Liz Benjamin

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The final vote on Betsy DeVos for U.S. education secretary has been pushed back until Monday, as many GOP lawmakers are heading to Florida this weekend for a fundraising event.

A routine House Oversight Committee hearing today turned into a shouting match between the Republican chairman and the ranking Democrat over Russian interference in the presidential election.

Rep. Chris Collins, a Buffalo Republican and Trump ally, took a strong stand against the president’s call for biometric tests at U.S. border crossings, agreeing with critics who say such a move would lead to massive delays at bridges between the United States and Canada.

President Donald Trump vowed to overturn a law restricting political speech by tax-exempt churches, a potentially huge victory for the religious right and a gesture to his political base.

The president takes medication for three ailments, including a prostate-related drug to promote hair growth, according to his longtime physician, Dr. Harold N. Bornstein. The other drugs are antibiotics to control rosacea, a common skin problem, and a statin for elevated blood cholesterol and lipids

Trump addressed the tense phone calls he shared with the Australian prime minister and Mexican president, telling about 2,000 people at the National Prayer Breakfast not to worry.

One person familiar with the circumstances of the call noted it came after a long day of conversations with other foreign leaders – Turnbull was the fifth call after four other nearly hour-long conversations. Trump, this source said, was feeling some fatigue after his first major bout of diplomacy.

Former presidential candidate and Arizona senator John McCain seems to be relishing a new role in the Senate: one of Trump’s leading trolls, going whether fellow Republican senators dare not go in public.

A U.S. Senate committee cleared Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency despite Democrats boycotting the vote for a second day.

House Democrats, seeing opportunity in grassroots rallies and protests against Trump’s policies, launched their earliest effort in a campaign cycle to hire organizing staff and target key swing seats in New York state, focusing on Reps. John Katko and Claudia Tenney.

The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General is investigating the implementation of Trump’s controversial executive order suspending the U.S. refugee program and curtailing travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Republicans trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act have a new problem on their hands: The AARP, which represents a demographic that happens to be an essential part of the GOP voting coalition, isn’t happy.

Frederick Douglass, who’s buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, declined to comment on Trump saying the abolitionist and author is doing an “amazing job.”

Hundreds of delis, bodegas and small New York City businesses owned by Yemenis closed for the afternoon to protest the presidential executive order that temporarily restricts Yemenis, and people from six other countries with predominantly Muslim populations, from entering the country.

Former Assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Vito Lopez, who died of leukemia 15 months ago, failed to properly document $55,164 of the $92,350 he received in campaign matching funds while committing 11 other infractions in a failed bid for the NYC Council in 2013, according to a new audit.

Former NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum’s poodle overdosed – accidentally – on marijuana (medical and recreational), which is an increasingly common occurrence, vets say.

Hundreds of overdose victims in Erie County are dead because major pharmaceutical companies misled doctors and patients into believing that highly addictive, prescription painkillers were safe, said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who is suing the companies in state Supreme Court.

The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City raised $27 million in calendar year 2016, according to numbers provided to POLITICO New York by the Fund and the City’s Conflicts of Interest Board.

It’s roughly 640 days until Election Day 2018. But Patrick Nelson, who is already moving to get himself on the ballot in NY-21, has his focus on the next three months.

A man convicted of taking hostages at a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign office in New Hampshire in 2007 is planning to plead guilty to robbing a bank and possessing cocaine.

Republican NYC mayoral candidate Paul Massey is preparing to compete – both in the boxing ring, where he spars a few days a week, and in the political ring, where he is challenging Democratic NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

State AG Eric Schneiderman has joined lawyers for immigrants challenging Trump’s travel ban, arguing in court papers that the order unfairly targets Muslims and violates federal laws and harms New York’s schools, businesses, hospitals and economy.

Deputy Suffolk County Executive Jon Schneider will leave his post as Steve Bellone’s top communication and intergovernmental relations aide for a job at LIU Post later this month.

Squeaky Wheel Gets Grease

From the Morning Memo:

Regular memo readers will recall an item last week on Oneida County Executive Tony Picente, a Republican who crossed party lines in 2014 to endorse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election bid, but was wondering whether the political fallout from that move was worth it.

Picente was upset over what he viewed as the governor’s snubbing of the Mohawk Valley.

He noted Cuomo’s failure to make a personal appearance after the loss of an Austrian company from the Nano Utica project, or mention the state’s ongoing support of the Marcy site during one of his regional State of the State address – none of which was delivered anywhere close to Utica.

Apparently, someone on the second floor of the state Capitol is reading Morning Memo, because not long after we went to “print” – both here and on our blog, – Picente said he got a call from the governor.

And that wasn’t the only conversation the two have had in recent days.

In fact, according to Picente, he had three opportunities to speak with the governor in less than a week, first on the phone, then in a private meeting when Picente came to Albany Monday for the winter legislative conference held by the state Association of Counties, and then again when all the county officials attending that event were hosted by Cuomo for dinner at the executive mansion.

“The decision was made for the community because I did not gain in any way shape or form politically from that,” Picente said of his 2014 endorsement during a CapTon interview last night.

“I took grief at that time, and I still take grief from time to time from my party. The governor and I really had a good relationship. The silence of the last couple weeks disturbed me even more so…I did the decision for what I believe was the right reasons, and those were to move my community forward, and as they started to get slowed down – look, we get angry like everybody else, and we get frustrated – and it needed to be cleared up.”

Picente said the mending of fences between himself and Cuomo will not stop him from being “aggressive” in advocating for his community going forward, and he will also continue to push for more local input in the future of the Marcy site.

Picente also said he and his fellow county officials told the governor at dinner Tuesday night that they were upset by his proposed local government consolidation measures in the 2017-18 budget, and they came away comforted.

“His outline of this was a lot different from what he presented at the State of the State,” Picente said. “…as we listened to it, and listening to our concerns as well about the method in which we go about this gave us a little more comfort. So I know we all walked away from that meeting with the governor, listening to him directly talking to us and not that crowds at the State of the State, we felt better about it, we understand it a little bit more.”

Picente stressed that local officials have been working on consolidation, and took offense at what was perceived as an effort by Cuomo to force them to do more.

On an unrelated matter, Picente noted that he had attended an event in support of the sizable immigrant community in Oneida County, particularly Utica, which has a long history of welcoming refugees, though it is not an official sanctuary city.

Picente said he disagrees with the rollout of the president’s recent immigrant-related executive orders, though he understands the desire to protect the U.S. from terrorists.

“I support the refugees,” he said. “We’ve had great success with the refugee population in restoring communities, restoring homes and restoring businesses…I’m upset at the way this was rolled out.”

Cuomo Called Out on Immigrant Services Funding

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been saying all the right worlds when it comes to standing up to President Trump’s recent immigration-related executive orders, but one advocate for New York’s immigrant community says he would like to see a little less talk and a little more action.

“For the past year-and-a-half, Gov. Cuomo has had some excellent rhetoric, and has made really remarkable statements talking about the importance of immigrants to New York State, but we need to see more in terms of the state budget,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“We need to see more in terms of what we are we going to do to provide basic services, not just for undocumented folks, but for everybody.”

There are a number of areas where the state could step up its funding, Choi said, but as an example, he suggested an increase in adult literation education, noting that there’s current about 3.5 million New Yorkers who don’t have English proficiency or a GED.

Choi called this a “speed bump, a speed limit” on our economy, saying that immigrants need to be able to speak, read and write English if they are to forge successful new lives for themselves in New York – and the U.S. as a whole.

“Right now we’re at $6.4 million in the governor’s budget,” Choi said. “But quite frankly, we need to be about three times that that number.”

“It’s still not a huge number. It’s still not going to meet the need. But it’s one one example of where the governor can put his money where his mouth and make sure that he’s investing in the future of New York and immigrants.”

Choi also said the immigrant community stands to be significantly impacted if the Affordable Care Act is repealed by the Trump administration and the GOP-controlled Congress, but noted New York has been a “leader” in providing quality, affordable healthcare.

“If the ACA does get repealed, it’s going to be absolutely traumatic,” he said. “…If ACA goes away, there’s an opportunity for New York State to step up and be a model for the rest of the country, and say: We’re going to cover a whole swath of folks, perhaps up to age 29. And we’re going to say, this is statement that we’re going to make on how New York can really push back against the draconian policies that we’re seeing from the Trump administration.”

The estimated cost of that? About $78 million, Choi said, which is not “chump change,” but also not a very big piece of the proposed $162 billion executive budget.

Here and Now

Happy Groundhog Day!

President Trump is scheduled to attend the national prayer breakfast this morning at the Washington Hilton.

He’ll then meet at the White House with Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden, and Reps. Kevin Brady and Richard Neal, and lunch with Harley Davidson executives and union representatives.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule. Ditto NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

At 8:30 a.m., NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa host a northern Manhattan agenda breakfast, Yeshiva University, Belfer Hall, 2495 Amsterdam Ave., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., state Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton delivers a regional budget briefing, Montgomery County OEM Building, 200 Clark Dr., Fultonville.

At 9:30 a.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and state Sen. Daniel Squadron unveil report showcasing statistical evidence for greater investment in early childhood development, Magical Years Early Childhood Development Center, 230 60th St., Brooklyn.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Council Progressive Caucus members hold a press conference in opposition to Trump’s executive orders, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., state Director of Veterans Affairs Eric Hesse delivers a regional budget briefing, Franklin County Board of Legislators’ Chambers, 355 West Main St., Suite 409, Malone.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Sen. David Carlucci will hold the next meeting of his Senior Advisory Committee with a focus on creating a utility consumer advocate, Assistant Attorney General Gary Brown will attend, Nanuet Public Library, 149 Church St., Nanuet.

At 11 a.m., NYC mayoral candidate and state Sen. Tony Avella demands that the Montefiore Hospital release information on the investigation into the assault on Seong Soo Kim that resulted in severe brain damage, Montefiore Hospital, Moses Campus, 111 E. 210 St., Bronx.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC’s “official groundhog,” Staten Island Chuck, attends the kick-off ceremony of a new interactive exhibit at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! that allows visitors to relive and experience the excitement of a New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square 365 days a year, Times Square, 234 W. 42nd St., Manhattan.

At 11:30 a.m., Director of Downstate Intergovernmental Affairs Rochelle Kelly-Apson delivers a regional budget briefing, Sunnyside Community Services, 43-31 39th St., Sunnyside, Queens.

Also at 11:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul visas the production expansion project at Recharge NY program recipient Confer Plastics, 97 Witmer Rd., North Tonawanda.

At noon, Secretary of State Rossana Rosado delivers a regional budget briefing, Grand Roosevelt Ballroom, 2 Hudson St., Yonkers.

Also at noon, a coalition of groups opposed to Trump’s agenda, including Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club, 350 NYC, 350 Brooklyn, WE ACT for Environmental Justice urge Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to join their effort, 780 Third Ave., (Schumer’s NYC office), Manhattan.

Also at noon, Albany climate activists take part in the statewide day of action urging Schumer to resist Trump’s “anti-climate agenda,” Federal Building, Clinton Avenue and Pearl Street, Albany.

Also at noon, Long Island Clean Air Water and Soil, Food and Water Watch and other Long Island environmental groups rally to urge New York’s U.S. senators to fight the Trump administration’s “anti-science agenda,” 145 Pinelawn Road, Melville.

At 12:10 p.m., Hochul tours the North Tonawanda Downtown Gateway Project, 211 Main Street & 110 Sweeney Street, North Tonawanda.

At 1 p.m., Stratton delivers his second regional budget briefing of the day, SUNY Oswego, Sheldon Hall, Oswego.

Also at 1 p.m., state Sen. Brad Hoylman, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and nonprofit human services organizations call on Cuomo and the state Legislature to strengthen New York’s human services sector, Urban Pathways’ Ivan Shapiro House, 459 W. 46th St., Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., Hochul delivers remarks at the arrival ceremony for the first KC-135 Stratotanker to arrive at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, Lockport Road Entrance, 2026 Lockport Rd., Niagara Falls.

At 4 p.m., Acting Civil Service Commissioner Lola Brabham delivers a regional budget briefing, Fulton–Montgomery Community College, 2805 NY-67, Johnstown.

Also at 4 p.m., Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, state Sen. Joseph Addabbo and the parents of Karina Vetrano, who was murdered last August, hold rally calling for the New York state Commission on Forensic Science to adopt guidelines permitting use of familial DNA matching, 164th Avenue and 83rd Street, Queens.

At 5 p.m., Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham, Communities United for Police Reform and others rally on the fifth anniversary of the death Ramarley Graham and demand accountability for the NYPD officers involved, Foley Square, 111 Worth St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Liam McCabe will be hosting a Groundhog’s Day Party, where he will be announcing his intentions regarding the 43rd City Council district race, The Leif Bar, 6725 5th Ave., Brooklyn.

Also at 7 p.m., the Indo-Caribbean Alliance hosts an emergency discussion with community partners, stakeholders, elected officials and lawyers on the implications of Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, ICA office, 131-12 Liberty Ave., Queens.

Also at 7 p.m., the Green Party of Brooklyn hosts “Voting Justice Now! The 2016 Recount and Electoral Reform – Where Do We Go From Here?”, with 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and journalist Greg Palast, Park Slope United Methodist Church, 410 Sixth Ave., Brooklyn.


During a phone call last weekend, President Donald Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

Trump threatened in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military does more to control them itself, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The AP.

Two Republican senators announced they would oppose Trump’s choice for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, marking the first GOP defections on a cabinet nominee, placing her confirmation in jeopardy and underscoring the warfare breaking out across Capitol Hill.

Trump, one day after introducing his nominee for the Supreme Court, urged Republicans in the Senate to make a major change to the chamber’s voting rules if Judge Neil Gorsuch can’t attract the necessary Democratic support to win confirmation.

Democrats are trying to figure out just how far they should go in opposing Gorsuch.

Just before the Senate confirmed Trump’s new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, national security adviser ­Michael Flynn made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room to deliver a tight-lipped warning to Iran over its most recent ballistic missile test. “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice, he said.

After voting for Trump’s nominees for defense and homeland security secretary and for CIA director, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made clear that he would oppose many of Trump’s remaining cabinet choices. “I will vote against nominees who will be the very worst of this anti-immigrant, anti-middle-class, billionaires’ club cabinet,” he said on Facebook.

Trump’s travel restrictions on people from seven countries could dampen international enrollment at U.S. colleges, at a time they have become increasingly reliant on tuition revenue from overseas students.

Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., addressing a throng of students, professors and staff assembled in support of the school’s international community, denounced the new travel ban and vowed to fight it.

The legal fight against the immigration ban will return to Brooklyn Federal Court today when a team of lawyers who filed an emergency motion to stay the deportation of Iraqi refugees Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi over the weekend will again face off with Justice Department attorneys.

Trump, accompanied by his daughter, Ivanka and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, of Delaware, made an unannounced trip to Dover Air Force Base yesterday to attend the return of the remains of the first American service member killed in action under his command.

Natalie Jones, the deputy chief of protocol who was appointed by President Obama in 2011 and resigned last month, is a leading candidate to be President Trump’s new social secretary, according to two people with knowledge of the selection process.

Lawmakers from New York and New Jersey plan to introduce legislation to block the federal government from using the region’s airports, including John F. Kennedy International, to detain or deport immigrants and refugees.

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer: “If the federal government wants to wield its full authority on immigration, for example, it will be hard for states to object, because that’s an area where the courts have said the government has a clear capacity under the Constitution to do what it wants.”

A talk at the University of California at Berkeley by Milo Yiannopoulos, a polarizing Breitbart News editor, was canceled yesterday out of safety concerns after protesters hurled smoke bombs, broke windows and started a bonfire.

Trump is already looking ahead to his re-election. His campaign and two related fund-raising committees have a combined $16 million in their war chest.

An aide to Melania Trump confirmed that the First Lady will move to the White House starting at the beginning of the summer. The White House also announced that Lindsay Reynolds would be joining the First Lady’s team as her chief of staff.

Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton were cheered as they left the Circle in the Square Theatre in Manhattan, where they had seen the a cappella performance of “In Transit.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order giving the state attorney general’s office the authority to investigate Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel E. Abelove for his handling of a case involving the fatal shooting of a DWI suspect by a Troy police officer last April.

More >


The battle over President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court selection began in earnest today, as the nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, made a courtesy call on Capitol Hill and allies began an advertising campaign to win support from centrist Democrats.

Trump endorsed the “nuclear” option in confirming his Gorsuch, urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to change rules to avoid Democratic opposition.

Trump marked the start of African-American History Mark by once again criticizing the media for covering him unfairly while also praising famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass as “somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.”

The White House has refused to send its spokespeople or surrogates onto CNN shows, effectively icing out the network from on-air administration voices.

The Republican-led Senate has confirmed Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, voting 56-43 – largely along party lines, with most Democrats in opposition.

A Senate committee voted along party lines to send the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general to the full Senate floor, after a contentious hearing in which Democrats questioned the Alabama Republican’s ability to show independence from the White House.

Republicans also advanced two other cabinet nominations – Steve Mnuchin as Treasury secretary and Georgia Rep. Tom Price for secretary of Health and Human Services – suspending quorum rules that require a member of the minority party to participate in confirmation votes.

So far, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has voted “no” on five of Trump’s cabinet nominees.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is backing former U.S. Labor Secretary (and Buffalo native) Tom Perez’s bid to lead the Democratic National Committee.

Hillary Clinton, whose first-ever student commencement speech at Wellesley College in 1969 kicked off her storied career, will be the college’s 2017 commencement speaker.

Simon & Schuster will publish a collection of personal essays by Clinton this fall. The inspiration is “favorite quotations she has drawn upon,” though it will also include some material on the 2016 presidential race.

Bill Hammond takes a close look at the governor’s proposal for addressing rising prescription drug prices, which relies on heavy-handed state regulation, and says it raises doubts as to its fairness, effectiveness, workability, and even legality.

Geddes town supervisor Manny Falcone pleaded guilty to felony eavesdropping for ordering his secretary to illegally listen to conversations among others in the town hall. He has already resigned.

Trump’s campaign paid his companies $12.8 million from the time he launched his improbable presidential bid in the lobby of his company’s flagship Trump Tower property through the end of last year, according to a POLITICO analysis of FEC data.

A proposed constitutional amendment writing abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade into the state constitution is getting blowback from pro-abortion advocates and lawmakers who say the measure introduced by Cuomo wouldn’t move fast enough.

Cuomo today announced the launch of “Control Isn’t Love,” a social media advertising campaign to educate teens and adults about the signs of teen dating abuse and where to seek help.

Faced with steep declines in advertising revenue, Dow Jones & Co. is reorganizing some of its operations across Europe and Asia to further reduce costs, moves that will result in the layoffs of dozens of news staffers at The Wall Street Journal.

Alleging that one of the nation’s dominant cable and internet providers “has been ripping you off,” state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his office had sued…us. (in other words, Charter Communications and its subsidiary Spectrum, formerly known as Time Warner Cable).

Tim Hoefer: “Taxpayers beware: the annual push to water down New York’s property tax cap is underway in the state Legislature.”

The Obamas appear to be having a good time on vacation.

Richard L. Frey, 80, who spent 10 years as mayor of Dunkirk, admitted using $54,361 in political contributions for his personal use as part of a plea agreement approved by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. He faces a recommended sentence of up to 14 months in prison.

If parking and traffic are any measure of a casino’s success, then opening day at the $440 million del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County was a hit.

Tesla Motors is changing its name as the SolarCity owner branches out into solar energy. The California-based company is changing its name to Tesla Inc., according to a regulatory filing made today.

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the Related Companies are joining forces to build a 1.4 million-square-foot apartment-and-office development on a pair of adjacent sites they own in Hudson Yards.

BuzzFeed is partnering with Commissioner Julie Menin and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment to launch the “One Book, One New York” program.

The Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz, (yes, named for my father), has a new blog.

Bacon shortage?


President Donald Trump plans to announce his nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court at 8 p.m. – a move that will instantly set off a weekslong partisan brawl over the successor to one of the most polarizing justices in recent memory.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted that the executive order signed by the president last week does not constitute a “travel ban.” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the same. Those statements put both men at odds with their boss.

Trump postponed the signing of an executive order on cybersecurity, despite a White House messaging blitz on the issue and a signing ceremony on the schedule.

Senators in the Finance Committee were supposed to vote today on two cabinet nominations that Democrats aren’t huge fans of. There was just one issue: Democrats didn’t show up, opting to boycott instead.

Speaker Paul Ryan said he only learned about Trump’s executive order barring most travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries as it was being rolled out, and called the confusion with the announcement “regrettable.”

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie called the order’s rollout “terrible.”

Since the order was released on Friday, a growing chorus of top Christians, Muslims, Jews and leaders of other faiths have denounced it, calling it contrary to their spiritual traditions and the country’s values.

Two Indian athletes attempting to travel to the United States to compete in the World Snowshoe Championships in Saranac Lake were denied visas as a result of Trump’s ban.

About 50 people gathered at Perseverance Park in downtown Syracuse for “Trump Tuesday,” where three refugees shared their emigration stories and thoughts on new federal policies.

Eight protesters were arrested after they blocked access to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office while calling on the state to cover the cost of legal services for the poor.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who made headlines with legal actions against Trump‘s real estate seminar program and personal foundation, today declared he could and would pursue the commander-in-chief for other offenses, though he declined to elaborate on his ongoing investigations.

Hillary Clinton tweeted that she is thinking about Khizr Khan, the father of a U.S. Army captain who was killed in Iraq, and an Iraqi interpreter who can reportedly no longer come to the United States due to Trump’s latest order.

Former Rep. Richard Hanna says Trump’s order suspending U.S. entry to some immigrants and refugees was clearly anti-Muslim, and will only make the world less safe by fueling anti-Western sentiment in the Middle East.

A key state lawmaker said he expects no opposition over the nomination of Rowan D. Wilson to New York’s highest court and believes the Port Washington, Long Island resident could be confirmed as soon as Monday.

Trump began moving his New York City real estate portfolio into the “Donald J Trump Revocable Trust” on Dec. 31 and New Year’s day, according to an analysis of city property records by The Real Deal.

Capitalizing on an online protest that began over the weekend, opponents of a statewide expansion of ride-hailing services in New York are trying to tie Uber to Trump.

Republican NYC mayoral candidate and real executive Paul Massey said he agrees with Mayor Bill de Blasio and other top New York Democrats that New York City should remain a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants in the face of Trump‘s efforts to sever funding.

The New York City Bar Association has issued a report urging the state Legislature to accept the Judiciary’s 2017-2018 budget request, which includes a 2 percent increase of $42.7 million, in its entirety.

Long Island Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin said he believed statements commemorating the Holocaust “should include a reference to Jews specifically as part of the message,” unlike the statement released by Trump.

Federal prosecutors are weighing bringing child-pornography charges against former Rep. Anthony Weiner over sexually explicit exchanges he allegedly had with a 15-year-old girl, according to people familiar with the matter.

General Electric Co. has laid off an undisclosed number of scientists at its GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna that originates many of the company’s major discoveries.

Riders of the Assembly elevators on the east side of the the state Capitol may have noticed a rather pungent stench at times while waiting for an elevator car to arrive on the first floor. It turns out that funk is essential for getting the Capitol clean.

Oprah Winfrey is joining CBS News’ flagship newsmagazine “60 Minutes,” as a special contributor, the network announced.

Stringer Flags Another Cuomo Power Grab

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts over the years to consolidate power in the executive branch have been widely reported – and criticized by state lawmakers and good government watchdogs, who say the executive branch in New York is inherently powerful enough.

(See here, here, here and here).

Now, according to New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, the governor is trying yet again to grow his authority, burying in his proposed budget language that would give the state budget director unilateral ability to pass cuts down to local government officials to manage the funding reductions widely expected to come from the Trump administration and GOP Congress.

Stringer revealed this effort during his testimony before the joint legislative budget hearing on the local government portion of Cuomo’s 2017-18 executive spending plan. It was the first many lawmakers appeared to hear of the matter – and certainly the first I had heard of it.

During a CapTon appearance several hours after his testimony, Stringer, a former assemblyman from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, stressed that there are many portions of Cuomo’s budget that he likes.

This part, though, he strongly disagrees with.

“When you look at some of the language, the one thing I don’t want to see is that one budget director deciding cuts if, in fact, President Trump gets his way,” the comptroller said. “Because I do think we should have the most robust conversation between New York City and both houses of the Legislature, as well as the governor.”

Neither the governor nor NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio included in their respective budgets plans to cover the loss of millions – and potentially billions, depending on how quickly the Affordable Care Act might be repealed, and not immediately replaced – worth of federal funding.

I asked Stringer if he thinks it’s irresponsible of the governor and the mayor not to plan more prudently for the future, and he replied:

“This is the beginning of the dance; this isn’t the last dance. So we’re going to see more information come out, more negotiation…Ii’ve urged the mayor to up the set aside for exactly this reason. I want to see another $1.2 billion added to our savings account. But that will be a negotiation between the mayor and the City Council.”

“…part of my job is to push a lot on these issues. That’s why I came to Albany today. It’s the first time I’ve come to Albany since I’ve been comptroller more worried about the federal side than ever before. it’s a very real threat.”

Stringer said his office has identified $165 million worth of sanctuary city money alone that’s in jeopardy, and up to $7 billion worth of federal dollars – all told – many of which go to supporting the safety net.

The comptroller stressed that this is “not a time to panic,” reiterating that the budget negotiation process is just getting underway, and there is time for state lawmakers to push back against Cuomo’s proposals.

Stringer is also advocating for an expansion of the so-called millionaire’s tax, reasoning that wealthy people in New York will do very well under the Trump/congressional GOP tax plan.

The Assembly Democrats last week proposed new tax brackets to hit the state’s wealthiest residents. Cuomo called for merely extending the tax, while the Senate Republicans so far aren’t terribly keen on seeing it continue to exist at all.

For those keeping score regarding the NYC mayor’s race this year, Stringer, who has been mentioned as a potential challenger to Mayor Bill de Blasio in a Democratic primary, said he is very focused on his current job. “Politically, I love being comptroller,” he said.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.

President Trump is lunching with former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani at the White House today, and then will hold a listening session with cyber security experts.

At 3:15 p.m., Trump is scheduled to sign another executive order. At 8 p.m. – prime time – he will announce his U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

At 7:30 a.m., Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara holds a fundraiser, The New Courtyard by Marriott At Mohawk River, 240 Harborside Dr., Schenectady.

At 9:30 a.m., the fourth of 13 joint legislate budget hearings will be held on the public protection portion of Cuomo’s spending plan, LOB, Hearing Room B, 198 State St., Albany.

At 10:45 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul delivers remarks at the state Association of Counties women’s roundtable, The Desmond Hotel, 660 Albany Shaker Rd., Colonie.

At 11 a.m., state Liquor Authority Chair Vince Bradley delivers a regional budget briefing, Kent Library, 17 Sybils Crossing, Carmel.

Also at 11 a.m., the state Senate is in session, Senate Chambers, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., Sens. George Amedore and Jesse Hamilton, and Assembly members Patricia Fahy, Andrew Hevesi and Linda Rosenthal, join nonprofits to call for state investment into human services, outside Senate Chambers, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, City Councilman Antonio Reynoso and others give away free reusable bags to passersby to help residents prepare for the imminent 5-cent tax on paper and plastic bags, Court Street and Montague Street, Brooklyn.

At 11:30 a.m., Republican Assembly members Ray Walter and Mary Beth Walsh hold a “Rally for Ridesharing” press conference, outside Assembly chamber, 3rd Floor, state Capitol, Albany.

At noon, members of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York rally to support construction safety legislation, Broadway and Murray St., Manhattan.

At 12:15 p.m., concerned citizens, led by Altamont Main Street USA and including members of, Citizen Action of NY, the Working Families Party and others gather outside the offices of U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand for a peaceful rally in opposition to Trump’s cabinet appointees, Leo O’Brien Federal Building, N. Pearl Street and Clinton Avenue, Albany.

At 2 p.m., the New York Immigration Coalition, Fiscal Policy Institute, elected officials and advocates unveil new legislation and analysis in favor of granting driver’s licenses to undocumented New Yorkers, Empire State Plaza, Meeting Room 7, Albany.

Also at 2 p.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli attends the installation ceremony of Bishop John O. Barres, Parish of St. Agnes Cathedral. Rockville Centre, Long Island.

At 12:30 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will visit the NYPD’s Rodman’s Neck Training Complex with NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill to tour the facility and discuss the City’s $275 million investment to upgrade the complex, One Rodman’s Neck Road, the Bronx.

At 2:30 p.m., U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will hold a simultaneous satellite media availability and conference call to announce the “End Outsourcing Act” to protect New York workers and keep jobs in America.

At 6 p.m., Assemblyman Richard Gottfried speaks on the Women’s City Club of New York’s panel on the status of the New York Health Act, Mount Sinai Beth Israel/Phillips Ambulatory Care Center, 10 Union Square E., Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., de Blasio appears live on the Dean Obeidallah Show.


Saying acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, an Obama administration appointee, had “betrayed” the Department of Justice by refusing to defend the president’s immigrant travel ban, Donald Trump told her: You’re fired.

Trump replaced Yates with Dana Boente, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, saying that he would serve as attorney general until Congress acts to confirm Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. In his first act in his new role, Boente announced that he was rescinding Yates’s “do not defend” order.

The White House warned State Department officials that they should leave their jobs if they did not agree with Trump’s agenda – an extraordinary effort to stamp out a wave of internal dissent against the travel ban.

Career officials at the State Department are circulating a so-called dissent cable, warning the immigration ban could undercut U.S. counterterrorism operations and threaten national security.

Trump appointed Thomas Homan acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Homan has served as the executive director of the ICE’s enforcement and removal operations, leading its efforts to arrest and removal of undocumented immigrants since 2013.

The fallout from Trump’s sweeping immigration order exposed tender rifts within the Republican Party, alarmed members of his Cabinet, fueled suspicions among his top advisers — and left the defiant commander in chief stewing over who was to blame.

At least three top national security officials – Defense Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Rex Tillerson, who is awaiting confirmation to lead the State Department – have told associates they were not aware of details of directive until around the time Trump signed it. Top intelligence officials were also left largely in the dark.

In a statement, former President Barack Obama spoke out against Trump’s efforts to seal the United States borders against people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, siding with protesters around the country outraged at the crackdown on immigration.

As the governor of a state with a large immigrant population, and as the top-ranking Democrat in the Republican president’s home state, Andrew Cuomo has the prerequisites to be an outsize Trump opponent. Through his statements and gestures, it is clear Cuomo intends to try to capitalize on the torrent of anti-Trump fervor and to try to be at the forefront of Trump opposition in New York.

Tech companies – including Microsoft, Amazon, and Expedia – are joining forces with the Washington state government to fight against Trump’s immigration-related executive order.

The Trump administration reportedly will allow 872 refugees into the U.S. despite the order signed by the president last Friday.

Western New York’s two Republican members of Congress – Chris Collins and Tom Reed – offered staunch defenses of the controversial order, which New York Democrats lambasted as an affront to American values.

The law firm of Greenberg Traurig, in which former Rudy Giuliani is a shareholder, is distancing itself from Trump’s immigration order, which the former mayor helped create.

Trump is one of the three greatest threats to the European Union, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt has said.

An 8-year-old North Jersey transgender boy who was kicked out of the Cub Scouts was asked to rejoin in what amounts to a major shift in policy for the Boy Scout of America, which issued a statement indicating that it’s opening its membership to transgender children.

Gregg Phillips, whom Trump has promoted as an authority on voter fraud, was registered to vote in multiple states during the 2016 presidential election, according to the AP.

The state Legislature gave the second and final passage of a measure permitting the forfeiture of pensions of top state and local government officials who are convicted of felonies related to their duties as public officers. Voters statewide this fall will be given the final say whether the New York constitution should be amended.

Cuomo wants to amend the state constitution to protect abortion rights in New York if a conservative Supreme Court curtails them nationally.

Cuomo’s legal counsel, Alphonso David, said the exact language had yet to be drafted, but the governor wants to codify current protections that guarantee a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, and throughout pregnancy when necessary to preserve the mother’s life or health.

Many of Cuomo’s fellow Democrats expressed skepticism his plan stands a chance with the Republicans who control the state Senate. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan had no comment.

Many of the proposals Cuomo outlined in his budget and State of the State messages are widely popular among New York voters, according to a Siena College poll released yesterday.

The same poll found a slight dip in the Trump’s popularity in his home state of New York during the first days of his new administration.

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Former President Barack Obama signaled his support for the protests in response to President Trump’s controversial immigration ban, his office said in his first major statement since leaving the White House.

The stock market as a whole is falling rapidly in the wake of Trump’s immigrant ban, and the tech sector is following the same trendline.

The Department of Defense is compiling categories of Iraqis who should be exempt from Trump’s recent executive order.

U.S. Senate Democrats are going to try to bring down Trump’s Supreme Court pick no matter who the president chooses to fill the current vacancy.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit the United States on Feb. 15.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will co-chair a newly-formed outside group that is devoted to promoting Trump’s agenda.

Joy Weatherup Anthis, the owner of a construction company in DeWitt, says she was surprised today when she found herself sitting next to Trump at the White House, offering him advice about cutting regulations on small businesses.

In the face of harsh questioning over the city’s ability to protect children from abuse and neglect, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio told state lawmakers that Administration for Children’s Services commissioner Gladys Carrion would be out by the end of the week. (She announced her resignation six weeks ago).

Sen. Mike Gianaris said he plans to propose legislation that limits the Port Authority from carrying out Trump’s ban, saying it’s within the state’s power to bar the president from using the agency’s personnel and facilities.

Matt Mittenthal, a former spokesman for AG Eric Schneiderman and Hillary Clinton, has been hired to do communications for BuzzFeed’s news division.

A Kentucky woman has been indicted for collecting her dead mother’s New York workers’ compensation benefits for two years, according to state IG Leahy Scott. Almost $40,000 in payments allegedly ended up going to Sheryl A. Colson (aka Sheryl McClure) of Kline Trail in New Concord, Ky.

Here’s one unintended consequence of Trump’s unexpected election as president: It is cooling the feud between New York’s top Democrats, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio.

New York’s charter school leaders and advocates, some of the national education reform movement’s most vocal and influential supporters, have remained resolutely on the sidelines throughout the debate over Trump’s education secretary pick, Betsy DeVos.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has drawn heat for signing on to a letter in support of DeVos from Republican officials from all 50 states.

Sen. Terrence Murphy may launch an investigation into the Cuomo administration’s agreement with Entergy to close the Indian Point nuclear plant unless questions he has about the deal are answered, including how local governments will replace the tax revenue they’ll lose once the facility closes.

Starbucks announced a plan to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years in an act of defiance against Trump.

As seeks the cancellation of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, comedian Samantha Bee will be hosting a shadow event thrown by the cable network TBS.

Former President George H.W. Bush was released today from Houston Methodist Hospital where he received treatment for pneumonia for more than two weeks.

The Huffington Post ratified its first union contract today, becoming the largest digital news site to collectively bargain amid a series of newsroom organizing drives.

Six New York Republicans are on the DCCC’s 2018 target list.

De Blasio told CNN’s Jake Tapper that it is OK to shield undocumented immigrants who drive drunk from federal authorities if it does not “lead to any other negative outcome.”

When it comes to education funding, Cuomo aide Paul Francis is singing a different tune than when he served as then Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s budget director in 2007.

While protests were erupting around the nation in response to the president’s travel ban, his daughter, Ivanka, tweeted out photos of she and her husband, Jared Kushner, getting ready to attend a black tie function.

After two years and countless complaints, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center has concluded it’s no longer worth it to host the New York Islanders.

A 25-pound bobcat named Ollie has gone missing at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo after apparently escaping her enclosure.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany.

It’s a busy day at the state Capitol.

A big group of abortion rights advocates is expected in town for their annual lobby day, which has increased interest and significance in light of recent actions by the Trump administration. Cuomo, who is among Democrats positioning themselves as the anti-Trump with an eye toward a possible White House run in 2020, will be addressing the crowd.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, is also scheduled to speak, along with a slew of Democratic elected officials.

Also, joint legislative budget hearings continue, with today’s focus on the local government portion of the governor’s proposed 2017-18 spending plan. Mayors from all over the state – led by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio – will be testifying.

The state Association of Counties kicks off its legislative conference at The Desmond Hotel in Colonie, and it’s Day 2 of the state Conservative Party’s annual political action convention – also being held at a Colonie hotel.

Down in D.C., there’s word that President Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court pick announcement could come today or tomorrow after a tumultuous weekend sparked by his travel ban executive order.

A full schedule of the day’s events appears at the end of this post.


Travelers were stranded around the world, protests escalated in the United States and anxiety rose within President Trump’s party yesterday as his order closing the nation to refugees and people from seven predominantly Muslim countries provoked a crisis just days into his administration.

President Donald Trump defended his executive order, even as a top Cabinet official walked back part of the measure — signaling confusion and fissures within the new administration.

Trump’s order states that it is intended to “protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.” However, few of the dozens of plots in the U.S. during and after 2001 were attempted or carried out by suspects who came from the countries targeted under the ban.

Aides to Trump called the implementation of the temporary travel ban a “massive success story” despite criticism from some top Republicans, protests and disarray at airports.

As Trump signed a sweeping executive order on Friday, shutting the borders to refugees and others from seven largely Muslim countries, the secretary of homeland security was on a White House conference call getting his first full briefing on the global shift in policy.

Drab airport screening areas and waiting rooms were transformed into chaotic scenes, with lawyers saying that border agents had put pressure on detainees and created an information blackout that left many struggling to discern how Trump’s immigration order was being applied.

The reaction in the heartland, where voters propelled Trump to victory in November, was far more relaxed than the uproar taking place on either coast.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a hotline for people to report relatives and friends who are unaccounted for amid Trump’s travel ban.

“As a New Yorker, I am a Muslim. As a New Yorker, I am Jewish,” Cuomo said. “As a New Yorker, I am black, I am gay, I am disabled, I am a woman seeking to control her health and her choices because as a New Yorker we are one community and the New York community is composed of all of the above.”

The governor said attorneys in his office will be available to provide counsel to the detained immigrants and their families. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has pledged similar assistance.

A teary-eyed U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Trump to reverse his ban, deeming it “mean-spirited and un-American.” He pledged Democrats would soon introduce legislation to overturn the order.

Hillary and Chelsea Clinton both came forward on Twitter to join the growing group of people who have voiced their opposition to Trump’s immigration and refugee ban.

Hundreds of New Yorkers poured into lower Manhattan yesterday afternoon in a show of solidarity with immigrants and refugees seeking entry into the United States – and many NYC union workers were among them.

Hollywood once again used a major awards show to blast Trump — this time calling him out during yesterday’s SAG Awards.

Rep. John Katko, a Syracuse-area Republican, praised the intent of Trump’s order, but said he’s worried it will hurt lawful U.S. residents.

Long Island Republican Rep. Pete King said he supports Trump’s order, but, contrary to a claim by former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, played no role in helping craft the policy.

Staten Island/Brooklyn Republican Rep. Dan Donovan, whose district has a significant Syrian population, supports Trump’s executive order, saying as a nation, we must “balance our compassion with security interests.”

Conservative patriarch Charles Koch and his vast network is vowing to oppose Trump if and when he deviates from their dedication to “free and open societies.”

Jewish Republicans castigated Trump over his decision to not mention Jews in his statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day — with one prominent group calling on the White House to “immediately rectify this painful omission.”

The University at Buffalo advised all of its international students not to travel outside the U.S., including crossing into Canada, until there is further clarification of Trump’s travel ban order.

The State University of New York system issued a statement warning its 320 students from countries banned by Trump’s executive order to avoid travel.

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