Florida’s legislative session is in full swing and all the talk around town is the budget. Yeah, the budget is a big deal.
The House budget gives Gov. Ron DeSantis just about everything he wants, but would drastically cut funding for his Florida Forever initiative, and all-but close down Visit Florida.
Here are some more details included in the House budget proposal.
“The House proposal includes $318.3 million for Everglades restoration, nearly $4 million less than what DeSantis requested in his overall $91.4 billion budget plan. The House also wants $122 million for wastewater and stormwater grants, which includes efforts to get property owners off septic tanks, $28 million below the governor’s proposal.
The House is offering $20 million for Florida Forever, $80 million below DeSantis’ proposal for the land preservation program, which prior to the recession a decade ago was funded at $300 million a year. The current year’s budget has $33 million for Florida Forever.
The House proposal meets DeSantis’ $50 million request for the state’s natural springs and $50 million for beach restoration.”
Considering how popular DeSantis is, expected the House to place nice and fine a lot of middle ground with the governor, possibly giving him more on some issues that one would expect.
The Trump Eagle Has Landed
Rep. Dane Eagle is asserting he is the Trumpiest congressional candidate of all in Florida’s hotly contested Republican primary to replace retiring Rep. Francis Rooney (R).
Eagle tweeted: “We need to flip the House back to Red! I am by far the most pro Trump candidate running for Congress in Fl-19! My campaign needs the help of great Americans like YOU!”
Eagles opponents, Dr. William Figlesthaler, Ford O’Connell, and Byron Donalds would disagree, as all three men have already stated that they are the Trumpiest of the bunch.
Mirror, Mirror on the political wall, who is the most Trumpiest one of all? READ MORE
In case you are around the capitol today around 4pm:
Sen. Gayle Harrell and Rep. Jackie Toledo will be joined by pharmacists from around the state to announce the results of a Florida-specific study on the harmful impact of the pharmacy benefit manager industry on patients and taxpayers.
Rep. Mario Diaz- Balart (R) rips Venezuelan dictatorship and Cuba:
“We appreciate the legitimate president of Venezuela Juan Guaidó’s clarification that he has not been confused by Justin Trudeau’s collaborationism with the Cuban dictatorship. The only thing the Cuban dictatorship has done in Venezuela is to maintain opprobrium and terror in power. To cure the metastasis, you don’t ask the cancer for help. The metastasis must be terminated, and also the cancer that causes it.”
Visit The Floridian
“Florida Family Leave Act Gains Traction” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – Florida bills SB1194 and HB899 are gaining traction through the Florida Legislature, and they would require employers to give new parents 3 months of paid family leave. The issue has been a controversial matter that has divide lawmakers and voters. With “the Florida Family Leave Act,” it would call for businesses allowing “certain employees take paid family leave to bond with minor child upon child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.” Both bills were introduced by Florida lawmakers, Senator Janet Cruz (D) and Rep. Tracie Davis (D). However, it should be noted that the employee must have worked in the business for at least a year and a half before the individual can ask for paid family leave. SB1194 reads, “the need for paid family leave has increased as the participation of both parents in the workforce has increased and the number of single parents has grown.” Moreover, “despite knowing the importance of time spent bonding with a new child, the majority of workers in this state are unable to take family leave because they are unable to afford leave without pay.” Speaking on the legislation, Cruz commented that “this takes some of the pressure off the employer, really, if the employee has contributed to a plan where they can pay their own time off or pay their own way.” She suggested a payroll deduction system that would allow employees to set money aside that would help them pay for their own time off in the event of having a new child.
“Wasserman Schultz Wants “Due Process” For Immigration Cases” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) is facing criticism after commenting on the “Remain in Mexico” program and the fact that it does not allow due process. Citing the American Immigration Council’s twitter account, the council argues that “the dangerous program puts up a wall between lawyers and their clients.” In turn, when it comes to receiving due process in immigration court, the program hurts immigrants instead of empowering them. The Florida congresswoman shared her thoughts on Twitter, arguing that “having access to counsel can skyrocket your chances of making a successful asylum application.” However, she expressed that the “DHS has used #RemainInMexico to erect overwhelming barriers between asylum seekers & counsel.” This, she argues, denies them of due process, which “is un-American & unconstitutional.” Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) is facing criticism after commenting on the “Remain in Mexico” program and the fact that it does not allow due process. Citing the American Immigration Council’s twitter account, the council argues that “the dangerous program puts up a wall between lawyers and their clients.” In turn, when it comes to receiving due process in immigration court, the program hurts immigrants instead of empowering them. The Florida congresswoman shared her thoughts on Twitter, arguing that “having access to counsel can skyrocket your chances of making a successful asylum application.” However, she expressed that the “DHS has used #RemainInMexico to erect overwhelming barriers between asylum seekers & counsel.” This, she argues, denies them of due process, which “is un-American & unconstitutional.” Critics have called out the sunshine state lawmaker, saying that the same due process she is fighting for was not extended to the President during the impeachment inquiry that culminated in him being the third president in the history of the United States to be impeached. As the trail now continues in the Senate, lawmakers are pushing for new witnesses to be called to the stand, which might result in John Bolton being called to testify.
“Mucarsel-Powell says Trump failing Venezuelans” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – Even with scores of sanctions levied against the Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela, the Trump administration can’t seem to catch a break from its detractors over their handling of the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. South Florida House Democrats, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Donna Shalala, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch, and Debbie Mucasel-Powell, have been pressing, demanding President Trump give immediate Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to Venezuelans exiles. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell, an immigrant from Equador, has been one most, if not the most expressive Democrats of the group. “It has been a year since Juan Guaidó was recognized by 65 countries, including the United States, as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela, yet Maduro still sits in Miraflores,” said Mucarsel-Powell in a statement “The lack of strategy and transparency from the Trump administration has done little to address one of the worst humanitarian crises in our hemisphere or to reassure the more than two hundred thousand Venezuelans in Florida that the administration is taking this seriously.That is why I am continuing to call on Secretary Pompeo to work with Congress to craft a clear and robust long-term strategy for helping Venezuela’s safe return to a true democracy. I have helped lead the effort to secure humanitarian aid for Venezuela, to extend TPS to Venezuelans, and stand ready to assist in any other way I can.” Rep. Mucarsel-Powell continues to say that the Trump administration has “yet to use every diplomatic tool available to exert pressure” on countries supporting the Maduro regime. Mucarsel-Powell specifically named Russia, Turkey, and Cuba. Venezuela’s interim President Juan Guaido is scheduled to arrive in Florida this upcoming weekend, where he will surely meet with President Trump and members of the U.S. Congress.
“Clinton Says She Certainly Feels The ‘Urge’ To Run Against Trump Again” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a new interview that she can’t help but feel “the urge” to run against President Trump. Clinton made the comment Monday during a filmed interview with Variety magazine at the Sundance Film Festival after the debut of her four-hour docu-series “Hillary.” During the interview, the reporter asked Clinton if she ever feels “the urge to think: ‘I could beat Donald Trump if I were running.’” “Yeah,” Clinton replied. “I certainly feel the urge because I feel the 2016 election was a really odd time and an odd outcome.” She added, “And the more we learn, the more that seems to be the case. But I’m going to support the people who are running now and do everything I can to help elect the Democratic nominee.” Clinton did not reveal which of the other Democratic candidates she would vote for. “I’m going to vote. I’m going to leave it at that. I’ll definitely vote. I vote every time there’s an election,” she said.” This is not the first time she has hinted to the possibility of taking on Trump again. Back in October, President Trump tweeted that “Crooked Hillary Clinton should enter the race to try and steal it away from Uber Left Elizabeth Warren” she tweeted back: “Don’t tempt me. Do your job.” Just a month later, in an interview with BBC Radio, Clinton said she thinks “all the time” about what it would’ve been like if she had beaten Trump and was president. “So of course I think about it, I think about it all the time. Being able to do that, and look, whoever wins next time is going to have a big task trying to fix everything that’s been broken.” When she was pressed on whether she would run again, Clinton replied: “I, as I say, never, never, never say never.”
“Holocaust Education Bill Clears Through Congress” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – As reported earlier this week, Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan (R) was making a push to answer the call to combat against anti-Semitism by trying to pass the ‘Never Again’ Holocaust Education Bill. In response, the U.S. House has overwhelmingly passed the bill, which will now allocate $10 million for expanding the United States’ Holocaust Memorial Museum’s education program. The bill was passed on Monday, which is the same day that the world was observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. In addition, some funding will also be used to provide teachers who want to incorporate lessons into their classroom regarding the Holocaust. In response to the passing of the bill, New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D), a sponsor of the bill, explained that “as we recommit ourselves to the promise of ‘Never Again’ on this 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, I am reminded that the lessons of the Holocaust do not just apply to antisemitism – but to all forms of hate and bigotry, and I can think of no better way to honor the memories of those murdered than to make sure our students know their names and their stories.” Furthermore, Maloney added that “if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.”
“Florida House Moves to Block Insurers From Using DNA Testing” by NBC 6’s Bobby Caina Calvan – The Florida House overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday that would bar life insurers from using genetic testing to deny policies. The House bill would prohibit life, disability and long-term care insurers from canceling, limiting or setting premiums based on DNA testing. If the House version prevails, it would impose some of the nation’s strictest rules on how life insurers can use genetic tests in their underwriting decisions. Rep. Chris Sprowls, the sponsor of the House legislation and the next in line to become the chamber’s speaker, called the bill a matter of genetic privacy. Life insurers oppose the House bill, saying it is too broad and restrictive. “We continue to express our concerns that this bill could disrupt the life insurance market and raise prices on consumers,” said Curt Leonard, the regional vice president for the American Council of Life Insurers. “We support the stated purpose of protecting consumers from the improper use of their private genetic information,” Leonard added in his statement. The industry favors a Senate version that would allow insurers to use genetic testing information in some cases, if it’s part of an applicant’s medical record. If the competing proposals cannot be reconciled, the effort to enact DNA-related restrictions on the insurance industry would fail for a second straight year. Sprowls was not immediately available to comment on the Senate proposal. The rise of direct-to-consumer genetic tests have caused concern among privacy advocates who worry that information could be sold to third parties, including life insurers, who could use the information to discriminate against people who have certain genetic markers.
“In Florida, Democrats aim to wrap Trump in his offshore drilling plan” by Roll Call’s Elvina Nawaguna – After the Trump administration proposed opening Florida’s coastal waters to oil and gas drilling, even elected Republicans in the state sent a loud message to Washington: Stay away from our coasts. The proposal was set aside by the White House, but not disposed of. And Democrats plan to keep voters in the battleground state reminded that the plan remains on a shelf at the Interior Department, ready to be put into effect in President Donald Trump’s second term if he is reelected. With 29 electoral votes at stake, Florida Democrats are betting that offshore drilling could swing independent or undecided voters. “Florida Democrats will be reminding voters of Trump’s broken promises on offshore drilling,” said Juan Peñalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. “The state is unique in the sense that the environment and our economy go hand-in-hand.” Following a directive from Trump, the Interior Department announced a plan in 2018 to expand oil and gas drilling across nearly all U.S. waters, including in the Atlantic and eastern Gulf of Mexico, sparking widespread backlash, including from coastal states that voted for Trump in 2016. After pushback from Florida politicians, Ryan Zinke, the Interior secretary at the time, said Florida would be excluded from the plan. Zinke credited Rick Scott, then the state’s Republican governor, for changing his mind. Scott went on to win election to the Senate in 2018, unseating Democratic incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, a longtime opponent of drilling.
“Police frantically search for a missing newborn after his father and 3 women are found dead in Florida” by CNN’s Faith Karimi and Steve Almasy – A relative called police to a Florida home after finding three women shot dead and a one-week-old baby missing this week, authorities said. Police issued an Amber alert Tuesday night for the baby, who was believed to be with his father, Ernesto Caballeiro, 49. A day later, on Wednesday, the father was found dead in a rural wooded area in Pasco County — about 300 miles away from the victims’ home in Miami.
He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and was 50 yards away from the van described in the alert, authorities said. Inside the van, police said they found old receipts and a newborn’s pacifier — but no signs of baby Andrew. Investigators search for baby- Investigators are frantically searching for the baby before it’s too late, and are looking for information about a blonde woman witnesses said was in the van with the baby’s father. The van was found not far from Interstate 75 in Blanton. “If that woman is out there … please come forward. I promise you all we care about is that little Andrew is OK,” Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said. Police have searched for Andrew with helicopters and bloodhounds since they issued an Amber alert for him. “At this time there were no signs of the baby,” the sheriff said. Police did not disclose the relationship between the father and the women. They were identified as Arlety Garcia Valdes, 40; Isabela Valdes, 60; and Lina Gonzalez, 84. Family friend Miguel Gonzalez told CNN affiliate WSVN that the victims are the baby’s mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. “They are a good family,” Gonzalez said. “My friend is the uncle of the baby. I am unaware if they were having issues as a family.”
“North Florida Land Trust adds 2 new members to its Board of Directors” by Ponte Vedra Recorder – North Florida Land Trust has announced that Melissa Long of Jacksonville Beach and Ryan Switzer of Jacksonville have joined its board of directors. Long and Switzer were both recommended to the board by a current member and elected unanimously at the Jan. 21 board meeting. Long and Switzer will both serve a three-year term. “We look forward to having Melissa and Ryan on our team as we continue our mission to protect the natural resources, historic places and working lands in north Florida,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “Melissa’s passion for improving water quality and Ryan’s background in commercial land acquisitions will bring new perspectives to our board and will help guide our decisions as we continue conserving environmentally-sensitive lands.” Long serves as chief of the environmental quality division with the City of Jacksonville where she focuses on surface and groundwater, along with air, tanks, hazardous waste and petroleum cleanup. Long previously worked for the Department of Environmental Protection’s Northeast District where she was a water facilities administrator and worked with industrial and domestic wastewater facilities, drinking water, water quality issues and state lands and wetlands. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Florida State University. Switzer is a licensed sales associate with Cantrell & Morgan, where he focuses on commercial retail properties throughout the Southeast. He works on both land acquisitions and shopping center acquisitions as well as representing both tenants and landlords. Switzer is also the co-founder and CEO of Beau Outfitters, a clothing, gift and accessories store located in San Marco. Switzer is a graduate of Auburn University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics. Both Long and Switzer’s positions on the board are new and grow the nonprofit land conservation organization’s board to 13 members. Long and Switzer will serve as members at large along with seven others. There is also a chair, vice-chair, secretary and treasurer who each serve for a term of three years.
“Florida Senate Passes Bill to Block Local Bans on Sunscreen” by NBC 6’s Brendan Farrington – Florida cities and counties wouldn’t be able to ban sunscreens containing ingredients that some researchers say harm coral reefs, under a bill passed by the state Senate on Wednesday. The Senate voted 25-14 in favor of the bill after no discussion or debate. If it becomes law, a Key West ordinance to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone or octinoxate would be nullified. The Key West ban is set to go into effect next year. Research has shown the chemicals can cause coral bleaching, and the reefs around Key West attract divers, snorkelers and fishing enthusiasts. But Republican Sen. Rob Bradley has said previously that he sponsored the bill because protecting people is more important, and the research hasn’t proven the chemicals actually harm reefs. An identical House bill has been approved in two committees and faces its last committee stop Thursday before being considered by the full chamber. The city at the southern end of the Florida Keys isn’t the only place to ban the products. Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Caribbean island of Bonaire and the archipelago nation of Palau in the western Pacific have all enacted sunscreen bans that are either in place or will be over the next two years. Drug store chain CVS announced in August that it will remove the chemicals from 60 of its store brand sunscreen products. Miami Beach considered a similar ban, but eventually took no action. The Republican-led Legislature has had a history of prohibiting local governments from enacting laws, most notably when it passed a law banning local governments from enacting ordinances regulating gun and ammunition sales. And last year Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a Bradley bill that prohibits local governments from banning front-yard vegetable gardens.
POTUS Signs Historic USMCA— by Hispolitica’s Mona Salama
“Pete Sessions pushes back against Pelosi’s “radical left agenda”” by Hispolitica’s Javier Manjarres – On March 3, Texans will head to the polls in the Lone Star state to cast their votes in contested state and congressional primary races, as well as 2020 Democratic presidential. Former Congressman Pete Sessions (R), who lost his Dallas-area congressional seat to Rep. Collin Allred (D) in 2018, has moved back home to the Waco area and is running to replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Flores in Texas’ 17th congressional district. Sessions is in an 11 person primary race but is expected to prevail, possibly winning outright on election night and avoid a run-off election. To win the primary on election night, a candidate must garner 51 percent of the overall vote. Sources close to the Trump campaign tell Hispolitica that the president’s re-election campaign is quietly supporting Sessions campaign, but will wait to see how the primary election plays out. Sessions has been supportive of President Trump since he took office and his Twitter feed reflects that. From ripping his former congressional nemesis, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, over her “radical left agenda” and “delusional” impeachment inquiry, to praising the president for killing Iranian terrorist Soleimani, Sessions is without a doubt, a Trump man.
“Clinton Says She Certainly Feels The ‘Urge’ To Run Against Trump Again” by Hispolitica’s Mona Salama – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a new interview that she can’t help but feel “the urge” to run against President Trump. Clinton made the comment Monday during a filmed interview with Variety magazine at the Sundance Film Festival after the debut of her four-hour docu-series “Hillary.” During the interview, the reporter asked Clinton if she ever feels “the urge to think: ‘I could beat Donald Trump if I were running.’” “Yeah,” Clinton replied. “I certainly feel the urge because I feel the 2016 election was a really odd time and an odd outcome.” She added, “And the more we learn, the more that seems to be the case. But I’m going to support the people who are running now and do everything I can to help elect the Democratic nominee.” Clinton did not reveal which of the other Democratic candidates she would vote for. “I’m going to vote. I’m going to leave it at that. I’ll definitely vote. I vote every time there’s an election,” she said.” This is not the first time she has hinted to the possibility of taking on Trump again. Back in October, President Trump tweeted that “Crooked Hillary Clinton should enter the race to try and steal it away from Uber Left Elizabeth Warren” she tweeted back: “Don’t tempt me. Do your job.”
“Biden and Buttigieg feast on Iowa while senators remain stuck in D.C.” by POLITICO – Stuck in Washington for impeachment, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar are conducting a novel political science experiment: Can campaign surrogates actually make a difference? The three are waging campaigns in absentia, spending excruciating hours in the Senate as the clock ticks toward Caucus Day. Meanwhile, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg are pressing their advantage, with a whirlwind schedule of events touching every corner of the Hawkeye State. The latest poll of the state, out Wednesday from Monmouth University, showed Biden and Sanders running a close one-two, with the former vice president at 23 percent and the Vermont senator at 21. Next were Buttigieg and Warren, at 16 and 15 percent, respectively, and Klobuchar at 10. Our reporters are in Iowa following the top campaigns in the final days of the race. Here’s everything you need to know about where the campaigns are headed and the day’s strategy — whether the candidate is present or not. We’ll be updating this story with key moments on the trail, so check back periodically. Joe Biden- Biden is in the midst of a 20-city, 17-county Iowa swing that he billed as a bus tour. But while in Council Bluffs on Wednesday night, he noted he was catching a flight back to Des Moines, about two hours away by car.
“Impeachment already becoming political weapon in 2020 congressional races” by Fox News’s Fred Lucas – Despite having members in 31 congressional districts that President Trump carried in 2016, House Democrats showed surprising party unity in the December vote to impeach him — but the saga that has gripped Washington could carry a big political risk come November. On the Senate side, moderate GOP senators essentially face the prospect of political backlash no matter what they do. But on the House side, Republicans already are gearing up to use impeachment as a cudgel against the swing-district Democrats who supported it. For instance, Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright is in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District, which Trump carried by 53-44 percent in 2016. After Cartwright voted for both articles of impeachment, the Cook Political Report moved his seat from “lean Democrat” to a “toss-up.” Where the Democratic majority could face real challenges is in the dozen districts where Trump won an actual majority of votes in a year when third-party candidates pulled in more than 1 percent of the vote — and about a half-dozen districts where he won by, or nearly by, double digits. “Democrats hold more seats in Republican areas than vice versa. Impeachment is unpopular in battleground districts,” Michael McAdams, the national press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Fox News. In addition to Cartwright, McAdams said the NRCC is specifically targeting Rep. Anthony Brindisi, in New York’s upstate 22nd Congressional District, as well as Rep. Max Rose of New York’s 11th Congressional District, which is the only traditionally Republican-leaning district that includes part of New York City.
“Tulsi Gabbard appeals to Trump voters. That may be an obstacle” by CBS’s Nicole Sganga – Ed Privé cannot vote for Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard in New Hampshire’s primary on February 11th. A registered Republican, the 69-year-old may only vote for candidates belonging to the GOP in a contest President Trump is all but certain to win. But that did not stop him from attending one of the Hawaii congresswoman’s town halls in December.”Honestly, I disagreed with Trump, but I voted for him,” Privé said. “I’m here now because she makes sense. The rest of them don’t.” Privé, a Marine Corps veteran, voted twice for President Obama before casting his ballot for Mr. Trump in 2016. He’s the kind of swing-voter that Democrats are desperate to win back in November. And he says Gabbard is just the kind of candidate who could make that happen. Lingering on the edge of the photo line, Privé exhaled. “She doesn’t want to give away the farm, but she wants to help people.” “And if she were to be the nominee of the Democratic Party, I would have a very difficult time voting for Trump,” Privé added. Gabbard’s long-shot campaign for the presidency is betting big on a strong performance in New Hampshire, where the primary historically rewards outsiders and underdogs, on occasion. Over 42% of the state’s voters here are registered as “undeclared,” which allows them to vote in either party’s primary in February. And while other candidates focus on next week’s Iowa caucuses, Gabbard has all but moved to New Hampshire, spending more days in state (a sum total of 34) than any other Democratic candidate across December and January. Gabbard, a 38-year-old Iraqi War veteran who backed Bernie Sanders in the last Democratic primary, fuses progressive policy stances with the kind of patriotic displays sometimes more associated with Republican campaigns. Before she makes her hour-long pitch to voters at rallies throughout New Hampshire, her audiences are often instructed to stand for the pledge of allegiance or bow their heads for a moment of silence. A recent analysis by the New York Times reveals just one-fifth of Obama-Trump voters returned to the Democratic Party in the 2018 midterm elections, while three-quarters voted Republican.
“Dershowitz argues Trump can’t be impeached for quid pro quo to win reelection” by CBS’s Stefan Becket – Alan Dershowitz, a member of the president’s team, argued during the first day of questioning in the Senate impeachment trial that the president can’t be impeached for engaging in a quid pro quo to help him win reelection, if he believes doing so is in the national interest. Dershowitz’s answer came in response to a question submitted by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who asked whether it is true “that quid pro quos are often used in foreign policy.” Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of engaging in a quid pro quo — “something for something,” in Latin — with Ukraine, demanding investigations into his political rivals in exchange for the release of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid. In his answer, Dershowitz posed a hypothetical: What if a Democratic president withheld aid to Israel until it stopped building new settlements, or to the Palestinians until they stopped supporting terrorism? “‘If you don’t do it, you don’t get the money. if you do it, you get the money.’ There’s no one in this chamber that would regard that as in any way unlawful,” Dershowitz told senators. “The only thing that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the ‘quo’ were, in some way, illegal.” He laid out “three possible motives that a political figure can have”: serving the public interest, his own political interest or his own financial interest, “just putting money in the bank.” “I want to focus on the second one for just one moment,” Dershowitz continued. “Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And mostly you’re right, your election is in the public interest. If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” He said every president, including Lincoln, balanced the national interest with their own political interests, and said the president should not be impeached for an action “when it’s impossible to discern how much weight is given one to the other.”
“National Security Council warned Bolton not to publish manuscript, citing classified information” by CBS’s Kathryn Watson – Three days before The New York Times revealed details of a manuscript by former national security adviser John Bolton, the National Security Council (NSC) warned his attorney that his book contained classified and top secret information that could not be published or disclosed publicly. Bolton, according to The Times, claims in his forthcoming book that the president linked Ukraine aid and investigations into the Bidens. Senators will soon decide whether to call Bolton and other witnesses to testify in the ongoing impeachment trial. The White House’s position has long been that it would assert executive privilege to keep Bolton from divulging sensitive information. Bolton submitted the manuscript to the NSC on December 30 for a standard prepublication review. In a letter dated January 23 and released on Wednesday, NSC senior director Ellen Knight told Bolton’s attorney Charles Cooper that the manuscript “appears to contain significant amounts of classified information,” based on a preliminary review. “It also appears that some of this classified information is at the TOP SECRET level, which is defined by Executive Order 13526 as information that ‘reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the United States if disclosed without authorization,'” Knight wrote. “Under federal law and the nondisclosure agreements your client signed as a condition for gaining access to classified information, the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information.”
A senior White House official on Wednesday stressed that the letter was in no way a “threat” to Bolton, saying that characterization would be a “gross mischaracterization at best and a flat out lie at worst.” The official noted the NSC offered to work with Bolton to clear the manuscript for publication.
“Facebook’s Relationship With Democrats Hits a Low Point” by WSJ’s Deepa Seetharaman, Joshua Jamerson and Emily Glazer – Facebook Inc. FB 2.50% officials say they try to avoid political bias. Try telling that to Democrats. The relationship between the company and the political left is at an all-time low, more than a dozen Democratic operatives, campaign officials and leaders of progressive groups said in interviews, following a series of company policy decisions widely seen among their ranks as favoring President Trump. Many Democrats and campaign officials are increasingly criticizing Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg in personal terms. It is a stark departure from the 2016 campaign, when Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton. The relationship has frayed partly because of actions Facebook took to address criticisms of bias from conservatives and in part owing to revelations from U.S. intelligence and special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on how Russia used Facebook to spread disinformation to boost Mr. Trump’s campaign. On the campaign trail and in Democratic political circles, there is little love left for the Silicon Valley giant, even as presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle rely on Facebook as a valuable platform for political advertising. This month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Vice President Joe Biden and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer all lambasted Facebook over misleading videos, ads and hate speech on the platform. Mrs. Clinton recently called Mr. Zuckerberg authoritarian. Those public remarks came after behind-the-scenes discussions between Facebook and Democrats about whether the company was allowing harmful discourse ahead of the 2020 election.
“Senators Prepare for Final Bid to Sway Vote on Witnesses” by WSJ’s Lindsay Wise – The direction of President Trump’s impeachment trial is far from certain as senators enter their final day of questioning before a pivotal vote on calling witnesses, which is expected Friday. The prosecution and defense teams have up to eight more hours on Thursday to make their cases for and against allowing the Senate to subpoena witnesses and documents. Four Republicans would need to join Democrats for the motion to pass, and GOP leaders have indicated in recent days they don’t yet have the votes to block the measure. “That’s where you enter the Wild West,” said Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.). “It’s totally unknown territory. And there’s a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability about what might happen next.” Democratic House managers, acting as prosecutors, are arguing that senators should convict Mr. Trump for abusing his power by withholding nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine as leverage for the country to open investigations that would aid his re-election efforts. The managers also accuse him of trying to cover up his alleged misconduct by obstructing congressional investigations into the matter. On the first day of questioning, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said Democrats’ case for impeachment was politically motivated and fell well short of the bar needed to remove a president from office. Democratic lawmakers countered that they want to stop Mr. Trump from cheating to win re-election in November and argued that Republicans are holding Mr. Trump to an unusually low standard. If a simple majority of senators don’t agree to open the door to new evidence, the trial could end by Saturday. If they do agree to allow new evidence, senators could face a string of motions seeking testimony and records from specific people and agencies. There are a handful of senators on either side of the aisle who are in a position to swing these votes. It isn’t currently known whether Republicans will be able to muster the 51 votes necessary to block witnesses and documents. Mr. Thune, who, as GOP whip is responsible for counting votes for his party, told reporters on Wednesday night that at this point, “it’s still uncertain.”
President Donald Trump @realDonaldTrump – Just received a briefing on the Coronavirus in China from all of our GREAT agencies, who are also working closely with China. We will continue to monitor the ongoing developments. We have the best experts anywhere in the world, and they are on top of it 24/7!
Hakeem Jeffries @RepJeffries – The American people should decide an American election. Not the Ukrainians. Not the Russians. Not the Chinese. The American people. President Trump corruptly abused his power by soliciting foreign interference. He. Must. Be. Held. Accountable.
Rick Scott @SenRickScott -Tomorrow, I plan on asking @POTUS administration to look into whether the $12.5m @FoleyandLardner was paid by the Maduro Regime violates any laws or US sanctions. Anyone doing the work of the Maduro Regime should suffer the consequences.
Marco Rubio @marcorubio – My STEM Careers Act will soon be signed into law by @POTUS It will require the National Science Foundation & Office of Science & Technology Policy to coordinate programs for veterans transitioning into STEM careers & address barriers to entry.
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell @RepDMP – Today, the US signed the #USMCA—a bipartisan act that will go down in history. Because of the changes @HouseDemocrats demanded, this agreement takes steps to support Florida workers, farmers, businesses & environments. Proud of the work we accomplished!
Debbie Wasserman Schultz @DWStweets –Having access to counsel can skyrocket your chances of making a successful asylum application. Yet DHS has used #RemainInMexico to erect overwhelming barriers between asylum seekers & counsel. Denying due process is un-American & unconstitutional. #EndMPP #DontLookAway
Rep. Matt Gaetz @RepMattGaetz – Saddam Hussein died in 2006. The Authorization to Use Military Force against Saddam’s Iraq should be repealed. If we can’t claim victory now, what war is ever winnable?
Rep. Ted Deutch @RepTedDeutch – In order to be an ally to the LGBTQ community, President Trump must do a lot more to address issues that affect them. By continuing to associate himself with anti-LGBTQ figures & issue discriminatory orders, he is an ally to no one but the homophobes & transphobes.
RepRossSpano @RepRossSpano – Today, @realDonaldTrump made history by signing #USMCA into law. This trade agreement is a huge win for our economy as it has the potential to create over 170k new jobs & produce over $60 billion in new economic activity. #Florida #FL15
Jimmy Patronis @JimmyPatronis – Glad to give the @floridabankers Association an update today on the great health of Florida’s economy and highlight my legislative priorities including fighting fraud on behalf of all Florida consumers.
Commissioner Nikki Fried @NikkiFriedFL– With the #USMCA’s signing today, we look forward to having Administration officials in Florida to hear first-hand from our seasonal producers on protecting against unfair trade.
Rep. Carlos G Smith @CarlosGSmith – “Publicly pressuring corporations that fund the tax credit program may be the best option for those who want to see changes in scholarship rules because the state’s GOP leaders….seem uninterested in making changes, @CarlosGSmith
“DNA Ties Florida S*x Offender to ‘Pillowcase Rapist’ Cases: Prosecutors,” by The Daily Beasts’s Julia Arciga –
Florida prosecutors announced Thursday that a 60-year-old s*x offender’s DNA has been matched to as many as 25 rape cases from the 1980s, leading them to believe they have finally identified the so-called Pillowcase Rapist, The Sun-Sentinel reports. At a Thursday news conference, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said officials believe Robert Koehler was the Pillowcase Rapist—who s*xually assaulted over 40 women in Florida about four decades ago. “This offender will never, ever be free again,” Rundle said. “We feel confident that there are a number of sufficient cases that we can prosecute,” she said, adding that it may take time to locate victims. Koehler, who was convicted of a 1990 rape, was arrested over the weekend and has denied the allegations against him. Authorities say DNA tests show 100 percent matches between his DNA and that found on at least 25 women who claimed to have been raped by the Pillowcase Rapist. Koehler is being held without bond.