UPDATED: Michael Flynn, QAnon-related show cancelled in Fort Myers, new location concealed

Michael Flynn, center, pledges “Where we go one, we go all,” a QAnon slogan, in a July 4, 2020 video he posted that was reported by CNN. (Image: CNN)

March 3, 2021 by David Silverberg

The dinner and fundraising event featuring Michael Flynn, former national security advisor, and Red Pill Roadshow, a QAnon-promoting traveling production, which was scheduled to come to Fort Myers, Fla., on March 11, has been cancelled in its originally scheduled location.

A new location will be revealed only to ticketholders 12 hours before the event, according to its organizer, The Florida Conservative blog.

Management at the Treehouse Rooftop Lounge, an entertainment venue in the Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, where the event was to have taken place, confirmed its cancellation there.

Word of the cancellation was also spread yesterday by an officer of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

The fate of a “secret” Michael Flynn dinner in Naples scheduled for March 10 remains unclear. (For more on the Fort Myers event, Red Pill Roadshow and background on QAnon, see: “QAnon show, Michael Flynn, coming to Fort Myers.”)

Local television reporter Amelia Fabiano with NBC-2 News interviewed Red Pill Roadshow’s president, Brian Gamble, on Feb. 26, who denied that the production company promotes the QAnon conspiracy theory.

“I’ve never really believed in the Q doctrine, but I believe that Americans should have a right to free speech,” Gamble told Fabiano. “To say we’re a Q event or anything like that – nothing could be further from the truth. We’re a free speech event.”

The new announcement was made the day before some QAnon cultists hold out hope that Trump will somehow take power on March 4, when inaugurations occurred prior to passage of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in 1937.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Southwest Florida congressmen vote against impeachment, excusing Trump of betraying USA

The US House votes to impeach Donald Trump. (Image: US House)

Jan. 13, 2020 by David Silverberg

While the US House of Representatives voted today to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol and the legislative branch of government, Southwest Florida’s congressional representatives voted against impeachment to keep him in office.

Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) all voted against impeaching the president and also against having Vice President Mike Pence invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

As of this writing, none had issued statements explaining their votes. None made statements on the House floor. None addressed Trump’s responsibility for the insurrection.

Today the House passed one article of impeachment in House Resolution (HR) 24, approving it at 4:33 pm by a vote of 232 to 197. Ten Republicans voted to impeach the president, none from Florida. Four Republicans and one Democrat did not vote.

“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States,” stated the text of HR 24, after recounting Trump’s attempts to overthrow the results of the 2020 election and his incitement of the mob.

“Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. Donald John Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”

The article will now be sent to the Senate where, if voted upon, a two-thirds majority can remove the president from office. As of this writing, such a vote seemed doubtful for a variety of procedural and political reasons.

The first measure up for a vote, HR 21, urging Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, came at 11:24 pm last night and passed by a largely party-line vote of 223 to 205. Only one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-16-Ill.) voted for it. Well before the vote Pence indicated that he would not invoke the amendment.

While Trump is the first president to be formally impeached twice on two separate occasions and in two different bills, it took three tries for Congress to impeach President Andrew Johnson in 1868. Johnson was ultimately acquitted by a single Senate vote.

Although the Southwest Florida congressional delegation did not address their impeachment votes, Steube did spend time commenting on other matters. He took time today to attack Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-15-Calif.), one of the House impeachment mangers, for comparing Trump to deceased terrorist Osama Bin Laden.

In an interview yesterday with the PBS News Hour, Swalwell stated that Trump himself must be held accountable for the attack, pointing out that while Bin Laden was not in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, “it was widely acknowledged that he was responsible for inspiring the attack on our country and the president, with his words, using the word ‘fight’ and with the speakers he assembled that day who called for ‘trial by combat’ and said ‘we have to take names and kick ass’ that is hate speech that inspired and radicalized people to storm the Capitol,” he said. “And when you read the indictments from the US attorney’s office, they cite that they were called there by the president. They were in the Capitol because the president told them to do so. So we must hold this president accountable. I’m comparing the words of an individual who would incite and radicalize somebody as Osama Bin Laden did to what President Trump did. You don’t actually have to commit the violence yourself but if you call others to violence that itself is a crime.”

Steube stated in a tweet:  “Comparing Trump to Bin Laden is an insult to every American we lost on 9/11, their families, and all of our service members who put their lives on the line to protect us from terrorists. Swalwell is the one threatening our national security. Resign.”

Steube has not to date criticized or condemned Trump for his words at the rally preceding the attack on the Capitol.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings down the gavel on the impeachment vote. (Image: US House)

Liberty lives in light

©2021 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Scott, Rubio join Senate majority to override Trump defense bill veto

The US Capitol. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Jan. 1, 2021 by David Silverberg

In a major blow to President Donald Trump, the United States Senate voted this afternoon to override his veto of the Department of Defense appropriations bill by a vote of 81 to 13.

Both of Florida’s Republican senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, voted with the majority to override. As of this writing, neither had issued a statement explaining his vote.

Their votes were remarkable given both senators’ past vocal support for the President.

The override was also an indication of Trump’s rapidly eroding clout. He had called for an end to Section 230, a non-defense provision protecting Internet companies from liability for postings on their sites and objected to changing the names of military bases from those honoring Confederate generals. When the bill did not include those measures he vetoed it.

The National Defense Authorization Act (House Resolution 6395) provides $750 billion for US military operations and national defense including a pay raise for servicemembers. It will now go into effect.

The 13 members opposing the override included Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who had insisted that there not be a vote on the defense bill unless there was also one on providing Americans financially hurt by the pandemic with $2,000. House Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, opposed submitting that to a vote and finally proceeded with the override vote separately.

This was the first override of a Trump veto in his presidency.

Liberty lives in light

©2021 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Trump caves, signs pandemic relief bill; SWFL programs saved

President Trump after signing a bill. (Photo:AP)

Dec. 27, 2020 by David Silverberg

Under immense pressure from both congressional Democrats and Republicans, as well 14 to 20 million desperate Americans whose unemployment benefits ran out last night, President Donald Trump relented tonight and signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which had been passed by Congress last week.

As of this writing, a formal statement from Trump, who spent the Christmas holiday playing golf at his resort in West Palm Beach, Florida, had not been issued.

The 5,593-page bill appropriates money for nearly all the government’s operations next year as well as providing Americans laid off by the pandemic with $600 in benefits. It also pays for purchasing and distributing the COVID vaccine.

After months of negotiations and passage by both houses of Congress, Trump suddenly chose to denounce the bill on Tuesday, Dec. 22, throwing the government into chaos and threatening much-needed relief for Americans unemployed by the pandemic. People who needed unemployment benefits were denied them for a week, since the president missed the deadline for aiding them. His action could have also shut down the government at a critical time.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) issued a statement immediately following the signing: “The signing of the bipartisan, bicameral coronavirus relief legislation is welcome news for the 14 million Americans who just lost the lifeline of unemployment benefits on Christmas Weekend, and for the millions more struggling to stay afloat during this historic pandemic and economic crisis.”

She continued: “Now, the President must immediately call on congressional Republicans to end their obstruction and to join him and Democrats in support of our stand-alone legislation to increase direct payment checks to $2,000, which will be brought to the Floor tomorrow.  Every Republican vote against this bill is a vote to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny the American people the relief they need.”

Trump’s capitulation means that Southwest Florida—in addition to unemployment benefits for Southwest Floridians and vaccine distribution—will get the funding critical to Everglades restoration, agricultural support, and low-income and homeless housing programs. (For a fuller discussion of the benefits to Southwest Florida, see Trump suddenly attacks pandemic relief bill, dealing heavy blow to Southwest Florida.)

Comments from Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), who both introduced provisions to the bill, were not immediately available after the news broke.

However, yesterday, Dec. 26, Rep.-elect Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) went on Fox News to blame the holdup on Pelosi.

Rep.-Elect Byron Donalds on Fox News yesterday. (Image: Fox News)

“It is clear that Nancy Pelosi was playing politics with this bill,” said Donalds. “This is her fault. This is at her feet.” He called the bill “Pelosi’s wish list” and “a disaster” and said “It was awful, unconscionable, it was asinine and it has put everybody in the lurch.”

After Trump suddenly demanded that the $600 payment to individuals be increased to $2,000, Pelosi tried to increase the amount but was blocked by Republicans. A stand-alone bill increasing the amount is expected to be introduced in Congress tomorrow.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

US House passes massive $900B pandemic relief bill; Rooney, Diaz-Balart approved, Steube opposed

The US Capitol.

Dec. 21, 2020 by David Silverberg

The US House of Representatives tonight passed a massive $900 billion coronavirus relief bill, which will provide $600 to Americans making less than $75,000 per year who have lost jobs in the pandemic.

Passage of the 5,593-page bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 (House Resolution 133), which originally dealt with US-Mexican relations before it was extensively amended, required two votes. The first passed by 327 votes to 85.

Southwest Florida Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) both voted for the measure. Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted against it.

The second portion of the bill passed by a vote of 359 to 53, with Rooney and Diaz-Balart again voting for it and Steube again opposing it.

“I voted NO on tonight’s so-called relief bill,” Steube tweeted. “Instead of addressing the economic suffering of Americans, Democrats have manipulated this process to force their radical agenda on the American people during a time of crisis.” He expanded on his objections in a longer statement.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) said in a floor speech that while there was more work to do to stop the pandemic and help Americans, the bill “will meet the needs of the American people—to crush this virus and to do so in a way that brings us all into the future in a very safe way.”

The gigantic piece of legislation also includes another bill of vital importance to Southwest Florida, the Water Resources Development Act, which governs all the water sources in the region.

The bill included one proposal by Diaz-Balart. It allows citizens who file taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) rather than a Social Security number to receive benefits. Legal Permanent Residents can receive stimulus payments as well. Under previous versions of the Paycheck Protection Program both groups were ineligible for payments. This also applies to ITIN users married to spouses who are ineligible for payments.

“As I have stated before, there is no reason to justify why a US Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident should be excluded from receiving a benefit meant for Americans simply due to the legal status of a spouse,” stated Diaz-Balart. “I am thrilled to see that this provision was taken into consideration in this new COVID relief bill, and I look forward to seeing the great impact this will make in helping the American people.”

In addition to providing paycheck protection and passage of the Water Resources Development Act, the bill, based on a House-Senate bipartisan agreement:

  • Accelerates vaccine distribution;
  • Ends surprise medical billing;
  • Supports small business;
  • Helps community lenders;
  • Assists renters;
  • Strengthens low income housing tax credits;
  • Supports paid sick leave;
  • Enhances unemployment insurance benefits;
  • Provides nutrition assistance for the hungry;
  • Aids education and child care;
  • Expands grants for education;
  • Encourages clean energy;
  • Helps fund international vaccine efforts.

“We are disappointed that Republicans have refused to recognize the need to honor our heroic frontline workers by supporting robust funding for state and local governments,” stated Pelosi.  “State and local governments need much more funding to prevent senseless layoffs and critical service cuts.”

The bill now goes back to the Senate, where it is expected to pass quickly—possibly within hours of the House’s vote—and then be signed by President Donald Trump. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has stated that, once signed, government-issued checks could go out as soon as next week.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Anti-masker Byron Donalds tests positive for COVID-19 – UPDATED

President Donald Trump is greeted by Byron Donalds at a conference in October 2019.

Oct. 16, 2020 by David Silverberg

5:50 pm – added comments from Cindy Banyai, corrected date in caption.

Republican congressional candidate Byron Donalds, a fierce opponent of mask mandates who has spoken out against them and ostentatiously refused to wear a mask in public, has tested positive for COVID-19, he announced on his Facebook page today.

Donalds is running in Florida’s 19th Congressional District against Democrat Cindy Banyai.

“Before today’s event with the President, I was give [sic] a COVID-19 quick test, per White House staff protocol, and results were positive,” he wrote. “I proceeded to take a PCR antigen test, and those results have come back positive as well. My wife and oldest son were both tested today and their results are negative. I currently feel fine, but am taking all necessary precautions and will be quarantining at home. We have notified the organizers of the events I have attended in recent days. I look forward to recovering fully and earning the support of voters on November 3rd.”

Donalds was to have attended President Donald Trump’s event in Fort Myers today.

Donalds has repeatedly denigrated mask mandates in debates with Banyai and argued that local governments do not have the authority to impose them. He spoke against them when the Cape Coral City Council and Collier County Commission considered them. After he met unmasked with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Sept. 23, Banyai called on him to quarantine, which he said he didn’t have to do because he had tested negative.

On her Twitter feed, Banyai wished Donalds well: “I wish him and his family well as he recovers,” she tweeted. In another tweet she stated: “This reaffirms that I made the right decision for myself, my family, and #OurCommunity to cancel my participation in the Estero debate last week. That debate was directly after a MAGA event in Collier that may very well become our very own #SWFL super-spreader event.” And she added: “Please, for your health and for the vulnerable in #OurCommunity, continue to social distance, wear masks, and sanitize hands. We care about you.”

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Banyai, Donalds to meet in WGCU debate

The WGCU studio building on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University. (Photo: WGCU)

Sept. 11, 2020 by David Silverberg

Public television station WGCU will be hosting a debate between 19th Congressional District candidates Democrat Cindy Banyai and Republican Byron Donalds.

The debate will be held on Monday, Sept. 28 from 8 to 9 pm. It will be televised from the WGCU studios on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University.

The debate is also being sponsored by the News-Press and Naples Daily News of Gannet’s USA Today Network.

In addition to the television and radio broadcasts on WGCU-TV and WGCU 90.1 FM, the debate will be streamed on WGCU.com, News-press.com and Naplesnews.com.

The debate will be moderated by Julie Glenn, the news director of WGCU Public Media. Questioners will be Amy Bennett Williams of Gannett and John Davis of WGCU.

The debate marks a stark contrast from the congressional race in 2018 when Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) told the League of Women Voters that he had “no availability” for a debate with opposing candidate Democrat David Holden and would have “no future availability” because “everyone knows my positions.”

Despite protests from Holden and his campaign, local media accepted the refusal and no debate or discussion of his record or positions was ever held.

Banyai and Donalds have already held one debate, on Aug. 21 at the Cantina 109 bar and grill in Gulf Coast Town Center.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

US House votes to protect, fund Postal Service; Rooney opposes, Diaz-Balart, Steube absent

Aug. 22, 2020 by David Silverberg

Tonight the US House of Representatives voted to protect the US Postal Service (USPS) from disruptive changes designed to impede mail-in voting and provide $25 billion in funding to ensure its continued operations.

The Delivering for America Act (House Resolution 8015) passed by a vote of 257 to 150.

Among Southwest Florida representatives, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) voted against the measure, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) were absent.

“…For the sake of every senior who is delayed in getting his or her Social Security check, every veteran who is delayed in getting his or her medication, every working family who is delayed in getting their paycheck and every voter now facing the prospect of choosing between their vote and their health, we need to pass this bill,” House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) urged her colleagues in a speech on the floor.

She recounted a conversation with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy: “He said to me frankly, and I have to give him credit for his honesty, he said, ‘I have no intention of replacing the sorting machines that we’re removed from the Postal Service – offices.  I have no intention of replacing the blue mailboxes…’ that have been ripped from our neighborhoods and he had no plans for ensuring adequate overtime, which is critical, critical in the timely delivery of the mail.  He said he had no intention of treating ballots as First-Class mail.”

Documents released by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-12-NY), chair of the House Oversight and Government Committee, have revealed that DeJoy had deliberately misled Congress and could not be trusted.

DeJoy has since announced that the Postal Service will be treating ballots as First-Class mail.

In a pair of tweets today, President Donald Trump denounced the bill: “Representatives of the Post Office have repeatedly stated that they DO NOT NEED MONEY, and will not make changes. This is all another HOAX by the Democrats to give 25 Billion unneeded dollars for political purposes,  without talking about the Universal Mail-In Ballot Scam…. ….that they are trying to pull off in violation of everything that our Country stands for. Vote NO to the Pelosi/ Schumer money wasting HOAX which is taking place now. Then fight the $51 million unasked for Ballots. Only ABSENTEE BALLOTS are acceptable!”

Although Trump keeps drawing a distinction between mail-in ballots and absentee ballots, there is no difference. He has applied to vote by mail in Florida.

Steube also denounced the legislation in a tweet: “The latest political play from the Democrats is a conspiracy theory that Republicans are using operational changes to the USPS as a means to disenfranchise the American people. This is dishonest, ridiculous and even dangerous. Enough of the scare tactics, Speaker Pelosi.”

There were no immediate comments from Rooney or Diaz-Balart.

The bill now goes to the Republican-dominated Senate where it is unlikely to either pass or be brought up for a vote. Trump has threatened to veto it if it gets to his desk.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Banyai wins Dem nomination in congressional race; GOP contest still undecided

Cindy Banyai

Aug. 18, 2020 by David Silverberg

With all precincts reporting, Cindy Banyai is the winner of the Democratic primary in the 19th Congressional District.

David Holden called her to concede shortly after 8 pm, Banyai told The Paradise Progressive.

“It’s such an honor to be selected as the Democratic nominee in such a year as 2020,” she said in an interview. “This shows that Southwest Floridians are craving real leadership by people ready to serve the people.”

Banyai brought in 28,731 votes or 58 percent to David Holden’s 21,192 or 42 percent, according to a WINK News tabulation that included data from both Lee and Collier counties.

Banyai celebrated with an online party and then put her three children to bed at 8:30.

In State Representative District 105, which held a Democratic primary, Maureen Porras was the winner with 63.5 percent of the vote, or 1,452 votes, to Javier Estevez who had 36.5 percent or 835 votes.

As of 9:00 pm, the winner of the Republican primary was not yet clear, with state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee) leading in Collier County with 8,300 votes or 28.7 percent of the vote, according to the official count of the Collier County Elections Office, and state Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral) leading in Lee County with 18,772, or 25.10 percent of the votes, according to the Lee County Elections Office.

In the hotly contested state Senate District 27, state Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-76-Estero) was well ahead of state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-78-Fort Myers), by a vote of 47,935 or 74.8 percent of the vote to Fitzenhagen’s 16,115 votes or 25.16 percent. The Republican winner there will face Democrat Rachel Brown.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

With Republican turnout threatened, Trump reverses his attacks on mail-in voting in Florida

08-04-2020 Lee Co. mail turnoutLee County mail-in voting as of today.                     (Chart: Lee County Elections Office)

Aug. 4, 2020 by David Silverberg.

In a reversal of his previous vociferous opposition to mail-in voting, President Donald Trump now says that mail-in voting is “safe and secure, tried and true”—in Florida.

He announced the reversal in a 12:55 pm tweet today, August 4.

The full tweet stated (capitalization his): “Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!”

It is unclear to what “Democrats attempts” he was referring.

Trump’s previous attacks on mail-in voting were threatening Republican turnout in the key swing state. He has charged, without evidence or outside confirmation, that mail-in voting is “inaccurate and fraudulent” and rigging the election.

The Florida Republican Party attempted to hide Trump’s anti-mail Twitter rants by deceptively blurring out his criticisms in campaign flyers mailed to voters.

“He’s sowing the seeds of his own downfall with his rhetoric around vote by mail,” Katie Merrill, a Democratic strategist with the consulting firm, BaughmanMerrill, was quoted as saying in a Politico article, “Trump’s assault on mail voting threatens his reelection bid.

According to the Politico article, BaughmanMerrill commissioned a poll that found that “Republicans have become overwhelmingly concerned about mail balloting, which Trump has claimed, without evidence, will lead to widespread voter fraud. A potentially decisive slice of Trump’s battleground-state base — 15 percent of Trump voters in Florida, 12 percent in Pennsylvania and 10 percent in Michigan — said that getting a ballot in the mail would make them less likely to vote in November.”

In Southwest Florida’s Lee and Collier counties, mail-in voting is well under way.

As of this writing, Lee County is reporting that 67,768 ballots have already been cast. That’s 14.48 percent of a total of 468,141 voters. Of these, 33,329 were Republican, 24,020 were Democratic, 10,006 had no party affiliation and 413 fell into the “other” category.

In Collier County 37,136 voters have mailed in their ballots, or 17.09 percent of the 217,312 voters eligible. Of those, 20,702 were Republican, 10,985 were Democratic, 5,246 had no party affiliation and 203 were “other.”

08-04-2020 Collier County mail turnoutMail-in voting to date in Collier County.      (Chart: Collier County Elections Office)

Also threatening voting by mail are new measures that will serve to slow down and disrupt US Postal Service (USPS) operations. On July 10, Trump’s newly appointed Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, a major campaign donor, sent out a memo to all USPS personnel, announcing elimination of late and extra mail delivery trips.

Despite the new measure, mail has not been delayed in Lee and Collier counties, David Walton, a USPS corporate communications specialist told The Paradise Progressive in response to a query.

DeJoy’s memo follows years of attacks on the USPS by Trump, who has mainly complained that it is not charging Amazon.com enough for deliveries, although USPS makes money from Amazon.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg