House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will be at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton this morning as part of a nationwide tour to slam the $1.5 trillion tax cut approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last month.
U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, and Darren Soto, D-Orlando, are also expected at the 9:45 a.m. event at the FAU Student Union Building.
Congressional Democrats — including Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Palm Beach County U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel — opposed the tax bill, saying it disproportionately benefits wealthy taxpayers.
The Tax Policy Center, a Washington-based research group affiliated with the liberal Brookings Institution, says about 80 percent of taxpayers across all income groups will get a tax cut and the average income tax filer will see a tax reduction of $1,610 in 2018.
Those making between $48,600 and $86,100 — the middle 20 percent of all taxpayers — will see an average tax reduction of $930, according to the Tax Policy Center analysis, while the top 1 percent of earners, with incomes above $732,800, will see an average tax cut of $51,140. The top 1 percent of all earners made about 21 percent of all U.S. income and paid about 39 percent of all income taxes in 2014, according to IRS data.
Wasserman Schultz sent a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, asking for the legislature to accelerate the already-in-the-works replacement of the statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, which is one of two statues representing Florida in the U.S. Capitol.
Scott signed a 2016 bill calling for the replacement of the Confederate statue. But legislators haven’t settled on a new Florida figure to honor. A committee has recommended three finalists: Educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune; Everglades preservation icon Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Publix founder George Jenkins.
Wasserman Schultz says legislators can convene a special session and pick a replacement when they gather in Tallahassee for committee hearings in September. When she initially raised the matter, a Scott spokesman said no special session is warranted and the issue can be brought up when the legislature meets in its regular session in January. Corcoran accused Wasserman Schultz of “grandstanding.”
Wasserman Schultz’s letter has been signed by all 11 Democratic members of Florida’s U.S. House delegation.
The Republican-controlled Florida House and Senate passed — and Scott signed — a bill in 2016 calling for the removal of the statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith from the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. But lawmakers this year could not agree on a replacement statue, so the confederate general remains in the hall where each state gets to place two statues. Florida’s other statue is of air conditioning impresario John Gorrie.
The Senate this year passed a bill for a Bethune statue. A House measure favoring Douglas stalled in committee.
“It’s time to stop playing games,” Wasserman Schultz declared in a news release today. “No family visiting our nation’s Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred and oppression. Governor Scott and the Florida legislature must take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during their upcoming interim committee meetings to pass a bill with one of the three recommendations from the committee established by law…These three Floridians represent the best of the history of our state. The removal of the Confederate statue must be made an urgent priority.”
Private citizen Jeb Bush uses his Twitter account sparingly, often to promote school choice programs or other education reforms.
The former Florida governor and failed 2016 Republican presidential candidate tweets the occasional link to articles critical of President Donald Trump and in June called it “Inappropriate. Undignified. Unpresidential” when Trump attacked Mika Brzezinski. He also praised retired Gen. John Kelly as “a good man and a tremendous leader” when Trump tapped him to be White House chief of staff.
“The incompetence and terrible judgment displayed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz and House Democrats is jarring,” Bush tweeted.
He added a link to a Wall Street Journal column that says the arrest of Imran Awan and investigation of four other IT staffers is “a tale of massive government incompetence that seemingly allowed a family of accused swindlers to bilk federal taxpayers out of millions and even put national secrets at risk. In a more accountable world, House Democrats would be forced to step down.”
Republican U.S. Rep. and potential Florida governor candidate Ron DeSantis today called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to freeze the assets of a recently arrested congressional staffer who did information technology work for Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch and several other House Democrats.
Imran Awan was arrested July 24 on a bank fraud charge as he tried to leave the U.S. for Pakistan. He entered a not guilty plea and his attorney said he is the victim of “a frenzy of anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Awan and four House Democratic staffers — including his wife and two of his brothers — have been under investigation by U.S. Capitol Police since February and were denied access to the House computer and email systems then.
“The allegations levied against Imran Awan are alarming and could have serious national security ramifications,” DeSantis said in a statement released today by his office. “The Department of Justice must work to immediately mitigate the damage done by Awan and take whatever measures are necessary, including freezing illicit funds, in order to fully investigate this incident.”
Awan and the other IT staffers under investigation were paid as much as $160,000 a year as “shared employees” who drew their salaries from the office budgets of a dozen or more Democratic House members. None of the other staffers has been charged and the charge against Awan is not directly related to his work as an IT staffer.
Reps. Wasserman Schultz, Deutch, Lois Frankel, Charlie Crist and former Reps. Patrick Murphy and Gwen Graham are among the Florida Democrats who paid Awan and the other staffers under investigation. Most of the House members employing the staffers terminated them in February after the investigation came to light. But Wasserman Schultz kept Awan on her payroll as a consultant until he was arrested.
DeSantis, a member of the House Oversight Committee, has floated the idea of Wasserman Schultz being called to testify at a congressional hearing on the matter.
“It was clear there was a major, major problem and for this guy to have been on the payroll all the way until he was absconding, it’s just inconceivable to me,” DeSantis said in an interview this week with The Palm Beach Post.
DeSantis is a potential candidate for governor or attorney general who is expected to announce his 2018 plans in the fall.
Imran Awan, the information technology staffer for several congressional Democrats who was arrested on a bank fraud charge this week as he tried to leave the U.S., didn’t have access to sensitive information in his job, his attorney told The Palm Beach Post.
Attorney Chris Gowen claims Awan — who worked for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, until his arrest and worked for U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, in the past — is the victim of “a frenzy of anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Awan and four other IT staffers who worked for House Democrats have been blocked from the House server since February during a U.S. Capitol Police investigation that has raised concerns about the possibility of confidential data being breached. The other staffers — who include Awan’s wife, two of his brothers and a friend — divided their time among dozens of House members including U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and former Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and Gwen Graham, D-Tallahassee.
None of the other staffers has been charged. Gowen says Awan and the other staffers under investigation had “no security clearance or access to confidential information.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders today called for a “thorough investigation” of a congressional information technology staffer who worked for U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch and several other Democrats.
The staffer, Imran Awan, was arrested Monday night on a bank fraud charge as he prepared to leave the country after months of investigation by U.S. Capitol Police involving Awan and at least four other information technology staffers who worked for House Democrats.
Sanders was asked at a press briefing today if President Donald Trump had an opinion on the matter.
“I haven’t had a conversation with him specifically about that,” Sanders responded, “but I do think that is something we should fully look into and there should be a thorough investigation.”
Awan was the technology aide for Wasserman Schultz, who resigned as Democratic National Committee chairwoman last year amid controversy triggered by hacking of the DNC’s email system. Awan was a shared employee paid by several House members, including Deutch between 2012 and 2014.
Other House IT staffers under investigation were paid by Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and former Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter. None of the other staffers has been charged.
Tim Canova, the liberal law professor who challenged Wasserman Schultz in a 2016 Democratic primary and has filed to run against her again in 2018, noted the arrest of Imran Awan in a fundraising letter sent Tuesday night. He accused Wasserman Schultz — who kept Awan on her payroll after he was barred from the House computer system in February — of trying to obstruct the investigation of Awan and others.
“I have also been calling on Wasserman Schultz to resign from her House seat and I have pointed out the obvious — that as long as she’s in public life, the Democratic Party will flounder and the people of South Florida will be ill served in Congress,” Canova wrote in the fundraising pitch.
Carla Spalding, who has filed to run as a Republican in Wasserman Schultz’s heavily Democratic Broward and Miami-Dade district, also questioned the Democratic incumbent’s trustworthiness today.
“I call on Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to step out of the shadows and come clean about what she knows. The American people deserve to hear the truth straight from Wasserman Schultz. If her own staff can’t be trusted with Congress’s email system, then we can’t trust her in Congress,” said Spalding, a Palm Beach County resident who ran as a no-party candidate last year for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat. She got 3.3 percent in a race won by Republican Brian Mast.
A congressional information technology staffer who has worked for U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and several other Democrats was arrested on a bank fraud charge this week after months of investigation into a group of staffers connected to the House’s computer and email systems.
Other IT staffers targeted in the investigation have worked for U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and former Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter. The other staffers have not been charged with wrongdoing, but had their access to the House computer system revoked in February, leading most of their employers to terminate them.
Imran Awan was arrested Monday night at Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia as he attempted to travel to Pakistan. He entered a not guilty plea on Tuesday, according to Politico. An affidavit by an FBI agent accuses Awan of attempting to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a $165,000 home equity loan and representing that it was for a primary residence rather than a rental property.
The $165,000 loan was used as part of a wire transfer of $283,000 to Pakistan, the affidavit says.
Awan was paid about $160,000 a year, with 13 different Democratic members paying a portion of his salary during the last quarter of 2016, according to House records.
Deutch’s office said it was among those paying Awan between 2012 and 2014 for stints that totaled about 10 months.
Reports in The Daily Caller and other publications have linked Awan, his wife Hina Alvi, his brothers Abid Awan and Jamal Awan and a staffer named Rao Abbas to an investigation by the U.S. Capitol Police that began earlier this year. None of the others has been charged with any offense.
Frankel was among the Democratic members paying a portion of Abid Awan’s salary. He received $20,000 from her in 2016 and $1,833 from Frankel’s office between Jan. 1 and Feb. 3, when he was denied access to the House system and terminated by Frankel and others.
“We were one of 20+ Member offices that were using the services of Abid Awan to provide technical support for our computing technology,” Frankel spokeswoman Rachel Huxley-Cohen said. “When we were contacted about the investigation, our office immediately terminated the service. We have not since been informed of the details of the ongoing probe.”
Abbas worked until February for Deutch and three other Democratic House members, including Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg. Abbas also worked for former Rep. Murphy, who left office after losing a 2016 Senate bid.
Deutch declined comment on the IT staffers.
“There’s an ongoing investigation…that will be fully pursued, as it should,” Deutch told The Palm Beach Post.
Alvi, Imran Awan’s wife, left the country for Pakistan in March, according to the FBI affidavit, which says she was accompanied by her three children after “abruptly” removing them from public schools in Northern Virginia. Imran Awan had bought a ticket to Pakistan and was preparing to board a flight to Qatar when he was arrested Monday.
While most House members dropped Imran Awan and the others from their payrolls, Wasserman Schultz continued to pay Imran Awan at least through the end of March. He received $1,495 from her office for the quarter.
“Mr. Awan previously served as an employee in our office, but his services have been terminated,” Wasserman Schultz spokesman David Damron said late Tuesday.
The Florida Democratic Party has released its speaker lineup for Saturday’s Leadership Blue fundraising dinner in Hollywood.
As previously announced, former Vice President Joe Biden will headline the event at the Diplomat Beach Resort, which the party says has already raised $850,000.
Sen. Bill Nelson — the only Democrat to hold statewide office in Florida and a prime GOP target next year — will also speak. Three announced Democratic candidates for governor — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King — will appear in a panel discussion. There will also be a “Resistence Panel” moderated by Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson.
More than two dozen names appear on the list of speakers and panelists released Wednesday by the state party.
Not among them: Hometown U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman whose House district includes the Diplomat Beach Resort.
Many in the party’s progressive wing accused Wasserman Schultz of favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential nominating contest before Wasserman Schultz stepped down as chairwoman at last summer’s Democratic National Convention. Clinton recently complained that the DNC under Wasserman Schultz’s leadership “was bankrupt. It was on the verge of insolvency. Its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong.”
Leslie Wimes of Boynton Beach, the president of the Democratic African-American Women’s Caucus, wrote in a Sunshine State News column on Tuesday that the “toxic” Wasserman Schultz was scheduled to speak at Saturday’s event and that “putting the most divisive figure in recent Florida Democratic political history on stage at its biggest fundraising event will be a big mistake.”
Tim Canova, who challenged Wasserman Schultz in a 2016 primary and announced Thursday he’s challenging her again in 2018, told his Facebook followers that “FDP leadership” proposed having Wasserman Schultz speak at the gala but backed down.
Wasserman Schultz’s office didn’t return calls requesting comment. Her spokesman David Damron told The Miami Herald Tuesday that Wasserman Schultz wasn’t speaking at the event.
The party wouldn’t comment on the Wimes or Canova claims except to say that the roster released Wednesday is the only official list of speakers.
Here’s the full list released by the party:
Our Voice, Our Issues Panel, 11:00-12:30 pm
Moderator: Representative Cynthia Stafford
Panelists: State Senator Oscar Braynon
State Represenative Carlos Guillermo Smith
Anna Eskamani, Planned Parenthood
Tom Conboy, South Florida Engineering and Consulting LLC
Mary Green, President of the Brevard Democratic Disability Caucus
Ghazala Salam, American Muslim Democratic Caucus
The Resistance Panel, 1:00-2:30 pm
Moderator: DeRay McKesson, Black Lives Matter; Pod Save the People, This is the Movement
Panelists: Dominik Whitehead, AFSCME and Lead Organizer on Betsy Devos HBCU protests
Ida Eskamani, Organize Florida
Charo Valero, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Maria Rodriguez, Florida Immigrant Coalition
Carrie Feit, Women’s March of Florida
Karla Hernandez Mats, United Teachers of Dade
Gubernatorial Panel, hosted by the Progressive Caucus of Florida, 3:00-4:30 pm
Moderator: Keith Fitzgerald, former State Representative