Posts Tagged ‘Vladimir Putin’

State knew Pompano gun maker in business with banned Russian firm when tax incentives offered

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

By Dan Christensen
FloridaBulldog.org
Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration knew in 2015 when it offered $162,000 in tax-refund incentives to Pompano Beach assault rifle maker Kalashnikov USA that the company was doing business with a Russian arms giant that was blacklisted by the U.S.
The post State knew Pompano gun maker in business with banned Russian firm when tax incentives offered appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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Rick Scott, Kalashnikov assault rifles, tax incentives, U.S. sanctions, and Russian oligarchs

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

By Dan Christensen
FloridaBulldog.org
When Pompano Beach’s authorized manufacturer of Russian AK-47 assault rifles was in jeopardy of losing $162,000 in tax incentives in 2016, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration tried to ride to the rescue.
The post Rick Scott, Kalashnikov assault rifles, tax incentives, U.S. sanctions, and Russian oligarchs appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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Kathy Castor says Jeff Sessions should resign

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor is joining the chorus of Democrats who are calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign following published reports surfaced that he met twice with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. during the president campaign last year, and yet said last month that he had not done so.
“Lying to a congressional committee while you are under sworn oath is illegal,” Castor said Thursday morning. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions should resign and at the very least must recuse himself from the investigation into illegal collusion between Vladimir Putin, the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.  President Trump’s failure to release his tax returns (unlike any other presidential candidate or President) continues to be a cloud over his Administration.  An open and transparent review of his tax returns could answer questions related to whether or not he or his company have ties to Russia.”
Shortly before Castor released her statement, her fellow Democratic colleague across Tampa Bay, Charlie Crist, was calling on Sessions to resign.
As the former Attorney General of Florida, I find Attorney General Sessions’ actions inexcusable, and call for his immediate resignation,” Crist said. “How can we have faith that the duties of the office of the Attorney General will be carried out when the chief legal officer of the country doesn’t tell the truth under oath to the United States Congress.”
At his Senate confirmation hearing last month, Sessions denied ever having met with Sergey Kislyak, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during the presidential campaign. However a report in the Washington Post said that Sessions had met with him twice during the presidential campaign.
Sessions said on Thursday that he would consider recusing himself from any investigation that the Justice Department could be conducting related to any ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
 
 
The post Kathy Castor says Jeff Sessions should

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Val Demings calls for investigation into Michael Flynn’s, Donald Trump’s ties to Russia

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando is joining the call for an independent investigation of ties between Russia and former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and President Donald Trump.
Demings, a Democrat, sits on the House Oversight Committee – whose Republican chairman U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz has dismissed prospects of such an investigation by his committee into Flynn’s pre-office activities but said he wants one of the leaks that exposed them.
She called Thursday for a Chaffetz to support a bipartisan independent investigation of the Trump administration’s ties of Trump’s “personal, financial, and business dealings with President Vladamir Putin and Russia.”
“General Michael Flynn’s resignation is a major step, but this issue is in no way resolved. His resignation raises even more questions about the Trump administration’s ties to Russia,” Demings stated in a news release issued by her office. “We have no reason to believe that General Flynn acted without the knowledge of the President. This is not a partisan issue; this is about the integrity of our nation’s security.”
The issue pivots on Flynn’s now infamous telephone conversation with Russia’s Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, in late December, while he and Trump were still private citizens. After news reports from leaks, Flynn acknowledged that he and Kislyak may have discussed Trump’s plans regarding sanctions then-President Barack Obama had just initiated on Russia because of revelations that Russia likely was behind hacking of Democrats during the election campaign. Flynn resigned because he had mislead Vice President Mike Pence, not because he had the conversation.
Demings, a freshman, joins a growing list of Democrats and a few Republicans calling for more information.
“As someone who spent years conducting both internal and criminal investigations at the highest level of law enforcement, I understand the importance of this kind of investigation and why it is needed,” said

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Kathy Castor calls some of President Trump’s actions ‘beneath the dignity of the office’

Monday, February 13th, 2017

It’s less than a month into Donald Trump’s presidency, but Congresswoman Kathy Castor is not impressed so far, calling some of his actions and demeanor “beneath the dignity of the office.”
“President Trump is simply unprecedented, ” the Tampa Democrat said to reporters following a news conference she held at the USF College of Nursing George & Marian Miller Center for Virtual Learning. “His actions and demeanor are really beneath the dignity of the office. And I worry about young people and kids seeing that as an example of their president and Commander in Chief. Hopefully he’ll rein that in.”
Castor joined her House Democratic colleagues at a retreat in Baltimore last week, where they attempted to find a common strategy to combat Trump and the GOP-majority Congress over the next two years. She said that she is well aware that the Democratic base is alive and engaged in politics in a way never before seen in her decade long in Washington.
“The grassroots are on fire,” she said. “People want to know – what’s coming up on the floor of the House this week. So that’s a little bit different, where we’re having to educate all of our neighbors and encourage them and teach them how to weigh in.”
Castor says that the nature of Trump’s attempted ban on refugees and his “playing footsie” with Russian leader Vladimir Putin are actions that “really undermine our national security.”
“So there are a lot of very serious issues, and you can’t blame our neighbors for being on edge, upset and wanting to be engaged,” she surmised.
For the second consecutive weekend, one of Castor’s GOP colleagues in the Tampa Bay Congressional delegation, Pasco/Pinellas Representative Gus Bilirakis heard from dozens of angry constituents regarding his intent to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Eight years ago, it was Castor who was singled out for her support of the ACA,

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Marco Rubio re-sharpens condemnation of Putin and any U.S.-Russia deals

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio continued his sharp attacks on Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday calling any potential grand deals “immoral” and “fantasy” while positioning himself to be in staunch opposition to any agreements President Donald Trump may want with Russia.
On Thursday, speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing entitled, “The United States, The Russian Federation and the Challenges Ahead,” Florida’s Republican senator condemned prospects of a grand deal between the Trump administration and Putin involving ISIS, sanctions over Russian hacking, and Ukraine, calling it “a really stupid deal” that would have no chance of forwarding American interests.
Rubio has long been a leading critic of Putin and has made no secret of his strong disagreement with Trump on any warmth Trump may have toward the Russian president, or any prospects for deals. For every tweet Trump has issued defending Putin, Rubio has called out human rights abuses by the Russian leader.
Last fall Rubio was one of the first and most ardent Republicans to disavow any damaging information being leaked about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton because Rubio was convinced by intelligence reports that the information came from Putin. And last month Rubio severely grilled Trump’s secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson over his views on Russia, demanding to know if Tillerson would call Putin a war criminal.
Still, Tillerson, who has long, direct business dealings with the Russian government, refused to do so, and Rubio voted to confirm his nomination anyway.
On Thursday Rubio resumed his position as one of the Senate’s most outspoken critic of Putin and any relationship he might have with Trump or Tillerson.
Rubio’s comments came in reference to a “grand bargain” that could ask Putin to fight ISIS in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Russia for its cyberattacks against the U.S. and annexation and occupation of Ukrainian territory.
“I think this whole notion of a grand bargain, where

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Darryl Paulson: We are not the same; the immoral equivalency of President Donald Trump

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Voters who supported Donald Trump for president did so because they liked his free-speaking ideas, his attacks on the political establishment and his promise to “make America great again.”
President Trump has repeatedly stated that he would have won the popular vote for president if not for massive vote fraud. Does Trump believe that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin won his office in free and fair elections?  I hope Trump cannot be that deluded.
Republicans raised strong criticisms when President Barack Obama conducted what many Americans viewed as an “apology tour,” criticizing America for all its failures. Americans prefer their presidents defend the nation and its values, and not constantly criticize the nation for its shortcomings.
Obama told a European audience in 2009 that “there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” He also criticized the notion of American exceptionalism that all presidents have defended.
When Jihadists burned a Jordanian pilot alive, then showing the video online as a recruiting tool, President Obama cautioned a national prayer breakfast audience not to “get on our high horse” and “remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”
Many Americans were sickened and highly critical of Obama’s efforts to apologize for America’s shortcomings. Instead of defending American exceptionalism, the president seemed to delight in pointing out our deficiencies.
If President Obama’s “apology tour” disgusted many Americans and most Republicans, President Trump’s defense of Putin and the Soviets should strike a similar response from the electorate. To cast America and the Soviets as “one and the same” should thoroughly repulse Republicans, in particular. Republican Ronald Reagan must be retching.
President Trump turned in one of the most disgusting performances of any American president when he placed America and the Soviets on the same moral plateau. In a Fox News

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Bill Nelson sounds off on what he calls Donald Trump’s “rocky” first week in office

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Although U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s press conference on Wednesday in Tampa was ostensibly to discuss President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to spend up to one trillion dollars improving the nation’s infrastructure, he spent considerable time discussing – and criticizing- some of the moves that the newly-inaugurated president has made in his first week in office.
Nelson has voted against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Mike Pompeo for CIA Director, and he says he’ll oppose Rex Tillerson when the former ExxonMobil CEO’s name comes up for a confirmation vote for Secretary of State. When asked why at a press conference in Tampa, Nelson said just two words.
“Vladimir Putin.”
When asked to elaborate, Nelson simply said he didn’t feel comfortable with Tillerson’s past relationships with the Russian leader.
In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, Florida’s other U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, was remarkably aggressive in questioning Tillerson, asking him at one point if he thought Putin was a war criminal. But Rubio ultimately voted for Tillerson in committee earlier this week.
Regarding Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s choice as Treasury Secretary, Nelson said he has not made up his mind, even after speaking with him personally.
“There are a number of things that trouble me about him,” he said about the former partner of Goldman Sachs and hedge fund manager. “He’s got some tax issues. But the main thing is it’s kind of an attitude that – ‘I know better than you’ – and for a Treasury Secretary who has the tremendous responsibility to keep our economy on an even keel, that concerns me.”
Mnuchin initially failed to disclose $100 million in assets last week, which he called an “unintentional” oversight.
Meanwhile, Democrats have accused a potential conflict of interest for Tom Price, Trump’s selection at HHS, saying he held more than $100,000 in stock in companies that could have benefited from legislation he promoted.
In 2009, former Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle withdrew  his nomination by Barack Obama to become Health

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Donald Trump was right about ‘Little Marco’ all along

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Little Marco.
Donald Trump had it right all along.
By announcing he will vote to approve Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, the fittingly titled junior U.S. senator from Florida proved he is compromised and cut down to size.
As they say out West, he is all hat and no cattle.
Under what certainly was significant pressure from the Republican Party and President Trump’s operatives, Marco Rubio confirmed that all that bluster he directed at Tillerson about the human rights violations in Russia was just for show.
Tillerson, of course, had extensive business dealings with Russia and Vladimir Putin. In the hearing, Rubio pointedly asked Tillerson if Putin should be considered a war criminal. It was a tough question and made for a dandy sound bite, but the real bite would have been if Rubio had stood on principle instead of politics and voted not to confirm.
Instead, he caved.
He can dress it up however he wants, but the fact is that with a chance to make a big statement Rubio shrank when the spotlight was the brightest.
This isn’t about whether Tillerson will make a good secretary of state. Opinions are mixed on that one, and Democrats seemed to have their eyes on blocking other targets. But with his mugging for the cameras at the hearing, Rubio defined the rules by how this confirmation will be judged.
I believe – well, believed – that Rubio’s concern about rights violations is sincere. If he really holds those core values, though, then he should have voted his conscience. The next time prattles on about the dictatorship in Cuba and all that, just tune him out. He is not prepared to back up his convictions with action.
If he voted no, there have been retribution from both his party and President Trump. Welcome to Washington. Surely, Rubio had known that before

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Rex Tillerson has Marco Rubio’s vote in Senate

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

The Latest on activities in Congress (All times EST):
10:35 a.m.
Sen. Marco Rubio says he’ll support President Donald Trump‘s nominee for secretary of state.
The Florida Republican ended nearly two weeks of “will he or won’t he” drama by announcing on his Facebook page that he’ll vote for Rex Tillerson to serve as the nation’s top diplomat.
Rubio says his backing is not without concerns. He worries that in years to come the U.S. “will not give the defense of democracy and human rights the priority they deserve.”
But he says it “would be against our national interests” for Tillerson’s confirmation to be unnecessarily delayed or embroiled in controversy.
Rubio and other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are scheduled to meet Monday afternoon to cast their ballots on Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO.
The senator clashed with Tillerson at his confirmation hearing earlier this month.
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7:15 a.m.
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says he can’t support President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland says in a statement that Rex Tillerson’s business orientation and confirmation hearing answers could compromise his ability to forcefully promote U.S. values and ideals.
Specifically, Cardin said he based his opposition on Tillerson’s unwillingness to call Russia and Syria’s atrocities “war crimes,” or to describe Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s extrajudicial killings as gross human rights violations.
Cardin also said the former Exxon Mobil CEO misled the committee about the company’s lobbying against sanctions, such as penalties against Russia for its annexation of Crimea.
The Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on Tillerson’s nomination on Monday afternoon.
___
3:30 a.m.
All eyes are on Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as a Senate committee is poised to vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state.
The nomination of Rex Tillerson got a boost on Sunday after two influential

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Donald Trump, government is not a business. Reject Rex Tillerson.

Monday, January 16th, 2017

If it is to be believed, as Donald Trump evidently does, that government is just another business, then Rex Tillerson is a plausible nominee for secretary of state. Hasn’t he been running one of the most powerful and profitable businesses in this corner of the universe?
But government is not a business.
The duty of a business is to produce profits for its owners. Period. How it’s done rarely matters so long as there are profits. Whether a business treats its customers and employees with consideration or stiffs them, as Trump so often did to his, is “right” or “wrong” only in the light of the profit margin or loss. A CEO who doesn’t put profits first won’t last, and he or she is most unlikely to find a soft landing on a business school faculty.
The competitive situation of a business requires keeping certain secrets from the public. In a proper democracy, however, there are no secrets to be kept from the public, other than those that directly implicate national security. The personal assets of a wealthy Cabinet nominee are no such exception. And certainly those of a president are not. We deserve to know, we need to know, what conflicts of interest may exist. Florida Governor Reubin Askew maintained that full financial disclosure was the only way to earn the trust of the people, and the voters agreed with him overwhelmingly.
A business can fail. It can declare bankruptcy, freeing its owners to foist off the losses on other people and start over, as Trump has done four times. A local government can do that too, but a national government, one with the power and the duty to maintain the economy, cannot do that without catastrophic consequences. It cannot even suggest renegotiating its debts, as Trump casually speculated during the campaign, without

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Week 1: Cabinet picks contradict Donald Trump stands on some issues

Friday, January 13th, 2017

The lack of fireworks surrounding Senate consideration of President-elect Donald Trump‘s Cabinet picks may reflect a slew of statements his choices have made contradicting the billionaire businessman’s position on key issues.
Trump acknowledged the differences early Friday, posting a message on his Twitter account saying: “All my Cabinet nominee are looking good and doing a great job. I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!”
This week’s confirmation hearings produced an odd political chemistry where, for instance, one of the harshest examinations of a Trump Cabinet choice came from one of Trump’s fellow Republicans, presidential campaign rival Sen. Marco Rubio.
Despite Democrats’ dismay over some of Trump’s selections, the hearings were relatively tranquil, with Democrats generally restrained even in quizzing the more contentious picks. The reason, according to a few Democrats: The nominees are proving more palatable than Trump himself.
“As I meet members of the Cabinet I’m puzzled because many of them sound reasonable,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “Far more reasonable than their president.”
That could change in weeks to come, because some of the most potentially explosive hearings are still pending, including the scrutiny of former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary.
Several of Trump’s Cabinet selections this week made statements this week contradicting policy stances espoused by their soon-to-be boss on issues ranging from Russia and NATO to climate change and Muslims.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, picked for attorney general, said he’s against any outright ban on immigration by Muslims, in contrast to Trump’s onetime call to suspend admittance of Muslims until U.S. officials could learn more about nature of the threat of extremism.
His secretary of state candidate, Rex Tillerson, took a relatively hard line on Washington’s dealings with Russia, even though Trump has been talking about improving relations between Washington

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Marco Rubio quickly keeps promise to stand up to Donald Trump in Senate

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Marco Rubio promised during his campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate that he would stand up to Donald Trump when necessary.
“Necessary” didn’t take long to arrive.
It came Wednesday during a confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for Secretary of State.
Rubio responded with what I thought was his finest hour as the junior senator from Florida. He showed plenty of backbone, conviction and passion in relentlessly hammering Tillerson about his stance (or non-stance) on Russia’s appalling human rights record.
It was a bold gambit, but it’s one I believe Rubio made on principle. In so doing he risks the wrath of the incoming president, not to mention his own Republican Party.
That showed a truckload of gumption.
Now, I may have to amend the previous sentence if after all that Rubio toes the GOP line and votes to confirm Tillerson. I can’t imagine that happening now, though, and as it stands now, Rubio could be the swing vote that would lead the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee to turn thumbs-down on Tillerson.
That wouldn’t necessarily doom his appointment, as the full Senate could confirm him with a simple majority vote. Republicans hold a 52-46 edge there (with two independents, who caucus with Democrats).
Taking the political intrigue out of it for a second, though, Rubio’s action during Wednesday’s hearing backed up his full-throated condemnation of nations like Russia and Cuba who rule with torture, murder and a disregard for human life.
I haven’t agreed with Rubio’s persistent hard-line stance on Cuba, mostly because I believe the U.S. policy of sanctions has succeeded only in bringing misery to the Cuban people. But there is no such ambiguity with what’s happening with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Rubio placed himself squarely on the front line in the battle to oppose him.
When Tillerson said “I would not reach

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Donald Trump denounces ‘disgrace’ of reports of Russian ties to him

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

A defiant President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday adamantly denied reports that Russia had obtained compromising personal and financial information about him, calling it a “tremendous blot” on the record of the intelligence community if such material had been released.
The incoming president, in his first news conference since late July, firmly chided news organizations for publishing the material late Tuesday night. After weeks of scoffing at reports that Russians had interfered in the election, he conceded publicly for the first time that Russia was likely responsible for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” he said and quickly added that the United States is hacked by other countries as well, including China.
Trump’s extraordinary defense against the unsubstantiated intelligence report, just nine days before his inauguration, dominated a highly anticipated press conference in which he also announced a new Cabinet member, detailed his plans to disentangle himself from his sprawling global business empire, gave his outlook on the future of the “Obamacare” health care law and said he would soon nominate someone to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
“I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out. I saw the information, I read the information outside of that meeting,” he said, a reference to a classified briefing he received from intelligence leaders. “It’s all fake news, it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen,” Trump said in a news conference that saw him repeatedly joust with reporters. “It was gotten by opponents of ours.”
Asked about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump boasted that it is an improvement over what he called America’s current “horrible relationship with Russia” and did not criticize the Russian leader for any interference in the election.
“If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks, that’s called an

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Marco Rubio grills Rex Tillerson on Russia: Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s concerns regarding Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin took center stage in Senate confirmation hearings Wednesday when he grilled Rex Tillerson over whether the secretary of state nominee believes Putin is a war criminal, and whether he believes Putin was directly involved in cyber attacks to affect the 2016 American election.
Tillerson said he was not willing to call Putin a war criminal without having more information, all but visibly infuriating Rubio.
However, the nominee of president-elect Donald Trump did say that the reports he has read on Russian cyber interference attempts with the American election are “clearly troubling” and that the assumption that Putin was involved is “a fair assumption.”
Rubio’s entire time questioning Tillerson focused on Russia. He began by questioning Tillerson about the reports that Russia ran a broad hacking campaign and then leaked the gleaned information to harm Democrat Hillary Clinton‘s candidacy and to forward Trump’s. When Tillerson first demurred about whether he believed Putin was directly involved, Rubio pressed, pointing out that the Exxon-Mobile CEO’s long, personal relationship with Russia and direct dealing with Putin, and demanding to know if  he had an opinion that Putin most likely would have been involved.
“I think that’s a fair assumption,” Tillerson finally responded.
Next, Rubio turned to a bill that he and a bipartisan coalition of senators rolled out Monday, which would impose a variety of sanctions on Russia for the  election campaign hacking, and for other Russian international aggressions in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere. Would Tillerson advise the president to sign it?
Tillerson declined to say, noting he would need to know all the facts.
Rubio grew frustrated. He pressed if Tillerson would support sanctions against any country involved in cyber attacks on the United States.
Again, Tillerson said he would need more information, and that the full circumstances would have to be considered.
When Tillerson mentioned trade

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Protesters in Tampa tells Marco Rubio to hold Rex Tillerson accountable in confirmation hearing

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing for Secretary of State begins Wednesday morning at 9 a.m, and dozens of activists in Tampa want to make sure that Marco Rubio holds Tillerson’s feet to the fire during that hearing.
At a rally in front of the Florida Senator’s district office in Tampa’s Westshore area on Monday afternoon, approximately 75 people stood alongside Kennedy Blvd. denouncing Tillerson, with many critics mentioning his close ties to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government as a reason to oppose his nomination.
“Marco Rubio can stop this madness of Rex Tillerson’s appointment, and we’re out here to stand by him and say we agree with your concerns and thank you for looking out for us. You can be the one that stops this,” said Dayna Lazarus with Organize Now in Tampa.
Lazarus isn’t overhyping Rubio’s power in the confirmation process.  With Republicans having just a one-seat majority on the 19-member Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio’s opposition, combined with ten Democrats on the panel, could reject his nomination coming out of committee, though his nomination would still ultimately come up before the entire U.S. Senate.
Rubio has already expressed some skepticism about Donald Trump’s nomination of Tillerson, who built a close relationship with Putin through his leadership as CEO of ExxonMobil. Putin awarded Tillerson with Russia’s Order of Friendship in 2013, a special honor bestowed upon foreign citizens who contribute to Russia’s culture, economy or international relations.
Rubio’s initial reaction to the pick wasn’t positive.

Being a “friend of Vladimir” is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState – MR
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 11, 2016

Rubio later said that he had “serious concerns” about Tillerson’s nomination.
Rubio “has a responsibility to the state of Florida” to thoroughly vet Tillerson, said Marina Welch, who is heading up the Tampa Bay area region’s trip to Washington for the Women’s March on D.C.

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Marco Rubio puts Russian in political oppression spotlight – and calls out Vladimir Putin

Monday, January 9th, 2017

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio restarted his social media campaign to highlight political prisoners worldwide Monday, this time spotlighting a Russian imprisoned under President Vladimir Putin for “unauthorized assembly, and calling out Putin by name.
“#Russia must immediately and unconditionally release prisoner of conscience Ildar Dadin #expressionNOToppression,” Florida’s Republican senator tweeted Monday morning.
It’s a restart of an occasional serial of tweets and other social media posts that Rubio has been providing in late 2014 and the first few months of 2016 before his U.S. Senate campaign. Yet while it’s not the first time Rubio has highlighted a Russian, it comes with explicit denunciation of Putin – at a time when the Russian president’s relationship with president-elect Donald Trump and allegations of election campaign interference, together with reports of Putin’s own totalitarian approach to governing, are at the top of the news.
The tweet included a meme that declared, “Russian human rights activist Ildar Dadin was sentenced to two years in prison for participating in an ‘unauthorized assembly’ – in other words, expressing his right to freedom of expression. He is the first person convicted in Russia under Vladimir Putin’s new law that bars any form of public dissent. Status: Reportedly held in a prison camp in Siberia.”
Rubio brought his campaign to the Senate floor last May with a speech that included, “Every day, people are unjustly detained, they’re tortured, publicly shamed, and murdered, often at the hands of their own government. And here’s what their crimes are: Simply disagreeing with the government… disagreeing whether through journalism, through blogging, through peaceful organizing, or for simply [believing] in a different religion.”
In the first few months of his campaign, which ran until last July, Rubio highlighted at least two dozen cases of politically-oppressed individuals in North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, China, Venezuela, Egypt, Kenya, Turkey, Bahrain, Vietnam,

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‘Little’ Marco Rubio holds big cards in Rex Tillerson confirmation

Monday, January 9th, 2017

We all remember when presidential candidate Donald Trump stuck Republican opponent Marco Rubio with the label of “Little Marco.”
It’s hard to say if that insult led directly to Trump’s sizable thumping of Rubio in the Florida primary, but it’s worth mentioning because “Little” Marco holds perhaps the biggest card in Trump’s push to confirm Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.
Rubio sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where Tillerson is expected to appear Wednesday as part of the formal confirmation process. It’s a 21-person committee, with Republicans holding a one-seat majority.
It’s shaping up as a showdown between principle and politics, and the spotlight is on Rubio.
All 10 Democrats are likely to vote against Tillerson, given the ExxonMobil CEO’s close business ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That relationship has been a problem for Rubio as well, a fact underscored when Florida’s junior senator tweeted last month: “Being a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an attribute I am hoping for from a Secretary of State.”
When Trump tabbed Tillerson to what arguably is the most important non-elected position in his cabinet, Rubio responded with a statement that read in part, “I have serious concerns about his nomination. The next secretary of state must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America’s interests, and will be a forceful advocate for America’s foreign policy goals.”
For good measure, Rubio also has called Putin a “gangster and a thug.”
If Rubio breaks ranks with fellow Republicans, that would likely mean the committee would reject Tillerson’s nomination by an 11-10 vote. It still would be subject to a full Senate vote, but the impact of a thumbs-down in a GOP-controlled committee could be enough to hand Trump a stinging political defeat.
While Rubio has promised

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Revelers bid adieu to a year of conflicts, celebrity deaths

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, revelers around the world are bidding a weary adieu to a year filled with political surprises, prolonged conflicts and deaths of legendary celebrities.
How people are ushering in the new year:
AUSTRALIA
Sydney sent up a dazzling tribute to 2016’s fallen icons with a New Year’s Eve fireworks display honoring the late singer David Bowie and late actor Gene Wilder, becoming the first major city to bid a bittersweet adieu to a turbulent year.
The glittering display over Sydney’s famed harbor and bridge featured Saturn and star-shaped fireworks set to “Space Oddity,” the classic song by Bowie — one of the seemingly endless parade of beloved entertainers who died in 2016.
Wilder was also honored as the bridge lit up in a rainbow of colors while a song from Wilder’s famed film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” played.
“This year, sadly, we saw the loss of many music and entertainment legends around the world,” fireworks show co-producer Catherine Flanagan said. “So celebrating their music as part of Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks displays is an opportunity to reflect on the year that has been and what the future may hold.”
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LAS VEGAS
More than 300,000 visitors are expected to descend on Las Vegas for an extravagant New Year’s Eve celebration.
Nightclubs are pulling out all the stops with performances from DJ Calvin Harris, rappers T-Pain and Kendrick Lamar and artists Drake and Bruno Mars. The city’s celebrity chefs have crafted elaborate prix fixe menus complete with caviar and champagne toasts.
An eight-minute fireworks show will kick off at the stroke of midnight, with rockets launching from the tops of half a dozen casinos.
Federal officials have ranked the celebration just below the Super Bowl and on par with the festivities in Times Square. FBI and Secret Service agents will work alongside local police departments

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Marco Rubio supports U.S. sanctions on Russia and condemns Vladimir Putin’s crimes

Friday, December 30th, 2016

Senator Marco Rubio supports the sanctions President Barack Obama is imposing on Russia in the wake of their possible hacking of the U.S. election earlier this year.
In fact, he thinks they should’ve happened sooner.
The sanctions are in response to U.S. government allegations that Russian hackers meddled in the election and tried to tip it in favor of President-elect Donald Trump by hacking into the emails of many high-ranking Democrats, including Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and the Democratic National Commission.
Rubio, who supported Trump after his ascension to become the Republican party nominee, says the sanctions are a long time coming, speaking broadly about the crimes committed by Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s regime.
“After years of weakness that have invited and encouraged Russian aggression, today’s actions by President Obama are long overdue,” he said. “Vladimir Putin has made it abundantly clear he is not an ally or partner of the United States, and that his interests are fundamentally not our interests.”
Rubio goes on to list Putin’s crimes – among them repression of the Russian people, the assassination of his critics, the invasion of Ukraine and occupation of Crimea and war crimes in Aleppo, and more.
“I welcome the measures taken today to check Russian aggression and look forward to working with congressional leaders from both parties in the months ahead to strengthen these penalties, thoroughly investigate Russian efforts to undermine the U.S., and ensure that Putin and his cronies are held accountable for their actions,” he said.
Rubio recently defeated Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy in the race for his U.S. Senate seat.
The post Marco Rubio supports U.S. sanctions on Russia and condemns Vladimir Putin’s crimes appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Politicians can learn lesson from LeRoy Collins balance of public, private speech

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Thanks to Vladimir Putin‘s hackers and his outlets in the American press, we know that Hillary Clinton said different things in public and in private.
Imagine that.
But I suspect that you couldn’t find very many politicians (or other people, for that matter) who don’t speak differently depending on who’s listening. Money could safely be wagered that what legislators say to their spouses about guns, abortion and the death penalty does not necessarily reflect how they vote.
Some politicians are two-faced by nature, but with most, it’s more often a wise choice to not get so far out in front of the people that they can no longer see or follow.
Florida Governor LeRoy Collins (1955-61) often cautioned his staff in those words.
Had he spoken of some things in public as he did to some close friends, spiritual advisers and trusted aides, he would be remembered not as Florida’s greatest governor but as a failure who was voted out after serving only the last two years of a deceased predecessor’s term.
Sometime in 1956, most likely during his difficult campaign for a four-year term, Collins or someone on his staff put to paper words that could guarantee his defeat.
“I do not contend,” the document said, “that segregation in public schools or at public meetings or on public conveyances is consistent as a matter of principle with Christianity or the basic American belief in equality before the law…
“But the end of segregation, if and when it comes . . . can only come when its acceptance is developed in the hearts and minds of the people.”
Despite the Supreme Court’s “great power,” it said, “those hearts and minds are beyond its reach and control.”
Collins, or perhaps an aide who drafted it at his request, also wrote that the South should be “ashamed” of neglecting the health, education,

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In Tampa, Bill Nelson calls Russia hack on DNC email server “closer to an act of war”

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Florida Senator Bill Nelson on Thursday called the Russian hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s email system an unprecedented outrage that is “closer and closer to an act of war.”
Speaking to reporters at his Tampa district office, the Florida Senator made his most outspoken comments about the continuing to evolve story, which a new level of attention last Friday, when the Washington Post reported that the CIA had concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system.
“Not only is this an outrage, this is unprecedented. This is crossing the line, closer and closer to an act of war,” the Florida Senator said, adding that hacking information to influence an election is damaging to the integrity of an election.
“I think there’s going to be serious ramifications of this, regardless of where you hear that different people in the intelligence community have differing opinions,” he said. “Listen: When there is a high consensus of high confidence, that’s the highest level of acceptance of intelligence. And that consensus is out of the CIA? I believe it.”
Tampa Democratic Representative Kathy Castor was also condemning the hacking into the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email server account on Thursday
“The United States must hold Russia accountable for cyberattacks against our country, our electoral system and the private intellectual property of American businesses,” she said in a statement. “These Russian cyberattacks were not a move against any one party, they were a move against our nation and all Americans. The United States also should consider broader sanctions against the Russian government following a robust, bipartisan investigation to confirm the extent and identities of responsible individuals, including Vladimir Putin himself. ”
 
Castor also lashed out at President-elect

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Martin Dyckman: The Red Menace redux

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Early in the Cold War, Hollywood was targeted by politicians and flag-waving pundits who accused Communists in the motion picture media of trying to subvert the United States with pro-Soviet propaganda.
Hundreds of people were blacklisted and 10, including the Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, went to prison for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
The 2015 film “Trumbo” deals with that episode and how the blacklist finally was broken.
There was never any evidence, though, that the Hollywood Ten had accomplished anything more dramatic than joining what was a legal political party.
But 70 years later, the Kremlin has exploited a more modern mass medium — the internet — to subvert the United States to the extent that Josef Stalin, the Soviet dictator, could not have imagined.
If owning a piece of the American president-elect isn’t subversion, what ever could be?
The Soviet Union is history. Russia, its largest component, is now nominally capitalist rather than communist.
But its president, Vladimir Putin, who is not much less of a tyrant than Stalin was, is hellbent on rebuilding the Soviet empire, one piece at a time — first Ukraine, then Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. No nation in Eastern Europe is safe.
Toward that end, Putin is intent on destabilizing if not demolishing NATO, the American-led alliance that won the Cold War — or so we thought.
Nothing could be more helpful to Putin than an American president who is disinterested in NATO, and whose chosen secretary of state — the recipient of a high honor from Putin himself — personifies a historic conflict of interest. Rex W. Tillerson presently heads ExxonMobil, which had an Arctic drilling deal with Putin that was blocked by U.S. economic sanctions over the aggression in Ukraine.
If those sanctions are off the table, ExxonMobil stands to make billions from Russian oil. Blind trust

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#NeverAgain is the lie that’s always trending

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Vladimir Putin may be the highest-tech mass murder on the planet, but he has not been able to silence the men, women and children in Syria who are writing their last wills and testaments on Twitter.
One of them is a seven-year-old girl named Bana. With a little tech support from her mom, she tweeted a “Final message. People are dying since last night. I am very surprised I am tweeting right now and still alive.”
Some Syrians are communicating the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. If you’re a nurse who saves lives for a living, you need more than 140 characters to explain why taking your own life is a more appealing exit strategy than being murdered by Assad’s army, after a battalion has raped you.
If little Bana is still alive, she is “hiding and terrified.” If she somehow survives Bashir’s Bloodbath, she will learn that holocausts have been going on since biblical times, and many people knew, and few people lifted a finger to help.
The Lie of the Year may change, but “Never again” is The Lie of Every Year.
The post #NeverAgain is the lie that’s always trending appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Donald Trump picks Rex Tillerson to lead State Department

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump announced Tuesday he has picked ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state, calling him “among the most accomplished business leaders and international dealmakers in the world.”
“Rex Tillerson’s career is the embodiment of the American dream. Through hard work, dedication and smart deal making, Rex rose through the ranks to become CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest and most respected companies,” the billionaire real estate mogul said in a pre-dawn news release from Trump Tower in New York.
Tillerson “knows how to manage a global enterprise, which is crucial to running a successful State Department,” Trump said. In a tweet, Trump added that Tillerson “has vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments.”
In an accompanying statement, Tillerson said he was “honored” by his selection and shares Trump’s “vision for restoring the credibility of the United States’ foreign relations and advancing our country’s national security.”
But Tillerson has close ties to Russia and President Vladimir Putin, which is certain to draw scrutiny and fuel a potential Senate confirmation fight. Leading Republicans have already expressed anxieties as they contend with intelligence assessments saying Russia interfered with the U.S. presidential election to help Trump.
Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will hold confirmation hearings in January, called Tillerson “a very impressive individual” with “an extraordinary working knowledge of the world.” Corker, who had been considered for the secretary of state job, said Trump called him Monday to inform him of the pick.
Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, said Tuesday that Tillerson was chosen because he is “a diplomat that happens to be able to drill oil.” Tillerson has “had to maintain relationships across the world in many places that aren’t the easiest places to have relationships,” Priebus said on MSNBC.
“The good

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Marco Rubio says he has “serious concerns” about Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Marco Rubio had already weighed in negatively about Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson being floated as Donald Trump’s possible choice for Secretary of State this past weekend, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that now that it’s official, Rubio is still expressing his doubts.
“While Rex Tillerson is a respected businessman, I have serious concerns about his nomination,” Rubio said in a statement released early Tuesday morning.
Along with John McCain, no other Republican has been so outspoken as Rubio in questioning the validity of the Tillerson nomination. Both men have been critical regarding Tillerson’s ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tillerson negotiated an energy partnership with Putin in 2011 that the Russian president said would be worth as much as $500 billion. The next year, the Exxon Mobile CEO received the Russian Order of Friendship from the Kremlin, one of the highest honors that Russia bestows on foreigners.
The energy deal was put on hold when the U.S. levied sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea. Reuters reported earlier this year that Exxon vowed to resume the agreement once sanctions are rolled back, a process Tillerson would be heavily involved in as secretary of State.
“The next secretary of state must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America’s interests, and will be a forceful advocate for America’s foreign policy goals to the president, within the administration, and on the world stage,” continued Rubio in his statement. “I look forward to learning more about his record and his views.‎ I will do my part to ensure he receives a full and fair but also thorough hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”
Rubio has also been out front in taking seriously the questions of Russia’s involvement in the just concluded presidential election.  Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that the CIA‘s private conclusion that

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Mitch Perry Report for 11.10.16 — The ‘What do we now?’ moment for the president-elect

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

As Donald Trump publicly laid low and dealt with officials about how the transition of his administration will begin, I couldn’t help but recall that often-referred-to famous final scene from the 1972 Michael Ritchie film, “The Candidate” starring Robert Redford.
Bill McKay, the novice (played by Redford) who has just won an improbable victory for the U.S. Senate, turns dazedly to his campaign manager and asks, “What do we do now?”
What will the 45th POTUS do? No doubt the Affordable Care Act will be repealed, but what takes its place? Since policy was never emphasized during this campaign, I’m not sure too many of us (especially those of us on the ACA) are aware what that will be, presumably conceived by House and Senate leaders.
Border security will no doubt be emphasized with the building of a wall along the Mexican border. Trump also has talked about tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and seeks to create a “special deportation task force”. Although Kellyanne Conway says that task force will first focus on “the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants,” Trump has made clear any undocumented migrants could be affected.
He has talked tough when it comes to guns and criminal justice reform. That could include turning back the Obama administration’s efforts to address mass incarceration. And what about the bipartisan effort in Capitol Hill on criminal justice reform? Again, details are needed.
And what about foreign policy, specifically Syria, the No. 1 burning problem in the world. Going back to when I first encountered the 15 (at the time) Republicans running for president who met in Nashua, New Hampshire in 2015, the overwhelming criticism was about Barack Obama‘s foreign policy. Hearing their criticism, I wondered, frankly, how would they handle some of the world’s most vexing problems? Does anyone really know the agenda from the man who said he “knows more than the generals”

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Steve Schale: Final notes on early voting in Florida

Monday, November 7th, 2016

To: The tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free of 2016
From: Steve Schale, Florida Sherpa
Re: It is almost drinkin’ time
I usually do a timeline here, but since I can’t even imagine life in a post-2016 election cycle world, I am simply going to say, Thank God America, we have damn near made it. Like the weed that I can’t get to stop growing up the side of my backyard fence, admit it, you thought this would never end. But it is going to. Yes. Tomorrow, we will have a winner. Just hang in there one more day.
On Sunday, I took my Turkish crew to the St. Mark AME Church for a Souls to the Polls service with Val Demings and Kamia Brown, after which we visited an early voting site nearby. The lines at noon were already quite long, so it came as no surprise that Orange County (Orlando) set a turnout record. And so did Osceola, and Hillsborough, Broward, Palm Beach, Duval, Leon, Pinellas and yes, Miami-Dade.
In fact, Miami-Dade had more people vote today than 33 counties have had voted in this entire election. They more than 760K people who voted in early voting is equal to almost 88 percent of the entire vote cast in the 2012 election. If Election Day turnout is just half of what it was in 2012, more than 1 million people will vote in Dade. I had it estimated at 900K, as did most people I spoke with.
In total, almost 260K people voted yesterday in the 15 counties that cast ballots. To put that in context, most days last week of in-person early voting barely eclipsed the total from 15 counties. Frankly, the turnout was stunning.
There will be some VBM ballots which will show up tomorrow at elections offices, but the below numbers

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Steve Schale: Notes on the 10th day of early voting in Florida

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

To: Curious Americans and President Vladimir Putin
From: Steve Schale, Proud FloridaMan
Re: 5 Days out — and eight years later, POTUS returns to Duval
*5 days until the election.
*7 days until the first Thursday after the election.
*9 days until FSU basketball tips off.
*23 days until the Tallahassee Turkey Trot 15K.
*113 days until Daytona 500.
Welcome to the last Thursday, and before I begin, a note to Democrats:
REALLY? What are you waiting for? Return those ballots!
So, beginning today with a point of personal privilege. After hitting send on this memo, I am headed to Jacksonville for President Obama’s rally. Eight years ago today, then-Sen. Barack Obama was in Jacksonville, for his last rally in Florida, and his first of the final day. It was also the day he lost his grandmother.
After the rally, I sat down with the soon-to-be president to explain where we were in the early vote.
As I tried to explain it in my overly data-centric way (we are ahead by more than John Kerry lost by, etc.), he finally asked me what I meant, to which I said, “it means we’ve won.”
He left Jacksonville with a little smile, and I went back to Tampa completely freaking out that I just essentially guaranteed him that we had won, thinking ‘holy crap, if somehow we lose this thing, he’ll always remember me as that jerk in Florida who said we had won.”
So, thank God we won.
It is hard to believe it’s been eight years. For a guy who grew up in a small town in rural Illinois and a small town in North Florida, it has been both the ride, and the professional blessing of a lifetime.
Basically, I spend most days wondering how I’ve gotten to do these things.
But why Jacksonville? Forgive me for making this point daily, but Florida is all about managing margins. For Dems to win, we must run up very

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Martin Dyckman: Keep calm and carry on

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

To prepare for war with Nazi Germany, the British government considered how to maintain civilian morale should events go badly.
Among other things, it printed more than 2 million posters with the slogan “Keep calm and carry on.”
Although they were never issued, copies are available wherever good refrigerator magnets are sold.
That slogan is apt today for those of us in the former colonies who are facing our own existential crisis — the presidential candidacy of a man with no more respect for the basic values of democracy than the bigoted demagogue and pathological liar who menaced Europe in 1939.
The big October surprise turns out not to come from Donald Trump‘s old buddy at the Kremlin but from his newfound pal at the J. Edgar Hoover building. Yet not even Hoover dared to meddle in an election like James Comey just did. It could not have come at a better time for Trump or a worse time for the nation.
Even so, the thing to do is to keep calm and carry on. This election will be decided by the turnout. Vote early — but not often, as some Trump supporters have been caught doing — and make sure that your like-minded friends and neighbors do. Florida is once again critical. Let 2000 be only past, not prologue, Comey conceded that he had no idea what’s in those newly discovered emails. For all he or anyone else knows, they could be copies of ones the FBI saw long ago.
Most people, I think, can see the FBI director’s misconduct as a pitiful attempt to cover his butt with Trump and other Republicans who had been trashing him relentlessly because he found no criminal offense in Hillary Clinton‘s emails.
In an op-ed entitled “Working the Refs,”—an allusion to athletes and coaches who try to intimidate game

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