Thursday, July 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Responsible Republicans should stop defending Trump

President Donald Trump's administration has careened from chaos to free fall after disclosures the president provided classified intelligence to Russia and reportedly asked then-FBI director Jim Comey to shut down the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. These reckless acts further undermine national security and Trump's credibility. The Justice Department's appointment late Wednesday of a special counsel in the case is a positive development. But Vice President Mike Pence and Republican congressional leaders should stop looking the other way.

Trump's disclosure during a closed Oval Office meeting with senior Russian officials of a new terrorist threat to air travel was breathtaking for its vanity and lack of discretion. In bragging of his access to secret information, he shared details of an Islamic State threat involving laptop computers on airplanes with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, reportedly obtained by Israel, was disclosed without Israel's consent, and it was considered so sensitive it was restricted even among U.S. authorities.

As Trump defended his blabbing to the Russians in the Oval Office, reports surfaced that Trump had asked Comey to end the FBI investigation into Flynn. The bureau at the time was intensifying its examination of any links between Russia and the Trump campaign team. "I hope you can let this go," Trump told Comey, according to a memo the director reportedly wrote shortly after meeting with Trump. Comey created a paper trail and shared it with senior FBI officials out of apparent concern that the president was improperly trying to influence the investigation.

The White House tried to deny Trump's security breach, then rationalized his actions as within his authority after Trump was contradicted on the first flimsy excuse. It also claims the president "has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation." Trump fired Comey last week, nearly three months after the private meeting that took place.

These developments go far beyond the previous erratic, impulsive behavior of a president unmoved by facts or conventional norms. The disclosure of state secrets to Russia raises national security concerns even if it was not illegal, especially if U.S. allies and America's intelligence services respond by holding back what they tell this president. And Trump's interaction with Comey, if confirmed, could amount to an obstruction of justice.

The appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel should shed a bright light on the case. But it doesn't excuse Republican congressional leaders for burying their heads in the sand. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked for "less drama" from the White House. House Speaker Paul Ryan cautioned against "rushing to judgment" and questioned why Comey — if his account were true — "didn't take action at the time." Sen. Marco Rubio meekly offered that Congress has an obligation to "look into" the charges while minimizing the White House's problem as one of "messaging."

The issue isn't messaging but what the messenger in chief said and did. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House oversight committee, asked the FBI on Tuesday to provide all memos, notes and recordings of any communication between Comey and the president. Two Senate committees followed suit on Wednesday and invited Comey to testify publicly.

Trump's latest crises come as he prepares for his first official overseas trip. It's time Pence and congressional Republicans move quickly to stabilize the situation, reassure allies and stop defending the indefensible actions of this unstable presidency.

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Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

July in Florida. The height of tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So it’s an awfully inconvenien...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Florida’s clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

Donald Trump’s resounding victory in the 2016 presidential election came at least in part because the New York businessman grasped the disconnect between how millions of Americans and the political establishments of both parties felt about immigratio...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Voters who looked to Donald Trump to make America great might want to look at their wallets. The president escalated his global trade war this week, threatening new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports — everything from seafood, beef and ...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseball’s future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18