The Knives Come Out
The country is still reeling after dozens of Right-Wing and Left-Wing (mostly Right-Wing) extremists stormed The Capitol building last week, an action that left 6 dead, including two Capitol Police officers.
Because Democrats believe that President Trump incited the riot, the overwhelming majority of House Democrats have signed onto a new set of Articles of Impeachment, including Rep. Stephanie Murphy and all of Florida’s Democratic Caucus. READ MORE
The riot has led to key members of Trump’s administration to resign, including some of his staunches supports like DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. READ MORE
While congressional Democrats are hoping to drive a final dagger into President Trump, so are “Deep State” operatives, one of who just changed the biographies of both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on the official Department of State website as having ended on January 11.
The Floridian first reported this news, and hours later, Buzzfeed reported that a disgruntled employee was responsible for changing the departure time before the page in question went dark. MUST-READ
Meanwhile, the first Legislative committee week is underway in Tallahassee, Florida.
Rick Scott @SenRickScott–.@Twitter finally removed a @ChineseEmbinUS propaganda post lying about the atrocities and genocide by the Chinese Communist Party but still allows the EXACT same message from Chinese state-run media? This needs to be removed immediately.
Marco Rubio @marcorubio–Deeply saddened to hear of the death of a second Capitol police officer. We don’t have details on his passing & it hasn’t been linked to the events on Wednesday. But it’s terrible news in this week of horrors.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz @DWStweets–Many burning questions remain about DOD’s role in the flawed security response to Wednesday’s terrorist attack. It now looks as if DOD’s Trumpy leadership purposely hamstrung the DC National Guard. This alone is worthy of removal from office. Congress must investigate.
US Rep. Darren Soto @RepDarrenSoto–These violent traitors are being brought to justice. They face multiple federal crimes including felony murder, after the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Pres Trump lied about the election, incited violence, & has blood on their hands.
Rep. Mike Waltz @michaelgwaltz–Now, more than ever, we need to take the temperature of political discord down. Impeaching the president would only throw gasoline on the fire, not help us move forward through a peaceful transfer of power.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy @RepStephMurphy–Congress has a constitutional and moral obligation to provide a check and balance on the president; to hold him accountable for inciting violence and insurrection, and to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States. I will fulfill my oath. I support impeachment.
Officer Howard Liebengood dutifully served the halls of Congress & his community.
Erika & I are praying for everyone that knew and loved Officer Liebengood. May his selfless service and life never be forgotten.
“Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf Resigns” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf abruptly stepped down from his position, becoming the third Cabinet-level official to resign on the heels of last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol. Fox News first reported Wolf’s departure and Floridian Press has confirmed. Wolf sent a letter to staff at the Department of Homeland Security informing them of his decision. “Effective at 11:59 p.m. today, I am stepping down as your Acting Secretary. I am saddened to take this step, as it was my intention to serve the Department until the end of this Administration,” Wolf wrote in the letter. “I am saddened to take this step, as it was my intention to serve the Department until the end of this Administration.” “Be proud of what we have accomplished,” Wolf added. “The Homeland is safer and more secure because of your efforts.” It’s a reversal from the last four days when Wolf issued a statement pledged to stay at his post in the DHS until the end of President Trump’s term and to ensure an orderly transition to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. Wolf also referenced a federal judge ruling last November that invalidated his suspension of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on the basis that Wolf has not been serving as DHS Secretary lawfully. “Unfortunately this action is warranted by recent events, including the ongoing and meritless court rulings regarding the validity of my authority as Acting Secretary,” Wolf said. In the letter, Wolf stated that he is confident in the DHS team whom he said, “has positioned itself for an orderly and smooth transition.”
“State Department Posts President Trump’s Presidency Ends Today” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – The U.S. Department of State has posted on its official website that President Donald Trump’s term in office has ended effectively at 7:40 pm today January 11, 2021. We have not been able to verify if this posting is accurate or was a mistake or a signal that the president will leave office later today. We reached out to the Department of State but they could not be reached. President Trump has told supporters that he would press on even after House Democrats have now filed new Articles of Impeachment after Vice President Mike Pence himself said that he would not support invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office. This is a developing story. “Donald J. Trump’s term ended on 2021-01-11 19:40:07.” State website. ***Update: Now the website states that the presidency ends at 7:49 pm. Someone is changing the times. *** Update: The State website is now experiencing a 404 error.
“Trump Plans To Award Bill Belichick With Presidential Medal Of Freedom” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – President Trump reportedly will award one of the nation’s highest civilian honors to New England Patriots head coach and long-time friend Bill Belichick the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Politico first reported about Trump honoring Belichick late Sunday. According to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Trump plans to award Belichick who had guided the Patriots to six Superbowl victories since taking the helm in 2000 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday. It was reported that Belichick received the initiation before the chaos that ensued during the Capitol riot last Wednesday. He has not yet given any indication that he is reconsidering, according to a person familiar with the situation. The New England Patriots have yet to comment on reports about the medal publicly. Following the Patriots Super Bowl win against the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, Trump welcomed Belichick and the team to the White House. The Patriots were the first championship team to visit Trump at the White House. In 2019, the team didn’t attend the traditional post-championship ceremony due to schedule conflict after defeating the Los Angeles Rams in Superbowl LIII for Belichick’s sixth Super Bowl victory. The president last month reappointed Belichick to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition last month. Belichick was appointed to this role back in 2018 and this will be his second term.
“Murphy Calls for Trump’s Impeachment” by The Floridian’s Jim McCool – Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), is among the latest Democrats to support the second impeachment of President Trump (R), after the events on Capitol Hill last week. Murphy certified her support of impeachment in a Tweet yesterday, claiming that Congress has an obligation to hold the President accountable for the ‘insurrection’ and ‘inciting violence.’ Other congressional Democrats that have been vocal in regard to a Trump impeachment are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Talib (D-MI). However, the Squad members seem to be jumping the gun as Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) has offered VP Mike Pence, 24 hours to enact the 25th Amendment. Speaker Pelosi has said that if Pence does not do anything, which he most likely will not, then articles of Impeachment will be introduced for the second time this administration. Over 210 of the Democrats in Congress have signed onto impeach Trump, which is enough to make waves in Washington. They all agree that the President would, ‘Remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution.’ If they did not boot him from office, regardless of the length of the term. Rep. Clyburn (D-SC), believes that if all goes well, they could, ‘…vote to impeach Trump by Wednesday.’ Directly a week before inauguration day. Like the last impeachment of President Trump, do not expect this to lead to conviction and removal, as removal from office is carried out by the Senate, a 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats.
“Deutch Calls for Accountability After Capitol Storming” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) has condemned those who stormed the Capitol, making a distinction between them and the “99 percent of the people that were at the protest” that did not take part in the siege. Though he has made it clear that the conservative movement made a mistake in having this “element” that created “a tremendous amount of damage and put a lot of people in danger,” he took to Twitter to share that Biden missed an opportunity to unify the nation in light of what took place last week. “Biden has a historic opportunity to unify America behind the sentiment that our political divisions have gone too far,” the Sunshine State Senator argued. However, Rubio feels that Biden “decided to promote the left’s efforts to use this terrible national tragedy to try and crush conservatives or anyone not anti-Trump enough.” To this, Rubio warns that it could have grave consequences. Still, Democratic lawmakers are shrugging the warnings, arguing that Republican lawmakers have been complicit in the storming of the Capitol, and Florida Democrats like Ted Deutch (D) are calling for said lawmakers to face consequences for their actions. “Do we need accountability for the attack on the Capitol?” questioned Deutch. “They killed Officer Sicknick; threatened to hang VP Pence; traumatized everyone who goes to work to represent the American people,” he added, noting that “they’re trying to overturn the election.” In turn, Deutch concluded that “we can’t heal w/o accountability.”
“Melania Trump ‘Disappointed And Disheartened’ Over Capitol Riot” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – First lady Melania Trump released a statement extending her condolences for lives lost in last week’s Capitol riot and condemned supporters of President Trump who breached the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win. “I am disappointed and disheartened with what happened last week,” Melania said in a 600-word statement posted on the White House website and shared on her First Lady Twitter account early Monday morning. Our Nation must heal in a civil manner. Make no mistake about it, I absolutely condemn the violence that has occurred on our Nation’s Capitol. Violence is never acceptable,” she added. Following the “Save America” rally where President Trump gave remarks on the National Mall, thousands of Trump’s supporters marched on the Capitol. Some in the crowd stormed their way inside the Capitol complex by breaking a window, forcing lawmakers, staff, and reporters including Vice President Mike Pence to shelter in a hideout for over 6 hours in both the House and Senate buildings. In her first comments breaking her silence on the riot in nearly a week, Melania urged Americans to “listen to one another, focus on what unites us, and rise above what divides us” following the chaos. “As an American, I am proud of our freedom to express our viewpoints without persecution. It is one of the paramount ideals which America is fundamentally built on. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect that right. With that in mind, I would like to call on the citizens of this country to take a moment, pause, and look at things from all perspectives,” Melania said.
“Members of the Sedition Caucus Face Backlash from Donors, Constituents and GOP Colleagues” by Texas Politics’ Isabel Webb Carey – Following the violent storming of the US Capitol on Wednesday, the 127 Republican lawmakers who persisted in their objections to president-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory face backlash from donors, constituents and GOP colleagues. Sen. Ted Cruz is a notable member of the “Sedition Caucus.” Also listed are Texas Reps. Jodey Arrington, Brian Babin, Michael C. Burgess, John R. Carter, Michael Cloud, Pat Fallon, Louie Gohmenrt, Ronny Jackson, Troy Nehls, August Pfluger, Pete Sessions, Beth Van Duyne, Randy Weber, Roger Williams and Ron Wright. Democratic lawmakers have called upon Sens. Cruz, Hawley, and the 125 other Republicans who objected to Biden’s victory to resign. Earlier today, Rep. Cori Bush (MI-D) introduced H.RES. 25 which seeks “to investigate and expel the GOP members of Congress who attempted to overturn the election and incited a white supremacist attack.” Democrats have announced a second impeachment attempt which will be voted on in the House on Wednesday. Corporations have also spoken out against the 127 objecting lawmakers. Marriott International Inc. and the US health insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield Association have suspended donations to the lawmakers. JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Walmart responded similarly, promising to pause contributions from political action committees. Many other major companies have been vocal against the Republicans who refused to certify election results on Wednesday and have said that they would take these actions into account when deciding future political donations.
“Trump’s Texas Border Visit in Final Days of Presidency” by Texas Politics’ Isabel Webb Carey – Tomorrow, President Donald Trump is expected to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border to highlight his administration’s work on border security, an issue which defined his 2016 campaign. Trump’s visit to Alamo will mark the completion of 4,500 miles of border wall. It will draw attention to his administration’s efforts to reform what the White House described as the nation’s “broken immigration system.” As promised by his 2016 presidential campaign, hundreds of miles of fencing have been completed along the southern border. Despite Trump’s promises that Mexico would pay for the wall, the project has been funded by U.S. taxpayers. Furthermore, according to a Customs and Border Protection report, only 30 miles cover new areas as most of the work has replaced older barriers. The construction has elicited outrage over its devastating effects on endangered ecosystems and sacred Native American burial sites. The visit will be the president’s first public appearance since he addressed supporters on Wednesday during the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol. Meanwhile, Democrats in the House are pushing for a second impeachment vote next week. They plan to introduce their proposal on Monday and vote on Wednesday.
“Allen West says cool heads will prevail against the ‘Bidenistas’” by Texas Politics’ Daniel Molina – After the storming of the Capitol, and as Democrats prepare to possibly file articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump (R), former Florida Rep. Allen West (R) assures that “cool heads always prevail.” West staunchly supports the President, but he warns that there appears to be a “communist takeover of America,” citing that America must adopt the leadership tactics that he learned while serving in combat. West expressed that “the real issue from the 2020 election cycle has less to do with mythical beasts – like the Kracken – and, more with the understanding as to how the left enveloped Republican State legislatures. Since the storming of the Capitol, a number of Republican lawmakers have distanced themselves from the President, and some have even noted that they would support the removal of the President before President-elect Joe Biden (D) is sworn into office on January 20th, 2021. West argued that “the left targeted and encircled key Republican State legislatures in places like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona, among others, and changed election law by way of governors, secretaries of state, and judicial activism.” He added that this was only heightened by Governors that “enacted emergency declarations to deal with a ‘pandemic’ that has a 99.96 percent recovery rate.”
“Florida’s Ashley Moody worked with group linked to Capitol insurrection” by Tampa Bay Times’ Steve Contorno – For more than a year, the official state website for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said the Republican is “recognized as a national leader” among her peers. Until a few days ago, the website supported this claim by mentioning Moody’s appointment to the board of directors for a conservative organization now facing blow back for its role in the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol last week: The Rule of Law Defense Fund. On the eve of Wednesday’s uprising, the Rule of Law Defense Fund sent out robocalls urging supporters of President Donald J. Trump to join what was, by this point, an escalating movement to overturn the election by force. “At 1 p.m. we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal,” said one message obtained by the Associated Press. “We’re hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections.” As scrutiny of those messages intensified following Wednesday’s insurrection, Moody’s office scrubbed references to the Rule of Law Defense Fund from her online biography. Her website still promoted the board appointment on Friday, according to a Tampa Bay Times review. By Monday morning, it was gone. Lauren Cassedy, a spokeswoman for Moody, said that she left the board last year and had “no prior knowledge” of the organization’s involvement in Wednesday’s uprising. Cassedy declined to provide the date of her departure or an explanation for why the organization was removed from her website.
“Feds investigating who scrawled ‘TRUMP’ on manatee’s back in Florida” by Fox News’ Bradford Betz – Authorities are trying to find out who scrawled the word “TRUMP” into the back of a manatee in Florida over the weekend. The animal was found swimming in Homosassa Springs – about 80 miles north of Tampa. Boat captain Hailey Warrington shared footage of the manatee with “TRUMP” visibly dug into the layer of algae and grime on its back. Warrington told WTVT, The Fox-owned TV station in Tampa, she had been leading a boat tour on Sunday when she spotted the manatee. She said she recognized the manatee by the propeller scars. “It was an uncharacteristic thing for us to see,” Warrington said in reference to the “TRUMP” scrawling. “I was surprised when I saw it.” The animal’s skin was exposed but did not appear wounded. It did, however, appear more skittish than usual, Warrington said. “It did seem that the animal was very upset,” Warrington told the station. Manatees are known for flocking to Florida’s west coast around this time of year for the state’s warm weather. It is not uncommon to see hundreds of manatees swimming in Homosassa Springs and Crystal River. Under the Endangered Species Act, harassing a manatee constitutes a federal offense, punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has opened an investigation. The agency is asking anyone with information on the matter to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-3922.
“‘It Became Sort of Lawless’: Florida Vaccine Rollout Turns Into a Free-for-All” by New York Times’ Patricia Mazzei, Eric Adelson and Kate Kelly – Linda Kleindienst Bruns registered for a coronavirus vaccine in late December, on the first day the health department in Tallahassee, Fla., opened for applications for people her age. Despite being 72, with her immune system suppressed by medication that keeps her breast cancer in remission, she spent days waiting to hear back about an appointment. “It’s so disorganized,” she said. “I was hoping the system would be set up so there would be some sort of logic to it.” Phyllis Humphreys, 76, waited with her husband last week in a line of cars in Clermont, west of Orlando, that spilled onto Highway 27. They had scrambled into their car and driven 22 miles after receiving an automated text message saying vaccine doses were available. But by 9:43 a.m., the site had reached capacity and the Humphreys went home with no shots. “We’re talking about vaccinations,” said Ms. Humphreys, a retired critical care nurse. “We are not talking about putting people in Desert Storm.” Florida is in an alarming new upward spiral, with nearly 20,000 cases of the virus reported on Friday and more than 15,000 on Saturday. But the state’s well-intended effort to throw open the doors of the vaccine program to everyone 65 and older has led to long lines, confusion and disappointment. States across the country, even as they race to finish vaccinating health care employees, nursing home residents and emergency workers, are under pressure from residents to reach a broader section of the public. Florida, which has already prioritized a large swath of its population to receive the vaccine, illustrates the challenges of expanding a vaccination program being developed at record speed and with limited federal assistance.
“Florida coronavirus pandemic more evenly spread now than in summer” by Tampa Bay Times’ Langston Taylor – As Florida’s coronavirus pandemic balloons for the second major wave, there’s a key difference between now and the summer: It’s less of a South Florida-specific problem. At their summer peaks, Miami and Fort Lauderdale recorded twice as many cases per population as Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa. The state’s two most populous counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, account for nearly a quarter of all Floridians. But in July, after cases exploded in and around Miami, the region’s hospitals held 36 percent of all COVID-19 patients. Per capita, they ranked second and third among all Florida counties (after Baker, population 28,000) in hospitalized patients that month (based on data since July 10 — Florida was one of the last states to publish its count of current patients in real-time). In the current surge in cases, the pandemic is more evenly widespread across Florida. All corners of the state have seen skyrocketing numbers of cases and hospitalizations, pushing Florida toward its summer peak levels. As a result, Miami-Dade and Broward now have the same share of Florida’s sick as they do the state’s healthy. Floridians are more likely now than they were in the summer to live in a county with more hospitalizations per capita than the state overall. South Florida’s hospital numbers have rebounded to about half of where they were at their peak. They’re still increasing, but more slowly than those in the rest of the state.
“Florida’s Vaccine Capacity — Not Supply — An Issue As Most Doses Go Unused” by NBC Miami’s Tony Popitone – Getting millions of Floridians vaccinated is not just a matter of supply and demand. It is also about capacity – the ability to quickly move vaccine from freezers into people’s arms at a large scale. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 62% of the vaccine distributed to Florida has not yet been administered. Nationwide, the number is 65%. Put another way, for every shot put in the arm of a Floridian so far, more than 1.5 doses are sitting unused in freezers. Florida has administered more than 630,000 first shots of the vaccine, according to the CDC; 18 states and the District of Columbia have vaccinated larger shares of their population. Doctors are hearing about “this whole process right now, which is very slow in starting and you have a lot of people very frustrated,” said Dr. Abram Berens, president of the Broward County Medical Association, which is trying to speed things up. The association has put out a call for volunteers to man vaccination sites. Berens said they need “trained medical people to be able to pick up on the subtleties of allergic reactions.” In Miami-Dade, college students in health professions are going to be trained to inject vaccine, said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert and epidemiologist at Florida International University. She said sites in the county are operating as efficiently as possible. “We’re doing it as smoothly and as steadily as we possibly can, with very, very little lag time between patients, or between lots,” she said. “But it’s a lot of work.” Both doctors say capacity will eventually increase, and those vaccines in the pipeline will be used soon enough.
“Florida Rep. Cord Byrd addresses political tweet posted by wife” by News 4 Jax’ Scott Johnson – The Florida lawmaker who represents the state’s 11th district is clarifying a tweet posted by his wife, and both have since left Twitter. The tweet has since been taken down and was in response to the siege of the U.S. Capitol. The post was made by the wife of Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach. The tweet by his wife, Esther, read: “In the coming civil wars (We the People vs the Radical Left and We the People cleaning up the Republican Party), team rosters are being filled. Every elected official in DC will pick one. There are only 2 teams… With Us [or] Against Us.” News4Jax asked Byrd specifically about the opening line: “In the coming civil wars.” Scott Johnson: Is this something you or your spouse or the two of you feel is coming? “No, and I laugh because you’re in journalism and people use hyperbole all the time,” Byrd replied. “The speaker of the house has said, and I quote, ‘I just don’t know why there aren’t uprisings all over the country.’” Byrd said his wife’s post speaks to a war of ideas or division within the Republican party, not an actual civil war among citizens. Scott Johnson: I guess my question, this comes after hundreds of people politically aligned a raid at the U.S. Capitol. Tensions are high. “Right, and people talk about civil wars in the Republican party,” Byrd replied. “There are factions. People believe different things. It was a figure of speech and that’s how it was intended.” But the Duval County Democratic Party didn’t see it that way.
“Florida lawmakers open committee hearings amid pandemic” by News 4 Jax and Associated Press’ Bobby Caina Calvan – Florida lawmakers returned to the state Capitol on Monday, amid a recent surge in COVID-19 cases and some concerns over security in the wake of last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol. It was a generally subdued opening to the work of lawmakers, whose regular session starts in March. The usually pulsing Capitol of the country’s third-most populous state was devoid of the legions of lobbyists and citizen advocates who swarm Florida’s corridors of powers. The only committee to meet extensively Monday was the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Members of the public and lobbyists not directly involved in the hearing had to monitor proceedings blocks away from an arena at Florida State University. “I know this is a difficult year,” said Deborah Foote, the deputy director of the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club, who was among the handful of citizens taking part in the first day of the legislative committee week. “We’re very concerned about the public participation component,” she said, adding that the public venue for public speakers required no COVID screenings. Like other legislative bodies across the country, Florida lawmakers have been mindful of the ongoing pandemic, which has sickened more nearly 1.5 million Floridians and killed more than 23,000. “While we remain encouraged with the recent vaccination progress, we will continue to proceed cautiously, and testing in advance of committee meetings as well as adhering to CDC guidelines regarding masks and social distancing is an important part of our careful approach to maintaining a safe environment in which to conduct legislative business,” said State Senate President Wilton Simpson, who recently recovered from an infection of his own.
“Florida nurse steals $420,000 in COVID-19 relief funds, embezzles money, prosecutors say” by Fox News Daniella Genovese – A Florida nurse fraudulently obtained and laundered $420,000 in coronavirus relief funds, prosecutors say. According to a criminal complaint, Giraldo Caraballo received a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program on behalf of his company, Professional Skills Inc., after lying on his application. When Caraballo opened a bank account for his company in May 2019 he reported having two employees and annual gross sales of $70,000. A Florida nurse fraudulently obtained and laundered $420,000 in coronavirus relief funds, prosecutors say. According to a criminal complaint, Giraldo Caraballo received a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program on behalf of his company, Professional Skills Inc., after lying on his application. When Caraballo opened a bank account for his company in May 2019 he reported having two employees and annual gross sales of $70,000. Caraballo allegedly stated that the $420,000 in funds were to help keep employees on the payroll. However, the complaint alleges that the funds never actually made it to his employees. Prosecutors say the company’s bank account did not “reveal any paychecks to employees of PSI. Nor are there any payments to payroll service providers.” Instead of using the money for payroll, prosecutors said Caraballo used the income for personal expenses, including paying off his credit card bills and making mortgage, car lease and child care support payments, “among other transactions.” The Paycheck Protection Program represents billions of dollars in forgivable small business loans for Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s part of the coronavirus relief package that became federal law in March.
“TaxWatch and Florida CFO discuss COVID liability and economic recovery” by WMBB – Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis and Florida Taxwatch a “nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog and taxpayer research institute” discussed Florida’s economic recovery and a coronavirus liability shield for businesses. The conversation was held Monday morning. You can watch it here.
“Florida Republicans Take Aim at Social Media Censorship” by WCJB’s Staff – After the President’s removal from multiple social media platforms, calls among Florida Republicans to take action against social media censorship are growing. Multiple bills have been filed for the 2021 Legislative Session to prevent de-platforming on the basis of political speech. Following Wednesday’s insurrection at the US Capitol, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter banned President Donald Trump from their platforms. It’s a move applauded by Florida Democrats like State Senator Perry Thurston. “We have never seen a President that would conduct himself in such a despicable way. So I think that his removal was justified,” said Thurston. Google, Apple and Amazon also took action to de-platform the conservative-leaning social media app Parler. Florida Republicans like State Senator Ray Rodrigues consider it an assault of free speech. “It seems like big tech is using their resources to push their political agenda and to silence those who do not agree with them,” said Rodrigues. Legislation filed in the Senate would require social media companies to inform users why they were banned within 30 days. A bill in the House goes much further. It would allow users to sue if they’re banned for political or religious speech for a minimum of $75,000 in damages. “All we’re doing here is saying, hey there’s a new business regulation. If you’re ‘X’ amount of size you cannot discriminate based on political viewpoint,” said State Representative Anthony Sabatini, who is sponsoring the House bill. The House bill does allow social media companies to ban users for calls to violence, posting pornography, impersonation, or if a court orders the account to be removed.
“When will that $25 billion get to renters and landlords?” by Florida Trend – When will that $25 billion get to renters and landlords? Renters and landlords counting on accessing the $25 billion in rental assistance money can do little at the moment but wait for the gears of bureaucracy to slowly grind along. The money will get here. It’s just a question of when. Of the $25 billion, Florida is likely to receive $1.4 billion, according to estimates by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That would pay down past-due rent balances of $6,000 each for more than 200,000 Florida households. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel] It’s more cost effective to buy a home, not rent here, study shows The average mortgage payment in Florida for a median-priced home is lower than paying rent, according to a recent study by real estate investment firm Roofstock. This is especially true in the Punta Gorda and North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton metro areas. Roofstock analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Zillow, and found that Florida has the 14th highest rent-to-price ratio at 6.6%, meaning that it would be more cost effective to buy a home rather than rent in our state. [Source: Port Charlotte Sun] What you need to know about relocating to Florida White sand beaches and tax incentives have people turning to the Sunshine State. And not just the traditional retirees—remote workers nowhere near retirement are also considering making the move. Because if you have to socially distance yourself, you might as well have balmy winters to keep you company, right? But why Florida? [Source: Bloomberg Tax]
“Central Florida law enforcement vigilant following FBI warning of armed protests” by Click Orlando’s Troy Campbell – With reports of the FBI contacting law enforcement in anticipation of armed protests in the coming days, officials in Central Florida are chiming in. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said on Monday that as a former sheriff, he said he remains vigilant. “They will plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Demings said. Mayor Demings gave insights on how state and local law enforcement are likely evaluating security threats related to planned armed protests following last Wednesday’s unrest at the U.S. Capitol. “I was advised earlier today by the sheriff’s office that they are working very closely to monitor any developments through the intelligence community across the country,” Demings said. As rioters stormed the capitol complex last Wednesday, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said that law enforcement in Central Florida was checking for potential threats online. “Our intelligence units are monitoring social media. We are making sure that there is nothing that is going to happen or could happen,” Mina said. The Associated Press reported on Monday two law enforcement sources told them details of an internal FBI bulletin, warning of armed protest as all 50 state capitols and in Washington D.C. from Jan. 16 to Jan. 20. Sheriff Mina has said Orange County is prepared. “We are well aware of things that could spill over and we are definitely prepared for that.” In a statement, The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said that it too is monitoring for threats, but can’t release details due to security reasons.
“Trump acknowledged he bears some blame for Capitol riot in conversation with McCarthy: sources” by Fox News’ Brooke Singman – President Trump acknowledged that he bears some blame for the Capitol riot last week during a conversation with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, a source familiar told Fox News. Two sources say McCarthy R-Calif., relayed the president’s sentiment on a call Monday with the House GOP Conference. McCarthy, on the call Monday with Republicans, agreed that Trump bore blame for the unrest which sent Congress into lockdown as they tried to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election last week. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The riot left five people dead, including one Capitol Police officer. The riot came after the president spoke at a rally last Wednesday, telling supporters that he would “never concede,” and repeated unsubstantiated claims that the election was “stolen” from him and that he won in a “landslide.” During his remarks, he renewed pressure on Vice President Pence, claiming that he should decertify the results of the presidential election and send it “back to the states,” claiming that if he did that, Trump would be president for another four years. Trump’s remarks came ahead of a joint session of Congress to certify the results of the presidential election. As members of the House and Senate raised objections to certain electoral votes, both chambers called for a recess and left their chambers as pro-Trump protesters breached the Capitol building. Congress later returned and certified the Electoral College vote early Thursday, formally giving Joe Biden his presidential victory.
“NY Gov. Cuomo’s tone shifts after months of coronavirus lockdowns” by Fox News’ Brittany De Lea – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his “state of the state” address on Monday, telling residents he intends to reopen the state’s economy in a safe way despite an uptick in confirmed coronavirus cases. The Democratic governor put a heavy emphasis on planning the state’s “economic resurgence,” even as it faces a record-setting budget deficit. “We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass – the cost is too high,” Cuomo said in his address. “We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely.” Cuomo added that the plan was to use COVID-19 testing to enable the reopening of restaurants, arts centers, and theaters. Without making moves now, Cuomo gravely forecast that the state would have “nothing left to open.” A spokesperson for Cuomo’s office declined to elaborate on the reopening plan beyond remarks made by the governor on Monday. Like many states, New York shut down completely at the outset of the pandemic in the spring. In the summer, the state shifted to a policy of targeting so-called “hot spots,” where businesses were closed within specified areas when confirmed cases climbed above a certain percentage threshold. Cases throughout the U.S. are once again at record levels — with New York’s statewide positivity rate at 6.22% as of Sunday.
“Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf stepping down” by Fox News’ Jake Gibson and Sam Dorman – Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf is stepping down, Fox News has learned. Wolf sent a letter to DHS employees Monday afternoon informing them of his decision. “I am saddened to take this step, as it was my intention to serve the Department until the end of this Administration,” Wolf wrote. “Unfortunately this action is warranted by recent events, including the ongoing and meritless court rulings regarding the validity of my authority as Acting Secretary.” Wolf went on to say that Pete Gaynor, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator, will become the acting secretary of DHS. He tweeted the statement later on Monday. “Be proud of what we have accomplished,” Wolf told DHS employees, “The Homeland is safer and more secure because of your efforts.” Wolf’s resignation came at a tumultuous time for the administration and apparent conflict between him and President Trump. A source from DHS front office source said it was explicitly not a protest resignation. A White House spokesman reportedly denied the withdrawal was related to Wednesday’s event’s or Wolf’s comments Thursday. However, a source close to Wolf told Fox News the Capitol riots factored into his decision. Trump had nominated Wolf to serve as permanent DHS secretary but withdrew the nomination shortly after Wolf publicly urged the president to condemn last week’s riots at the Capitol. According to a senior administration official, Wolf was no longer eligible to serve as acting secretary. “These violent actions are unconscionable,” Wolf said Thursday, “and I implore the President and all elected officials to strongly condemn the violence that took place yesterday.”
“Pence and Trump finally speak after post-riot estrangement” by CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins – Vice President Mike Pence received a memento from his aides the other day: the engraved chair set aside for him in the White House Cabinet Room, hauled over-the-shoulder from the West Wing and delivered to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for one of his final staff meetings. The gift, accompanied by a standing ovation, was nearly the opposite sentiment being offered to Pence’s boss, President Donald Trump. Instead of applause, many of Trump’s aides — even those who have stuck with him through myriad scandals and embarrassments — were voicing shame and disappointment. His circle has shrunk. Many have resigned and others are still considering it. On Monday, after an extended period of silence, Trump and Pence spoke for the first time after a deadly riot of Trump supporters broke out at the US Capitol with Pence inside, according to two administration officials. A senior administration official told CNN they met in the Oval Office, had what was described as a good conversation and discussed the week ahead while “reflecting on the last four years of the administration’s work and accomplishments.” “They reiterated that those who broke the law and stormed the Capitol last week do not represent the America First movement backed by 75 million Americans, and pledged to continue the work on behalf of the country for the remainder of their term,” the senior official said. Trump had spent the weekend largely in isolation, as aides either distanced themselves from him or limited their time in his presence. Trump canceled a planned trip to Camp David, where his closest aides were hoping he would get into a good mindset ahead of his final stretch in office. Instead, he spent the weekend stewing to his deputy chief of staff, Dan Scavino, and entered his final full week angrier than ever.
“FBI warns ‘armed protests’ being planned at all 50 state capitols and in Washington DC” by CNN’s Zachary Cohen and Whitney Wild – The FBI has received information indicating “armed protests” are being planned at all 50 state capitols and the US Capitol in Washington, DC in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, according to an internal bulletin obtained by CNN. The news comes as security measures are being stepped up ahead of Inauguration Day, with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies preparing for the possibility of more violence after rioters stormed the US Capitol last week leaving five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Even as federal investigators continue to track down suspects from last week’s attack, the bulletin highlights concerns that the US Capitol siege was perhaps just the beginning of potentially violent actions from supporters of President Donald Trump who have been animated by his lies about a stolen election. “Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the US Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the FBI bulletin states. It also suggests there are threats of an “uprising” if Trump is removed via the 25th Amendment before Inauguration Day. “On 8 January, the FBI received information on an identified group calling for others to join them in ‘storming’ state, local and federal government courthouses and administrative buildings in the event POTUS is removed as President prior to Inauguration Day. This identified group is also planning to ‘storm’ government offices including in the District of Columbia and in every state, regardless of whether the states certified electoral votes for Biden or Trump, on 20 January,” the bulletin adds.
“GOP lawmaker ‘strongly considering’ impeachment: Trump is ‘no longer qualified to hold that office’” by CNN’s Paul LeBlanc – Michigan GOP Rep. Peter Meijer said Monday evening he is “strongly considering” voting to impeach President Donald Trump following last week’s riot at the US Capitol, assessing that the President is “no longer qualified to hold that office.” “I would prefer that we have a more fulsome investigation into what happened. Most of what I know about January 6 came either from personal experience or from Twitter. But at the end of the day, I think it is obvious that the President is no longer qualified to hold that office,” Meijer told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “Out Front.” Pressed on whether he’d made a definitive decision on impeachment, Meijer maintained that he will “wait to see the additional evidence presented, but again, this is something we’re strongly considering.” His pointed comments came the same day Democrats formally introduced their impeachment resolution, charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” as they race toward making him the first president in history to be impeached twice. The chamber will vote on the resolution Wednesday. While some GOP lawmakers have called on Trump to resign — notably Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — Meijer’s public position is a notable break from the majority of House Republicans who are urging Democrats not to pursue impeachment, arguing such a move would be divisive.
“Parler, a Platform Favored by Trump Fans, Struggles for Survival” by WSJ’s Keach Hagey and Jeff Horwitz – Parler launched in 2018 as a freewheeling social-media site for users fed up with the rules on Facebook and Twitter, and it quickly won fans from supporters of President Trump. On Monday, it went dark, felled by blowback over its more permissive approach. Amazon.com Inc. abruptly ended web-hosting services to the company, effectively halting its operations, prompting Parler to sue Amazon in Seattle federal court. Other tech partners also acted, crippling operations. Driving the decision was last week’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. On the afternoon of the riot, Amazon warned executives from Parler it had received reports the social-media platform was hosting “inappropriate” content, and that Parler had 24 hours to address it. “We have been appropriately addressing this type of content and actively working with law enforcement for weeks now,” Parler policy chief Amy Peikoff told Amazon a few hours later in an email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Amazon wrote back Thursday: “Please consider it resolved.” The email gave Parler executives confidence that their moderation system, however strained, was acceptable to its tech partner. It wasn’t. Within two days of that correspondence, Amazon announced it was booting Parler from its cloud platform, joining Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Apple Inc. in pulling the plug on the service. Other vendors turned their backs, too: Twilio Inc. cut off Parler’s two-factor authentication system, preventing it from weeding out fake new accounts, and Okta Inc. locked Parler out of key enterprise software tools.
“More Blue-Chip Companies Halt Political Donations After Capitol Riot by Trump Supporters” by WSJ’s Brody Millins and Drew FitzGerald – A growing wave of big businesses are deciding to suspend or review their campaign donations in the wake of last week’s riot at the Capitol, with many saying they would stop donating to Republicans who objected to the election’s certification. AT&T Inc., ConocoPhillips, Dow Inc., Facebook Inc. and United Parcel Service Inc. were among companies announcing Monday that they are halting or reviewing campaign donations from their political-action committees to lawmakers and political candidates. Those announcements follow JPMorgan Chase Inc. and Citigroup Inc., which said over the weekend they were halting their PAC donations. Some, including Amazon.com Inc., Comcast Corp. and General Electric Co., pledged to stop donations to the Republican lawmakers who objected to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College. “Last week’s attempts by some congressional members to subvert the presidential election results and disrupt the peaceful transition of power do not align” with company values, said American Express Co. Chief Executive Stephen Squeri in a memo sent to employees Monday, announcing the company’s decision to suspend PAC donations to more than 100 congressional Republicans who voted to challenge the election results. Dallas-based AT&T, T -0.52% one of the biggest corporate lobbyists, said its federal PAC’s board “decided to suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes last week.” It wasn’t immediately clear how long the suspension will last.
“U.S. Supreme Court shuns election-related disputes” by Reuters’ Lawrence Hurley – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday steered clear of more cases involving bids by President Donald Trump and some Republican allies to overturn his election loss and turned away a Democratic effort to expand mail-in voting in Texas. The justices, as expected, declined to expedite consideration of eight Trump-related cases including three filed by his campaign challenging the election results in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, two of the states he lost to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden. It already was clear that the court had no intention to intervene because it had not acted before Congress last week certified Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election. Trump has falsely claimed he won the election. A mob of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday, interrupting congressional certification of Biden’s victory. Texas state law makes mail-in ballots available only for people age 65 and older or for voters who meet specific disability guidelines. The state Democratic Party and some voters sued the Republican-governed state, arguing that by treating voters differently by age, the Texas law violated the U.S. Constitution’s 26th Amendment guarantee of the right to vote for American citizens age 18 and above. But the Supreme Court left in place a lower court ruling that sided with Texas in the lawsuit. The Democrats had gone to court to try to enable all eligible voters in Texas to vote by mail during last year’s election cycle, including the presidential election, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Democrats barreling toward impeaching Trump in wake of Capitol siege” by Reuters’ Richard Cowan and David Morgan – Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives plan to impeach Donald Trump on Wednesday unless he steps down or is removed before then, after drawing up charges accusing him of inciting insurrection ahead of last week’s siege of the Capitol. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told his fellow Democrats the chamber would take up impeachment on Wednesday if Vice President Mike Pence does not invoke the U.S. Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, a House aide said. Passage would make Trump, a Republican, the only U.S. president ever to be impeached twice. An impeachment would prompt the Senate to hold a trial to decide whether to convict and remove him from office, although it is unlikely the proceeding would be completed before Trump’s term expires in nine days. A Senate conviction could also lead to Trump being barred from holding public office again, ending his potential 2024 presidential bid before it begins. U.S. Representative Tom Reed, a moderate Republican, said in a New York Times opinion piece that he and some colleagues would introduce a censure resolution against Trump on Tuesday as an alternative to a “rushed” impeachment.
“Newsom, California Assembly support Trump removal from office” by Politico’s Carla Marinucci and Jeremy B. White – Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he’s “all for” removing President Donald Trump from office, while the California State Assembly formally called for Trump’s impeachment or resignation over his incitement of last week’s U.S. Capitol siege. The Democratic governor on Monday hastily dealt with a question about Trump’s removal, seeming uncomfortable talking about the issue amid the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations and vaccine rollout. “I appreciate that focus, and I support it,” Newsom said of calls for Trump to leave. “But that’s not my focus right now.” About an hour later, the Democratic-run State Assembly passed a resolution calling for an immediate end to Trump’s presidency. The legislation was introduced by the house’s former Republican leader. California Assemblymember Chad Mayes, who left the Republican Party in late 2019 to become an independent, introduced House Resolution 7, which states that “Trump’s actions incited a deadly insurrection that attempted to prevent the peaceful transfer of power at the United States Congress on January 6, 2021.” House resolutions have no effect but serve as a declaration by legislators. Mayes’ resolution backs Trump’s immediate resignation or for “Vice President Michael R. Pence and principal officers of the federal executive departments to invoke the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution, or the United States Congress to impeach President Donald J. Trump.” “The president invited the insurrections, he incited them, and for too long he did nothing to stop them,” Mayes said Monday during the Assembly’s first floor session of the year. “Members, if that is not an impeachable offense then I just don’t know what is.”
“Biden team gets access to Warp Speed-related meetings” by Politico’s Adam Cancryn – The Trump administration this week will give Biden transition officials their first direct access to certain regular meetings tied to the government’s coronavirus vaccine development effort, Operation Warp Speed, a senior administration official told POLITICO. The invite to those meetings comes after POLITICO reported that the Biden team had been denied access to standing meetings on the pandemic response, hampering its planning efforts. The sessions are typically focused on a range of Covid-19 initiatives, including vaccine distribution, therapeutics and manufacturing and supply issues. The Biden team was receiving regular briefings on those meetings, the senior administration official said, but have not actually attended any. Both the Biden transition and a Warp Speed spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment. HHS has previously said that it’s “committed to smooth, professional transition planning” and has held more than 300 meetings with Biden’s team across HHS — including with Warp Speed.