Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott weigh in on Kavanaugh

Gov. Rick Scott (left) and Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio all weighed in this morning on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson announced on Twitter this morning that he will vote against confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court while Republican Sen. Marco Rubio issued a lengthy statement supporting Kavanaugh.

Nelson’s challenger in the November Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, responded to Nelson’s announcement by accusing him of being a puppet of Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. Scott later issued a statement supporting Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

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Nelson’s decision wasn’t surprising as he also voted against President Donald Trump‘s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the high court last year.

Scott tweeted from his campaign account that Nelson was “always going to do exactly what your party leaders told you do do. You decided no before you even knew who the nominee was. Your vote does not even belong to you – it belongs to @SenSchumer.”

Later, Scott issued a statement saying he found Christine Blasey Ford‘s testimony that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s when both were teenagers “convincing.” But Scott said he also found Kavanaugh’s denial convincing and supports his confirmation.

Scott said both Ford and Kavanaugh “have been used and abused as pawns in a partisan Washington political theater, which is clearly the product of career politicians playing games at the expense of these individuals’ lives and reputations. This hearing was a very good example of why we need term limits in Washington.

“I don’t know what happened 36 years ago in suburban Maryland. The truth is that none of us really know. So, I have to go with what I do know – Judge Kavanaugh has been a fair and brilliant Judge, one of our nation’s very best. He should be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

In his statement, Rubio said: “This entire ordeal is indicative of something that goes beyond the nomination before us. It has revealed how our culture has become increasingly sick and demented, unmoored from the values upon which this great nation was founded and which have allowed our society to flourish.”

Rubio said both Ford and Kavanaugh offered testimony that was “unequivocal, compelling and heartbreaking.”

Rubio added: “Under these circumstances, I must make my decision on the basis of evidence and established facts. Especially since voting against Judge Kavanaugh would no longer be simply a rejection of his nomination, but an endorsement of the serious allegations against him.

“I will not vote against the nomination of someone who I am otherwise inclined to support and in the process add credence to charges which have already done permanent damage to his reputation, on the basis of allegations for which there is no independent corroboration and which are at odds with everything else we have heard about his character.”


Rick Scott: Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford ‘must receive a fair hearing’

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, rivals in November, both say Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations should be heard. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November, weighed in this morning on Christine Blasey Ford‘s accusation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her as a high school student in the early 1980s.

“Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious,” Scott said in a statement that also rips California Sen. Diane Feinstein and Nelson.

Nelson and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio both called Monday for Ford’s allegations to get a full airing by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Here’s Scott’s full statement: “The Judiciary committee needs to seek the truth here. Truth is not partisan, and truth is more important than politics. These very serious allegations should have been investigated months ago. But Democrat Senator Feinstein pulled a slick Washington trick and intentionally hid this from the Senate during the hearings. Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious. And Judge Kavanaugh deserves to have the chance to clear his name. In related news, someone must have told Senator Nelson to start doing his job now, and he is finally saying he’s interested in meeting with the Judge.”

Nelson on Monday tweeted: “I’m still waiting for a meeting with Judge Kavanaugh I’ve requested four times. I have a number of questions for him. Meantime, I agree there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him. I believe the people involved should appear before the Judiciary committee.”

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio also weighed in Monday via Twitter:

“Dr. Ford has made very troubling allegations that must be fully heard. Judge Kavanaugh has strongly denied them & should be given the opportunity to respond. I agree with the decision by @ChuckGrassley to provide both parties the opportunity to do so,” Rubio tweeted.

Florida Republicans Scott, Rubio, DeSantis dispute Trump on Puerto Rico deaths

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has made seven trips to Puerto Rico since Hurricane Irma and had Puerto Rico Lt. Gov. and Secretary of State Luis Rivera-Marin (left) at the kickoff of his Senate campaign in April. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

As Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolinas this morning, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to claim that official estimates of nearly 3,000 deaths from last year’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico were a Democratic concoction “to make me look as bad as possible.”

Trump’s claims drew widespread outrage and were disputed by Florida’s leading Republicans: Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio and gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis.

Trump touched off the controversy before 8 a.m. in consecutive tweets.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…” the president tweeted.

Trump added: “…..This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

Democrats blasted the president, with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson calling his claims “shameful.”

Republicans defended the official death estimates.

“These days even tragedy becomes political,” said Rubio on Twitter. “3k more Americans died in #PuertoRico after Hurricane than during comparable periods before. Both Fed & local gov made mistakes. We all need to stop the blame game & focus on recovery, helping those still hurting & fixing the mistakes.”

While Rubio didn’t mention Trump, Scott — who has made multiple visits to Puerto Rico since the hurricane — was more direct.

“I disagree with @POTUS– an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed,” said Scott, a longtime Trump ally who has distanced himself from the president since launching a Senate campaign. “I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching. I’ll continue to help PR.”

DeSantis, whose nomination over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was largely due to Trump’s support, carefully distanced himself from the president.

“Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson. “Ron is focused on continuing to help our Puerto Rican neighbors recover and create opportunities for those who have moved to Florida succeed.”


Running mates: Gillum taps Chris King; DeSantis picks Jeanette Nunez

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum tapped Chris King (left) as his running mate; Republican Ron DeSantis named state Rep. Jeanette Nunez.

Florida’s gubernatorial nominees — Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis — announced their running mates this morning.

Gillum tapped one of his Democratic primary rivals, Winter Park businessman Chris King, who finished fifth in last week’s primary. Politics is full of phony professions of friendship and respect, but Gillum and King seemed to genuinely like one another on the campaign trail. They were also the two most liberal candidates in the field.

DeSantis named four-term state Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami. She is the first Cuban-American woman to appear on a gubernatorial ticket in Florida history and adds a Spanish-speaking component to the Republican ticket.

The selection of Nunez was first reported by Politico late Wednesday in an article that also noted that she supported Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2016 presidential primary and ripped then-candidate Donald Trump.

“Wake up Florida voters, Trump is the biggest con-man there is. #nosubstance #anti-Israel #supportsKKK #nevertrump
VOTE @marcorubio #RUBIO,” Nunez tweeted on March 3, 2016. The tweet was deleted later Wednesday night.

Bill Nelson flips, says he’ll oppose Trump nominee for federal bench

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson announced this afternoon he will oppose President Donald Trump‘s nomination of Florida Judge Allen Winsor for the federal bench — months after Nelson joined Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in supporting Winsor to the administration.

Winsor has come under attack from liberal groups because, in his role as solicitor general under Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, he defended Florida’s voter-approved ban on gay marriages before it was eventually overturned.

After working for Bondi, Winsor was appointed in 2016 to the Tallahassee-based First District Court of Appeal by Gov. Rick Scott — who is challenging Nelson for Senate this year. Trump nominated Winsor for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

The Associated Press reports that under Florida’s nominating process, judicial candidates are evaluated by a committee that sends them on to the state’s two senators. Both Nelson and Rubio recommended Winsor and three other names to Trump. Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown told the AP that Nelson and his staff interviewed Winsor before his name was submitted to the president.

In a statement today, Nelson said: “Because of the information brought up by the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will vote against the confirmation of Allen Winsor. For years, Florida’s two senators have relied on a bipartisan Judicial Nominating Commission to select our state’s judicial nominees. This system, which was designed to take politics out of the process, only works if Florida’s two senators agree to respect the commission’s choices and jointly send the names they choose to the White House for consideration. This is exactly what we did in the case of Allen Winsor.”

Nelson did not specify what the information brought up by the Judiciary Committee was.

Scott’s campaign, which has already been branding Nelson a “party-line” politician, slammed Nelson’s announcement today.

“Bill Nelson is so partisan that a small group of out-of-state Democrats can force him to vote against a Floridian that he interviewed, recommended and supported,” said Scott campaign spokeswoman Lauren Schenone. “Despite claiming to be independent, Bill Nelson’s own actions show that when Democrats like party boss Chuck Schumer say ‘jump,’ Nelson’s only question is ‘how high?’”


Marco Rubio to King’s Academy grads: ‘Rebel against our modern culture’

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio speaking at graduation ceremonies for The King’s Academy, from a video posted by the school.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio urged graduates of The King’s Academy to rebel against a culture he described as overly concerned with wealth, fame, approval and bitter political fighting.

Rubio spoke Thursday night at the private Christian school’s commencement ceremonies at Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens. The school posted Rubio’s remarks on YouTube.

Even if one isn’t a Christian, Rubio said, “I believe it is an indisputable truth that Jesus of Nazareth was the most influential person who ever lived. He had no money, he had no political power, he had no army. Didn’t even have an Instagram account….He led a counter-cultural revolution that ended up overthrowing the most powerful empire in the world.”

Two millennia later, Rubio said, “My advice to you is to rebel against our modern culture and embrace instead the one that has changed the world.”

Rubio told the graduates that following his advice would be difficult.

“The values that (Jesus) both taught and modeled are as unpopular today as they were in his time. Frankly it is something I struggle with and admit to not always getting right. After all, I’m in a line of work where I need at least more than half the people to like me. And I’m in this line of work at a time when so many people — sadly even those who confess to being followers of Jesus — reject many of the things he taught,” Rubio said.

“The more someone lives like Jesus, the more they exhibit true love,” said Rubio. Echoing Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, Rubio also mentioned patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as Christian attributes at odds with modern culture.

“It’s a culture where we increasingly separate ourselves from our neighbors, from our lifelong friends and even from family because of who they voted for or what they believe in,” Rubio said.

“This is the broader culture that, sadly, you inherit, but it does not have to be the culture you live in and it does not have to be the culture you leave behind,” Rubio said. “And so I ask you once again, rebel. Refuse to conform to this. It will most definitely change the course of your life. And if by some chance it catches on others copy you, then who knows, it may even end up changing and saving our country and saving and changing the world.”




Rubio supports Trump, ‘all policy options’ for dealing with Venezuela

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with Lilian Tintori, the wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, at the White House in 2017.

After leftist strongman Nicolas Maduro declared victory in a Venezuelan election on Sunday, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio called Maduro’s regime a national security threat and said “I now fully support President Trump’s position that all policy options to help return Venezuela to a path of democracy and prosperity should be considered.”

Oil-rich Venezuela is in the midst of an economic collapse and a mass exodus of its citizens.

Rubio didn’t explicitly mention a military option — but Trump did last year.

“We have many options for Venezuela, and by the way, I’m not going to rule out a military option,” Trump said last August. “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary.”

Here’s the full statement Rubio released Sunday night:

“Until a constitutional and democratic order is restored in Venezuela, the Maduro regime should face increasing isolation from the international community.

“The democracies gathered at the G20 summit this week in Argentina should collectively reject the results of the fraudulent election conducted by the regime today.

“In addition, the humanitarian crisis created by the Maduro regime poses a national security threat to the United States and our allies in the region. I now fully support President Trump’s position that all policy options to help return Venezuela to a path of democracy and prosperity should be considered. This includes any measures that will open the way for the delivery of international humanitarian aid to be delivered to the people of Venezuela.”

Trump returning to Florida ‘very soon’ — a look at past visits from Pensacola to Key West

President Donald Trump will be descending the stairs from Air Force One in Florida “very soon.” (Michael Ares / The Palm Beach Post)

President Donald Trump — who didn’t make it to the Palm Beach County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner at Mar-a-Lago in March — made a splash at the Hillsborough County GOP’s Lincoln Day dinner on Saturday night in Tampa.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the president phoned his friend, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Bondi held her phone to the microphone so the audience could hear Trump say: “I’ll be there fairly soon. We’ll hold a special event there in the near future … We’ll be in Tampa very soon.”

A big question: Will Trump appear with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis? Trump tweeted in December that DeSantis “would make a GREAT Governor of Florida,” but otherwise hasn’t weighed in on the gubernatorial primary between DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Trump has made 17 trips to Palm Beach as president, covering at least a portion of 71 days.

He’s also made several appearances elsewhere in Florida as president. Most of those coincided with trips to Mar-a-Lago, but two did not: a trip to Miami last June and to Southwest Florida after Hurrricane Irma last September.

Trump’s non-Palm Beach County visits to Florida have included:

Tampa — A Feb. 6, 2017 visit, along with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, to the headquarters of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base;

Melbourne — A Feb. 18, 2017 campaign rally in Melbourne during which Trump summoned Boynton Beach resident and Trump super-fan Gene Huber to the stage;

Orlando — A March 3, 2017 visit with Education Sec. Betsy DeVos, Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio to  St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando to promote school choice programs;

Miami — A June 16, 2017 visit to Little Havana to sign trade and travel restrictions on communist Cuba. Also in attendance were Vice President Mike Pence, Rubio and Scott; Trump publicly urged Scott to run for Senate in 2018;

Fort Myers and Naples — A Sept. 14, 2017 visit after Hurricane Irma to inspect recovery efforts, in which Trump, accompanied by Pence and first lady Melania Trump, made another public appeal to Scott to run for Senate;

Pensacola — A Dec. 8, 2017 rally in which Trump promoted the campaign of accused child molester Roy Moore in a special U.S. Senate election in Alabama. DeSantis flew from Washington to Pensacola with the president and gave an impassioned introductory speech at the rally. Two weeks later, Trump made his “GREAT Governor” tweet about DeSantis;

Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale — A Feb. 16 visit with Melania Trump — two days after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland — with recovering victims at Broward Health North Hospital and then with first responders at the Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Fort Lauderdale ;

Hialeah — An April 16 roundtable discussion on tax cuts at the city’s Bucky Dent Gymnasium;

Key West — An April 19 trip to Naval Station Key West to visit the Joint Interagency Task Force-South with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and others.



U.S. fulfills Trump Jerusalem embassy pledge; Florida Republicans jubilant, Dems restrained

Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted this picture of himself with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and called the opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem “a great day for Florida, Israel and the United States.”

The U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and formally opened its embassy there today — fulfilling a campaign pledge of President Donald Trump and a stated goal of many politicians in both parties.

“Big day for Israel. Congratulations!” Trump tweeted this morning.

“Today is truly a historic day for America’s unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel,” said Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “…The unequivocal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital comes after presidents in both parties stalled our embassy’s rightful relocation to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. So I truly appreciate the Trump Administration for implementing U.S. law and finally moving our embassy.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who’s in Jerusalem for the occasion, tweeted a picture of himself with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and declared himself “Proud to join @netanyahu to celebrate the U.S. Embassy being moved to Jerusalem, where it belongs. Today is a great day for Florida, Israel and the United States. FL will continue to stand with Israel.”

Republican Scott is running for U.S. Senate against three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who also tweeted his support for the embassy move — while adding that problems remain in the Middle East.

“Big day for Israel,” President Donald Trump said of the embassy opening. Here’s Charlton Heston depicting another big day for Israel from the 1956 epic “The Ten Commandments.”

“Today we celebrate the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to its appropriate place in Jerusalem. But the hard work of helping bring about a secure and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians must go on,” Nelson said.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, also tempered her expression of support for the move.

“Opening the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, symbolizes the enduring friendship between our nations,” said Frankel in a statement released by her office. “While I join Americans and Israelis in celebrating, I remain disappointed by the absence of a serious commitment to the two-state solution. Divorced from a broader peace process, relocation risks more violence between Israelis and Palestinians. I urge the Administration to put forward a plan with the goal of two states for two peoples, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition.”

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, a U.S. Army combat veteran who once volunteered with the Israeli Defense Forces, said the U.S. is “finally recognizing the truth by moving our embassy to the center of freedom in the Middle East and the capital of Israel, Jerusalem. I chose to volunteer alongside the IDF in Israel after serving in the Army because the United States and Israel share the common values of freedom and democracy. The Hamas-led terrorism erupting around the Middle East reaffirms that those who oppose Israel’s sovereignty are fueled by a murderous and hate-driven ideology in stark opposition to these values. Today’s move sends the clear message that the United States will support our allies and won’t tolerate affronts to human dignity.”

No congressional Democrats attended the ceremony in Jerusalem. But U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, said he would have gone.

“While I wasn’t there today, I would have loved to have participated in this historic and moving embassy dedication. Despite reaching out to the Administration, I was not invited to be a part of the official American delegation, but I look forward to visiting our embassy in Jerusalem next month,” Deutch said.


These Democrats opposed the Iran nuclear deal, but now they’re for it

Democratic U.S. Reps. (from left) Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach and Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach opposed the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 but criticized President Donald Trump for pulling out of it Tuesday.

Three Democrats in Palm Beach County’s U.S. House delegation broke with former President Barack Obama and their party leadership in 2015 to oppose the Iran nuclear deal.

So with President Donald Trump announcing Wednesday that the U.S. is pulling out of the agreement, were Reps. Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings happy?

Not at all.

All three issued statements denouncing Trump’s decision.

Click here to read their explanations as well as reactions from Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott.