

@alextdaugherty

Sen. Marco Rubio joined a majority of his Senate GOP colleagues to vote in favor of a symbolic resolution that would give Congress more power to check President Donald Trump's tariffs that are justified through national security concerns. 

Rubio and Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted in favor of a non-binding resolution by Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker that would require the president to receive congressional approval when enacting tariffs due to national security concerns, which Trump did last month when imposed tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. 

The final vote was 88 in favor of the resolution and 11 against. The 11 "no" votes were all Republicans. 

Rubio has not directly criticized the Trump administration's decision to levy tariffs on U.S. allies, though he has been critical of the administration's decision to back away from tariffs on China. His office did not immediately respond when asked if he would have voted in favor of Corker's proposal had it been introduced as an actual bill instead of a symbolic resolution. Other Republican Senators who voted for Corker's resolution said they would not have voted for it if it was a bill with substantive trade policy implications. 

Trump's decision to levy tariffs on certain countries has drawn sharp criticism from a host of groups traditionally aligned with the GOP, though Republicans in Congress haven't moved forward with legislation on the issue after GOP leadership declined to bring Corker's bill up for a vote unless it was symbolic. 

A number of Florida industries, including boat manufacturers, fisheries, coffee producers and food manufacturers could be negatively impacted by tariffs imposed on China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They estimated that $713.4 million in exports from Florida could be affected by a trade dispute over tariffs.