Sunday, June 24, 2018
Politics

Marco Rubio presses Rex Tillerson on Russia at confirmation hearing

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio aggressively questioned Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson over Russia policy Wednesday and said it was "discouraging" that Tillerson would not label Vladimir Putin a war criminal.

Rubio, R-Fla., was also clearly unhappy with Tillerson's measured response about sanctions, with Tillerson suggesting efforts to build relationships might be preferred.

The tough inquiry follows Rubio's previous expression of concern about Tillerson, who grew close to the Russian president while working for ExxonMobil. Rubio has the potential to scuttle Tillerson's nomination, but it remains to be seen if he will go that far to cross President-elect Donald Trump.

Wearing a stern face during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Rubio pointedly asked Tillerson, "Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?"

Tillerson replied, "I would not use that term."

Rubio then brought up Russian activity in Aleppo, Syria, and that enemies of Putin, including journalists, have ended up dead. Again, Tillerson was more reserved and said he would have to know more.

"None of this is classified," Rubio shot back.

Earlier, Tillerson did express a harder line on Russia, though he blamed an "absence" of U.S. leadership for recent Russian actions. Tillerson called reports of Russian meddling in the election "troubling" and, pressed by Rubio, said it was a "fair assumption" that Putin was involved.

Later Wednesday, Rubio extracted a promise from Tillerson that, if confirmed as secretary of state, he would recommend Trump veto a bill lifting the Cuban embargo.

Toward the end, when Rubio was asking about human rights in Saudi Arabia, Tillerson seemed annoyed.

"Our interests are not different, senator. There seems to be some misunderstanding that somehow I see the world through a different lens, and I do not."

If all 10 Democrats on the committee vote against Tillerson, and Rubio or any other Republican joins them, the nomination would then be referred to the full Senate with "no recommendation."

Attorney general

Black lawmakers said Wednesday that Sen. Jeff Sessions at times has shown hostility toward civil rights, making him unfit to be attorney general, as a 1986 letter from the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. surfaced, strongly expressing opposition to the Alabama senator.

In the second day of confirmation hearings, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Sessions' colleague, and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who was beaten when he marched for civil rights in the 1960s, warned that Sessions could move the country backward if confirmed as Trump's top law enforcement official.

Booker said the "arc of the universe does not just naturally curve toward justice — we must bend it," and the country needs an attorney general who is determined to bend it.

Lewis told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the country needs "someone who's going to stand up, speak up and speak out for the people that need help, the people who have been discriminated against."

On Tuesday, the NAACP released a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King, widow of the civil rights leader, in which she said that Sessions' actions as a federal prosecutor were "reprehensible" and that he used his office "in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters."

Not everyone on the panel criticized Sessions. Three men who had worked with Sessions in Alabama and Washington, all black, testified in support.

Jesse Seroyer, a former U.S. marshal for the Middle District of Alabama, said Sessions is a "good, honest person who is going to give all he has to make sure everyone is treated fairly under the law."

Sessions is expected to easily win confirmation.

Transportation secretary

Elaine Chao, a veteran Cabinet secretary who has served under two Republican presidents, on Wednesday offered remarkably few specifics but many promises of cooperation as she cruised through her confirmation hearing to become transportation secretary.

Democrats on the Senate panel charged with reviewing Chao's nomination made it clear that they have no objections to her, suggesting that she will be easily confirmed in a full Senate vote.

Information from the Associated Press and New York Times was used in this report.

     
Comments
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Published: 06/22/18
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Published: 06/22/18
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18