DeSantis’ original remark Wednesday morning was blasted as racist by Democratic critics and called an example of “gutter” politics by Gillum, who said DeSantis was “taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump.”
“Did you in any way, do you in any way think that was something that was misstated or racist in any way?” Hannity asked.
“It has zero to do with race, Sean. It has everything to do with whether we want Florida to continue to go in a good direction, building off the success or do we want to turn to left-wing, socialist policies, which will absolutely devastate our state?” DeSantis replied.
“And here’s the thing, I believe people should be judged based on their ability and character regardless of race. But it’s because of that that I know that socialism won’t work in Florida. It’s not good for any race, color or creed. So this is not about race. This is about ideas and principles. And I’m not going to let the Democrats and Andrew Gillum try to obscure a debate about whether his tax increases, his single-payer healthcare plan, his desire to abolish ICE — whether that is something that is acceptable for Florida. I don’t think it is and I don’t care what color you are.”
DeSantis didn’t express any regrets or say whether he recognized that the remark could be considered offensive, and Hannity didn’t press him on it.
“He’s following the Trump model to the Nth degree — never apologize for anything,” said University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus.
MacManus predicted DeSantis’ remark will remain an issue throughout the campaign.
“It will be a get-out-the-vote tool for Democrats from now til Nov. 6,” MacManus said.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio fired chief of staff Clint Reed on Saturday night after determining Reed had “violated office policies regarding proper relations between a supervisor and their subordinates.”
In a statement released at 11:48 p.m. Saturday, Rubio said he learned of the allegations Friday afternoon and concluded Saturday they “amounted to threats to withhold employment benefits.” He said he flew from Florida to Washington on Saturday night to terminate Reed’s employment immediately.
During Rubio’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential bid, Reed was his Iowa state director, helping Rubio to a stronger-than-expected third place finish in the Iowa caucuses. When Rubio’s presidential bid ended and he decided to seek re-election to the Senate, Reed was his campaign manager. Reed became chief of staff in Rubio’s Senate office in January 2017.
Here’s the full statement Rubio released late Saturday night:
“Yesterday afternoon, I was made aware, for the first time, of allegations of improper conduct by my Chief of Staff while under the employment of my office. These allegations were reported directly to me instead of our General Counsel or the Congressional Office of Compliance. Immediately upon receiving this complaint, I along with our General Counsel, began an investigation of this matter.
“By early this afternoon, I had sufficient evidence to conclude that while employed by this office, my Chief of Staff had violated office policies regarding proper relations between a supervisor and their subordinates. I further concluded that this led to actions which in my judgement amounted to threats to withhold employment benefits.
“This evening, I traveled from Florida to Washington D.C. and terminated his employment effective immediately.
“We have taken steps to ensure that those impacted by this conduct have access to any services they may require now or in the future. Pursuant to the wishes of those victimized by this conduct, we will not be disclosing any further details about the incidents which occurred. We will be formally notifying the appropriate Congressional and Senate administrative offices of this matter when they return to work Monday morning.”
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.
Twenty-one charities have cancelled fundraising events at President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, most of them in protest of Trump’s equivocal response to the deadly August white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
But Mar-a-Lago will hardly be a ghost town in the upcoming season, says ace Palm Beach Post reporter Alexandra Clough. Private events and other charities have filled the vacuum.
“All I can tell you is we are really doing fine. It will be a good season,” said Bernd Lembcke, Mar-a-Lago’s general manager.
Trump spent about three weeks at Mar-a-Lago between his 2016 election victory and his inauguration, then made seven trips there between February and April as president. He often dropped in on events at the club. The White House hasn’t said when Trump plans to return, but he’s expected to resume regular visits during the 2017-18 social season.
The part-time Palm Beach resident was a frequent Florida visitor during his first 100 days in office . He made seven trips to Florida, logging about 19 days in the Sunshine State or travelling to or from Florida on Air Force One. The bulk of Trump’s Florida time, about 17½ days, was spent in Palm Beach County, where Trump used his Mar-a-Lago estate to host world leaders, order missile strikes in Syria, make key personnel moves and fire off some controversial tweets.
But Trump hasn’t returned to Florida since Easter weekend in April.
There’s been no word yet on whether the president will spend any time in Palm Beach next weekend.
The fact that Trump is choosing Miami to announce Cuba policy suggests the changes he’s making will be pleasing to the Cuban exile community that supports the U.S. embargo and other hard-line policies against the communist island.
As he courted Cuban-American voters during the 2016 campaign, Trump criticized former President Barack Obama for easing restrictions on Cuba.
“I think the deal that Obama is making is a terrible deal for the Cuban people and for the Cuban people that are living here. And I wouldn’t want to do anything with Cuba – that’s why I’ve never done anything with Cuba – I wouldn’t want to do anything with Cuba unless the proper deal is made,” Trump said.
“We need strength. We need strength. We have to have teeth in the deal. This deal is a one-way ticket for Castro and we need strength in this deal. They want us to go there so badly, but we need strength,” Trump said.
Friday was the 15th time Trump has played golf as president, according to Palm Beach Post estimates. The figure is tough to pin down because the White House, no doubt sensitive to Trump’s many past criticisms of former President Barack Obama’s golfing, rarely reveals whether the president is actually swinging a club when he visits Trump International or his other golf properties.
Today is the 86th day of Trump’s presidency. If he is indeed golfing for the 16th time, that’s a rate of once every 5.4 days in office.
Here’s a rundown of the 15 times before today that evidence strongly suggests Trump was playing golf:
• Feb. 4 – Arrived at Trump International Golf Club at 9:33 a.m., left at 2:05 p.m. wearing golf hat and golf shirt.
• Feb. 5 — Arrived at Trump International at 9:27 a.m., left at 2 p.m. wearing golf hat and golf shirt. According to a pool report that day, “the White House shares that while at the Trump International Golf Club, he has had meetings and may play a few holes of golf.”
• Feb. 11 — Arrived at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter at 9:26 a.m. with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Also joined on the course by two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els. Trump and Abe left the club after playing 18 holes at about 1:30 p.m.
• Feb. 12 – Arrived at Trump International at 8:31 a.m., left at 1:49 p.m., appeared to be wearing a golf shirt in the limo ride back to Mar-a-Lago.
• Feb. 18 – Arrived at Trump International at 8:51 a.m., left at 1:16 p.m. Asked the next day if Trump played golf during the 4½-hour visit to the golf club, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “I do believe he played a couple of holes.”
• Feb. 19 — Arrived at Trump International at 8:58 a.m., left at 2:25 p.m. Spokeswoman Sanders: “I know he played a couple of holes this morning, but I’m not going to disclose any of the others that were there.” Golf blog NoLayingUp.com later revealed Trump played 18 holes with four-time major champion Rory McIlroy.
After the McIlroy news, Sanders said the president “intended to play a few holes and decided to play longer. He also had a full day of meetings, calls and interviews for the new NSA (national security adviser)…”
• March 4 — After unleashing a series of early morning tweets accusing Obama of wiretapping him, the president arrived at Trump International at 9:26 a.m. and left at 1:05 p.m. wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and golf shirt. The White House said the president was conducting meetings, taking phone calls and that he “might hit a few balls.”
• March 5 — Arrived at Trump International at 9:02 a.m. and departed at 12:48 a.m. The White House didn’t confirm whether the president played golf during his nearly four hours at the course.
• March 18 — Arrived at Trump International around 10 a.m. and left at 2:44 p.m. The White House said Trump had “meetings and phone calls” at the club and wouldn’t say whether he was golfing. Trump friend Christopher Ruddy later tweeted a picture of the president in the clubhouse in golf attire, including a golfing glove on his left hand.
• March 19 –– Arrived at Trump International at 8:37 a.m. and left at 12:10 p.m. Appeared to be wearing golf shirt and hat on limo ride back to Mar-a-Lago.
• March 25 — Arrived at 11:01 a.m. at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va. Departed at 3:20 p.m. Pictures on social media showed the president in golf shirt, hat and shoes.
• April 2 — At Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., a rare White House-confirmed golf outing with Sen. Rand Paul and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. “They’re discussing a variety of topics, including healthcare,” said White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham.
• April 8 — Arrived at Trump International at 9:05 a.m. and departed at 2:15 p.m. Spotted on the course by Palm Beach Post photographer Allen Eyestone.
MELBOURNE — The man President Donald Trumpsummoned from the crowd at his Saturday rally is a Boynton Beach car salesman who keeps a life-size cardboard cutout of Trump at his house and regularly praises Trump on social media.
Gene Huber, 47, became an instant political everyman celebrity Saturday when Trump spotted him in the crowd and, saying he recognized him from a TV interview, asked him to come on stage and speak to the estimated 9,000 people in a hangar at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport.
After Secret Service agents were told by the president to let him on stage, Huber bounded up and hugged the president, who encouraged him to say a few words.
“Mr. President, thank you, sir. We the people, our movement, is the reason why our president of the United States is standing in front of us today. When President Trump during the election promised all these things that he was going to do for us, I knew he was going to do this for us,” Huber said.
“A star is born,” Trump said as Huber left the stage and the crowd chanted “U.S.A! U.S.A!”
Huber had done TV interviews earlier Saturday proclaiming his support for Trump after showing up at 4 a.m. to be first in line for the 5 p.m. rally.
On Twitter, Huber’s profile picture shows him with a cardboard cutout of Trump.
“I’ve got a 6-foot cardboard box of President Trump in my house and I salute that every single day, and I pray and tell him ‘Mr. President, I prayed for your safety today.’ And I’m not lying. I do that every single day to the president, but its cardboard,” Huber told CNN in an interview after the rally.
CNN is often criticized by Trump and his supporters. At the end of his interview, Huber said: “I appreciate the interview, let’s just be a little, little nicer to our president.”
He also appeared this morning on Fox and Friends — and said he’s already hearing suggestions that his Saturday appearance with the president wasn’t genuine.
“I just want everyone to know this as well: I’m hearing from the left that this was planted, that President Trump made this to happen on purpose, like we set this up. No, it didn’t. It did not happen,” Huber said this morning on Fox and Friends.
“President Trump, I want to thank you so much for that opportunity that you did for me. That just shows us, we the people and our movement, that you care about us, the American people,” Huber said at the end of his interview.
Michelle Kendall with the group Indivisible – The Resistance told the Post earlier this week that protesters want to call Trump’s attention to several pipeline projects in the works in the United States, including the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, and the Sabal Trail pipeline in Florida.
“We are determined to be heard,” Kendall said Saturday night in an email to The Post. “We will not be avoided! This is too important for us to walk away because of a time change.”
Trump and Abe golfed at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, where they were joined by two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, who has a home nearby. After more than four hours on the Jupiter links, Trump and Abe were ferried to Trump International Golf Club near Palm Beach International Airport, where the heads of state spent about two hours before returning to Mar-a-Lago.
Trump, staying at Mar-a-Lago for his second consecutive winter White House weekend, told his Twitter followers Saturday morning that the prime minister and his wife, Akie, are a “wonderful couple!” Later in the day, Trump’s social media accounts featured a picture of the president and Abe high-fiving on the golf course in Jupiter.
Stay with the Palm Beach Post through the weekend for more updates on the president’s visit.
UPDATE, 7:45 p.m.: A protest planned outside the home of Stephen Schwarzman, chair of President Trump’s economic policy forum, was moved to Bingham Island, which sits just west of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, and then called off.
Roughly a dozen demonstrators trying to protest Schwartzman were forced to revise their night after the Secret Service told them they couldn’t take their bus — painted with flowers and a man doing yoga — by Schwartman’s house, which sits south of Mar-a-Lago along South Ocean Drive in Palm Beach.
The group then got turned around and tried to approach the house from the north end of the island, but were stopped at the road closure north of Mar-a-Lago.
The group then took to Bingham Island around 7 p.m. and left shortly after.
Trump was rumored to be going to Schwartzman’s birthday, by people helping organize the party. The event was said to have a two-story tent, camels, dance floor, 600 guests and cost over $20 million.
UPDATE, 5:45 p.m.: The White House released the following statement on President Donald Trump’s day with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “The President enjoyed hosting Prime Minister Abe on the golf course today, which was both relaxing and productive. They had great conversations on a wide range of subjects, and the President looks forward to further discussions with the Prime Minister at dinner this evening.”
Trump and Prime Minister Abe left the golf course about 4:23 p.m., according to pool reports. The president had been scheduled for calls with the presidents of Tunisia and Colombia at 4:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m., respectively. No updates have been sent about those calls or what Trump may have discussed with either president.
UPDATE, 10:20 a.m.: According to a White House press pool email, reporters and photographers are waiting in a filing room at Trump National with doors and windows “covered in black plastic so (they) can’t see out.”
Photographers were instructed not to take pictures on the grounds of a “private club.”
According to the White House Press Pool, they were scheduled to make photo-op stops at the James and Hazel Gates Woodruff Memorial bridge at the entrance to the Japanese gardens; the Karesansui Late Rock Garden; and Yamato Island, the site of the garden’s bonsai collection.