With Supreme Court vacancy, Trump’s 2016 Mar-a-Lago pledge again looms large

Then-candidate Donald Trump pledging to list potential Supreme Court nominees to assuage conservatives at the 2016 Palm Beach County GOP Lincoln Day dinner at Mar-a-Lago. (Daniel Owen / The Palm Beach Post)

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy‘s retirement gives President Donald Trump another high-court nomination and underscores the importance of a pledge Trump made at Mar-a-Lago as a candidate in 2016.

Trump was the clear front runner for the Republican presidential nomination when the Palm Beach County GOP rented Mar-a-Lago’s Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom for its March 20, 2016 Lincoln Day dinner. But Trump still faced significant skepticism from many conservatives, particularly over his apparent lack of a coherent judicial philosophy.  That fueled Republican concerns that some portion of the right might vote for minor-party candidates or sit out the 2016 election.

So Trump, speaking to local Republicans but with the national media watching, acknowledged his doubters and promised that he would release a list of “great conservative judges” that he would appoint to the Supreme Court as president.

“I am going to give a list of either 5 or 10 judges that I will pick — 100 percent pick — that I will put in for nomination. Because some of the people that are against me say, ‘We don’t know if he’s going to pick the right judges,’ ‘Supposing he picks a liberal judge’ or ‘Supposing he picks a pro-choice judge,’ ” Trump said at the time.

Collaborating with the conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation, Trump’s campaign eventually listed 21 potential court picks — including eventual Trump nominee and Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Trump reaffirmed the importance of the Mar-a-Lago pledge today, telling reporters in the Oval Office that his choice to replace Kennedy “will be somebody from that list.”

Two years ago, the list was crucial in preventing massive conservative defections from Trump, who often brought up the Supreme Court when the GOP coalition appeared restless.

“We have a war to win against a very crooked politician named Hillary Clinton, OK?” Trump pleaded at a June 2016 rally in Tampa.  “The Republican Party really should get their act together, they have to come together. We’ve got to win. And if for no other reason, the Supreme Court, remember that.”

Leading “Never Trump” figure Rick Wilson, who tried in 2016 to get conservatives to support independent candidate Evan McMullin for president, conceded in a 2017 interview that Trump’s Supreme Court pledge hampered his efforts

“The Supreme Court was a value-added for Donald Trump that turned skeptical Republicans into at least tolerant Republicans of Trump. It was something we saw turn up in focus groups over and over and over again,” Wilson said shortly after Trump took office. “The Supreme Court was the unspoken and spoken selling proposition for Donald Trump well beyond any other factor for base Republican voters.”


Wave watch: Democrat wins Trump district in Sarasota special election

Democrat Margaret Good won a special state House election in a Sarasota district that President Donald Trump carried in 2016.

Democrat Margaret Good won a special state House election in Republican Sarasota County on Tuesday night in a race that drew national attention as the latest indicator of a potential Democratic anti-Donald Trump wave in the 2018 midterm elections.

In a district where Republicans have a 9-point registration advantage and Trump won in 2016, liberal Good got 52.2 percent to 44.8 percent for Republican James Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski campaigned with Buchanan at a Sunday rally that included a chant of “Lock her up!” and a challenge to Republicans to deliver a pro-Trump statement to the “fake news” media, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

“Let me just say this, you guys have an election on Tuesday,” Lewandowski told a crowd of about 200, according to the Herald-Tribune. “The fake news is going to watch you. The failing New York Times wants to write that James Buchanan lost the seat and that Donald Trump cannot carry a candidate anymore. That’s what they want. You cannot allow it.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Florida’s Democratic candidates for governor campaigned for Good and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez issued a celebratory statement less than an hour after the polls closed Tuesday night.

“Congratulations to Representative-elect Margaret Good on her victory tonight’s special election, which flipped yet another Republican-held seat from red to blue in a district that Trump carried in 2016. Just like we did last year with Annette Taddeo, Democrats are organizing, investing, and winning elections across Florida as voters reject Rick Scott and Donald Trump’s disastrous agenda,” Perez said.

Taddeo won a September special election in a Miami Senate district that Republicans had won in 2016. But that election was less troubling for Republicans than Tuesday night’s contest. The district Taddeo won voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump and had been held by a Democrat before 2016.

A year after defeating Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump’s approval at 41% in Florida

A new Florida Atlantic University poll has some good numbers for Gov. Rick Scott and better approval ratings for President Donald Trump than he gets nationally.

A year after Florida flipped from blue to red and helped Republican Donald Trump to his stunning presidential victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, President Trump has a 41 percent approval rating in a new poll of Sunshine State voters.

Trump’s disapproval rating is 47 percent in the  Florida Atlantic University poll released today.

While Trump is under water by 6 points in Florida, that’s considerably better than his nationwide numbers. The RealClearPolitics.com average of national polls shows a net negative of 17.9 points for the president, with 38.7 approving and 56.6 percent disapproving.

Trump won Florida in November 2016 with 49 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 47.8 percent.

Trump’s latest approval numbers are slightly better than the FAU poll found in August, when 37 percent of voters approved and 47 percent disapproved.

FAU’s online poll of 500 voters, conducted Nov. 2-5, has a 4.5 percent margin of error. FAU says the poll was conducted “using an online sample supplied by Survey Sampling International using online questionnaires and via an automated telephone platform using registered voter lists supplied by Aristotle, Inc.”

The poll’s sample is 33.3 percent Republican, 32.3 percent Democrat and 34.3 percent independent. Actual Florida voter registrations are 37.5 percent Democrat, 35.4 percent Republican and 27.1 percent no party or minor party.

The poll contains some good numbers for Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next year.

Scott is viewed favorably by 49 percent of Florida voters and unfavorably by 39 percent. His handling of Hurricane Irma rated good to excellent by 72 percent of voters, with
57 percent saying it will help him if he runs for Senate.

Three-term incumbent Nelson is viewed favorably by 45 percent and unfavorably by 22 percent.

Trump probe: Indictment of Gardens man Paul Manafort mentions 7 Florida businesses

From left, Paul Manafort, then Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, and Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime protégé and junior partner, speak on their mobile phones at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 17, 2016. Federal charges against Manafort and Gates represent a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over Trump’s first year in office. (Sam Hodgson/The New York Times)

Before he was chairman of Donald Trump‘s 2016 presidential campaign, Palm Beach Gardens resident Paul Manafort used seven Florida businesses in a scheme to launder money from Ukraine, according to the indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller unsealed this morning.

The indictment also alleges that Manafort used wire transfers from foreign accounts to obtain more than $1.7 million worth of goods and services from three Florida businesses — described in the court filing only as “Vendor B,” “Vendor J” and “Vendor R” — without paying taxes on the income.

RELATED: Read indictment against Manafort, Gates

The indictment says Manafort “resided in homes in Virginia, Florida and Long Island, New York.” Manafort has a homestead exemption and is registered to vote at an address in BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens. He registered to vote in Palm Beach County in 2011 and cast his 2016 ballot for president at an early voting site in the county.

Trump this morning seized on the fact that the activities in the criminal complaint against Manafort and associate Richard W. Gates III occurred before Manafort served as Trump campaign chairman from June to August of 2016.

“Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????” Trump tweeted this morning.

In a follow-up tweet, the president said, “….Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”

The indictment says Manafort and Gates “generated tens of millions of dollars in income” by acting as unregistered agents of the Ukrainian government and two Ukrainian political parties between 2006 and 2015, then “laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts.”

The indictment says 17 domestic entities controlled by Manafort or Gates were used in the scheme to launder the money, with seven of those businesses incorporated in Florida.

The Florida businesses mentioned in the indictment are:

• Daisy Manafort LLC, incorporated in Delaware in January 2012 and Florida in March 2011. Florida records list Manafort as a manager and his Palm Beach Gardens home as its mailing address.

• DMP, incorporated in Virgninia in March 2005 and Florida in March 2011. Florida records show a Davis Manafort Partners Inc., inactive since 2013, with a Virginia business address that lists Manafort as its president and director.

• DMI, incorporated in Delaware in June 2011 and Florida in March 2012. Florida records show a DMP International incorporated in March 2012 with a Delaware address and Manafort listed as manager.

• Jesand Investments Corporation, incorporated in March 2011. Florida records list Manafort as president.

• John Hannah, LLC, incorporated in Virginia in April 2006 and Florida in March 2011. Manafort is listed as manager and his home as the business address in Florida records.

• Lilred, LLC, incorporated in Florida in December 2011. The business lists a New Jersey address and Manafort as manager.

• MC Soho Holdings, LLC, incorporated in Florida in January 2012 and in New York in April 2012. Manafort is listed as manager in Florida records and his home is listed as the principal address of the business.

The indictment says Manafort and Gates used millions of dollars worth of wire transfers from offshore accounts into the U.S. to buy goods, services and real estate but did not report the transfers as income.

The indictment says the money went to 19 vendors, including three from Florida:

• Vendor B, described in the indictment as a “home automation, lighting and home entertainment company in Florida,” received $1.3 million in wire transfers from 2011 to 2013 from accounts in Cyprus, the United Kingdom and the Grenadines.

• Vendor J, described as a “contractor in Florida,” received transfers totaling $432,487 from 2011 to 2013 from accounts in Cyprus, the indictment says.

• Vendor R, an “art gallery in Florida,” received wire transfers from Cyprus in 2011 and 2013 totaling $31,900, the indictment says.




Report: Paul Manafort — Palm Beach Gardens resident — indicted in Trump-Russia probe; read indictment

Palm Beach Gardens resident Paul Manafort at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Palm Beach Gardens resident Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Donald Trump‘s 2016 presidential campaign, has been indicted today by federal authorities in the first charges brought under special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation of Russian interference in the election, The New York Times is reporting.

THE LATEST: Mueller, associate indicted; another Trump staffer pleads guilty

Television cameras showed Manafort walking into an FBI field office in Washington, D.C., at about 8:15 a.m.

The Times reported that former Manafort business associate Rick Gates has been indicted.

Trump probe: Indictment of Gardens man Paul Manafort mentions 7 Florida businesses

Manafort and Gates were indicted on money laundering, tax and foreign lobbying charges, according to the Times.

Manafort has a homestead exemption and is registered to vote at an address in BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens. He and his wife paid $1.5 million for a 5,231-square-foot home there in 2007, and Manafort has been voting in Palm Beach County since 2012.

FROM AUGUST: Donald Trump on FBI raid of Palm Beach Gardens resident Paul Manafort

Ex-Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka weighs in on Florida GOP post

Former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka with Karen Giorno in a picture from Giorno’s website for her campaign for Republican national committeewoman.

The Sebastian Gorka primary is over in the race for Florida’s vacant Republican national committeewoman post.

Gorka, the frequent Fox News guest and former adviser to President Donald Trump, is endorsing West Palm Beach resident and former Trump Florida campaign director Karen Giorno for the committeewoman post.

The committeewoman post, one of three Florida representatives to the Republican National Committee, has been vacant since Trump tapped former Committeewoman Sharon Day of Fort Lauderdale to be ambassador to Costa Rica. Republican Party of Florida officials will choose a committeewoman in November before a January vote by more than 200 GOP activists to fill the remainder of Day’s term through 2020.

Gorka, an outspoken hardliner on Islamic terrorism, left the Trump administration in August, when he declared that “forces that do not support the MAGA promise are – for now – ascendant within the White House” and said he could best help Trump from outside the administration. Others said Gorka was forced out by Chief of Staff John Kelly and others.

Regardless, Gorka is a popular figure with much of Trump’s anti-establishment “Make America Great Again” base. Giorno is stressing her Trump loyalty in her bid for committeewoman.

Gorka’s endorsement statement says Giorno is “the only candidate for Florida National Committeewoman who worked on the campaign to elect Donald Trump the 45th President of the United States and the only one who truly understands that the MAGA agenda is the people’s agenda. Karen as your National Committeewoman puts the Republican Party of Florida in the best position to win majorities and elections in 2018 and beyond. As someone committed to the ultimate success of the President’s MAGA agenda, I support Karen Giorno.”

Other potential candidates for Florida committeewoman include Manatee County GOP Chairwoman Kathleen King, former RPOF Chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan and Brevard County Republican State Committeewoman Cheryl Lankes.

Former Trump Florida campaign director, from West Palm Beach, seeks key GOP post

Karen Giorno chats with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera at the Palm Beach County GOP’s 2016 Lobsterfest in Boca Raton. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

West Palm Beach resident Karen Giorno, the state director for Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign when he won the Florida GOP primary by carrying 66 of 67 counties, has launched a campaign to become Florida’s Republican National Committeewoman.

The committeewoman is one of three party officials who represent Florida on the Republican National Committee and have a say on party rules and the site of the 2020 GOP convention.

Former Florida Committeewoman Sharon Day of Fort Lauderdale stepped down after President Trump tapped her to be ambassador to Costa Rica. The Republican Party of Florida’s board, which consists of about 35 members, will choose an interim replacement next month. More than 200 RPOF members will then vote in January on a committeewoman to serve the final two years of Day’s term.

At least three other names have circulated as potential candidates for committeewoman: Manatee County GOP Chairwoman Kathleen King, former RPOF Chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan and Brevard County Republican State Committeewoman Cheryl Lankes.

Giorno is a longtime Republican operative with experience going back to an internship in the George H.W. Bush White House. She was director of Trump’s Florida campaign through the March 2016 primary, then continued as the top Florida official while also taking on the role of political director for 11 southeastern states. In a September 2016 shakeup, Giorno moved to a job in Trump Tower in New York overseeing national voter engagement and coalitions; veteran Florida campaign strategist Susie Wiles became Florida director.

A website Giorno has set up for her committeewoman bid features a 2016 quote from Trump calling her “a valuable asset to my team and a consummate professional” and an endorsement from Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Michael Barnett.




Democratic ‘whiners’ urged to move on

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and wife Dorothy before Saturday night’s Palm Beach County Democratic Party fundraiser. It was the couple’s 29th anniversary. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

WEST PALM BEACH — Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote over Donald Trump in 2016 and would be president if not for a sliver of votes in previously Democratic Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, said Virginia Gov. and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe on Saturday night.

But McAuliffe, headlining the Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s annual fundraising dinner, spent minimal time on the rehash and said his party needs to move on from 2016.

“I’ve got zero tolerance for the whiners in our party. We have got to move forward. I cannot relive yesterday’s election but I can tell you this, we have got to move forward. Florida’s an important piece of the puzzle,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe is co-chairman of the 2020 Redistricting Fund, a Democratic effort to win governorships in key states to influence the redrawing of congressional and state legislative maps after the 2020 census.

“We’ve got to get off the mat. We’ve got to start winning. I think our party for too long has focused on the presidential. We raise billions of dollars and then we go dormant for a couple years after that and not focus on state and local races. We’ve got to get in and win at the local level,” McAuliffe said.

Winning governorships is crucial for Democrats to prevent Republican gerrymandering, McAuliffe said.

Republicans have held the Florida governor’s mansion since 1999. With Republican Gov. Rick Scott facing term limits next year, Democrats hope to break their losing streak in the open race to replace him.

“Goodness gracious, we need a governor here in 2018 because in 2021 when those lines are drawn, one person can stop a Republican legislature’s map, and that is the governor,” said McAuliffe.


Hillary Clinton, in South Florida, blames ‘perfect storm’ for Donald Trump’s win

Woman in the arena: Hillary Clinton on stage at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday night. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

FORT LAUDERDALE  — Forget the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Hillary Clinton says she was the victim in 2016 of sexism and a “perfect storm” of domestic and foreign forces that worked against her and helped elect Donald Trump president.

The losing 2016 Democratic presidential nominee spoke for more than an hour to a sellout audience that paid $50 to $375 to see her in person at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts as part of Clinton’s tour to promote her book What Happened.

Donna Read of Boca Raton brought a copy of Hillary Clinton’s new book to Clinton’s appearance in Fort Lauderdale. Read says the 2016 election was “a farce.” (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

The first female nominee of a major party said her gender worked against her for many voters.

“Women are seen favorably when we advocate for others, but unfavorably when we advocate for ourselves,” said Clinton, who said she was better liked as a first lady, U.S. senator and Cabinet secretary than when she was a candidate for president. “When a woman moves forward in the public arena on behalf of herself and says ‘I have a chance to lead,’ that causes a lot of cognitive dissonance.”

On top of that, Clinton said, “This was a perfect storm. Deep currents of anger and resentment, felt by many floating through our culture. A political press that told voters the most important story were my emails – that looks really good right now. The unprecedented intervention in our election 11 days before voting by the FBI and the information warfare waged against us from within the Kremlin.”

Clinton also weighed in on the Las Vegas massacre and the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Click here to read the whole story.



Trump-linked Ballard lobby firm adds Justin Sayfie to D.C. office

Sayfie Review publisher Justin Sayfie is joining the Washington, D.C., office of Brian Ballard’s lobbying firm.

South Florida attorney, Republican operative and longtime enabler of Florida politics junkies Justin Sayfie is  joining the Washington, D.C., office of Ballard Partners — the lobbying firm headed by President Donald Trump Florida confidant Brian Ballard.

Sayfie, who was an adviser to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, publishes the Sayfie Review, a daily online aggregation of Florida politics headlines that has been a must-read in the Sunshine State since 2002.

“In light of this announcement, I wanted to be sure I let you know that this will not impact the Sayfie Review in any way. Florida politics is in my blood, and after 15 years of publishing the site every day, it’s even made it into my soul!” Sayfie told his readers this morning.

Sayfie heads a law firm that specializes in corporate transactional work and since 2015 has helmed the Ballard Partners office in Fort Lauderdale. He will specialize in lobbying executive branch agencies with Ballard’s D.C. office.

Ballard is a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist and Republican fundraiser. He was the Florida lobbyist for the Trump Organization and was the Florida finance chairman for Trump’s presidential campaign, then a member of the finance committee for the Trump transition.

Shortly after Trump took office, Ballard opened a Washington office. Among his hires: former Palm Beach County Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, who heads the firm’s international affairs practice.