The Weekend That Was

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin has called President Donald Trump to thank him for a CIA tip that has helped thwart a series of bombings in St. Petersburg.

A lawyer for Trump has accused the special counsel, Robert Mueller, of illegally obtaining emails and other records from the transition team, the latest in the mounting attacks by the president and his surrogates on Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones is already breaking with some prominent Democrats by refusing to call for Trump to step down over ongoing sexual harassment allegations. “I don’t think that the president ought to resign at this point,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tried to play down a report that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been barred from using seven words or phrases, including “science-based,” “fetus,” “transgender” and “vulnerable,” in agency budget documents.

Republican lawmakers unveiled their historic tax-reform plan, a bill that slashes rates for the wealthy and businesses, gives smaller cuts to the middle class and eliminates the ObamaCare mandate that Americans buy health insurance or face a penalty.

Confident they’ve found the votes to pass a massive tax overhaul, Republican lawmakers have entered the next phase of their effort: attempting to sell the plan to a public that polling suggests is deeply skeptical.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that 90 percent of Americans will be able to file their taxes on a postcard under the federal tax overhaul, which Trump predicted would be signed before Christmas.

Critics say the tax bill looms like a “dagger” over New York City – particularly the real estate industry – reducing breaks that many in the region heavily lean on, despite cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the GOP tax bill starts an “economic civil war,” arguing that it punishes some states, such as his, disproportionately.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the GOP tax plan could force up to $25 billion in cuts to Medicare as soon as next year, considering predictions that the plan would add $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade.

The final bill agreed to by Republican negotiators eliminates the tax incentive for private employers that subsidize their employees’ transit, parking and bicycle commuting expenses.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg said it’s “pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth, as Republicans have promised,” adding: “Had Congress actually listened to executives, or economists who study these issues carefully, it might have realized that.”

Rep. Peter King and others from New York said they still could not support a bill with a $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local property, sales and income taxes instead of the current, fuller deductibility for those taxes.

Trump issued a glowing plug for a book that painted a chaotic picture of his presidential campaign, written by two former top campaign officials, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.

Celebrity chef Mario Batali addressed allegations of sexual assault and harassment in a tone-deaf newsletter that included a recipe for “pizza dough cinnamon rolls.”

Both Walmart and Target have announced plans to drop Batali-branded products from stores following accusations of sexual harassment against the celebrity chef.

“A Prairie Home Companion” has been given a new name – “Live from Here” – in the wake of creator Garrison Keillor’s acrimonious split with Minnesota Public Radio.

A second Metropolitan Opera House conductor has been accused of sexual misconduct, and nonprofits are increasingly turning to law firms to conduct investigations into such allegations.

A secretive, multi-million dollar taxpayer-funded slush fund used for years to pay off victims of sexual misconduct was tapped to settle a lawsuit against Queens Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks.

Roger Stone, a political fixer and longtime Trump associate, was cleared of defamation allegations brought against him by 2010 New York gubernatorial candidate Warren Redlich in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Screening devices that detect suicide vests like the one that exploded in a New York City subway tunnel are being tested in a Los Angeles transit station, but Schumer said the TSA should speed up plans to deploy the technology nationally.

The biggest figures and institutions in entertainment have established a commission to be chaired by Anita Hill that intends to combat sexual misconduct and inequality in the industry in the wake of the huge wave of revelations spurred by allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

Pope Francis, 81, has blown out his birthday candle on an extra-long pizza at the Vatican to the delight of children.

Facing sexual harassment allegations, two of New York City’s major cultural institutions – the Metropolitan Opera and the NYC Ballet – have hired external law firms to conduct internal investigations.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand turned over the cash Trump said she was “begging” for during her campaign to the country’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Former Gov. David Paterson said he was trying to decide between Gillibrand and Cuomo when it came to choosing a replacement for then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, and decided on the former because only one of them had a certain political future without his help. “Andrew Cuomo was destined to go beyond where he was,” he said, “Kirsten Gillibrand, not necessarily.”

A sweeping measure calling for new tools to address sexual harassment and assaults was proposed by two female Republican senators. The bill includes prohibiting courts from accepting secret sexual harassment settlements by alleged harassers or their employers.

Clinton responded to a “Saturday Night Live” cast member, Pete Davidson, who recently got a tattoo of the former Democratic presidential candidate, saying she was “honored” by the gesture.

A female congressional candidate dropped out of the Kansas race over a 12-year-old lawsuit accusing her of sexually harassing a male subordinate, an unusual case of a woman facing the sort of misconduct allegations that have forced numerous men out of their jobs in recent weeks.

Relations between New York and Ontario are on thin ice! The Empire State’s north-of-the-border neighbor lashed out at Cuomo after he signed “Buy American” legislation.

A woman who says she was branded by a secretive sorority with apparent connections to NXIVM, a controversial self-help group in the Albany area led by Keith Raniere, was featured Friday night on ABC’s 20/20.

In his State of the State address, Cuomo will propose spending $11.5 million on Long Island to thwart gang recruitment by expanding after-school programs, vocational training and education efforts.

Two recipe books humorously take on the 2016 presidential candidates and the election’s aftermath.

Clinton wrapped up her book tour last week after months on the road promoting her tell-all memoir about the 2016 presidential election.

New York City is trying to push the limits of what is possible at its sprawling Rikers Island jail complex, following in the footsteps of Chicago’s Cook County Jail.

Animal rights group NYCLASS expects a new bill early next year to ban carriage horses outside of Central Park, and criticized outgoing NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito as “ineffective” since she and the mayor failed to pass an outright ban.

An incoming NYC Councilman-elect fired one of his Asian-American liaisons for posting racist and sexist remarks on Facebook last week.

City Hall initially canceled Mayor Bill de Blasio’s widely criticized jaunt to Germany after a cop was assassinated — but flip-flopped 13 hours later, ­e-mail records show.

NYC residents may soon be able to register to vote online under a City Council bill signed this past weekend by de Blasio.

A string of A-list writers hoping to demonstrate the power of the pen have written to Cuomo to urge the signing of a diversity hiring bill before its Dec. 18 midnight deadline.

Two more potential 2018 challengers to Republican Rep. Chris Collins have emerged, despite the fact that he’s in what’s widely considered the state’s safest GOP seat.

Grand Island Supervisor Nathan D. McMurray said he is being recruited by Democratic officials to run against Collins, and he’s considering it although he doesn’t live in the NY-27.

The NYPD set up a new team within its Special Victims Unit to handle the recent flood of sex-assault accusations against high-profile figures, because “they come up almost every day” in response to what’s been called the “Weinstein effect.”

Transportation activists and political opponents called for City Hall to yank state Sen. Marty Golden’s parking placard after a cyclist reported Golden waved his placard and claimed to be a cop in an effort to clear the bike lane, but de Blasio has remained silent.

The owners of Yonkers Raceway are considering various options as they look to develop the 100-acre site that’s home to Empire City Casino — including possibly moving the 118-year-old harness track to another location.

New data shows there’s been a surge in visitors to Buffalo on Saturday nights before a Bills home game with occupancy up by more than 60 percent on those weekends not impacted by heavy snow. The average guest count is 673. That’s up from 421 when the Bills are out of town.

Troy Chief James Tedesco, who announced his retirement last week, also revealed he’s suffering from ALS.

An Albany city police officer elected Albany County coroner in November may have to choose between the two professions.

Oyster Bay tweets no more. The town’s Facebook page also has been shuttered and its Instagram account closed. Instead, its social media presence will all be through Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino’s accounts, officials said.

Brookhaven officials are planning to create a registry of foreclosed houses to keep track of zombie homes and make it easier to find their owners.

Cuomo Plans Hearings On Tipped Wage Workers

New York will hold a series of hearings examining issues facing tipped wage workers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday in a radio interview.

“We’re going to look at a peculiarity in our law which is the tipped wages,” Cuomo said on the WOR radio show hosted by businessman John Catsimatidis. “I don’t think that’s work well. That’s one of the inequities we’re looking at and we’re going to be starting that now.”

The hearings are among the proposals Cuomo will spell out in his 2018 State of the State agenda, which his office has been rolling out in recent days.

Tipped wage workers earn less than the state’s current minimum wage, which is set to increase to $12 from $11 in New York City at the end of the year. In the metropolitan suburban counties, the wage will grow to $11 and all other counties it will increase to $10.40.

Cuomo successfully pushed for an increase in the wage to eventually reach $15 in the state in the coming years, but some activists had been disappointed the state did not include eliminating tipped wage workers, such as restaurant employees, in the agreement.

Cuomo, meanwhile, also plans to target the gang MS-13, which in the interview Sunday morning called a “scourge all across the country.”

The governor will propose new enforcement efforts, but also plans to target recruitment efforts — a key issue for Long Island.

“We have a comprehensive approach that is going to be more law enforcement, more cameras, more equipment,” Cuomo said. “But we also want to reach out to the schools.”

Extras

Republicans have finished writing the final version of their tax bill, clearing the way for a floor vote that leaders say they are optimistic will pass – and at least one key Senate vote – Marco Rubio, of Florida – has gone from “no” to “yes.”

Long Island is No. 1 on a list of the top 10 metro areas in the US with the greatest share of homeowners who pay $10,000 or more in property taxes annually, and thus would be hit hardest by the federal tax bill.

President Trump escalated his criticism of the FBI over its investigation of possible links between Russia and his campaign, calling the inquiry a “very sad thing to watch.”

“It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,” the president told reporters before departing for an event at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. “It’s a very sad thing to watch.”

Trump isn’t saying whether he is considering a pardon for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

“I don’t want to talk about pardons with Michael Flynn — yet,” Trump said. “We’ll see what happens. Let’s see.”

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he intends to force a vote on a bill that would preserve Obama-era net neutrality rules, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to repeal this week.

Given the looming tax reform bill’s passage in D.C., the New York Conference of Mayors recently sent out guidance on whether taxing entities could take payment before Jan. 1 for 2018 taxes. That came after several municipal leaders, mostly downstate, sought advice.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will be released from house arrest while his criminal case is pending, a judge ruled, but he’ll have to remain under GPS monitoring, be home daily by 11 p.m., and get the judge’s permission to travel outside of southern Florida, where he’ll be living.

The House Ethics Committee announced it has launched an investigation into sexual harassment allegations leveled against Rep. Ruben Kihuen – a Nevada Democrat who is accused of sexually harassing a former campaign staffer.

Syracuse native Kelly Cutrone, a New York fashion publicist known for reality TV shows “The Hills” on “America’s Next Top Model,” has come forward as the 13th woman accusing music mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio parted ways with a key Democratic ally – Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie – by pushing ahead with a “millionaires tax” to fund the MTA — even if the federal tax overhaul is enacted.

Flamboyant lawyer Richard Luthmann, who once famously sought to resolve a civil lawsuit through “trial by combat,” was arrested by the FBI on a slew of charges, including kidnapping, kidnapping conspiracy, money laundering, brandishing a firearm to commit a crime, aggravated identity theft and extortion conspiracy.

A well-known women’s rights lawyer sought to arrange compensation from donors and tabloid media outlets for women who made or considered making sexual misconduct allegations against Trump during the final months of the 2016 presidential race.

The Department of Homeland Security is adding new requirements for countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program as part of the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to tighten border and travel security.

A Pennsylvania federal judge has blocked Trump’s repeal of an ObamaCare mandate that required employers to provide birth control coverage.

A White Plains neighborhood association is suing the city to stop a planned French-American School of New York campus at the old Ridgeway Country Club, calling the proposal “an absurdity.”

Actor William Fichtner, who grew up in Cheektowaga, but left the area after graduating from Maryvale High School in 1974 to go to college, first at Farmingdale State College, then Brockport, says: “(A)nybody that knows me knows that I’m a Buffalo guy..I love my hometown.”

A National Guard Black Hawk helicopter made an emergency landing this morning in Wyoming County.

The state’s top court ruled that judges will now be required — when asked — to instruct juries that witness identifications of suspects from a different race is less reliable than when people make IDs from their own race.

Laura Curran will take the oath of office to become Nassau’s next county executive on Jan. 1 in a ceremony outside her new Mineola office.

HGTV star Carter Oosterhouse is the latest in the entertainment industry to be accused of sexual misconduct.

Former Brooklyn assistant district attorney Tara Lenich’s counterfeit charge of an affair between her then-boyfriend and a fellow prosecutor ruined the other woman’s life and career, a new lawsuit charged.

After spending more than 40 years with the Troy Police Department, Chief John Tedesco intends to retire in January.

Young, Phillips Bill Aims To Strengthen Sexual Harassment Laws

Two Republicans in the state Senate on Friday announced proposals aimed at strengthening the state’s sexual harassment laws that would include banning confidential settlements, enshrining the definition of sexual harassment in law and expanding protections for independent contractors.

The measures were announced by Sens. Cathy Young and Elaine Phillips and come amid a flood of harassment accusations leveled against powerful men in the media, entertainment and politics.

“Our nation is at a defining moment with respect to the issue of sexual harassment,” Young said in a statement.

“In the last two months, dozens of courageous individuals have come forward to share painful stories of harassment and abuse they suffered at the hands of those in positions of power. Nearly all of these women and men have been silent for years, either as a result of intimidation by their abusers, or because of the humiliation associated with the abuse – or a combination of both. With each new revelation, our shock grows at the apparent pervasiveness of this problem along with our resolve to take action.”

The package of measures comes also as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he would likely propose efforts to clamp down on harassment in state government and elsewhere in society, including the possibility of forcing publicly traded companies to reveal settlements to their shareholders.

Albany has had its own sexual harassment cases in recent years and some lawmakers, including Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, want a uniform policy for handling allegations. The state Legislature has spent heavily on lawyers in recent years to handle accusations.

“There is no place in our government, or society as a whole, for sexual assault or harassment,” Phillips said. “It is inspiring to see the movement of women and men across our country coming forward, sharing their personal stories, and overcoming the stigma and shame brought on by the inappropriate actions of others. The dialogue must continue and as elected officials we must do all possible, to protect those who have been forced to carry the burden of harassment out of fear for their future.”

The bill would would end mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment complaints, which the lawmakers said can be used by employers to block legal action taken by victims.

Adding the definition of sexual harassment into state law would bolster its current status as a definition under the state Division of Human Rights, but it is only used administratively.

Ugly Post

Most of us use some form of social media these days, and elected officials are no exception. It’s actually a great way for them to communicate with supporters and even engage communities in a healthy debate on particular issues. But like every form of communication, it can take a nasty turn.

Democratic Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou was posting the other night about the Alabama Senate Race, when someone wrote a comment that seemed not only out of left field, but was also wildly inappropriate. See the Last comment on this thread. https://www.facebook.com/yuhline

Facebook 121517

So, this person Warren Chan managed to achieve a double whammy of being both racist and sexist in the same post. But it doesn’t quite end there. Turns out Chan is politically active and served on the transition team of incoming Democratic New York City Councilman Justin Brannan, who just won a tight race in Bay Ridge Brooklyn last month. Reached by phone, Brannan said that after this comment was posted and brought to his attention Chan was fired from the Transition Committee.  In a statement Jonathan Yedin, the Director of Brannan’s transition team says,

Warren’s comments are reprehensible and vile. We have removed him from the Transition Committee effective immediately.

Chan did not immediately return a voicemail message.

 

 

Cuomo Gets A Star-Studded Birthday Celebration (And A Corvette Cake)

image1The 60th birthday bash for Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday at Cipriani in New York City was a star-studded affair, with celebrities from the entertainment world and bold-faced names for politics and labor there to fete him.

And, to top it off, the gear head governor was presented with a cake in the shape of a Corvette Stingray.

Tickets to the fundraiser for Cuomo’s re-election went as high as $15,000.

Among the 900 people in attendance were Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon and the event included a video from the cast of Saturday Night Live, which featured Steve Martin and Lorne Michaels (SNL and Fallon’s Tonight Show, both on NBC, have benefited from the state’s tax credit program aimed at encouraging movie and TV production in New York).

Actress Brooke Shields and singer (and Cuomo friend) Billy Joel were also there. Singer Andra Day gave a rendition of the song “Rise Up” dedicated to Cuomo.

“The entire political world turned up to toast the Goveror’s birthday — if ever there was a question going into next year of where people are, it was clear everyone is behind the governor,” said a source in attendance.

Former President Bill Clinton praised Cuomo’s push for the federal government to help Puerto Rico and the work the state has done there, upstate economic development, as well as the passage of paid-family leave and the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2011.

Speaking of Cuomo, Clinton joked, “If you think he’s a force at 60, you should have seen it 35.”

A range of political figures attended the event or put in an appearance, including Reps. Joe Crowley, Nydia Velazquez, Greg Meeks, Hakeem Jeffried, Jerry Nadler, Carolyn Maloney and New York City Comptroller Scott String. From the Legislature, Sens. Geroge Latimer, Andrea Lanza and Brad Hoylman attended as did Assembly lawmakers Nick Perry, Helene Weinstein and Majority Leader Joe Morelle.

Former Gov. David Paterson and ex-New York City Mayor David Dinkins were there, as was former Rep. Charlie Rangel.

Virtually every major labor leader attended or stopped by the event, including 1199’s George Gresham, NYSUT President Andy Pallota, HTC President Peter Ward and Public Employees Federation President Wayne Spence.

Actor Michael Imperioli, who plays Cuomo in an upcoming Showtime miniseries dramatizing the Dannemora prison break of 2015, poked fun at the governor’s hard-charging personality.

“As some of you may know, I’m going to be playing the part of Governor Cuomo in an upcoming movie that is directed by Ben Stiller,” he said. “I played a lot of parts – this one is unique, this one is difficult. It takes me about four and a half hours to do hair and makeup to look as good as the governor, but I’m going to get that down.”

He also praised Cuomo’s handling of the escape and subsequent manhunt and urged him to run for president.

“Next year, when you are running for your third term as Governor of new York, when you go to the polling place to cast your vote, promise me you will not ride there on horseback,” he said. “I’ll drive you personally. Second, New York’s loss will be the gain of the entire free world, please run for president. Peace and happy birthday.”

Gillibrand Donates Trump Contributions, Coy On 2020

When reporters asked U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, earlier this year about running for president, she said she was “ruling it out.” Her answer was less definitive Friday, when in Western New York she was faced with a question about whether she was reconsidering.

Instead, Gillibrand employed a tactic often used by the governor, also considered a possible 2020 contender, pivoting to next year’s election instead of the one three years away.

“I’m really focused on running for Senate in 2018 and so my hope and dream is to be elected here and so that’s what I’m hoping for,” she said.

The senator has been thrust back into the national spotlight, taking a leading role as an advocate for victims of sexual harassment and assault, as well as a critic of President Donald Trump. In return, the president tweeted earlier this week that Gillibrand used to beg him for campaign contributions and “would do anything for them.”

“I think it was intended to be a sexist smear, intended to silence me on something I care very deeply about and the truth is, the president’s not going to silence me or the women who have stood up against him or the millions of women who have been marching since inauguration and showing up at town halls and running for office to be heard on the things that they care most deeply about,” she said.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, Trump did donate to Gillibrand in 2010 and 2007. The senator said the campaign gave all of his donations this week to a not-for-profit that deals with sexual violence.

She was also part of a bipartisan group that yesterday unveiled new rules for reporting sexual harassment in Congress. Despite the recent publicity, Gillibrand said the movement is not about her.

“What my job is then is to provide accountability. We have to create the structure around this pervasiveness and begin to show accountability, transparency and offer justice,” she said.

Lawmakers Want To Expand Enhance Tuition Awards To For-Profit Schools

Two state lawmakers on Friday pushed Gov. Andrew Cuomo to expand the Enhanced Tuition Award to students who attend proprietary, or for-profit, colleges in the state.

Sen. Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Victor Pichardo with the Association of Proprietary Colleges backed the expansion, which would give access to the grant to 40,000 students earning degrees at all levels.

“I’m proud that college affordability topped our list of priorities last year, but we cannot leave any student behind,” Klein said. “Those studying at proprietary colleges receive the same degree that they would receive if they opted to go to another college and those students deserve financial aid parity. I urge Governor Cuomo to sign my legislation into law.”

The colleges include institutions like Berkeley College, the College of Westchester and the School of Visual Arts. There are dozen of these colleges spread over 23 campuses in New York. The vast majority of the students at these schools are women, some 70 percent, and 41 percent are black or Hispanic.

“As the costs of higher education continue to climb, it’s essential that we expand scholarship programs so that every New Yorker has the opportunity to earn a college degree. Under current law, however, students at proprietary colleges aren’t eligible for Enhanced Tuition Awards, a clear inequity that needs to be corrected,” Pichardo said.

“That’s why Senator Klein and I passed legislation to ensure these students can take full advantage of the state’s scholarship and college opportunity programs. The measure passed both legislative chambers with strong bipartisan support, and I urge the governor to sign this bill into law as soon as possible.”

Barkan Blasts Golden Over Crash That Put Woman In Coma

Democratic state Senate candidate Ross Barkan in a fundraising email blasted Republican incumbent Marty Golden after The Daily News reported the lawmaker in 2005 was the driver in a crash the led to a woman in a coma that resulted in a large settlement to her family.

Golden had later paid the woman’s estate $750,000 to settle the matter. A Golden spokesman told The Daily News that the crash was a “terrible accident.”

Golden’s driving record, and his record on traffic issues in New York City writ large, are under scrutiny after his run-in as a passenger with a well-known bike advocate in Brooklyn. Golden is accused of impersonating a police officer, which he denies and insisted the cyclist, Brian Howland, was to blame.

In the fundraising email, Barkan writes he’s not surprised by these stories.

“The other day, a reporter asked me if I was surprised by Golden’s behavior,” he wrote. “He’s been my state senator for much of my life, so I answered honestly: no. The problem is, not enough people yet know how Golden has failed Southern Brooklyn.

I am running against him on my own record and vision. I believe in actually fixing our public transportation and keeping people safe.”

Gallivan Continues To Discuss Special Session With State Senate Leadership

From the Morning Memo:

Having legislators return to Albany for a special session is already a rare occurrence and the window for one to happen this year is quickly closing. State Senator Pat Gallivan, R-Elma, is still holding out some hope his colleagues will return to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would’ve blocked the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center from moving from its current location in West Seneca.

He said he continues to have discussions with Majority Leader John Flanagan and state Senate leadership.

“Our deadline’s not the end of the year,” Gallivan said. “We do have until we start up again next session so conceivably we could do something after the first of the year if there’s the willingness on the part of leadership and my colleagues to do this.”

It’s a long shot at best, but one the state senator will continue to pursue until the door closes. At that time, he said he’ll explore avenues.

“It’s something I believe very strongly in. This is a wrong decision. I think the governor was wrong when he vetoed this and I would hope that we could convince the governor to ultimately change his mind on this,” Gallivan said.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit to block the move to the same site as the adult facility in Buffalo, continues as well.

“There is the legal avenue and we still have a budget season coming up so even though he may have vetoed this legislation, the move is still not complete despite the construction starting. As they say, it’s not over until it’s over.”