1. Florida Politics

Convention notebook: Meredith McIver; Ben Carson on 'Lucifer'; Beruff; Giuiliani; and flag burning

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson delivers a speech on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party’s nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18..  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) 655469731
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19: Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson delivers a speech on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party’s nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) 655469731
Published Jul. 21, 2016

Writer takes blame for familiar speech

A speechwriter for Donald Trump's company took blame Wednesday and offered to resign over nearly identical passages from Melania Trump's Republican convention speech and Michelle Obama's remarks eight years ago.

The speechwriter, however, made it clear that Melania Trump knew that the passages she read to an enthralled convention Monday night had come from Michelle Obama.

"A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama," the speechwriter, Meredith McIver, said of Mrs. Trump in a statement Wednesday from the campaign. "Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama's speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech."

Donald Trump rejected McIver's resignation. "She's a terrific person," he told ABC News on Wednesday. "She just made a mistake. And I thought it was terrific the way she came forward and said look, it was a mistake that I made."

McIver said, "I did not check Mrs. Obama's speeches. This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant."

McIver, 65, was described in the statement as an "in-house staff writer at the Trump Organization." She started at the Trump Organization in 2001, according to her profile on the website of a booking agency called the All American Speakers Bureau. Before that, she worked on Wall Street, according to the profile.

"I asked to put out this statement because I did not like seeing the way this was distracting from Mr. Trump's historic campaign for president and Melania's beautiful message and presentation," McIver said.

Carson discusses Lucifer comments

Ben Carson discussed his comments from Tuesday night on Hillary Clinton's association with left-wing activist Saul Alinsky, in an interview Wednesday with the Washington Post.

In his speech to the convention, Carson said Clinton's college-age association with Alinsky constituted a foreboding dance with the devil.

"Let me tell you something about Saul Alinsky. He wrote a book called Rules for Radicals. On the dedication page, it acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom. Now think about that," Carson told the convention hall.

Moments later, Carson once again hammered the point: "Are we willing to elect someone who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer? Think about that."

Here is a portion of the Post's interview:

Washington Post: Why Lucifer?

Carson: Well, Lucifer is mentioned in that book as an admirable character, by someone Hillary Clinton greatly admires. You don't just let something like that pass by and say, 'Oh, well, that doesn't mean anything.' Things that she advocates are antithetical to Christian values: killing babies, redefining institutions established by God. My point is that this is her mentor, a person who admires Lucifer. And then you look at her actions and how they're not consistent with Christianity but with the opposite of Christianity. You draw the lines to connect the dots.

Washington Post: So you're drawing a line from the devil to Hillary Clinton?

Carson: I would just say that it's not consistent with Christian ethics in the least. That's the line that I'm drawing. Secular progressivism, which attempts to remove God from the public square, is not consistent with the principles that established this country.

Beruff shows up to support Trump

"I'm just here to support the nominee," Carlos Beruff said this morning at the Florida delegation breakfast.

Of course his visit here is also designed to help his U.S. Senate campaign, and Beruff has been meeting with grass roots activists and getting some media attention. He's also drawing a contrast with rival Marco Rubio, who stayed in Florida, but addressed the convention via video on Wednesday night.

It's another reminder of the sizable advantage Rubio holds. But Beruff is determined to make it a race and has been spending about $1 million of his own money a week on ads. He says he's getting a good reaction as he travels the state.

Rubio's "got name ID. He's got his own fundraising, the people he'll answer to if he's the Senator from Florida. I won't answer to anybody," Beruff said in an interview. "He's got the establishment in Washington with the false narrative that the only person that can beat Patrick Murphy is him."

Beruff said Rubio is showing he's a politician by maintaining some distance from Trump.

"There's people that really dislike our nominee – obviously I'm not one of them – and those are people that are funding his campaign," Beruff said. "He has to be careful so his spigot doesn't close down. My spigot is my left pocket. He's a politician. That's what they do."

Giuliani: Clinton belongs in jail

Rudy Giuliani fired up the Florida delegation Wednesday morning, casting Bill Clinton as a predator and Hillary Clinton as a crook. The veteran prosecutor said never had a criminal case with so many violations of federal law and Clinton's email case, which the FBI said did not merit charges.

"I would bet my life, if you put me in front of 12 fair and decent Americans and you let me prosecute this case against Hillary Clinton, she would go to jail," the part-time Palm Beach resident declared.

"Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!" the crowd chanted.

Asked about party leaders declining to get behind Donald Trump, Giuliani said he would be supporting Trump even if he did not know him as well as he does.

"How could they possibly want to see Hillary Clinton in the White House, We can't play this game," Giuliani said. "It's not about Jeb Bush, it's not about his ego or whether he feels he was insulted... It's not about Mitt Romney and whether he feels — I don't know what Mitt feels. I never got much feeling from Mitt to start with," said Giuliani, who ran against Romney for the GOP nomination in 2012.

"The establishment of the Republican Party was against Donald Trump. Thank God, because the establishment of the Republican Party hasn't donemuch better than the establishment of the Democratic Party."

Big names, but an early breakfast

The Florida delegation will start the last day of the convention with a high-powered breakfast.

Newly announced speakers are former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, Gov. Rick Scott, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

The downside? The breakfast has been moved up to 7:15 a.m. — an early hour for delegates who will inevitably be bleary-eyed from the night before.

Want a low profile? Blame a storm

Scott's abbreviated appearance at the Tampa convention in 2012 was due to Tropical Storm Isaac. The storm had dissipated by the time he made an appearance, which added to a perception that Scott wasn't very enthusiastic about Mitt Romney's candidacy.

Four years before that, then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist skipped the party's Minneapolis convention because of Tropical Storm Fay, but he sent a videotaped speech. (Fay was a monstrous rain event. You knew it was serious when legislators cancelled fundraisers at the Governor's Club). And in New York City in 2004, Gov. Jeb Bush stayed close to home for obvious reasons: Hurricane Charley had already slammed the state and Frances was on the way (to be followed in that devastating year by Ivan and Jeanne). But even with no storm brewing at the 2000 GOP convention in Philadelphia — where his brother George W. was nominated the first time — Jeb kept a low profile.

Flag-burning protest leads to 17 arrests

Police took more than a dozen people into custody Wednesday as scuffles broke out during a flag-burning protest in the streets outside the Republican National Convention.

It was the most turbulent protest since the four-day convention began on Monday. The chaos briefly prevented delegates and members of the media from getting into the Quicken Loans Arena for the evening's proceedings.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said a total of 17 people were arrested. Two people were charged with felonies for assaulting an officer while the rest face misdemeanors.

The protest took place just outside an entrance to the arena and near a row of popular restaurants where cable news networks had set up for the week.

Carl Dix, a representative of Revolutionary Communist Party, said the group organized the burning of the American flag as a "political statement about the crimes of the American empire. There's nothing great about America."

Officers swarmed the group within seconds after the flag started to burn, and firefighters extinguished it right away. Pushing and shoving broke out, and police began pinning people to the ground and handcuffing them.

"You're on fire! You're on fire, stupid!" a Cleveland officer shouted as he wielded a can of extinguishing spray.

Some in the crowd jeered the officers, yelling, "Blue lives murder!"

About 10 more minutes passed before the crowd was under control.

Comment draws investigation

The Secret Service is investigating a prominent Donald Trump supporter who said Hillary Clinton should be "shot for treason."

Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback says the agency is aware of comments made by New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro. Hoback says the Secret Service "will conduct the appropriate investigation."

Baldasaro said Clinton should be "put in the firing line and shot for treason" over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks says Trump and his campaign don't agree with Baldasaro's remarks.

Baldasaro appears frequently with Trump and serves as an adviser on veteran's issues. He made the remarks Tuesday when asked on a Boston radio program if Clinton was responsible for the Benghazi deaths.

He says Clinton "is a disgrace for the lies she told those mothers about their children," adding, "Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason."

He's also calling Clinton a "piece of garbage" for using a private email server while she was President Barack Obama's secretary of state.

As Cruz talks, Trump's jet flies over

Cruz can't escape Trump's shadow

The revelers beamed, embracing like alumni at a high school reunion. The country music blared. The outdoor bar at a restaurant in Cleveland was open and generously stocked.

But as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, addressing supporters of his presidential bid, turned somberly to the subject of a Republican "nominee" he declined to name, the crowd began to boo.

Then supporters looked up: Once again, there was no escaping Donald Trump. His branded jet had just glided past.

"That was pretty well orchestrated!" Cruz said, after smiling through the boos.

He turned to his former campaign manager, Jeff Roe: "Did you email them to fly the plane right when I said that?"

Surprise cameos notwithstanding, Cruz delivered a vintage performance — stuffed with movie quotations (from Patton), obscure vocabulary (he wants a "passel" of grandchildren) and theatrical pauses that seemed even more pregnant than usual.

"This was a movement," he said, cycling through anecdotes from the road "all across this country."

Among the hundreds gathered were several aides from the campaign, including Rick Tyler, the spokesman Cruz fired in February for spreading a misleading video about Sen. Marco Rubio.

Roe held forth with reporters, holding up his cellphone when a call from Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman, came in.

When Cruz said he was not sure what the future held, a chant of "2020!" rang out. He smiled.

He recalled the night he dropped out after losing the Indiana primary, when he strained to control his emotions for the cameras. "I wasn't going to let those SOBs turn Lyin' Ted into Cryin' Ted," he said.

He thanked those gathered and stepped offstage. A band replaced him.

"Where all the Texas folks at?" a band member asked, as Cruz reached the deck.

Information from Alex Leary, Adam C. Smith, Steve Bousquet, Patricia Mazzei and the Washington Post and Associated Press was included in this report.


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