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That episode serves as a stark reminder of how partisan politics can imbue even basic government responses to a disaster, a phenomenon that has renewed relevance in the wake of a new tragedy in Florida, where the terrifying collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside may have cost 140 lives or more.

On Thursday, Democrat Joe Biden will make his first trip to Florida as president to meet with the families of the dead and missing. He will likely appear beside Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen as a top-tier potential presidential candidate who might challenge Biden’s reelection in three years. Insiders in both administrations say they’re focusing on the crisis in Surfside, not on scoring political points.

But regardless of how the governor, president and staffs comport themselves, there are political pitfalls and consequences that have lasting electoral effects, as the 2012 relationship between Christie and Obama showed. Although the scope and scale of the two disasters are utterly different — Sandy killed fewer people than died in Surfside, but the storm caused wider devastation necessitating much more federal aid — the partisan political considerations are similar: Should DeSantis appear with Biden? Should they shake hands or even hug? If either man uses the occasion to make a political argument, how should the other respond?

“The irony was people were calling saying [Christie] should put politics first, not his constituents: Put politics first, don’t appear with the president, don’t ask for help,” recalled DuHaime.

The White House and Florida governor’s office in Tallahassee are in talks to figure out each man’s schedule and whether and how each man will appear together on camera — essentially, what political professionals call the “optics” of such visits — at the same time the agencies under them are coordinating their response. DeSantis isn’t expected to greet the president at the airport, as Christie did in 2012, according to those familiar with DeSantis’ thinking.

“The likeliest scenario is the president, the governor, the head of FEMA and the mayor examining the site together or meeting with first responders on scene,” said one source familiar with the discussions between Tallahassee and Washington who was granted anonymity to speak freely.

“The fact is, we can’t escape the politics and the knowledge that, especially as time passes and the context of the disaster change, people rewrite history,” the source added, noting that there’s another complication for the governor: former President Donald Trump, a close ally of DeSantis who is still bitterly opposed to Biden after losing election in November and is scheduled to hold a Saturday rally in Florida.

Another factor in the discussions are the vastly different personalities of Biden and DeSantis.

DeSantis has quickly risen to power in Florida politics and built a brand as a sharp-elbowed partisan warrior. He has been widely praised by Republicans and Democrats for his handling of the Surfside tragedy even after briefly heading to the Panhandle city of Pensacola the day after the condo collapse to announce the dispatching of state law enforcement officers to the border with Mexico. Biden, who has made bipartisanship a mantra for his administration, is primarily coming down as the Consoler-in-Chief, a man who has buried a wife, daughter and son over the years and established an identity as an avuncular figure with an instinctual empathy that connects deeply with grieving people.

“He connects with people and empathizes with their shared sense of loss and grief. He knows the families need to be consoled in these times,” said a senior White House adviser of Biden who was not authorized to speak on the record. “He’ll bring a sense of compassion and leadership. That’s the reason he’s going.”

The White House held off on announcing Biden’s trip because presidential visits are massive and complicated endeavors that can draw resources and time away from first responders, and the president did not want to hamper search-and-rescue operations in any way. His trip is a grim reminder that many of the missing are probably now presumed dead from the collapse, which state officials say is the third-largest structural failure in modern U.S. history, behind the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.

A DeSantis adviser also not authorized to speak on the record said, “The governor is waiting to hear more about the schedule from the White House,” adding that “it’s no problem to appear at the site with the president. We’re here every day and welcome him.”

DeSantis, however, has canceled his planned appearance Saturday at Trump’s rally in Sarasota, on the other side of the coast, but the governor denied a recent Washington Examiner report that DeSantis is in a “feud” with the former president over the event.

“That’s not true,” DeSantis said, according to an adviser who discussed the story with him. Two sources close to Trump who are familiar with the event’s planning also disputed the account.

The politics of disaster are well-known in the hurricane-prone state. Former Gov. Jeb Bush saw his poll numbers notably rise after eight storms damaged the state in 2004 and 2005. Former Gov. Rick Scott also was a ubiquitous presence before and after hurricanes, notably wearing a blue U.S. Navy cap when out surveying damage. Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio, who lives in Miami, have been on scene in Surfside along with a host of local officials.

Yet even amid the catastrophe, there’s little trust and no connections between the administrations in Washington and Tallahassee.

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“Usually, all these details get worked out between the governor’s office and the White House, but the White House and the governor’s office have no relationship. None. Zero,” said Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat who recently stepped down as the head of the Florida Department of Emergency Management under DeSantis, and who was once general counsel for the disaster-response business AshBritt, which was a major contractor cleaning up the debris from Sandy in 2012.

“DeSantis already spoke to President Biden on the phone, the first time they’ve spoken since he became president, and he thanked Biden for the federal disaster declaration at one of the first press conferences,” Moskowitz said. “While that’s not the Chris Christie hug of Obama on the tarmac — the hug felt round the world — it’s the first acknowledgment of the president by DeSantis. On display here could be the president running for reelection in three years and the Republican nominee. They’re putting politics aside. But the pressure on them from the inside and the folks on social media trying to make it about politics is always there.”

In his role as a bipartisan disaster-response expert, Moskowitz also played a behind-the-scenes shuttle-diplomacy role between the DeSantis administration and state and local Democrats, whom he advised to back off criticisms of the governor for not instantly declaring a state of emergency after the collapse of the building about 1:30 a.m. one week ago.

The political chatter began to intensify hours after the collapse when Biden said at a Thursday afternoon press conference that he was ready to approve federal help but DeSantis had not asked for it.

“I’m waiting for the governor to ask or to declare an emergency. Especially as we learn more about what might happen with the rest of the building,” Biden told reporters, prompting Twitter to light up with Democratic criticisms of DeSantis. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, a Democrat, soon tweeted that DeSantis needed to issue a state emergency declaration.

But Cava had failed to issue a local order first, which usually begins the process for disaster response that’s supposed to start locally, run through the state and then the federal government. She then issued the local order almost two hours later. DeSantis approved the declaration later that night and Biden followed up with his own order Friday.

The situation underscored the lack of trust and communication between the two partisan sides as well as a lack of understanding of the nuances of disaster response and disaster declarations — especially on social media — according to Moskowitz and Craig Fugate, the former head of FEMA under Obama who also was Florida’s emergency management chief under former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.

In this disaster, they say, the declarations essentially just make it easier for federal money to flow, but FEMA-sanctioned search-and-rescue operations had begun instantly because Miami-Dade County is the only place in the United States to have two of the nation’s 28 urban search-and-rescue task forces under FEMA authority.

When a Washington Post reporter suggested Saturday on Twitter that search-and-rescue response was hampered by DeSantis’ Thursday evening declaration, DeSantis’ press office angrily denounced it; Moskowitz took to Twitter and channeled a favorite word of Biden’s by calling the claim “malarkey.”

“It’s bullshit,” Fugate told POLITICO.

Since those initial hiccups in communication, DeSantis and Cava have stood side by side along with the congresswoman representing the area, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former head of the Democratic National Committee. Cava has earned particularly high marks, including from DeSantis allies, who credit her for informative press conference and a solutions-first style of governance in calling for an examination of all condominiums for structural problems.

A top Democrat who advised Biden’s campaign and political operation said a political focus group they coincidentally conducted Thursday night was consumed by the discussion of the condo collapse and the policy and political questions it raised.

“There’s a contrast between problem-solvers and deniers here, which is a long-term contrast that could emerge looking to 2024,” the adviser said. “This is raising a series of fundamental questions. How do you deny the need for regulation and tough enforcement? How do you deny the need for infrastructure investment, both private and public? How do you deny the existence of climate change? That is a very vivid contrast. It won’t play out in this meeting but it will be set up by this meeting and what follows.”

For now, though, those issues are playing out behind the scenes privately or among partisans on social media.

“The bottom line is they’re doing the right thing, and if people criticize them for it, the politics will take care of themselves,” said DuHaime, the Christie adviser. “Why not do the right thing? Helping people in a building collapse is not a partisan thing.”



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Donald Trump

Mary Trump hints on Trump Running For President In 2024

“…Donald gets the message that if he runs, he can’t lose…”

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Mary Trump has changed her tune about the possibility of her uncle, Donald Trump, running for president again in 2024.

Trump’s niece – one of his most vocal critics – has repeatedly cast doubt on the idea. But two things now point to a possible run, she told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Tuesday.

“I thought that (he wouldn’t run again) for a long time because he lost so badly to Joe Biden that I didn’t think that he’d ever want to put himself in a position of losing again,” said Mary Trump.

“And I think that would have been the case, if not for two things,” she continued.

Trump said her uncle “still seems to be getting away with everything, right?”

Second, the GOP “is trying to engineer a system in which the minority can come into power, because of all of these… voter suppression bills that are being passed in every single state,” she said.

“So, If they are successful in… rigging the system even more in their favor and Donald gets the message that if he runs, he can’t lose… then I’m not so sure and that’s pretty depressing,” she added.

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Donald Trump

Trump’s Ohio Candidate Wins Republican Primary Election

“Tonight, Republicans across Ohio’s 15th Congressional District sent a clear message to the nation that President Donald J. Trump is, without a doubt, the leader of our party,” Carey said in a statement.

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A candidate endorsed by Donald Trump won a special Republican primary race for a U.S. House seat in Ohio on Tuesday, bolstering the former president’s efforts to steer election outcomes heading into the 2022 congressional races.

Coal industry consultant and lobbyist Mike Carey defeated 10 other candidates in a crowded GOP primary to replace former Representative Steve Stivers, who resigned in May to lead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, according to results from The Associated Press. Carey will now face state Representative Allison Russo, who won the Democratic primary, in the Nov. 2 special general election to fill the seat.

In a special Democratic primary for another open congressional seat in Ohio that became a proxy fight between the party’s progressive and centrist wings over support for President Joe Biden, establishment-backed Shontel Brown defeated Nina Turner and 11 other candidates, according to the Associated Press.

Carey’s victory comes a week after Susan Wright, whom Trump endorsed to replace her late husband, former U.S. Representative Ron Wright, lost a runoff election in Texas to Republican state Representative Jake Ellzey. Trump has regularly said that almost every candidate he supports wins easily and that his endorsement is the most powerful and sought-after in politics.

Another Trump-backed candidate losing in consecutive weeks would have prompted questions about the former president’s political operation and ability to influence 2022 midterm election races, as well as his grip on the Republican Party as he holds out the prospect of running again for president in 2024.

“Tonight, Republicans across Ohio’s 15th Congressional District sent a clear message to the nation that President Donald J. Trump is, without a doubt, the leader of our party,” Carey said in a statement.

In the special Democratic primary to replace Marcia Fudge, who resigned in March to become Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary, Brown, a Cuyahoga County councilwoman and Democratic chairwoman, topped Turner, who was a national co-chair of Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign. Brown will face Republican nominee Laverne Gore in the Nov. 2 special general election, but the Cleveland-area district is solidly Democratic.

Turner had the backing of Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, while Brown was supported by establishment Democrats such as 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, whose endorsement of Biden helped him win the party’s nomination.

Brown build an early lead with the absentee and in-person votes cast before Tuesday and held off Turner’s support with votes cast on Tuesday, according to unofficial totals reported by AP. Spending for television and radio ads by Brown and outside groups supporting her in the final eight days before the primary topped that for Turner, according to Medium Buying, a firm that tracks ad spending.

In the Republican primary for Stivers’ seat, Trump joined a tele-rally for Carey, a consultant at American Consolidated Natural Resources Inc. and past president of the Ohio Coal Associati on, on July 20 and again on Monday night, and a Trump-based super PAC reported spending more than $417,000 on TV and digital ads, text messaging and emailing in a last-minute push for Carey, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.

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“A lot of people are watching this one, it’s a big deal. So please get out and vote for Mike Carey,” Trump said on Monday. In a statement after Carey’s victory on Tuesday, Trump called it a “great Republican win” for Carey and said “thank you to Ohio and all of our wonderful American patriots.”The latest in global politicsGet insight from reporters around the world in the Balance of Power newsletter.EmailSign UpBloomberg may send me offers and promotions.

There were other prominent GOP endorsements competing with Trump’s. Stivers backed Ohio Representative Jeff LaRe and aired campaign ads for him; Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and his affiliated super PAC supported former state Representative Ron Hood; the Republican organization of Franklin County, which includes Columbus, endorsed state Senator Stephanie Kunze; and Ruth Edmonds had the backing of the Right Women PAC led by Debbie Meadows, wife of former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Bob Peterson, a farmer who has represented parts of the district as a state senator, touted endorsements from 150 local GOP leaders and Ohio Right to Life.

The sprawling district encompasses all or parts of 12 counties and includes Columbus suburbs and parts of rural Appalachia. Trump carried the solidly Republican-leaning district with 57% of the vote in 2020, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

Carey won 37% of the vote unofficially with 96% of precincts reporting, according to AP, easily topping Hood, Peterson and LaRe, who all had about 13% in an August race with low turnout. Carey was on track to win all but one of the counties in the district.

Before Tuesday’s primary, Carey had cited a June poll of likely GOP primary voters by Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio that showed his support jumped from 20% to 52% when voters were told about Trump’s endorsement.

“When people know that President Trump has endorsed me, they’re going to vote for me,” Carey said.

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Rep. Waltz slams Biden for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan while Navy veteran remains Taliban hostage

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Florida Rep. Michael Waltz slammed the Biden administration on Tuesday for giving away all “leverage” by pulling American troops from Afghanistan while Navy veteran Mark Frerichs remains a Taliban hostage. 

Waltz, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and is a Green Beret veteran of the war in Afghanistan, stressed that he’s growing more concerned about Frerichs being left behind as the U.S. moves to withdraw its military from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. 

Mark Frerichs is a contractor from Lombard, Illinois, who is believed to have been held for more than a year by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network. Frerichs, a former Navy diver, was living in Kabul for a decade working on construction projects as an engineer when he was abducted, the Washington post reported. 

“The last American troops have pretty much gone home and the Biden administration has given away all of our leverage,” Waltz, R-Fla., told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday. 

“The thing the Taliban wanted the most, and they’ve been asking for it for 20 years, is for American troops to leave.” 

Waltz then noted that the troop withdrawal was not conditioned on Frerichs’ release from custody, which is fueling concerns that the U.S. could lose bargaining power to get him home once its military presence is removed.

“You would have thought before President Biden just yanked everyone out, and we’re seeing the collapse that’s happening now in Afghanistan as we speak, they at least could have gotten one American in exchange,” Waltz stressed. 

Taliban forces are reportedly gaining momentum, pushing the Afghanistan government’s forces out of several districts and taking control of various weapons and military vehicles in the process, while the U.S. withdraws from the country.

U.S. Central Command announced last month that the drawdown is more than 90% complete and handed over seven facilities to the Afghan military. 

The deterioration of the situation on the ground and the resurgence of the Taliban comes nearly 20 years after the U.S. and international forces entered Afghanistan to oust the Taliban, which had harbored Usama bin Laden. 

President Joe Biden’s plan is to fully withdraw from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, on the 20th anniversary of the Al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. planned by bin Laden that led to the lengthy war.

A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. However, the Associated press reported that the Biden administration has said it regards the return of hostages to be a top priority.

For Frerichs’ family, the failure to make his return a factor in the withdrawal of troops is a source of frustration, as is the fact that the Trump administration signed a peace deal in February 2020, just weeks after Frerichs disappeared in Afghanistan while working on engineering projects in the country.

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His sister, Charlene Cakora, reportedly said in a statement in April that the military withdrawal “puts a time stamp on Mark.” 

“My heart breaks for the family,” Waltz said on Tuesday. “You can imagine as they saw that announcement how they felt and their frustration and mine too.” 

He added that he had learned that Frerichs’ family “has repeatedly asked to see President Biden to make their case personally and have been declined.” 

Frerichs’ home-state senators, Illinois Democrats Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, had raised concerns about Frerichs’ situation in a letter to the president earlier this year.

Waltz said “it’s incredibly frustrating” that if Frerichs is located, U.S. helicopters, drones and special forces may not be readily available for a rescue mission. 

The U.S. has not disclosed much about Frerichs’ status, but confirmed in April that active discussions with the Taliban were taking place, according to the Associated Press. 

State Department spokesman Ned Price reportedly said in a statement that U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is working closely with Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, “has continued to press the Taliban for Mr. Frerichs’ release, and continues to raise his status in senior level engagements in Doha and Islamabad.” 

“We place a high priority on Mark Frerichs’ safety and will not stop working until he is safely returned to his family,” the statement continued. 

Sorce : Fox News

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