Wasserman Schultz on standing by Imran Awan until his arrest

Greetings, Power Lunch readers, and a happy Friday to all. No newsletter for Monday and Tuesday of next week, but we'll pick things back up Wednesday. Until then, let's talk about the IT guy.

"I believe that I did the right thing, and I would do it again": In her first interview since the arrest of Imran Awan, that's what U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, had to say about her decision to continue to employ the IT staffer throughout the time he was being investigated, up until his arrest last week, the Sun Sentinel's reports. Other members of Congress who employed Awan chose to fire him back in February, after they learned he was being investigated for "procurement violations and data transfer violations." Wasserman Schultz says she was concerned about due process issues and worried that Awan was being targeted over his Muslim faith. Much more in . 

Will this put the issue to rest? Not remotely! Republicans continue to make hay of it and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, has requesting an investigation into the separate mortgage fraud case that got Awan arrested last week.

Damn right! That's the response from Democrats in two press releases issued yesterday. First, after the National Republican Congressional Committee hit state Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, over his support for a single-payer healthcare system, Richardson issued the following statement: 

"Damn right I’m supporting the creation of a single-payer healthcare system. The only healthcare plan Republicans have is to throw millions off of their insurance, then lie about people like me who actually do have a plan to expand access to healthcare to more Americans."

The NRCC wouldn't usually care about a state representative, but Richardson is running to replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a district that went to Hillary Clinton by TWENTY (20) points in the 2016 election.

And then there's "Damn right this race is getting national attention," the subject line of a fundraising email about the state Senate race in Miami-Dade's District 40. The email was sent by , the Democrats' state Senate campaign organization. It asks, "What does this race have to do to get your attention? Take you to dinner and a movie? Massage your shoulders? Act all charming around your friends? Keep repeating the word Trump?"

And, really, any or all of those things would probably work on potential Democratic donors. Especially the last one. 

Blood in the water: A third Democrat, Ricky Junquera, has to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, in a district that tilts Democratic, the Miami Herald's Patricia Mazzei reports. And in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, state Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, (see previous item), is one of seven Democrats running. 

If Democrats pick up both of these seats, it would mean there isn't a single congressional district primarily in South Florida with Republican representation. U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, represents a chunk of northern Miami-Dade, but most of his district is in Collier and Hendry counties. And U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, represents part of northeast Palm Beach County, but also the entirety of Martin and St. Lucie counties. 

ABCs for Putnam: Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam is sitting on about $10 million in his Florida Grown political committee, plus roughly $1.6 million in his campaign account. And he's about to get more. The Associated Builders and Contractors endorsed Putnam at their annual convention last Thursday. Especially on the Republican side, developers are pouring vast sums into races and even in some cases (Hi Carlos Beruff!) jumping into politics themselves. Then again, it's not as though ABC had anyone else to back. There are three major Republicans considering a run for governor — U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach; state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater; and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes — but none of them have officially entered the arena.

It seems too early for this: Despite the fact that it feels like the 2017 legislative session just wrapped up, the first bills of the 2018 session were filed this week.  All of them are claims bills, in which people who successfully sued a state or local government entity are trying to get the money owed, which requires legislative approval for anything over a few hundred grand. In , I highlight a father trying to get the $360,000 owed him after his 13-year-old son was shot and killed on school property in Palm Beach County — in 1997. And that story is just one tragic tale to come out of South Florida among these bills. There are two more from Broward County and another from Palm Beach County.

Unconvincing conviction: In May, Ralph Wright became the 27th death row inmate in Florida to go free. He had plenty of motive in the killing he was found guilty of but, as the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board notes, there was no evidence linking him to the crime. opines that Wright's freedom is the result of Florida's screwy death penalty law, the unconstitutionality of which has resulted in rehearings for many inmates on death row. A jury voted 7-5 to put Wright to death, at a time when the state required only a simple majority. But the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out that law in 2016. The Florida Legislature changed the law to require a 10-person majority that same year. The Florida Supreme Court tossed that one too. Finally, the Legislature required a unanimous decision in an updated death penalty law that passed this year. But in the meantime, death row inmates have been given another chance at reprieve.

Don't pay your taxes! Florida's back to school sales tax holiday takes place this weekend. The Sun Sentinel's breaks down what items shoppers can get tax free.

Things just got serious: The Washington Post reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has in his probe into Russian interference in the presidential election and the Trump campaigns ties to it. This does not in any way mean that President Donald Trump himself is in trouble, but it almost certainly means somebody's getting indicted for something. There's the old saying that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, and there's a great deal of truth to that. Federal grand juries hand out indictments. It's what they do. The Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb that of 193,000 cases taken up by federal prosecutors from Oct. 2009 to Sept. 2010, they prosecuted 162,350. Of the remaining 30,000 and change, only 11 were not prosecuted because a grand jury didn't indict. 

Taking a break: Congress went home for the rest of the summer yesterday. The Associated Press's Sean Sullivan reports that . And with Congress out of town, President Donald Trump is , the Associated Press's Darlene Superville reports. Trump has long been a fan of taking vacation while claiming he doesn't take vacations and criticizing others for taking vacations. He blasted former President Barack Obama's "work ethic" when Obama took a 10-day vacation in August 2011, and his 2004 book "Trump: Think Like a Billionaire" notes, "Don't take vacations. What's the point? If you're not enjoying your work, you're in the wrong job."

The Trump transition continues: President Donald Trump has filled positions in his administration at a glacial pace. The Palm Beach Post's George Bennett notes that he Duke Buchan III last night to be his ambassador to Spain and Andorra. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times' Tracy Wilkinson reports that . Of 130 State Department appointments that require Senate confirmation, 43 had been nominated by yesterday, when Congress went home for the summer, and just 21 had been confirmed. 

Make West Virginia Great Again: Democratic West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice , joining the GOP at a rally with President Donald Trump. The Associated Press's John Raby and Bill Barrow report that Justice's party jump leaves Democrats with just 15 governorships.

Seeking sanctuary: Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III sent letters to four cities that expressed interest in Justice Department aid in crime fighting, stating that until the cities cooperated with immigration authorities. This left leaders in the four municipalities — Baltimore, Albuquerque and Stockton and San Bernardino in California — bewildered, the Associated Press's Sadie Gurman and Russell Contreras report, because none of the cities has declared itself a "sanctuary city."

Power lunch playlist: It's Friday, and that means another 10-song Spotify playlist dedicated to the week that was in political news. Enjoy:

MEANWHILE, IN THE TWITTERVERSE …

So far this year, no Zika transmission zones have been identified. I’m asking all Floridians to help prevent another outbreak.

≥140 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: Good news and all, but what we ought to do is be preparing for when the really nasty mosquito-borne illnesses arrive. How soon till Florida gets its first local case of malaria?

 

is a fan that handles business on behalf of his constituents in the Florida State Legislature 

≥140 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: See Spotify playlist.

 

Sessions tells room of reporters he may make it easier to jail them if they don't reveal sources, leaves without taking any press questions.

≥140 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: What, I thought he didn't like the Maduro regime?

 

As always, I'm . Troll me there, but I won't respond till Wednesday. 

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