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New Trump lawyers known for winning tough white-collar criminal trials

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WASHINGTON — In 2011, Drug Enforcement Agents tailing a Colombian narco-trafficker in Miami got more than they bargained for. They watched the man hand $108,000 to a federal immigration officer.

Later, at the federal agent’s corruption trial, his lawyer, Marty Raskin, had a different explanation for the cash.

Attorneys Marty and Jane RaskinRaskin and Raskin

He said the drug trafficker gave it to the agent for safekeeping overnight because he was “afraid to hold the money in his hotel room.”

Raskin won the case. The agent walked, acquitted by a federal jury.

Raskin, 71, and his wife, Jane Raskin, 62, are now directing their legal firepower in the service of a different client: Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States.

The Raskins, based in Miami, are the newest members of the Trump legal team. They came on board last week, around the same time as Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor.

Lawyer Ty CobbCourtesy Hogan Lovellsnull

While Guiliani’s appointment drew significant attention, the Raskins hiring was somewhat overlooked. But unlike the 73-year-old Giuliani, who rarely appears in court these days, the Florida couple has been laboring for years in the legal trenches, establishing a long track record of successfully defending clients in white-collar federal criminal prosecutions.

“Jane and Marty are superb lawyers with really deep experience in federal criminal cases,” said Ryan Stumphauzer, a former federal prosecutor who practices white collar criminal defense in Miami.

Marty Raskin, Stumphauzer said, is “one of these rare guys who is both incredibly effective but also very well liked and trusted. His word and his credibility mean something. He’s a finesse player.”

Michael “Pat” Sullivan, who retired last year after 45 years with the Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office, told NBC News the Raskins “just bring very good judgment on how to handle whatever they are facing. They don’t want drama, they don’t want turmoil and they’ll try to tamp that down.”

They are also likeable and charming people, the retired prosecutor said — friendly adversaries.

Stumphauzer added that he suspected that the hiring signaled that some part of the Mueller investigation is now focusing on South Florida.

What exactly Mueller is examining in the Sunshine State is known only to him and his team, but likely targets of scrutiny include a transaction in which a Russian oligarch purchased Trump’s Palm Beach mansion in 2008 for $95 million — more than double what Trump paid for it in 2004.

There has also been considerable news media attention to the purchase by Russians of condos in Trump’s Sunny Isles development north of Miami Beach, which has been dubbed “Little Moscow” by locals.

The Raskins declined to comment for this story. Lawyers in South Florida have been scratching their heads about how they came into Trump’s orbit.

“I’m not aware of an obvious Trump connection, but Trump’s down here a lot in South Florida,” said Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney in Miami who said the Raskins have an excellent reputation.

One White House official with direct knowledge said that Ty Cobb, who is coordinating the White House legal response to the Robert Mueller investigation, brought the Raskins in.

They were then interviewed by Jay Sekulow, another member of Trump’s legal team, the official said. Lastly, he said, they spent time alone with the president.

If Trump examined their record of tangling with the Justice Department, he may have been impressed.

The 2014 acquittal of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, Juan F. Martinez, was seen as a stunning victory for the defense.

“The evidence in that case was overwhelming,” Stumphauzer said. “The fact that he got that guy off to me is nothing short of amazing.”

Another high-profile client was SabreTech Corp., an aviation contractor accused of illegally transporting hazardous oxygen generators on the ValuJet flight that crashed in the Everglades in 1996. The canisters ignited a fire that caused the plane to crash, killing 110 people.

The company was acquitted on most of the federal charges, and all but one conviction was reversed on appeal. The state criminal case ended in a plea agreement resulting in the dismissal of all 220 counts of homicide. A federal judge imposed an $11 million penalty and the state plea agreement called for a $500,000 fine. The company went out of business.

While those cases made headlines, much of the work the Raskins have done was behind the scenes, quietly negotiating favorable dispositions for clients who found themselves in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors.

On their web site, they describe a series of cases in which they won good outcomes for defendants facing serious legal jeopardy.

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Biden targets military members, Latino voters in first Florida campaign visit

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Joe Biden on Tuesday used his first 2020 visit to the critical battleground state of Florida to hammer President Donald Trump over his reported criticism of fallen military members, telling a roundtable of servicemen and women that he is the better candidate on veterans’ issues.

“Nowhere are his faults more glaring or offensive to me, at least, as when it comes to his denigration of our service members, veterans, wounded warriors, the fallen,” Biden said during a speech in Tampa. “Quite frankly, it makes me very upset the way he gets in front of a camera and crows about how much he doe for our vets and then calls them ‘suckers’ and ‘losers,'” he added, nodding to a story published in The Atlantic earlier this month on Trump’s reported remarks.

Biden’s speech was followed by a roundtable with voters about military issues — a lengthy discussion that saw the Democratic presidential nominee touch on various policy issues like mental health services for veterans and protecting social security.

Biden’s trip to Florida was his first to the critical battleground this year. He last set foot in the state exactly one year ago, when he held an event in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami.

His stop in Tampa was one of two scheduled for the trip; later Tuesday, Biden will deliver remarks at a Hispanic Heritage Month event near Orlando — a stop that could help attract Puerto Rican voters who could be key to offsetting Trump’s advantage among Cuban voters. As many as 50,000 Puerto Ricans moved to the state after Hurricane Maria, according to the University of Florida. Those transplants are eligible to vote in Florida, and Democrats could motivate them to vote for Biden because of Trump’s widely criticized response to the hurricane. In another sign of its increased targeting of the Puerto Rican community in the Orlando area, the Biden campaign on Tuesday afternoon released a new plan focused specifically on uplifting Puerto Rico.

The Biden campaign in recent weeks has upped its attention in Florida, where polls show the candidates in a dead heat. Last week, Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., traveled to Miami, where she ripped the president over his remarks to journalist Bob Woodward about the COVID-19 pandemic. Her husband Douglas Emhoff, who is Jewish, held a community conversation last week with rabbis eight miles away in Aventura.

An NBC News/Marist survey released last week found the race in Florida tied overall, but with Biden underperforming among Latino voters. Seeking to counteract that, Latino voters across Florida are being reintroduced to Biden — and reminded of Trump — in different ways in different regions.

In ads, the Biden campaign is reminding Hispanic voters how Trump’s handling of the pandemic and economy has affected them, while Black voters are hearing stories from their own community about the need to turn out or risk another four years of no progress toward racial equality.

The Biden campaign has also targeted seniors in recent weeks with testimonial-style advertising featuring residents of the Trump-leaning retirement community The Villages discussing how the president’s inability to control the virus has forced them to stay inside and away from their families.

Meanwhile, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political operation has announced a commitment to spend $100 million in Florida with a special focus on the Latino vote.



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Republican senators in tough races obscure their position on pre-existing conditions

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WASHINGTON — Republican senators facing tough re-election fights this fall are expressing support for insurance protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions, running ads at odds with their own recent votes and policy positions.

The latest example came Tuesday when Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who has voted repeatedly to repeal the Obamacare law that established those federal protections, released an emotional ad in which he sits with his mother and discusses her successful battle with cancer.

“Cory wrote the bill to guarantee coverage to people with pre-existing conditions — forever,” she says, looking directly at the camera.

“No matter what happens to Obamacare,” the senator adds.

But experts say the bill he cites doesn’t do that.

Gardner is one of several Republicans to obscure their record on preexisting conditions as rising public support for Obamacare turns the issue into a liability for senators who have voted to repeal it.

Republican senators are fighting to maintain control of the chamber, and that has left many telling voters they favor the most popular provisions after they backed legislation that would have chipped away at the protections in the 2010 law. The replacement plans they’ve supported fall short of fully restoring those rules, say health policy experts.

“When you’re in retreat it’s best to do it slowly and not make it look like a complete spin around,” said Tom Miller, a health policy expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

‘HEAVY LIFTING’

Gardner’s 117-word-long legislation would require insurers “not impose any pre-existing condition exclusion” or “factor health status into premiums or charges.” The bill was introduced in August and has never received a hearing or a vote.

Larry Levitt, the executive vice president for health policy at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, said Gardner’s bill “contains a giant loophole” because insurance companies can simply “deny coverage altogether to people with pre-existing conditions.”

The current rules, created through the Affordable Care Act, include “guaranteed issue,” meaning insurance companies have to sell policies to people regardless of health status, Levitt said in an email.

“The Gardner bill leaves out that requirement, meaning that insurers could deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, as they commonly did in the individual insurance market before the ACA,” he said.

A sign directs people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in Miami in 2015.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

Gardner campaign spokesman Meghan Graf didn’t respond when asked if Gardner still favors ACA repeal, or why his bill doesn’t include the guaranteed issue provision. She wouldn’t say whether Gardner supports a lawsuit backed by the Trump administration to invalidate the ACA.

Miller said GOP senators are running these ads because they can read polls that show pre-existing condition rules are popular and “don’t want to get crosswise” with voters. He said there are other ways to protect sick people, but each come with some downsides.

“I don’t think a lot of Republicans have thought deeply and consistently about how to do that because that takes work. It’s heavy lifting and it requires trade-offs,” Miller said.

‘ADVANCE TO THE REAR’

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who also faces a difficult re-election, released an ad in June rebutting her Democratic opponent’s criticisms of her health care record.

“Mark Kelly’s attacks on me are false. And they’re shameful. Of course I will always protect those with preexisting conditions. Always,” she said to the camera.

Sen. Martha McSally, R-AZ, listens to testimony at a hearing at the Capitol on May 6, 2020.Shawn Thew / Getty Images file

But as a member of the House in 2017, McSally voted for legislation that would unwind much of the ACA and allow states to apply for an exemption from rules that prohibit insurers from charging people more if they have a pre-existing condition.

Experts noted at the time that the waivers could pave the way for insurance companies to jack up costs and price sick people out of the market. (It passed the House but died in the Senate.)

Several Republicans who voted to advance that effort in the Senate have also released ads proclaiming their support for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

And they are making their statements deeply personal, with several including family members who have overcome health challenges.

In an ad released in August, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who is also in a tight battle for re-election, says: “Health insurance should always cover pre-existing conditions. For anyone. Period.” The spot includes his sister, a cancer survivor, who says she is defending “my big brother’s heart” on the issue.

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., leaves Capitol Hill on Jan. 31, 2020.Jacquelyn Martin / AP

In Montana, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who is facing a strong Democratic opponent, ran an ad in July featuring a woman who said, “Steve Daines will protect Montanans with pre-existing conditions.”

Perdue and Daines voted to advance the Senate repeal-and-replace measure in 2017. Daines also voted to repeal the ACA without a replacement as a member of the House in 2013.

On his official website, Daines says, “I support full repeal of Obamacare,” and adds that “we must always protect those with preexisting conditions,” without getting specific.

Miller, of AEI, thinks Republicans are doing what in military terms is known as “advance to the rear,” suggesting they are retreating while claiming otherwise.

“A lot has changed since the rhetorical barking in opposition [to Obamacare] from 2009 to 2016, and even in the ambitions of what they’d do legislatively since 2017,” Miller said.



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EU draws up plans to end food blockade threat 'within days' after sparking Boris fury

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BRUSSELS has drawn up plans to end the row over food blockades “within days” amid growing anger in Downing Street at the threat.

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