Donald Trump makes a rare concession of defeat in eulogizing Barbara Bush

President Donald Trump speaking at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump often compares himself to other presidents — and often finds his predecessors lacking.

At a joint press conference Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom at Mar-a-Lago, for instance, Trump said he has done more than past presidents to get North Korea to consider ending its nuclear weapons program.

“We have come a long way with North Korea. We were, as you know — and when I say ‘we,’ for many years, they’ve been talking to North Korea and nothing has happened. This should have been taken care of by past administrations when they were not nearly so far along. But we put unbelievably powerful sanctions on, and many other things,” Trump said.


But Trump conceded Wednesday there is at least one presidential category in which he falls short — marital longevity.

Trump began Wednesday’s event by eulogizing former first lady Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday at age 92.

She and former President George H.W. Bush were married 73 years.

“I’ll never beat that record,” remarked the twice-divorced Trump, who has been married to first lady Melania Trump for 13 years.

Here are the president’s full remarks on Barbara Bush:

“I want to begin today by expressing my deep condolences to the entire Bush family on the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush, a wonderful, wonderful person. For decades, Barbara was a titan in American life. Her presence and character were engraved into America’s identity.

“Her strength and toughness really embodied the spirit of our country. And her warmth and devotion earned the admiration of an entire nation and, indeed, the entire world. She was a tireless champion for literacy. She was a fierce advocate for the American family. And she was a woman of proud patriotism and profound faith.

“Our hearts are saddened by her passing, but our spirits are lifted by the memories of her goodness and her grace. She was a good person.

“Melania and I send our prayers to Barbara’s husband of 73 years — I’ll never beat that record — President George H.W. Bush; to the surviving children — Jeb, and Neil, and Marvin, Dorothy, and former President George W. Bush; and to their many wonderful grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Busy Twitter morning at Mar-a-Lago as Trump-Abe summit continues

President Donald Trump arriving at Palm Beach International Airport on Monday. (Melanie Bell/The Palm Beach Post)

Before he begins the second day of an international summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump has confirmed a top-secret meeting between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seemingly contradicted his rationale for firing FBI Director James Comey, waded farther than before into the Stormy Daniels controversy and continued his feud with California Gov. Jerry Brown over illegal immigration.

This morning’s Twitter output from President Donald Trump.

The developments all came via Trump’s Twitter account between 5:59 a.m. and 8:05 a.m. before Trump and Abe headed to Trump International Golf Club in unincorporated West Palm Beach.

Trump’s planned meeting with Kim is a prime topic of this week’s summit with Abe, and Trump revealed Tuesday that the U.S. has had “direct talks at very high levels” with the North Korean regime. Later Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Pompeo, who is Trump’s nominee to succeed the ousted Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, had gone to North Korea over Easter weekend to meet with Kim.

Trump confirmed that report this morning, tweeting: “Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”

Trump also used Twitter to blast Comey, who this week launched a highly publicized tour to promote a book that criticizes Trump.

“Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!” Trump tweeted.

The tweet seems to contradict Trump’s explanation of the Comey firing last May in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt. In that interview, Trump said he had already decided to fire Comey before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended doing so over Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

“He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”

Holt followed up: “Are you angry with Mr. Comey because of his Russia investigation?

Trump replied: “I just want somebody that’s competent. I am a big fan of the FBI.”

Trump has denied porn star Daniels’ claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006, but has avoided stoking the controversy. This morning, however, he mocked Tuesday’s release by Daniels and her attorney of a composite sketch of a man she says threatened her in 2011 to keep silent about the affair.

“A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!” Trump tweeted.

Less than 30 minutes later, Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti tweeted: “In my experience, there is nothing better in litigation than having a completely unhinged, undisciplined opponent who is prone to shooting himself in the foot. Always leads to BIGLY problems…like new claims (i.e. defamation). LOL. #xmas #hanukkah #basta.”




Will Donald Trump and Rick Scott meet in Florida this week?

President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott at the Broward Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 16 — two days after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott was in Palm Beach Gardens for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday about 17½ miles from his friend and political ally, President Donald Trump, who’s staying at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach this week.

But Scott, an early cheerleader for Trump’s 2016 presidential bid who was publicly urged by Trump to launch a U.S. Senate bid, didn’t meet with the president Tuesday and appears unlikely to do so this week.

After meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Tuesday and today, FAA advisories suggest Trump will fly to Key West for a few hours on Thursday and return to Mar-a-Lago through Sunday.

Palm Beach Post staff writer Sarah Peters asked Scott campaign spokeswoman Lauren Schenone if the governor has any plans to see the president while he’s in the Sunshine State.

“Looked into your questions and the Governor has preplanned campaign events throughout the state as well as out of state events this week,” Schenone responded.

Scott, who officially launched his challenge of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson last week, has been positioning himself as a Washington outsider. He emphasized congressional term limits to rid Washington of “career politicians” in his campaign kickoff speech last week and in his debut TV ad this week.


Rick Scott pushes term limits in first TV ad of Senate campaign vs. Bill Nelson

Florida Gov. Rick Scott in the first TV ad of his Senate campaign against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who emphasized an outsider theme when he launched his U.S. Senate bid against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson last week, continues to do so with a debut TV ad advocating term limits for members of Congress to rid Washington of “career politicians.”

Scott’s campaign is spending about $2 million to air the 30-second spot statewide. Scott appears as just a marker-wielding guy in a checked shirt and jeans, with no mention of his status as twice-elected Florida governor and no mention Nelson — though the “career politicians” tag is clearly meant to include the three-term incumbent.

Standing in front of a white board with an outline of the continental United States, Scott says there are more than 41,000 zip codes in the U.S.

“In all but one zip code, they want term limits on Congress. It’s common sense. The only place that doesn’t want term limits on Congress — right here, Washington, where all the career politicians are,” Scott says. (Actually, Washington, D.C., has about two dozen traditional zip codes.)

“In Washington, they say term limits can’t be done. That’s nonsense. We don’t work for them, they work for us. I’m Rick Scott. I approve this message. Let’s get to work.”

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved term limits for most state and federal offices in a 1992 referendum. But the voter-imposed limits on U.S. House and U.S. Senate members in Florida and 22 other states were struck down in a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which held that limiting congressional terms would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Proposing a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or support from two-thirds of the states (34 states) for a constitutional convention. Once proposed, a constitutional amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38 states) to become law.




Money race: Republican Putnam laps the field of Florida governor candidates

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam rolling out his 2018 campaign for governor in Bartow last year. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam had another boffo fundraising month in March, snagging more than $2.2 million between his main campaign and his Florida Grown political committee, according to finance reports posted this week.

Putnam began April with more than $19.2 million in cash on hand — nearly three times as much as GOP primary foe Ron DeSantis and more than double the combined cash on hand of the entire four-candidate Democratic gubernatorial field.

Among Democrats, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham began April with nearly $4 million available between her campaign and a pro-Graham PAC. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is next with nearly $2.9 million.

Levine, who has put more than $5.5 million of his own money into the race, has spent the most of any candidate — more than $8.6 million.

GOP’s Brian Mast has $1.5 million to defend congressional seat; how that compares to predecessors

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City.. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

With two Democrats and possibly a Republican primary challenger eyeing his Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional seat, freshman U.S.  Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, raised $887,637 during the first three months of 2018 and began April with $1.5 million in cash on hand — a solid figure but not as much as some past District 18 candidates at similar phases of their campaigns.

In 2014, the last time an incumbent defended the District 18 seat, Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy ended the first quarter with $2.2 million in the bank. He went on to easily win re-election over Republican Carl Domino.

In 2012, shortly after District 18 was created by the decennial redistricting, Republican Rep. Allen West had $3.3 million in cash on hand at the end of the first quarter and Democratic challenger Murphy — who went on to win the seat that November — had $1 million.

For 2018, Democrats Lauren Baer and Pam Keith have opened District 18 campaigns. And Gold Star mother Karen Vaughn said last week she’s considering a GOP primary challenge to Mast. Vaughn is expected to announce her decision this week.

Democrat Baer announced last week that she had raised more than $450,000 during the first quarter. She didn’t announce a cash-on-hand figure.

Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports for the first quarter aren’t due until Sunday, but candidates often release select figures ahead of time.

Rick Scott vs. Bill Nelson — online negativity already surrounds Senate race

A digital ad attacking Gov. Rick Scott by Senate Majority PAC (left) and a digital ad attacking Sen. Bill Nelson by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (right).

ORLANDO — Florida Gov. Rick Scott is expected to make it official this morning and launch a Republican bid for the U.S. Senate seat of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson — but Democrats and Republicans and allied groups have been preparing for the race for more than a year and already have plenty of websites and ads to show for it.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched an anti-Scott website last week, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee has more than a year’s worth of anti-Nelson material archived on its website.

Democratic-leaning Senate Majority PAC released an anti-Scott digital ad on Sunday.

Republican-leaning Senate Majority PAC has an anti-Nelson website deriding the incumbent as ineffective “Backbench Bill.”

Follow and @gbennettpost on Twitter today for coverage of Scott’s announcement.

Palm Beach County Trump backers host DeSantis; not interested in Putnam, Corcoran

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, at the kickoff of his campaign for governor in Boca Raton in January. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. Rep. and 2018 Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, will get an exclusive chance to tap into President Donald Trump‘s base of supporters on Monday night when he speaks at a Palm Beach County Trump Club gathering in West Palm Beach.

Ron DeSantis and attorrney general candidate Jay Fant will speak to the Palm Beach County Trump Club on Monday.

More than 600 people had RSVP’d for the event at the Palm Beach Kennel Club as of Friday, organizers said.

The local Trump booster club is one of several such organizations formed around Florida in the past year to try to engage Trump supporters who aren’t necessarily traditional Republican voters. The local organization drew about 350 people for its initial meeting in February, which featured Trump’s favorite pastor, Mark Burns.

DeSantis’ GOP primary rivals — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and likely candidate Richard Corcoran, the speaker of the Florida House — won’t get a similar audience with Trump backers, Palm Beach County Trump Club Vice President Larry Snowden said.

“Donald Trump has endorsed Ron DeSantis and we are only inviting that endorsee to speak at our club,” Snowden said.

On Dec. 22, as Air Force One taxied on the runway at Palm Beach International Airport  before Trump began a Christmas-New Year’s stay at Mar-a-Lago, the president tweeted: “Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”

Trump clubs began cropping up around Florida last year. The Republican Party of Florida gave its blessing to several of the clubs in hopes of persuading Trump backers — many of whom are disdainful of the GOP establishment — to turn out for Republican candidates in the 2018 midterm elections.

In January 2016, when much of the GOP establishment in Florida backed Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio for president, Joe Budd was an early supporter of Donald Trump. Budd, now the county’s Republican state committeeman, is president of a local Trump club. The club’s VP, Larry Snowden, is behind Budd in this picture. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County’s Trump Club is independent of the Republican Party even though its president, Joe Budd, is Palm Beach County’s Republican state committeeman and its other leaders — Vice President Snowden; his wife and the club’s Treasurer, Sue Snowden; and Secretary Linda Stoch — are longtime GOP activists.

Although the local Trump Club isn’t an official party organ, Larry Snowden said it shares the GOP goal of electing Republicans in 2018 — because that is Trump’s goal.

“Donald Trump is all about electing more Republicans in the midterms and we are totally supporting Donald Trump,” Snowden said. “We are completely aligned with our president’s posture on electing more Republicans and not electing more Democrats.”

Frank Luntz to moderate May 5 forum with Florida GOP candidates for governor

Frank Luntz holds up a Hillary Clinton doll as he speaks to Florida GOP delegates at a breakfast during the 2016 Republican National Convention. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post

A conservative Christian group announced Thursday that Republican messaging guru and Fox News analyst Frank Luntz will moderate  a forum with Florida Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis next month in Orlando.

The Florida Family Policy Council event is slated for May 5.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and any other “major GOP candidates” will be invited to participate as well if they get into the race in the next few weeks, organizers said.

“Republicans have a very strong and impressive bench of candidates in the race for Florida’s next governor, which makes choosing the best candidate even more challenging. This forum will help educate primary voters to crystallize this important decision,” said Florida Family Policy Council President John Stemberger.

Stemberger also praised Luntz for his “skill in drawing out candidates and helping voters understand what’s important and what values they hold.”

On the first day of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Luntz told Florida delegates that Republicans needed to improve their messaging for Donald Trump to win the presidency.

“If the election were held today, Hillary Clinton wins,” Luntz said at the time. “Your state is going to determine who wins and loses this campaign.”


Dems launch anti-Scott site ahead of his expected Nelson Senate challenge

The National Democratic Senatorial Committee today is launching an anti-RIck Scott website in advance of Scott’s expected challenge of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Democrats have been preparing for more than a year to defend Florida Sen. Bill Nelson‘s seat against an expected challenge from term-limited Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott promises a “big announcement” Monday.

Scott — who has been publicly urged to enter the Senate race by President Donald Trump — appears ready to make it official next week.

Scott’s social media accounts have been promising  a “big announcement” on Facebook live on Monday morning.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee today is launching an anti-Scott website that collects years of opposition research on Scott.

“Rick Scott is a self-serving politician who will say and do anything to help himself at Floridians’ expense,” says a message on the landing page of the new Democratic site.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has amassed its own storehouse of anti-Nelson material. Most recently,  the NRSC released a digital ad reminding voters of Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 “basket of deplorables” remarks about Trump supporters and Nelson’s support for Clinton.

Click here to see the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committees’ anti-Scott website.

And click here to see the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s anti-Nelson trove.