Liz Benjamin

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Homepage: http://nystateofpolitics.com


Posts by Liz Benjamin

Extras

President Trump revealed highly classified intelligence information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador while meeting with them last week at the White House.

State AG Eric Schneiderman has opened an investigation into the real-estate dealings of Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, deepening the already intense legal scrutiny of the young administration.

“If it’s hard to get checks on the presidency from Congress, we’re going to try to fill that space,” Schneiderman said. “I’m willing to bet on the rule of law. I think at the end of the day, it’s what people want. I will bet on that to survive this presidency.”

Barron Trump, 11, the president’s youngest son, will transfer to the private St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland after he moves to D.C. this summer with his mother, First Lady Melania Trump.

Callista Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is the preferred nominee to be the next ambassador to the Vatican.

K.T. McFarland, Trump’s deputy national security adviser, reportedly gave the president fake information, leading to a crackdown at the White House.

The hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” said that the White House counselor Kellyanne Conway complained extensively about Trump in private conversations with them before he was elected, and insisted she was only working for him for the money.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced it would stay out of a fight over a restrictive North Carolina voting law. The move left in place a federal appeals court ruling that struck down key parts of the law as an unconstitutional effort to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

U.S. Senate Republicans, increasingly unnerved by Trump’s volatility and unpopularity, are starting to show signs of breaking away from him as they try to forge a more traditional Republican agenda and protect their political fortunes.

In Buffalo federal court, G. Steven Pigeon will have a preliminary hearing on June 15 to evaluate the government’s evidence that he solicited an illegal contribution to the 2014 re-election campaign of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“(T)he subway, the lifeblood of the city and arguably the most critical piece of infrastructure (Cuomo) controls, is falling apart on his watch.”

The first Democrat has announced his intention to challenge freshman Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney: Patrick Madden, 50, of Vestal, who is a computer scientist at SUNY Binghamton.

Cornell University is working on naming an ice cream flavor after former VP Joe Biden, an alumnus of Syracuse University law school, who will speak during the Ithaca school’s commencement weekend this month.

Nearly a dozen counties in upstate New York have no practitioners who are able to certify patients for medical marijuana, according to data from the state’s Department of Health.

The brutal stabbing of a Western New York police dog last November has spurred a call at the state Capitol to increase the penalties for seriously injuring and killing a police animal.

Queens Rep. Grace Meng, a DNC vice chair, said she will “certainly be seeking answers” after an ICE agent allegedly showed up at a Maspeth elementary school seeking a fourth grader, and blasted the “lack of consistency and standards” in the execution of immigration policies.

The federal agents who were turned away from the Queens school after showing up without a warrant and asking about a fourth-grader were investigating another person’s immigration application — not probing the pupil, officials claim.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio met today with Gen. John Kelly, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to discuss – among other things – the reported ICE visit to the Queens school.

Taxpayers could save more than $2 million a year if it weren’t for a group of breakaway Democrats who need their own support staff in the state Senate, critics say.

A NYC law that sets up new employment rules for freelance work went into effect today.

Shelter Island Town Supervisor James Dougherty has apologized for telling a joke about a woman being “ravished” by a gorilla during a speech he delivered last month.

“Departures,” a film featuring Maisie Williams (“Game of Thrones”) and Asa Butterfield (“Ender’s Game”), will be shooting this week at Albany International Airport.

“For $32 million, the governor could probably pay off every mortgage and buy everybody a new car in the town of North Hudson,” says Peter Bauer head of Protect the Adirondacks.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule as of yet.

The Legislature is in session in Albany.

In D.C. this morning, President Donald Trump will travel to the Capitol to give remarks at the 36th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service.

In the afternoon, Trump will welcome Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan of Abu Dhabi to the White House, and the two will sit down for a working lunch.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is traveling to Washington, D.C. this afternoon to attend several meetings with federal officials, along with the Infrastructure Week Leadership Dinner. He’s scheduled to return to the city this evening.

A fuller calendar of the day’s events appears at the end of this post.

Headlines…

Democrats should refuse to vote on President Donald Trump’s pick for the next FBI director unless a special prosecutor is named to take over the investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Justice Department officials over the weekend held what they described as substantive discussions with at least eight candidates to lead the bureau. The broad list of contenders includes a top Republican senator, two senior officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a federal judge.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed confidence that he can navigate the delicate task of improving relations with Russia amid fallout over Comey’s firing.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara defended fired FBI Director James Comey as a man of courage, pondering if any public servants willing to defy Trump remain in Washington.

“I am proud to know a man who had the courage to say no to a president,” Bharara wrote of Comey, his onetime boss, in a Washington Post OpEd.

Comey associates believe that the former director’s first comments on his termination would likely come in an open session before Congress.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said he now has an “open mind” about the need for a special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, following the events of last week.

Trump has never shown any reluctance to sacrifice a surrogate to serve a short-term political need, so he apparently did not think twice this week about exposing a series of staff members to ridicule as he repeatedly shifted his explanation for firing Comey.

Multiple reports say besieged White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s job may be in jeopardy as part of a broader staffing shakeup in the Trump administration. One potential Spicer successor: Fox News’ Kimberly Guilfoyle, a polarizing co-host of “The Five.”

The Trump administration hastily called emergency meetings this weekend to contain fallout from the ongoing global ransomware campaign that has now hit victims in at least 150 countries, including the U.S.

The components of the global cyberattack that seized hundreds of thousands of computer systems may be more complex than originally believed, a Trump administration official said, and experts warned that the effects of the malicious software could linger for some time.

Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen tweeted a photo of his scantily clad daughter, Samantha, last night and called her a “beauty.”

Trump wished America’s moms and the first lady a “happy Mother’s Day” and then headed over to his Virginia golf resort to “hit a few balls.”

Civil rights activist Vernon Jordan, a Clinton family confidante, sent off Syracuse University’s class of 2017 with a charge to seek justice in the era of Trump. He was the school’s 163rd commencement speaker.

Former President Bill Clinton told graduating Hobart and William Smith Colleges students at their commencement that they must decide whether “our common humanity is more important or our differences matter more.”

Congressional Republicans anxious to show voters they can get something done are hailing their reversal of more than a dozen Obama-era regulations on guns, the internet and the environment, which they accomplished by employing an obscure legislative rule.

LG Kathy Hochul says she fully anticipates running again as Cuomo’s running mate in 2018, despite some Democrats hoping she would challenge an incumbent Buffalo-area Republican for her old congressional seat.

State Senate lawyers argued over the weekend that the Senate’s practice of paying members stipends for committee chairmanships they do not hold were legal, constitutionally defensible and proper as “a classic example of internal administrative prerogatives.”

The powerful hotel workers union HTC is targeting Assemblyman Joe Lentol over a bill that would benefit Airbnb.

Ken Lovett explores the myriad reasons why Senate Republicans are doling out lulus to lawmakers for jobs they don’t actually hold.

New York’s health insurers will request double digit rate increases for Obamacare policies for 2018 while debate rages in Washington to overhaul the law, analysts say. The insurers officially submit their rate plans to state regulators today.

More than 90 pension- and benefit-sweetener bills have been introduced in the state Legislature that could cost state and local governments at least $200 million.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that U.S. institutions are “under assault” from President Donald Trump, saying he believes the Russians see the firing of FBI Director James Comey as “another victory.”

The Justice Department last month requested banking records of Paul Manafort as part of a widening of probes related to Trump’s former campaign associates and whether they colluded with Russia in interfering with the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter.

A growing number of legal experts say the president has opened himself up to a charge of obstruction of justice this week when he said “this Russia thing with Trump” was on his mind when he fired Comey.

Just 29 percent of Americans support Trump’s firing of Comey, hill 38 percent disapprove, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Trump said Saturday that “we can make a fast decision” on a new FBI director, possibly by late next week, before he leaves on his first foreign trip since taking office.

Teams of technicians worked around the clock Saturday to restore Britain’s crippled hospital network and secure the computers that run factories, banks, government agencies and transport systems in other nations after a global cyberattack.

New York Court of Appeals Judge Michael Garcia was reportedly one of at least four candidates interviewing this weekend to serve as the next director of the FBI.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions interviewed eight potential replacements Saturday for the ousted James Comey — including a woman who investigated Bill and Hillary Clinton in the 1990s.

Trump is reportedly weighing a “huge reboot” in his White House staff after becoming disappointed with several aides. The shake-up could include White House press secretary Sean Spicer, top strategist Steve Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

On “Meet the Press,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer would not comment on the suggestion that former President Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland should head the FBI.

Long Island Rep. Peter King said that there are “probably more” connections between Clinton and Russia than there are between Moscow and Trump.

Trump slammed his critics as “pathetic” during his first commencement speech since taking office — as his administration comes under fire on multiple fronts. He picked up an honorary law degree at Liberty University.

The president took time during his commencement address to welcome Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, calling him a “friend” and “true champion” who “can serve as an inspiration to us all.”

Former President Bill Clinton during a commencement address talked about the importance of diversity in the country. The former president blasted anti-immigration policies and “us and them” models without placing any blame on other politicians.

A federal judge in Michigan this week ordered the Trump administration to turn over communications from former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and other advisers on the president’s controversial travel ban.

Trump’s likely pick to fill the role of a top scientist at the USDA – Sam Clovis, best known for hosting a conservative talk show in Iowa – is a climate change skeptic with no background in science.

A tweet from the president suggesting that he might have taped phone conversations from the White House made waves in Washington, but some former employees and a former associate said it wasn’t a surprise to them that he would mention taped conversations, since they had seen him tape discussions in his Trump Tower office.

An unprecedented “ransomware” cyberattack that has already hit tens of thousands of victims in 150 countries could wreak greater havoc as more malicious variations appear and people return to their desks tomorrow and power up computers at the start of the workweek.

Federal prosecutors, faced with a defense request to move the “Buffalo Billion” case from Manhattan to Buffalo, filed a new indictment. It contains no new charges or defendants, but there are changes in how the government presents its allegations of bribery and bid rigging in Buffalo and across the state.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan plans to put NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio through the wringer before he’ll agree to sign off on another year of mayoral control for city schools.

An immigration agent tried to search for a fourth-grader at Queens school — but was sent packing by staff, according to de Blasio administration officials.

State Police officers doled out 14,542 summonses to New York City motorists in the first four months of this year — a major 759 percent increase from all of last year, when they scribbled just 1,692, records show.

A developer is planning a 43-story condominium with an Islamic museum and public plaza three blocks from the World Trade Center, where in 2010 the developer proposed building a 15-story mosque and cultural center.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Michael Bloomberg is among the nation’s top financial backers of the school-choice movement, topping the list of New York’s political contributors by donating $1.8 million to ballot measures and political action committees focused primarily on school choice.

The Brearley School, a prestigious all-girls private school in Manhattan, announced that it had retained a law firm to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct at the school, and asked anyone with knowledge of possible abuse to come forward.

Long Island officials on Saturday called on Amtrak to cease its control of Penn Station in order to reduce LIRR delays and halt crippling repairs this summer.

Michelle Schoeneman, the activist responsible for two recent billboards criticizing Republican Rep. Chris Collins, is emerging as the Democratic candidate against Erie County Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo in November.

Ginia Bellafante: “If the Child Victims Act, which in a future iteration might include stipulations about who is required to report abuse, doesn’t get passed, it will tell us something not only about the way politicians capitulate to religious interests, but also about the cultural pretenses we maintain around children’s safety.”

Brandon Bostian, the Amtrak engineer who drove a train that derailed in 2015 in Philadelphia and killed eight people, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after victims’ families took advantage of a law that forced officials to act.

Even though the possible breakup of the Cellino & Barnes personal injury law firm will play out in a Buffalo courtroom later this week, ramifications will be felt in Manhattan, Long Island and several California cities where the personal injury firm maintains major offices.

As a result of a free college tuition program, at least some of Tennessee’s four-year colleges have faced declining enrollment, as more students use community college as a steppingstone to a four-year degree. This could prove instructive to New York as it moves forward with its own program.

Is Cuomo’s two percent property tax cap – a signature achievement of his first term in office – actually working? It depends on who you ask.

Syracuse Democrats have endorsed at-large Common Councilor Joe Nicoletti for mayor. He was one of seven Democrats seeking the party’s endorsement, and won on the on the second round of voting in a close matchup against Andrew Maxwell.

After the first round of voting, it was clear Nicoletti and Maxwell had a significant lead among party members. So, two other contenders – Marty Masterpole and Juanita Perez Williams stepped aside, while three other candidates took less than one percent of the vote.

State Sen. George Latimer is the choice of the Westchester Democrats to run for county executive against Republican incumbent Rob Astorino, though County Legislator Ken Jenkins has vowed to fight on in the September primary.

Suffolk County DA Thomas Spota, who is reportedly under investigation on corruption charges, has announced he will not seek re-election this fall. County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini formally declared his candidacy to replace Spota.

Republican Chris P. Voccio marked his 50th birthday Friday by announcing his candidacy for the Niagara Falls City Council this fall. He has stepped down as publisher of the Niagara Gazette and the Lockport Union-Sun and Journal, and also resigned from the boards of the Niagara USA Chamber and the United Way of Greater Niagara.

Two candidates for the Lewiston-Porter Board of Education on Friday vehemently disavowed a flyer mailed to some district residents that contained that endorsed them as the candidates that will “Keep Lew-Port white” in Tuesday’s election.

The Capital Region’s computer chip industry appears to have emerged almost unscathed from the bid-rigging scandal that led to federal charges. Anchored by GlobalFoundries’ $12 billion Fab 8 factory, the sector is about to hit its stride.

Facing declining membership in many regions of upstate New York, veterans and fraternal clubs are pushing state leaders for help by allowing revenue-boosting video-gaming machines.

A Colgate University internal review of a May 1 campus lockdown issued Friday found that while protocols were followed by campus security officials, mistakes were made – some significant.

Ride-hailing services can begin operating in new parts of the state as soon as July 9, but with all the wonkish provisions lawmakers dumped into the final legislative language, the industry will see differences that may lead to impacts on consumers.

Hamburg Republicans have endorsed attorney Dennis Gaughan, a Democrat, for town supervisor after incumbent Steven Walters said he will not run for a fourth term. Gaughan, a longtime Democrat, ran unsuccessfully against Walters on the Independence Party line in 2009.

Changing technology has the Amherst Town Board considering a moratorium on the installation of new cell towers, including newer “small cell” systems on utility poles.

The MTA is calling on its passengers to practice common courtesy with a new campaign.

NFL Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas was quick to blast out word that Cuomo had tapped him to be a judge in the inaugural contest for New York’s best craft beers on May 17.

The developer and owner of the Long Beach Superblock property has threatened to sue the city for $105 million if officials do not support the latest application for tax breaks to build a pair of luxury apartment towers.

Nassau’s top cop, Thomas C. Krumpter, underwent a procedure at a cardiac center to reopen blocked arteries last week and was released the next day, police officials said.

State environmental and agricultural officials this past week said they are expanding the state’s so-called restricted zone to step up their fight against the invasive pest known as the herald ash borer.

During an interview Friday with Glenn Beck, another former Fox News Channel personality who was the subject of an advertiser boycott, Bill O’Reilly, complained of a liberal “hit job” that did him in.

Extras

President Trump warned James Comey, the former F.B.I. director he fired this week, against leaking anything negative about him, saying Comey “better hope” that there are no secret tapes of their conversations that the president could use in retaliation.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly refused to say if Trump secretly taped his dinner conversation with Comey, after the president himself suggested he had.

Trump threatened to end White House press briefings, arguing that “it is not possible” for his staff to speak with “perfect accuracy” to the American public

A CNN spokesperson responded in a statement to Trump’s bashing of several of its anchors, calling his “comments are beneath the dignity of the office of the president.”

Melissa McCarthy, the upcoming host of “Saturday Night Live” who has drawn raves for her spot-on imitation of Spicer, was spotted cruising the streets of Manhattan this morning on her way to Rockefeller Center in a mobile podium.

Trump today pledged to campaign heavily for Republican House and Senate candidates during the 2018 midterms.

After defending his jails chief without hesitation for two weeks, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the retirement of Dept. of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte in the wake of two blistering probes of the agency.

“At the end of the day, I feel there is no way to win a battle in the media, so it’s not about me — this is about the Department of Correction,” Ponte said.

De Blasio called upon the Senate IDC to “return to the Democratic fold” – even if they want to maintain their “independent presence” within the bigger conference.

Becoming a U.S. citizen would be free for tens of thousands of eligible immigrant New Yorkers in the city under a taxpayer-funded plan released by Comptroller Scott Stringer, who said he’s motivated by “President Trump’s misguided immigration policies.”

The de Blasio administration is reissuing tens of thousands of parking permits to city education workers, rolling back reforms made by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Amtrak’s chief, Wick Moorman, basically threw his hands up in defeat while addressing state Assembly members, yesterday, lobbing a bunch of “I don’t knows” as he was grilled over the commuter crisis at Penn Station.

Trump confidant and former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani is one of the leading voices in designing a “cyber doctrine” for the U.S., according to the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, but there is little information about how that process is going.

The Adelphi University men’s lacrosse team on Long Island uses a quote from Trump’s acceptance speech at the 2016 GOP convention, played over a music track, as their psych music for their entrance to the field.

New York voters will head to the polls next Tuesday, May 16, to vote on school budgets that are benefiting from a $1 billion boost in state aid and a more flexible property tax cap, with just 12 districts seeking a 60 percent vote to override the cap.

Will homeowner’s insurance policies protect those homes and property ravaged by rising waters on the south shore of Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River in recent weeks?

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has launched an internal investigation into the behavior of dozens of correction officers whose loud partying drew police to an Albany hotel multiple times earlier this week.

State health officials warned New Yorkers to take precautions against Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile virus, as the weather heats up.

A Hannibal Central School District board member has resigned after she was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated following a crash on State Route 104 Monday afternoon.

Extras

While testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe rejected the White House’s assertion that his predecessor, James Comey, had lost the backing of rank-and-file agency members agents, a pointed rebuke of what had been one of the president’s main defenses for the move.

President Trump, in an interview with NBC Nightly News’ Lester Holt, called McCabe a “showboat” and a “grand-stander” who he had long planned to fire. Trump also said he asked Comey three times whether he was under investigation, and was told he was not.

McCabe acknowledged publicly for the first time that some agents were angry with the 2016 decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton – while also defending Comey’s overall standing at the bureau.

McCabe also said he would not update the White House on the spy agency’s ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, amid growing concerns that Trump could again try to interfere with the probe.

Here are some things to know about McCabe.

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, mentioned as a possible Comey replacement, was spotted power lunching near the White House yesterday.

Over the last week, the Q poll asked Americans for the first word that comes to mind when they think of the president. The answer given more times than any other was “idiot,” followed by “incompetent” and “liar.”

Donald Trump Jr. shared a tweet linking former President Bill Clinton’s 1993 firing of the FBI director to the death of Clinton aide Vince Foster, alluding to a far-right conspiracy theory.

Trump is creating a commission to look into his wild claims of widespread voter fraud — and has picked a deeply controversial man to lead it: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

The president scorched a host of TV personalities in a new interview — branding CNN’s Don Lemon “perhaps the dumbest person in broadcasting,” Chris Cuomo (brother of Gov. Andrew Cuomo) “a chained lunatic” and Stephen Colbert “a no-talent guy.”

Kellyanne Conway isn’t happy about Anderson Cooper’s eye roll.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio joined skeptics in questioning whether Cuomo’s AirTrain to LaGuardia will actually improve travel times to the airport.

Bob Megna, Cuomo’s former budget director and the new leader of two arms of SUNY Polytechnic Institute implicated in a bid-rigging scheme last year, said a legislative push to pre-audit its economic development activities would just slow it down.

Two private universities upstate – Ithaca and Clarkson – are anticipating decreases in enrollment this fall, a drop both schools attribute at least in part to Cuomo’s promise of “free tuition” for public university students.

After kicking the tires of the state’s much-vaunted Excelsior Scholarship, some SUNY trustees appeared less than enthused.

A petition started by a Staten Island resident is calling on Cuomo to remove Brian Levine – the senior administrative law judge at the Traffic Violations Bureau – from office.

Leaders of four New York government reform groups are calling for Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to stop allowing the unused stipends of Senate committee chairs to be passed to vice-chairs.

A famous chef (Mario Batali) and a Buffalo Bills legend (Thurmun Thomas), as well as the governor himself, are among the judges for Cuomo’s inaugural Taste NY Craft Beer Challenge.

Amtrak will announce the summer service plan for New York Penn Station next week, with an early estimate suggesting that about 25 percent of the trains running in and out of the station daily could be cancelled.

“Movies about colorful characters, be they saints or sinners, are often hijacked by their subject, so it’s unsurprising that Mr. Stone, with his bespoke suits and Nixon tattoo, owns this one from the get-go.”

Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen Jimino will not seek a fifth term as the county’s top elected official.

The village of Hoosick Falls has received a $220,000 grant from the state Environmental Facilities Corp. to help cover engineering and other expenses that followed the discovery three years ago of a toxic chemical in the community’s water supplies.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

LG Kathy Hochul will tour areas affected by coastal flooding in Wayne, Monroe, and Orleans counties.

Down in D.C., President Donald Trump is scheduled to receiving his daily intelligence briefing in the morning, and has no public events on his calendar as of yet.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence will deliver remarks at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians at the Mayflower Hotel at 9 a.m.

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

Headlines…

The U.S. Senate intelligence committee has subpoenaed former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn for documents related to the panel’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling.

President Donald Trump defended his firing of now former FBI Director James Comey, telling reporters he “wasn’t doing a good job,” and asserting in a flurry of tweets that Republicans and Democrats “will be thanking me.”

Trump also said in a tweet that Democrats should be “ashamed” for their response to his decision regarding Comey, and sent out a highlight reel of old news clips and public appeals made by politicians who urged the former director to step down, but are now blasting his ouster.

Senior aides and other associates who know the president say the firing was triggered not by any one event but rather by the Trumo’s growing frustration with the Russia investigation, negative media coverage and the feeling that he couldn’t control Comey, who was a near-constant presence on TV in recent days.

In the weeks before he was sacked, a federal investigation into potential collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government was heating up, as Comey became increasingly occupied with the probe.

Comey says in a farewell letter that he does not plan to dwell on the decision to fire him or the “way it was executed.”

A growing number of House Republicans – including New York Reps. Claudia Tenney and John Faso – said in carefully couched terms that they are open to an independent investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election after Trump’s surprise dismissal of Comey.

Rep. John Katko said Trump’s firing of Comey won’t interfere with the FBI’s probe into accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He’s open to the possibility of an independent prosecutor, but only after congressional committees complete their work.

It’s unclear who will replace Comey. The Trump administration is already interviewing for a new interim director and promised to name a potential permanent director as early as the end of the week. That person would have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s absence from the briefing room yesterday comes at a tenuous time, as Trump has asked senior advisers for weeks if he needs to change the face of his administration. The president was pleased with deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ performance on Friday, when she first filled in for Spicer on camera during the midday briefing.

Hillary Clinton’s satisfaction at seeing Comey lose his job, friends said, is offset by worries that it could derail the FBI’s investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

An anti-Rep. Chris Collins billboard has gone up in Hamburg, targeting his health care reform vote.

Aetna will complete its withdrawal from Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges for 2018, announcing that lingering financial losses and uncertainty about the marketplaces’ future was prompting it to exit two final states.

Drawing shouts of “Liar!” and “Just go,” U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos powered through her commencement address yesterday at a historically black university, even as many of the graduating students turned their backs to her in protest.

In a surprising victory for former President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy, the U.S. Senate voted to uphold an Obama-era climate change regulation to control the release of methane from oil and gas wells on public land.

The collapse of a tunnel containing radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear weapons complex in Washington State underscored what critics have long been saying: The toxic remnants of the Cold War are being stored in haphazard and unsafe conditions, and time is running out to deal with the problem.

In a first step toward possibly allowing driverless cars in New York, the state is seeking applications from companies interested in testing the vehicles on public roads.

New York is midway through a monumental initiative begun in 2011 to redesign the costly Medicaid program, the largest purchaser of health services in the state for its 6.2 million beneficiaries.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a $2,500 court judgment against Northern Taxi and its owner/operator, Christopher Crowningshield, for charging refugees as much as $300 or more for a taxi ride from Plattsburgh to the Canadian border. It normally costs between $50 and $75.

NYC Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte is sending an increasing number of dangerous inmates to lockups around the state, in an attempt to curb violence on Rikers Island.

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Ponte should resign after misusing his city vehicle and allegations that his agency spied on investigators probing the Rikers Island jail.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio received an enthusiastic endorsement for his re-election effort from the Hotel Trades Council just a few hours after the NYC Council passed a bill to keep banning the conversion of hotel space to condos.

More >

Extras

Former FBI Director James Comey asked for more cash to continue his probe of the Trump administration’s possible ties to Russia just days before he was unceremoniously canned by the president.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow had “nothing to do with” President Donald Trump’s decision to fire Comey, adding that it will have “no effect” on U.S.-Russia relations. “Your question looks very funny for me,” he told a CBS News reporter.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended Trump’s firing of Comey, resisting Democratic calls to challenge the president and support a broader inquiry of Russian interference in the election.

Democrats are threatening to slow the U.S. Senate to a crawl in response to Comey’s firing.

Members of New York’s congressional delegation are united in their call for a special prosecutor to probe Russia’s role in last year’s presidential campaign, but split over whether former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly should replace Comey as FBI director.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg: “Given Democrats’ frequent attacks on Trump and FBI Director James Comey, only Republicans have the credibility needed to contain the damage and save Trump from himself. Now they must show they have the backbone to do it.”

Actress Melissa McCarthy will again host “Saturday Night Live” this weekend, when she will reprise her popular impersonation of Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, the late-night comedy show teased today.

A Brooklyn federal lawsuit fighting the Trump administration’s original travel ban is still alive — and it’s headed to settlement talks.

State AG Eric Schneiderman’s office is taking over an investigation into the fatal shooting by Buffalo police of a suspect who police accused of wounding an officer.

State legislative leaders have displayed no appetite to stand up to Cuomo and advance legislation — even if they have the votes to withstand a gubernatorial veto — without his quiet assent.

Unemployed Americans were more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton than Trump in the 2016 presidential election, but they were almost just as likely not to vote at all, according to a new survey out today.

The Department of Homeland Security will ban laptops in the cabins of all flights from Europe to the United States, European security officials told The Daily Beast.

One of the leading events in the publishing industry just announced a surprise guest who is certain to draw a crowd. Hillary Clinton will appear at BookExpo in New York City on the evening of June 1.

Clinton is scheduled to be the commencement speaker at Medgar Evers College, which has raised objections from several members of the Haitian community who plan to protest the speech and are pushing the college president, Rudy Crew, to rescind the invitation.

Boyd Melson, a 35-year-old retired boxer and public affairs officer for the Army, plans to run to unseat Staten Island Republican Rep. Dan Donovan of his congressional seat next year. Melson is a Democrat and lives in Brooklyn.

Hannah Selinger, 36, a trained sommelier, longtime activist and lifelong Democrat, announced her intention to challenge Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin in 2018, becoming the first person to declare interest in unseating the incumbent Republican who just won re-election in November.

Police were called to an Albany hotel multiple times beginning late Monday to handle complaints about rowdy and intoxicated correction officers who partied through the night prior to attending a Capitol press conference where several state senators called for measures to make prisons safer.

Two men cut down four, 30-foot trees at the Bronx golf course operated by the Trump Organization. Police are investigating the incident.

Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that the government has been handing over documents to the defense in the case of Edward Ambrosino, the Hempstead Town councilman charged with failing to pay more than $250,000 in federal-income taxes.

The New York State Fair on Friday will sell 3,000 food coupon packs for the 2017 fair. Each coupon pack costs $15 but contains $25 worth of vouchers.

New York state officials have closed a trail in the Adirondack Mountains until further notice because of safety concerns with the Wakely Mountain Fire Tower

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule. The Legislature is in session in Albany.

In Washington, D.C., where the fallout from the news of FBI Director James Comey’s firing continues, President Trump will meet this morning in the Oval Office with Russia’s foreign affairs minister.

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

Headlines…

President Trump yesterday evening fired the director of the FBI, James Comey, abruptly terminating the top official leading a criminal investigation into whether Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Comey found out he was fired just like the rest of us – by watching TV. (He reportedly though it was a prank at first).

Here’s a list of reactions to Comey’s firing from a variety of U.S. senators, including Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey, who called the move “Nixonian.”

Not since Watergate has a president dismissed the person leading an investigation bearing on him, and Trump’s decision drew instant comparisons to the “Saturday Night Massacre” in October 1973, when President Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor looking into that scandal.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said: “If Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein does not appoint an independent special prosecutor, every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire Director Comey was part of a cover-up.”

Schumer has called on Senate Democrats to be on the floor at 9:30 this morning to hear what, if anything, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will say about Comey’s departure.

Trump attacked Schumer on Twitter, writing: “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer stated recently, ‘I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer’ Then acts so indignant. #draintheswamp.'”

Preet Bharara, a former U.S. Attorney General who was also fired by Trump, said on Twitter that “EVERYONE” should be troubled by the president’s decision to get rid of Comey.

Though it seemed abrupt, Comey’s ouster was actually the culmination of a toxic dynamic between him and the president that was a year in the making.

Two New Yorkers – former NYC Mayor Rudy Giliani and former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly – along with NJ Gov. Chris Christie, make the list of potential Comey replacements.

Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager Robby Mook said Trump’s firing of Comey “terrifies me,” though he was frustrated by – and disappointed with – the FBI’s email investigation.

Trump will meet in the Oval Office today with Russia’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in what will be be the highest level face-to-face contact between Trump and the Russian government so far.

The White House also sought to explain yesterday why it had waited 18 days to fire Trump’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, after acting U.S. Attorney Sally Yates warned the administration Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.

Regarding Yates’ warning, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the former acting U.S. AG was a strong supporter of the president’s 2016 rival, Clinton.

To “celebrate” the six month mark of Trump’s 2016 win, the president’s director of social media announced he’ll be releasing video of Clinton’s election night concession phone call.

Former President Barack Obama took his first step back onto the world stage yesterday, shedding his tie to give wide-ranging, if studiously nonpartisan, remarks during a food and technology conference in Milan, Italy.

The Democratic mayor of New Jersey’s second-largest city, who has had his ups-and-downs with the state’s volatile governor, Chris Christie, is now threatening to stymie luxury development dreams of the family of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to tap Secretary of State Rossana Rosado and three others to join the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as he looks to reshape the top of the agency amid the departures of several of his appointees.

Stipends specifically marked for Senate committee chairs that are paid to three IDC members – Sens. Diane Savino, Jose Peralta and Dave Valesky – by the majority despite the fact that the three don’t chair committees appear to fall into a gray area of state law.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced that he filed two lawsuits to block the proposed closure of the Indian Point nuclear power facility after he failed to get county legislators on board.

House Speaker Paul Ryan toured a Success Academy Harlem charter school yesterday, arriving to shouts of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” from protesters outside.

Cuomo’s longtime girlfriend, Sandra Lee, reportedly refused to let Ryan join her cooking segment on Fox News and told him: “I need you to go away.”

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Extras

A group of Democratic lawmakers, led by Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, urged regulators to investigate whether billionaire investor Carl Icahn used his role as an adviser to the White House to gain unfair trading advantages in the market for renewable fuel credits.

It’s the 44th anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which have been significantly reformed over the past two decades.

Former Democratic President Jimmy Carter revealed last night that he backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

In a Syracuse Post-Standard OpEd, Rep. John Katko explains why he voted “no” on the health care reform bill.

A former Emma Willard student who revealed allegations of sexual abuse and a cover-up at the school last year questioned Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s commitment to passing a law to end a five-year statute of limitations on child sexual abuse.

“While he never misses a photo-op for a shiny new mega-project, Cuomo is ‘missing in action for the day-to-day disaster that transit riders are experiencing.'”

Errol Louis: “The bid by Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis for mayor — even if she loses — is the best thing to happen to New York Republicans in a long time.”

New York City has agreed to pay about $1.2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by two women who claimed they had been repeatedly raped and sexually abused by the same correction officer at Rikers Island, a Law Department spokesman said.

Embattled NYC Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte, taking questions one day after a NYC Council grilling, said his future will likely be determined in the next few weeks after a meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Kellyanne Conway insists she hasn’t been MIA, but rather people have been looking for her in all the wrong places. (If you’re missing her, trying tuning in to Fox News more often).

In the demonstrably early, highly speculative yet plainly inevitable list of potential Democratic White House prospects for 2020, something significant already has occurred: There are roughly as many women being mentioned as top-tier contenders as men.

The Cuomo administration’s 2012 regulations imposing stringent new suspension periods on licenses of drivers with repeat driving-while-impaired offenses on their records are legal, the state’s highest court ruled unanimously today.

Frank Cetera is seeking to be the first Green Party candidate elected to the Syracuse Common Council.

Nearly 50 airports, air bases and training facilities used firefighting foam that may contain PFOS – a chemical linked to cancer in training exercises – according to a state survey of those locations.

NYSUT has funneled $200,000 into an independent campaign account to aid Long Island Democrat Christine Pellegrino, a teacher and anti-Common Core activist, in her special election bid for the state Assembly.

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, facing a political primary battle after initiating the corruption investigation of former Conservative Party Chairman Edward Walsh, won’t seek a fourth term in November.

Fred Dicker, a former New York Post columnist, announced this morning that his morning radio show has been re-named to reflect his reduced presence in the Capitol Building. It’s no longer “Live From the State Capitol,” but rather “Focus on the State Capitol.”

James Mazzariello, a prominent figure in the Buffalo tow truck industry, admitted to bribing Buffalo police officers in a pay-to-play scheme as part of a federal plea deal that could send him to prison for two years.

Cuomo today announced the first statewide mobile app to connect older adults with valuable resources and services in their communities.

Here and Now

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

The Legislature is in session in Albany.

In Washington, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to the Capitol to meet with senators and participate in the Senate Republican Policy Lunch.

In the afternoon, Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and First Daughter Ivanka Trump will host military families at an event recognizing National Military Appreciation Month and National Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with McMaster in the morning, and then receive his daily intelligence briefing.

At 7:45 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speaks at Hofstra’s Lecture Series, Hofstra University Club, Hempstead, Long Island.

At 8:30 a.m., Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie participate in a discussion, “The Six Week Forecast: Legislative Leaders on What Comes Next,” hosted by the Hearst Media Center, Albany Times Union building, 645 Albany Shaker Rd., Albany.

Also at 8:30 a.m., Crain’s New York Business holds a Health Care Summit on The Future of Behavioral Health in New York State featuring Richmond County DA Michael McMahon and others, New York Marriott Marquis, 1535 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., the NYC Board of Correction holds a public meeting, 125 Worth St., second floor, Manhattan. (Embattled Commissioner Joseph Ponte is scheduled to attend and speak).

At 10:30 a.m., Concerned Clergy for Choice members hold a press conference expressing support for access to contraception, safe and legal abortion, and the funding to provide these basic medical services, LCA Press Room (104), LOB, Albany.

At 11 a.m., SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall hosts an Excelsior Scholarship information session, Purchase College, Music Building, Room 1002, Choral Hall, 735 Anderson Hill Rd., Purchase.

Also at 11 a.m., Parks & Trails New York and the New York state Canal Corp. launch of the Bike Friendly New York program for businesses along the Canalway Trail system, The Stockade Inn, 1 N. Church St., Schenectady.

At 11:30 a.m., Compassion & Choices New York hosts a news conference on the Medical Aid in Dying Act, Senate Lobby, state Capitol, Albany.

At noon, LG Kathy Hochul makes an announcement at Older New Yorkers Appreciation Day, The Egg, Hart Lounge, Albany.

At 12:15 p.m., IDC members will stand with NYSCOPBA correctional officers to commemorate Correctional Officers Week and announce a new report, “Corrections without Protections,” on the rising number of assaults and contraband seizures in New York prisons, Million Dollar Staircase, 3rd Floor, state Capitol, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., the state Board of Regents meets in executive session, State Education Department, 89 Washington Ave., Seminar Room, fifth floor, Albany. (This will be followed by a public meeting at 12:45 p.m.)

At 1 p.m., Hochul delivers remarks at the annual Police Officers Memorial, Empire State Plaza, Police Officers Memorial Site, Albany. (Flanagan will also attend and speak).

Also at 1 p.m., tate Board of Regents meets in executive session, State Education Department, 89 Washington Ave., Seminar Room, fifth floor, Albany.

At 2 p.m., state Sen. Brad Hoylman, Assemblyman Robert Carroll and high school students hold a press conference in support of the Young Voter Act, LCA Press Room 130, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 4 p.m., Hochul highlights details of Cuomo’s plan for free SUNY tuition, University at Albany, University Hall Atrium, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany.

Also at 4 p.m., Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj hosts a cocktail reception with the Albanian royal couple Prince Leka and Princess Elia Zaharia, Assembly Parlor, Room 306, state Capitol, Albany.

At 6 p.m., de Blasio’s re-election campaign hosts a celebration fundraiser for de Blasio’s birthday, (Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., the EPA holds a public meeting to discuss the details of the staging area construction work, Massena Town Hall, 60 Main St., Boardroom 30, Massena.

Also at 6 p.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams hosts an Affordable Housing Workshop with Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon as a co-sponsor, Brooklyn Borough Hall, Community Room, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

Also at 6 p.m., NYC Councilman Jumaane Williams will deliver his State of the District address and give a campaign announcement, Andries Hudde Junior High School, 2500 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn.

At 6:30 p.m., Rep. Adriano Espaillat hosts a town hall meeting and delivers a state of the community report, Tracey Towers, 40 W. Mosholu Parkway S., Bronx.

Also at 6:30 p.m., NYC Councilman Corey Johnson hosts his third annual West Side Summit and gives a State of the District address with NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer also speaking, Whitney Museum of American Art, enter at 555 West St. between Gansevoort and Little West 12th Street, Manhattan.

Headlines…

Five days into the Trump administration, Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, hurried to the White House with an urgent concern. The president’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, she said, had lied to the vice president about his Russian contacts and was vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.

Flynn remained in office for 18 more days after Yates’ warning. Only after the news of his false statements broke publicly did he lose his job on Feb. 13.

The personal appeal that Trump said he received from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month — leading him to renegotiate NAFTA — was only made after the president’s son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner called Trudeau’s office in Ottawa and begged him to talk some sense into the commander-in-chief.

Longtime WNY Democratic political operative G. Steven Pigeon, who is charged in two separate state cases, now faces a federal complaint, accused of trying to arrange a large contribution by a foreign national to what his attorney identified as Cuomo’s 2014 re-election campaign.

In a session before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer, a newly unsealed FBI complaint alleges Pigeon conspired to solicit a $25,000 contribution to the Cuomo campaign from a Montreal-based internet gambling company for whom his Papi Holdings LLC earned $388,000 in lobbying fees from 2010 to 2015.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is expected to visit Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy charter school today.

FBI director James Comey may have exaggerated the number of emails top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin forwarded to her husband, ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to create a 13-man working group on health care, including staunch conservatives and ardent foes of the Affordable Care Act — but no women — has been widely seen on Capitol Hill as a move to placate the right as Congress decides the fate of former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Trump began to make his mark on the lower federal courts with 10 judicial nominations that drew praise from conservative legal groups and concern from their liberal counterparts.

Federal appeals court judges weighed whether they should consider Trump’s previous statements supporting a complete ban on Muslims entering the country when ruling on his revised order to suspend travel from six Muslim-majority countries.

A relatively well-behaved but largely angry audience met yesterday with Rep. John Faso to ask questions and air their apprehensions about the Republican health care bill recently approved by the House. The congressman called Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s numbers on the bill’s New York impact “fake.”

Faso’s Democratic colleague, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, attended a health care forum in the Republican congressman’s district (NY-19), saying he was there to “adopt” the district after he said Faso rejected Maloney’s invitation to visit NY-18 to explain his vote.

Gareth Rhodes, a one-time deputy press secretary and advance man for Cuomo, said he plans to challenge Faso next year, explaining: “I can’t sit on the sidelines when my community is under attack.” Faso, in response, said he will “turn to politics when the time comes.”

Nearly 200 people flocked to the Mountain Lake PBS studio last night to protest Rep. Elise Stefanik’s recent vote in favor of the American Health Care Act, a few supporters of the Republican congresswoman also showed up to counter-demonstrate.

Inside the event, Stefanik insisted the measure would provide states with greater flexibility. The congresswoman gamely stuck to her talking points, insisting that the American Health Care Act provided more choices and better options.

Rep. John Katko has agreed to participate in a live, televised town hall meeting 7 p.m. next Monday at Onondaga Community College, his office said. About 100 tickets will be distributed through an online lottery.

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