Editor’s note: FL state senator Joe Gruters further demonstrated his leadership incompetence by speaking at an Anti-Vaxxers meeting yesterday.
It’s unfair to call state senator Joe Gruters an enabler simply because he promoted a bus trip to an insurrection he could not have foreseen. That would be like blaming a travel agency for selling tickets to a plane crash.
The GOP chairman from Sarasota has taken some heat for this Jan. 2 post on his Facebook page: “If you want to go to DC for the rally for the President on the 6th please reach out to my friend @Traci Williams as they just opened up a 3rd bus.”
How could Gruters have known the Capitol would be stormed, people would die, a president would be impeached and a Parrish man would steal Nancy Pelosi’s lectern and parade it around like Steven Stamkos with the Stanley Cup?
What happened in Washington D.C. left a bloodstain on our democracy that can never be removed, not even with the bleach some Trump supporters thought could cure COVID – but you have to believe Gruters did not possess knowledge something sinister was about to happen, or he would not have advertised bus availability to a riot.
What Gruters did instead was just as troubling: He helped promulgate the lie that somehow President Trump’s election loss was invalid and should be protested. Gruters did so by encouraging people to travel from Sarasota to D.C. and rally around a president who is now so broken he is probably trying to convince his base the Washington Generals really didn’t lose all those basketball games to the Harlem Globetrotters.
Indeed, Trump could have put this fire out with water, but much like the old ’Trotters routine, he used a bucket of confetti instead.
This isn’t the first time Gruters has been surrounded by a lie, unwittingly or not, to try and promote an agenda. In 2019, he took a trip to El Paso to highlight the immigration issue on the border, and while there he made a slick video.
Much of the video shows Gruters narrating while driving in a truck. He says things like “my top priority is making sure America is safe because it’s all about public safety.” At one point he is shown at a border wall standing next to a man in a hard hat named “Foreman Mike” Furey. He is the former on-site point man and official team mascot for the El Paso wall project and, like Gruters, a graduate of Cardinal Mooney High, though several years older.
“Nice guy,” Furey said of Gruters. “He asked a lot of good questions.”
Except this one: Is this wall a fraud?
Because the wall Gruters visited in El Paso, like Trump’s election-fraud claims, was a fraud. It was built on a lie, at least according to a federal criminal complaint.
The wall was not designed to solve the immigration problem Gruters was so concerned about, but to make Steve Bannon and Andrew Badolato rich. The two men go back at least 20 years, with Sarasota often the backdrop for their questionable association.
Bannon, of course, was Trump’s former chief strategist. Badolato, a Cardinal Mooney grad like Gruters and Furey, is a failed venture capitalist from Sarasota County whose past, according to a Herald-Tribune investigation, includes numerous lawsuits, monetary judgments and sizable Internal Revenue Service liens filed against him; dealings with convicted felons for stock-related fraud; an extortion attempt after he borrowed money from a alleged mobster that led to him wearing a wire for the FBI; an association with a Costa Rican offshore firm that was called a “money laundering hub” by the Justice Department; and sexual assault allegations made by three women over a period of four years that allegedly took place inside his million-dollar home on Casey Key Road, which he has since lost.
By the time Gruters appeared in El Paso to shoot his video, Bannon and Badolato had been involved in an alleged wall scam for at least six months. They were part of a small group that allegedly fleeced private donors by raising $25 million for the wall and then kept hundreds of thousands of dollars for themselves.
Their federal trials are scheduled for the spring, and both men are facing serious prison time, although Trump could pardon Bannon this week as an attempt to upstage president-elect Biden, who won in a fair election, no matter how many people rioted at the Capitol in protest and how many people from Sarasota were there to see it.
At the invitation of Joe Gruters.Image Credits: Thomas Bender