TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has bragged about his influence with politicians, urged Gov. Rick Scott to give a judgeship to a Florida attorney whose work appears at odds with Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration, newly released emails show.
The emails posted online late last week by the Scott administration show Trump recommended that the governor appoint Jose Izquierdo, a well-regarded attorney who had backing from several other South Florida Republicans.
“Dear Rick: A friend of mine recommended this gentleman for a judgeship in Broward County. From what I understand, he is very well-respected in the legal community. Thank you. Sincerely, Donald,” read the May 10 email, to which a two-page biography of Izquierdo was attached.
Thirteen days after Trump’s recommendation, Scott appointed the attorney as a Broward County circuit judge.
Izquierdo, a Cuban-American born in Florida, has represented criminal immigrants, spoken on immigration issues and once represented the consulates of Mexico and Honduras. Izquierdo highlighted on his application that he once tried to suppress a warrant used in a drug possession case. Scott has taken a harsh line against drug use and wanted at one time to require welfare recipients and state workers be tested for drugs. He also worked to protect from deportation an immigrant who had been convicted of aggravated battery in Florida in 2005.
Trump has said criminal immigrants should be deported. He has harshly criticized Mexico in particular and Latin American immigrants in general.
It’s not clear whether Trump knew that Izquierdo had done work at odds with many of Trump’s policy positions.
Trump has no apparent direct connection to Izquierdo and why he decided to back him isn’t clear. The Trump campaign has not responded to questions from The Associated Press.
But Izquierdo worked with Fort Lauderdale attorney Bradford Cohen for several years. Cohen once appeared on Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice” and represented former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski during his arrest on battery charges for grabbing a female reporter last spring. A Palm Beach County prosecutor dropped the charges in early April.
Cohen, who said he talks to Trump and members of his organization regularly, said he couldn’t remember if he asked Trump directly to help his former law partner become a judge. But he said that it “could very likely be me.”
“I would talk highly about Jose to everyone and anyone,” Cohen said. “I would flatly tell anyone who would listen that Jose would make a good judge. He was an excellent attorney.”
Izquierdo has been president of the Broward County Hispanic Bar Association, appeared on the Spanish-language television network Telemundo and given speeches on immigration issues. He also has done pro bono work for a Broward County program that helps find immigration attorneys for clients.
In his application he said that his “family fled the tyranny of communist Cuba” and that the abuse of government power molded his beliefs that “the government is ruled by our Constitution and it is the strict adherence to that Constitution that protects our freedoms.”
Emails from the Scott administration show that one of Trump’s longtime and top aides in his business, Rhona Graff, talked to top Scott aide Diane Moulton by phone before sending her Trump’s email that asked Scott to appoint Izquierdo. “As per our conversation, could you please share the attachment and note below from Mr. Trump with Governor Scott?” reads Graff’s email to Moulton.
Scott did not endorse Trump ahead of the Florida GOP primary. But since then he has become a vocal supporter of the businessman and in July became chairman of Rebuilding America Now, a super PAC backing Trump.
Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Scott, said that the governor’s decision to appoint Izquierdo had nothing to do with Trump’s outreach.
“He was the most qualified individual,” said Schutz, who noted he got more recommendations than any of the other finalists. “We believe he shares the governor’s vision of humbling servicing Florida families and respecting the rule of the law.”
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