Liz Benjamin

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Homepage: http://nystateofpolitics.com


Posts by Liz Benjamin

Extras

The White House appeared to inch away from forcing a partial government shutdown over funding for a southern border wall, with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying there are “other ways” to secure the $5 billion in funding that President Donald Trump wants. More here.

In a surprise development, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan agreed to delay sentencing former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.

Sullivan called Flynn’s crimes “a very serious offense” and said he was not hiding his “disgust” at what Flynn had done, but was willing to delay the sentencing until he had completed his cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors.

The Trump administration rolled out a new federal regulation officially banning bump-fire stocks.

It will take more than 200 years before women and men worldwide have economic parity, according to the annual Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum.

Yesterday, former FBI director James Comey testified for several hours before the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee. As a part of his agreement to testify, the House has released the full 173-page transcript from yesterday’s hearing.

Russia’s online disinformation campaign included messaging that supported 2016 Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, according to a new report prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

German auto supplier IAV Gmbh has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $35 million fine for conspiring to assist Volkswagen AG in its effort to evade U.S. diesel emissions standards, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The occasionally controversial reign of Rochester Assemblyman David Gantt as chair of the Assembly’s transportation committee has come to an end, with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie choosing someone else – Syracuse Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli – for the task.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call to make Election Day a holiday caught good government advocates by surprise.

The MTA plans to close five Washington Heights subway stations for a year each to replace the elevators and upgrade safety systems, the agency announced.

“(Y)ou title a speech, ‘What Would FDR Do Today?’ as Andrew Cuomo did…at the New York City Bar Association, because you at least want to fan the flames in the minds of listeners — and the pundit hordes on Twitter — that you are thinking of running for president.”

New Yorkers may soon be seeing a lot more of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson than Mayor de Blasio, as the popular speaker has committed to a weekly morning appearance on Fox 5’s “Good Day New York.”

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed lawmakers who are allowed to make fortunes trading stocks whose value could be affected by legislation they vote on — while other laws prevent her from crashing for free at a friend’s pad.

Ocasio-Cortez is eyeing a new member of House Democratic leadership as a 2020 primary target: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, of Brooklyn.

Federal housing chief Ben Carson dropped in on the Queensbridge Houses to tour NYC’s largest complex and leave a warning to the mayor that a federal takeover of public housing is a very real possibility.

A private garbage truck slammed into a man on Canal Street, critically injuring him right outside the building where NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio was holding an event, with a spokesman for de Blasio tweeting members of his team were among the first to respond.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced new sexual harassment protections for county employees, including the county’s first-ever policy to specifically safeguard transgender workers against discrimination.

RIP, Bronx-born actress and director Penny Marshall, AKA “Laverne.”

Luna, the mixed-breed dog that faced euthanasia for biting another dog and a man earlier this year, will not be put to sleep under a deal reached between her owners and the city.

Police said they don’t know what led up to the fatal shooting of a Ticonderoga late last week, with a motive for the killing still being investigated as the man deemed responsible was jailed late yesterday.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public events or interviews scheduled as of yet.

Vice President Mike Pence this morning participates in a pre-launch briefing, and then views the Falcon 9 GPS III launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Pence then delivers remarks, followed by a tour of the Crew Dragon Capsule.

In the afternoon, Pence departs Cape Canaveral, en route home to D.C. (Pence’s visit coincides with Trump’s expected order regarding the establishment of a new military space command).

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio meets with HUD Secretary Ben Carson today to discuss the future of the embattled public housing system NYCHA – a closed-press event at HUD’s NYC HQ, 26 Federal Pl., Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. welcomes over 200 students to compete in the Bronx Borough President’s Annual Chess Challenge, Bronx County Building, Veterans’ Memorial Hall, 851 Grand Concourse, the Bronx.

Also at 9:30 a.m., the Queens Borough Cabinet, chaired by Borough President Melinda Katz, hears a presentation from the FDNY regarding fire prevention and safety during the holiday season, Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Blvd., Queens.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management meets, 250 Broadway, 14th floor Committee Room, Manhattan.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams joins dozens of students with disabilities to launch his Barrier-Free BK initiative to improve accessibility for youth with physical limitations, Edward R. Murrow High School, 1600 Avenue L, Brooklyn.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone and Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart announce that the Suffolk County Police Department is planning to increase patrols to combat drinking and driving, 727 Veterans Memorial Highway, Smithtown.

Also at 10:30 a.m., de Blasio and NYC Councilwoman Margaret Chin will deliver remarks on the city’s borough-based jail plan, American Legion Post 1291, 191-193 Canal St., Manhattan.

At 10:45 a.m., the NYC Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises meets, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Land Use meets, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., “The Capitol Pressroom” features Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and others, WCNY.

At 11:30 a.m., the 2018 regional economic development awards ceremony will be held, hosted by LG Kathy Hochul, Albany Capital Center, 55 Eagle St., Albany.

Also at 11:30 a.m., City & State hosts The Responsible 100 awards, an event that honors New York’s most outstanding responsible executives, visionaries and influencers who are setting new standards of excellence, dedication and leadership in improving their communities and making transformative change, Sony Hall, 235 W. 46th St., Manhattan.

At noon, representatives from organizations across the state urge legislators to adopt New Hope, New York Budget principles, Outside Senate Chambers, third floor, state Capitol, Albany.

At 1 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing meets, 250 Broadway, 14th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Education meets jointly with the Subcommittee on Capital Budget and the Committee on Finance, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Criminal Justice meets jointly with the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano swears in the nine-member Yonkers Joint Schools Construction Board, Yonkers City Hall, 40 South Broadway, Yonkers.

At 1:30 p.m., de Blasio hosts a resource fair as part of his “In Your Borough” initiative, Children’s Aid – Dunlevy Milbank Center, 14-32 W. 118th St., Manhattan.

At 3 p.m., the state’s Drinking Water Quality Council meets, Albany, NYC and Long Island.

At 4 p.m., NYC Councilman Rev. Rubén Díaz Sr., state Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox and the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization celebrate Christmas by distributing toys to children, I.S. 131, 885 Bolton Ave., Bronx.

At 6 p.m., U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer attends a fundraiser for Assemblyman Victor Pichardo, Harvard Club of New York, 27 W. 44th St., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, candidate for NYC public advocate, hosts a campaign kickoff event, Danny for NYC campaign headquarters, 2697 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 6:15 p.m., de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray will deliver remarks to kick off the “I Hear You Listening Session” at the Thrive NYC Brothers and Sisters Kwanzaa celebration, Gracie Mansion, East 88th Street and East End Avenue, Manhattan.

Headlines…

The fight over President Donald Trump’s $5 billion wall funds deepened yesterday, threatening a partial government shutdown in a standoff that has become increasingly common in Washington.

Sitting in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office last night, senior Senate Republicans had no answer to a basic question: What would Trump sign to avoid a partial government shutdown?

Exiting a Senate Republican leadership meeting, Sen. John Thune, of South Dakota, said, “It looks like it probably is going to have to build for a few days here before there’s a solution.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller released a memo detailing then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents, in which Flynn repeatedly lied about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Russia’s disinformation campaign continued after the 2016 election and targeted Mueller, spreading false narratives that he is corrupt and has ties to Islamic extremism.

In reports released by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Google, Twitter and Facebook (which also owns Instagram) were described by researchers as having “evaded” and “misrepresented” themselves and the extent of Russian activity on their sites, and were also criticized for not turning over complete sets of data about Russian manipulation to the Senate.

The U.S. Senate voted 82-12 to end debate and advance a White House-backed criminal justice reform bill, paving the way for senators to try to pass the bill as early as today.

Former FBI director James Comey came out swinging after another closed-door session with GOP lawmakers, calling Trump a liar and slamming Republicans for being too afraid to stand up to him.

Two former business associates of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, have been indicted as part of a federal investigation into Turkey’s secret 2016 lobbying campaign to pressure the U.S. to expel a rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Stocks on Wall Street notched a new low for the year yesterday, as worries about the economy continued to dog investors ahead of a crucial Federal Reserve decision on interest rates later this week.

California and 15 other states asked a federal judge to protect current health care coverage for millions of Americans while courts sort out the implications of his ruling that the Affordable Care Act was invalid in its entirety.

Even in 2018, even after a woman won the popular vote in a presidential election, women still feel belittled in politics. They rarely get to run campaigns, or fill top roles in campaigns.

The Trump administration is planning to roll back Obama-era policies aimed at ensuring that minority children are not unfairly disciplined, arguing that the efforts have eased up on punishment and contributed to rising violence in the nation’s schools.

Former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone has settled a $100 million lawsuit accusing him of publishing lies on the far-right InfoWars website.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave a speech outlining his agenda for 2019, putting the legalization of recreational marijuana and fixing New York City’s crumbling subway system among his top priorities for the start of his third term.

Cuomo framed the speech as a reflection on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt — the former president who was once a New York governor himself — would do today, mixing sweeping rhetoric about American ideals with grim warnings about the Trump administration, which could prolong speculation Cuomo wants to run in 2020.

Cuomo’s agenda also calls for congestion pricing in NYC to help fund needed subway improvements, more affordable housing, voting and criminal justice reforms, and passage of the Child Victims Act that would make it easier for child sex abuse survivors to seek justice as adults – and he wants it all passed in the year’s first 100 days.

The governor mostly touched on areas of social policy, but said he would renew a state surcharge on New Yorkers reporting more than $1 million in income and seek to cut income-tax rates for the middle class. More details on his fiscal platform are expected later in January, when he proposes a state budget.

Few of the ideas Cuomo promoted in a speech in Manhattan were new to either him or Albany, but they come as the Capitol prepares in January to become controlled by Democrats in all branches of government.

More >

Extras

The federal government faces a partial shutdown in five days and nobody on Capitol Hill – Republican allies of President Donald Trump or Democratic opponents – has any idea what the President will or won’t accept in terms of a deal.

Trump plans to sign an executive order before the end of the year creating a U.S. Space Command as a major military command. Vice President Mike Pence will make the announcement tomorrow at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

An activist has been found guilty of a series of federal crimes after she climbed on to the base of the Statue of Liberty this summer to protest against the US policy of separating migrant families and holding children in detention.

Divorcing couples are scrambling to finalize their cases before the end of the year as a result of Trump’s tax law.

The NAACP is returning a donation from Facebook and encouraging users to log out of the platform in protest after a Senate report found that Russians exploited social media to suppress African-American turnout in the 2016 election.

NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s star is on the rise, and talk of him potentially running for mayor in 2021 is already underway. He’s not ruling it out.

A plan for recreational development in the Southern Palmertown area calls for Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility to be converted into a resort.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco, 72, is literally singing and dancing his way toward retirement as he makes a farewell tour across the 50th Senate District in Central New York.

Google today announced plans to invest more than $1 billion in capital improvements to build a 1.7-million-square-foot campus in Lower Manhattan, dubbed Google Hudson Square.

Advocates for a “community grid” to replace the elevated Interstate 81 viaduct in Syracuse rallied at a downtown atrium over the weekend, hoping to build momentum for when the state seeks public comment on the issue early next year.

This year, 189 bars across the state received the special New Year’s-only permits needed to remain open past the normal closing time. Most of those all-night permits bars are in the New York City area, but 28 are Upstate.

The MTA is at a crossroads after decades of underfunding and neglect. It either invests as much as $40 billion over the next decade in an overhaul, or it descends into a “death spiral,” says Andy Byford, who oversees the subways and buses.

New York is poised to set drinking water contaminant standards that will be among the toughest in the country, ending months of study, deliberation, and public debate.

As he mulls a potential 2020 presidential run, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker addressed rumors about his sexuality, insisting that he is straight.

Syracuse officials appear to have secured a deal to begin plowing of select sidewalks in early 2019.

The investigation of a Harlem building blaze that killed a firefighter and disrupted production of a movie starring Edward Norton was rigged so Norton’s production company — which was using the building for filming — would escape blame, an FDNY fire marshal claims.

In another blow to gun rights groups in New York state, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from two gun owners seeking to overturn the state’s tight restrictions on concealed-carry licenses.

Motorists hung up on the Holland Tunnel’s OCD-aggravating holiday decorations got an early present when the Port Authority revealed the public’s choice to fix the eyesore.

Troy City Council President Carmella Mantello asked Mayor Patrick Madden to have the city drop charges against the owner of a mixed-breed dog that faces euthanasia for biting another dog and a man earlier this year.

Ellazar Williams, the 19-year-old Albany man left paralyzed after he was shot by a police detective, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, alleging he was shot from behind after he fell to the ground and then got up to run away from police.

Four Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk students were arrested and charged with allegedly making terroristic threats after posting two videos on social media that mimicked a school shooting with fake blood, weapons and racial slurs, according to the Albany County Sheriff’s Office.

Sources: Nolan Departing Ed Committee Chair Post

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, an outspoken and passionate Queens Democrat, will be departing the Education Committee chairmanship to take the position as deputy speaker in the coming session, multiple sources at the state Capitol confirm.

Nolan will be replaced as Education Committee chair – a position she has held since 2006 and was given by former Speaker Sheldon Silver – by Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, who, like the current speaker, Carl Heastie, is a Bronx Democrat.

Nolan and Heastie memorably clashed back in 2015 when they both vied for the speakership after Silver was forced to give it up due to the fact that he was facing federal corruption charges. Nolan was the only woman in the running for the position, and she stuck it out longer than the other contenders, even as it became increasingly clear that Heastie was quickly locking up the support necessary to win the leadership fight.

In the end, however, Nolan conceded, noting the historic nature of both her candidacy and Heastie’s – he’s the first African American speaker – and said that she was gratified to “have put at least a scratch in the glass ceiling for women.”

Sources rejected the suggestion that Nolan’s departure from the Education Committee was due to some long-simmering feud between herself and Heastie, saying she had decided she had served long enough and wanted a break.

The change also comes as most committee chairs – and many leadership posts – are poised to lose the stipends they carry known in Albany parlance as “lulus” if the recommendation of the pay compensation commission goes through. But since the Education Committee position and the deputy speakership are in line to lose their lulus, it’s hard to see how Nolan might gain by this change.

Under the proposal, the Assembly Democrats would have only five posts that carry lulus: speaker, majority leader, speaker pro tempore, and the chairs of the Ways and Means and Codes committees. (That last one is the subject of much debate and speculation, as Ken Lovett reported this morning).

Also, as of last week, the commission’s proposal, which also would dramatically limit lawmakers’ ability to earn outside income, while boosting their salaries to make them the highest paid state legislators in the nation, is the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Government Justice Center.

This change in the Assembly Democrats’ line-up comes at a time when the Senate Education Committee will also be under new leadership. Incoming Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recently announced Sen. Shelley Mayer, of Yonkers, would be taking the reigns of that committee after its current occupant, Republican Sen. Carl Marcellino, was defeated by James Gaughran in November as part of the blue wave that swept the GOP out of the majority.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City, where he will deliver an address on his agenda for the first 100 days of 2019, New York City Bar Association, 42 W. 44th St., Manhattan. LG Kathy Hochul will also attend.

President Donald Trump lunches with Vice President Mike Pence.

In the afternoon, Pence meets with Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Winston Peters, and then departs D.C. for Cape Canaveral, FL, where he will be spending the night.

Former FBI Director James Comey is back on Capitol Hill today to testify before Congress.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers remarks at P.S. 150 to kick off Manhattan week in the “City Hall in Your Borough” initiative. (334 Greenwich St., 12:30 p.m.)

At 8 a.m., Patricia Okoumou will go to trial for her July 4th protest at the Statue of Liberty, U.S. District Court, Southern District, 500 Pearl St., Manhattan. (Protestors will march in her support).

At 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Health meets jointly with the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., Assemblyman Sean Ryan, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Common Council Member Chris Scanlon, Jessie Fisher of Preservation Buffalo Niagara, Buffalo Fire Department members, “Friends of the Cotter” and The Fireboat EM Cotter Conservancy announce funding to repair the fireboat, Engine 20 dock, 155 Ohio St., Buffalo.

Also at 11 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Environmental Protection meets, 250 Broadway, 16th Fl. Committee Room, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., Assembly Standing Committees on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry and Small Business hold a public hearing on the oversight of the economic development programs, Center for Tomorrow, University at Buffalo, North Campus, Amherst.

At 11:30 a.m., Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Family Service Society of Yonkers, Family Ties, and the Greyston Community Garden Project attend a holiday party for needy kinship caregivers and grandparents, Center for the Urban River at Beczak, 35 Alexander St., Yonker.

At noon, state Education Commissioner Elia and Regent Cea visit New Dorp High School to observe the school’s inclusive program in partnership with The Hungerford School, 465 New Dorp Ln., Staten Island.

At 1 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on General Welfare meets, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 1:15 p.m., Hochul announces the opening of Sgt. William Dougherty Park, 510 Vandervoort Ave., corner of Vandervoort and Meeker avenues, Brooklyn.

At 3 p.m., Westchester County Executive George Latimer will join local leaders and the Katonah Chamber of Commerce to shop small and shop local this holiday season, G. Willikers Toy Store, 29 Katonah Ave., Katonah.

At 3:30 p.m., grassroots groups and Suffolk leaders call on leaders in Albany to pass the “Fair Elections” proposals in early 2019, Suffolk County Legislature, 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Smithtown.

At 4:30 p.m., the Coalition for the Homeless holds a candlelight vigil to support more housing for homeless New Yorkers, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 5 p.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. presents a proclamation at LaLa Anthony’s Winter Wonderland Celebration. Gauchos Gym, 478 Gerard Avenue, the Bronx.

Aft 5:30 p.m., the Queens Borough Board, chaired by Borough President Melinda Katz, hears a presentation from the NYC Department of City Planning on its recently published report, “The Geography of Jobs,” Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Blvd., Queens.

At 6:30 p.m., NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson holds a bike education class, 441 W. 26th St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Rep. Nydia Velázquez attends the Coda Les Holiday party, Community Center, 638 E. 6th St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

The charged politics around funding a wall along the southern border has both parties struggling to keep the government funded as the clock ticks toward a partial shutdown at week’s end.

Another problem in the ongoing battle over a potential government shutdown in D.C.: The House Republican conference’s vanquished and retiring members are sick and tired of Washington and don’t want to show up anymore to vote.

Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani asserted that “collusion is not a crime” and defended the president’s alleged involvement by saying that, either way, “it was over by the time of the election.”

With Democrats set to take control of the House in January, speculation abounds about whether the new majority would impeach the President. Americans break against that idea, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.

New York U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has said that she’s worried about a lack of diversity among top 2020 presidential candidates after a new poll found the top three Democratic frontrunners to be white men.

Gillibrand feels the historic criminal justice reform bill headed for a vote in the Senate this week is a step in the right direction — but doesn’t go far enough.

Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in a commencement speech Friday at historically black Morgan State University, mixed her trademark language denouncing economic inequality with more explicit indictments of racial discrimination, giving what could be a preview of a possible appeal to black voters should she run for president.

Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said she welcomes potential Republican primary challengers to Trump while also declining to endorse the president’s 2020 re-election bid.

Is U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer a champion of Wall Street, defender of upstate New York or a little of both?

The family of a 2-year-old boy on life support is saying that Trump’s travel ban is preventing his Yemeni mother from traveling to the U.S. to see him one final time.

A real estate investment firm co-founded by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, is betting big on the administration’s Opportunity Zone tax breaks but isn’t that interested in steering its investors to the poorest, most-downtrodden areas that the program seeks to revitalize.

Reince Priebus, 46, Trump’s first chief of staff, has been selected to join the Navy as a reserve officer after his application was helped by a recommendation letter from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

On Friday, a federal judge fulfilled a wish conservatives have held for more than eight years by ruling the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, unconstitutional. So, now what?

In the fight against climate change, environmental groups plan an aggressive campaign in 2019 to pressure state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli into shedding billions of dollars in state pension fund investments in the fossil fuel industry.

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky says the pay compensation commission mess at the state Capitol “won’t resolve for months,” and was caused by “the cynicism of the committee members, the governor and the Legislature.”

As the Democrats get set to control the state Senate for the first time in a decade, incoming Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has put together what she calls a “strong diverse” leadership team.

Sen. Leroy Comrie, a Queens Democrat, said he plans to summon top MTA officials — including NYC Transit chief Andy Byford — to testify before the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, which he will be heading in January, about their failure to smooth the ride for long-suffering strap-hangers.

Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal, who is running for NYC public advocate, identified himself in a recent questionnaire as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America while seeking the group’s endorsement. But he ran on the Conservative line during his first two successful runs for state Assembly in 2011 and 2012.

A state commission eliminated 145 of the stipends influential legislators are paid on top of their salaries — but one of the 15 it left in place has raised eyebrows: The $18,000 received by Assembly Codes Committee Chair Joe Lentol. (He dismissed the idea of favoritism, saying: “I think they got it right”).

Cornell Tech, a graduate school on Roosevelt Island in the East River that started with just seven students in 2013, was a major selling point when Amazon was considering putting a new HQ in Long Island City, Queens.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Two years after Donald Trump won the presidency, nearly every organization he has led in the past decade is under investigation.

The decision by a federal judge in Texas to strike down all of the Affordable Care Act has thrust the volatile debate over health care onto center stage in a newly divided capital, imperiling the insurance coverage of millions of Americans while delivering a possible policy opening to Democrats.

When Jakelin Caal, 7, of Guatemala, who died from dehydration in Border Patrol custody suddenly became ill, agents did not have sufficient medical resources to immediately treat her, officials said.

A White House official said the Trump administration was not responsible for Caal’s death, calling it a “a horrific, tragic situation.”

Caal was healthy before she arrived, and her family is now calling for an “objective and thorough” investigation into her death, a representative for the family said Saturday.

Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, the El Paso, Texas, shelter where Jakelin Caal’s father has been staying since her death, said the grieving dad disputes the government’s claim that his little girl had gone without eating or drinking for days.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a key figure in Trump’s sweeping plan to reshape the nation’s environmental framework, will leave his post at the end of the year – a departure that comes amid numerous ethics investigations into his business dealings, travel and policy decisions.

Former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden is reportedly considering Rep. Beto O’Rourke, of Texas, to be his running mate if Biden runs for the White House again.

Biden, O’Rourke and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were popular among Iowa caucus goers, a new poll found.

Negotiators from around the world on Saturday agreed on a rulebook to curb global warming, seeking to bolster the 2015 Paris accord amid concerns that countries would fail to deliver on their commitments despite what many scientists call a rising threat from climate change.

They were collateral damage as Trump and his siblings dodged inheritance taxes and gained control of their father’s fortune: thousands of renters in an empire of unassuming red-brick buildings scattered across Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

Mick Mulvaney, the Office of Management and Budget director whom Trump has selected would serve as acting chief of staff after John Kelly departs in January, has been a loyal Trump supporter – but once called the president a “terrible human being.”

Fresh out of prison for lying to the FBI, ex-Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos is plotting his own run for office. “I will be running for Congress in 2020, and I will win,” he tweeted. “Stay tuned.”

The Russia investigation has cost more than $25 million since special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment, according to a new U.S. Justice Department report.

In a tweet storm on Saturday, Trump accused the media of ignoring the latest twist in Mueller’s investigation: the discovery that the FBI wiped clean thousands of text messages that two high-profile investigators exchanged while they were assigned to his team.

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, said ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was “railroaded” and “framed” into making some recent bombshell revelations, and also claimed the president initially “didn’t know about” alleged hush-money payments made by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to two women.

Giuliani pushed back against reports that Mueller might be seeking to interview the president, saying it would happen only “over my dead body.”

Trump says the justice system should stop investigating his administration and go after the real enemy – “Saturday Night Live,” suggesting that NBC’s long-running comedy skit program should be “tested in courts,” seemingly for its alleged “collusion” with Democratic party interests.

The president, on Twitter, branded Cohen a “rat,” and wondered why the FBI didn’t “break into” DNC headquarters the same way they raided this former personal attorney’s office.

More >

Extras

Last year marked a record-high for gun-related deaths in the U.S. in nearly four decades, with nearly 40,000 people killed, according to new data released from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER database.

The Trump administration has reportedly begun instructing mortgage lenders to not issue federal housing assistance loans, the latest move to restrict benefits for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, also known as “Dreamers.”

Michael Cohen said in an interview broadcast that he knew arranging payments during the 2016 campaign to quiet two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump was wrong. And, he said, the president “of course” knew it was wrong at the time, too.

When it came out this year that Trump’s inaugural committee raised and spent unprecedented amounts, people wondered where all that money went. It turns out one beneficiary was Trump himself.

Former NJ Gov. Chris Christie took himself out of the running to be Trump’s next chief of staff, saying the timing isn’t right for him and his family.

Hillary Clinton issued a statement marking the sixth anniversary of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which killed 26 people, the majority of them first-grade students.

During an interview with Kara Swisher of the technology website Recode, Clinton gave mixed signals about her actions for the 2020 election.

Of the myriad Obama administration policies and practices that have been upturned by Trump, a proud and well-documented non-foodie, his approach to dining and nutrition has left a notable mark on the culture of the White House and the nation’s capital.

Cuomo said he has asked the state Labor Department to investigate New York-Presbyterian/Hudson Valley in Cortlandt Manor after he was “deeply alarmed” to hear that nurses alleged “threatening and coercive behavior” from management ahead of a vote to unionize.

State Democratic party Executive Director Geoff Berman is stepping down from his post, which he has held for a little over a year.

The outcome of the recent gubernatorial race highlighted the sharpest division in recent years between urban and rural voters, resulting in Cuomo’s overwhelming victories in New York City and its suburbs along with lesser wins in upstate’s big urban counties.

New Jersey’s top law enforcement agency is looking into claims of widespread harassment and immigration fraud at Trump’s Garden State golf club after several former and current housekeepers alleged racially-charged mistreatment.

Steven C. Preisch, who has been interim City of Lockport police chief since June, said that he doesn’t intend to take a civil-service examination for the permanent position.

As the Catholic Church faces a wave of federal and state attorney general investigations into its handling of sex abuse, bishops around the country have struggled with how to react, and dozens have decided to take action by releasing lists of the priests in their dioceses who were credibly accused of abuse.

For the second week in a row, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio went on WNYC radio to explain how his administration is working to fix the city’s public housing developments — and for the second week, a resident called in to complain about “inhuman” conditions at her building.

Cuomo rapped state lawmakers for savoring a fat 64 percent pay raise while fighting limitations on outside income and a ban on bonuses for serving in leadership posts.

Records show that de Blasio’s spending on “special assistants” continued to grow in the last fiscal year, with the mayor going from 305 to 314 people holding the title.

Ocasio-Cortez jabbed first son-in-law Jared Kushner amid reports that he was in still in the running to be Trump’s next chief of staff.

Here’s an argument in favor of Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s push for interns to be paid a living wage on Capitol Hill.

The Adirondack Park Agency has removed a legal obstacle that should allow the state to revive an effort to convert part of an historic rail line into a recreational trail.

A $5 million state grant has been approved for downtown Albany real estate investment.

Seafood fraud!

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo toured the L train’s East River tunnel early this morning. For the rest of the day, he’s in NYC with no public events or interviews scheduled as of yet.

NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray will meet with Rep.-elect Alexandria Occasio-Cortez at an undisclosed time and location. Needless to say, this is not an event that is open to members of the media.

At 7:45 a.m., Melissa Mark-Viverito, former NYC Council speaker and current NYC public advocate candidate, greets commuters at the Newkirk Plaza B, Q Subway Station, Brooklyn.

At 10 a.m., state Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and state Sen.-elect Pete Harckham join Westchester County Executive George Latimer for his signing of a bill aimed at combating discriminatory housing practices, Michaelian Office Building, 148 Martine Ave., ninth floor, White Plains.

Also at 10 a.m., “The Brian Lehrer Show” features NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who will take questions from listeners who call in, WNYC.

At 11 a.m., U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, City of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, and Albany Fire Chief Joseph Gregory will unveil the new mobile training trailer that was purchased by the Albany Fire Department and was made possible by a $426,000 Federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant that Senator Schumer helped secure on the city’s behalf, 830 South Pearl St., Albany.

At 10:30 a.m., Queens Library President and CEO Dennis Walcott welcomes New York City Councilman Costa Constantinides to the Astoria Library to thank him for securing $3.3 million in capital improvements, 14-01 Astoria Blvd., Queens.

At 11:30 a.m., Cameron Macdonald, executive director of the Government Justice Center, will speak about his litigation challenging the legality of the state Compensation Committee’s report and recommendations, including its effort to hike legislative pay, state Capitol, 3rd Fl. outside Senate chamber, Albany.

At 1 p.m., Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney joins local elected officials and members of the agriculture community to discuss the impact of the 2018 Farm Bill on the Hudson Valley, Soons Orchard, 23 Soons Circle, New Hampton.

Also at 1 p.m. – Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and former Democratic Assembly candidate Adam Baumel meet for lunch to discuss possible solutions to the issues affecting their community, Royal Diner, 7609 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn.

Headlines…

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations.

The prosecutors at the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District are reportedly examining whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to the inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over American policy.

A report surfaced calling Trump “the third person in the room” when his lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with National Enquirer publisher David Pecker to discuss ways to counteract negative stories about Trump and his relationships with women.

Trump said that if there was anything illegal about the hush payments made to two women claiming to have had affairs with him, it was Cohen’s fault – part of a newly improvised attempt to combat the legal exposure the president may now have because of the payments.

Former NJ Gov. Chris Christie met with Trump about the open chief of staff job let night, and the president reportedly called Christie a “top contender” for the job.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is also reportedly on the short list to become the next chief of staff.

The U.S. Senate voted to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen in the strongest show of bipartisan defiance against Trump’s defense of the kingdom over the killing of a dissident journalist.

In her quest to become speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California appears ready once again to sacrifice the higher ambitions of her No. 2, Rep. Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, and he is not shy about expressing his objections.

Weeks after a judge ordered its secretary, Betsy DeVos, to follow Obama-era policy for student loan forgiveness, the U.S. Department of Education has announced it will discharge approximately $150 million in loans.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that a 7-year-old Guatemalan migrant girl has died in Border Patrol custody from exhaustion and dehydration.

Dozens of steel bolts that are used to help hold together the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge broke apart during construction, and there are allegations some leading workers tried to cover up the potential problem. The AG’s office confirmed it is investigation the situation.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, joined by engineers from Columbia and Cornell universities as well as private consultants, toured the L train’s East River tunnel early this morning in hope of finding a way to ease or even avert the 15-month shutdown planned for April that will disrupt thousands of commuters’ lives.

In what seems could be an early shot across the bow of Cuomo, the incoming Democrat chairman of the state Senate investigations committee – Sen.elect James Skoufis, who, as an assemblyman, didn’t always see eye-to-eye with the governor – is promising a much more aggressive oversight role.

NYC and the state sent loads of data – some rarely available publicly – to Amazon during its search for a new headquarters, offering a peek into the valuable information the company collected during the process.

…This was revealed in the 253-page proposal the de Blasio administration submitted to the company in March.

State legislators who are about to become the highest-paid in the nation are complaining that they’re getting a raw deal because they’ll have to restrict their outside income and give up bonuses for serving in leadership posts.

The NY Times weighs in on reports that legislative leaders might try to challenge reforms linked to pay raises by the compensation commission: “Don’t reject the pay committee’s recommendation. The next time state legislators take their seats in Albany, it should be to act for the people of New York, not for themselves.”

Asian-American civil rights groups and parents filed suit to block New York City from launching its plan to diversify eight top high schools by giving more seats to applicants who miss the test-score cutoff for admission.

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Extras

President Trump reacted angrily to the relatively short prison sentence handed down to his longtime personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, and said Cohen failed him as his lawyer because he should have known about campaign finance law.

“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” Trump said in a series of Twitter posts. “He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law.”

Trump asserted Cohen was a “low-level” employee who did limited legal work as he sought to distance himself from his longtime associate a day after Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison.

First Lady Melania Trump criticized journalists and comedians as “opportunists,” accusing media figures, authors and “performers” of “using my name or my family name to advance themselves.”

The president is expected to spend 16 days at Mar-a-Lago over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, according to an alert issued by the Federal Aviation Administration this morning.

Maria Butina, 30, pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiring to act as a foreign agent in a deal with federal prosecutors. In doing so, she acknowledged that her activities were motivated by more than mere personal conviction.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood today announced a lawsuit against Target Corporation, Walmart Inc., and importer LaRose Industries, for allegedly committing thousands of violations of multiple New York laws governing the safety of children’s toys sold in the state.

Law enforcement officials are investigating bomb threats emailed to a number of locations in the Buffalo metro area, and nationally, though multiple agencies say the threats are not credible.

Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling took a swing at Bronx Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, slamming her intelligence after she complained that her ideas are being scrutinized because of her young age.

Runaway sales of White House exposé Fire and Fury have powered Michael Wolff into Forbes’s annual round-up of the world’s highest paid authors for the first time.

A recently filed lawsuit could derail the implementation of a new, multi-million-dollar online system for tracking lobbying activities in New York.

Sen. Jim Tediso, who has a long history of championing animal rights, is calling on Cuomo to pardon a dog’s owner involved in a fight in Troy. He says this would also provide a pardon for Luna, a 6-year-old Hound-Pitbull mix.

Cuomo has launched an investigation into union-busting claims leveled against NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital on the heels of a report by The Journal News.

Unions from across the nation are supporting Tesla employees at the company’s South Buffalo site.

The Citizens Budget Commission warned the state in a new report not to get too high on spending legal pot revenue, since it would take years to “fully realize a robust legal recreational marijuana market and associated tax revenue.

The NYPD’s commissioner defended his cops’ handling of the chaotic fracas at a Brooklyn benefits center that saw a baby torn from his mom’s arms — adding that policy reforms are on the way at the Human Resources Administration, whose guards were also involved.

The idea of imposing tolls on drivers entering the busiest parts of Manhattan is gaining momentum among New York lawmakers, increasing the chances that some kind of congestion tolling will pass in the legislative session that begins next month.

Former Buffalo Bills star running back Thurman Thomas came to the Erie County Legislature to speak in favor of bail bond reform, saying the current system “is inherently biased toward the wealthy.”

Jennifer Parker, a former kitchen supervisor at the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility in Canton, has been charged with multiple counts of felony rape for engaging in sexual misconduct with three inmates over the course of several years, according to the state AG’s office.

New York City Hall is quietly orchestrating a campaign to pressure a federal judge not to place NYCHA under federal receivership – warning that such a move would result in “pushing longtime tenants out of their homes.”

A Herkimer Town Court justice has been charged with DWI after allegedly crashing his vehicle into the local former Kmart.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and New York City with no public events or appearances or interviews scheduled as of yet.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence meet with governors-elect in the afternoon at the White House.

At 7:45 a.m., Melissa Mark-Viverito, former NYC Council speaker and current NYC public advocate candidate, greets commuters, at the 7, E, F, M, R subway station in Jackson Heights, (74th Avenue), Queens.

At 9 a.m., City & State hosts the Ethics and Accountability Summit, a full-day conference to explore how public officials, corporations, attorneys, lobbyists, nonprofits and the public can create effective policies to address government ethics and accountability, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., the NYC Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises meets, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Higher Education meets jointly with the Committee on Veterans, 250 Broadway, 14th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., “The Brian Lehrer Show” features NYC Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, WNYC.

At 10:30 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Housing and Buildings meets, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul delivers remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Massachusetts Avenue Project Farmhouse and Community Training Center, 387 Massachusetts Ave., Buffalo.

Also at 10:30 p.m., the PSC will hold its next regular session, 4th Floor Board Room, 90 Church St., Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., CUNY students and staff rally to demand Cuomo sign the maintenance of effort bill to require the state to increase in public funding to keep pace with rising costs, 633 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 11:30 a.m., the state Green Party announces its 2019 legislative agenda, LCA Press Room, Room 130, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At noon, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. releases a new report, “The Preferential Rent Crisis in New York City,” and discusses policy proposals to address both tenant and landlord concerns surrounding the issue, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at noon, the NYC Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses meets, 250 Broadway, 16th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., the NYC Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform holds a meeting, 250 Broadway, 14th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Technology meets, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 5 p.m., “Driving Forces” with co-hosts Jeff Simmons and Celeste Katz features state Sen. Diane Savino on the legalization of recreational marijuana, WBAI, 99.5 FM.

At 6 p.m., NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo hold a District 35 town hall, Medgar Evers College, 1186 Carroll St., Brooklyn.

At 6:15 p.m., Hochul attends the NYS AFL-CIO 60th Anniversary Holiday Party, Sheraton Times Square, 811 7th Ave., Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., the Arena hosts a NYC public advocate candidate forum with 10 candidates, Wagner College, Spiro Hall, One Campus Road, Staten Island.

Also at 6:30 p.m., ARP NY holds telephone town hall with Rep.-elect Max Rose and members in NY-11 on Medicare, Social Security, prescription drug costs, health care, caregiving and financial security, via livestream at https://vekeo.com/event/aarpnewyork-43425/ or call-in at 866-495-1076.

At 7 p.m. – Diaz Jr. attends the AFL-CIO holiday party, Sheraton Times Square, 811 Seventh Ave., Manhattan.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray are hosting three holiday parties at Gracie Mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side – one for city leaders, another for partners from the business and philanthropic communities involved in the Mayor’s Fund, and a third for members of the NYPD Intelligence Division. All three of these events are closed to members of the media.

Headlines…

American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, admitted that the tabloid paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for her story of an alleged affair with Trump and then declined to publish the article.

That leaves Trump in an increasingly isolated and legally precarious position, according to election law experts. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments made in 2016 to keep two women silent about alleged affairs are now firmly framed as illegal campaign contributions.

The news about the publisher, the parent company of The National Enquirer, came on the same day that Trump’s former personal lawyer MichaelCohen was sentenced to three years in prison in part for his involvement in the payments.

“I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today,” Cohen said in court, “and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man” — a reference to Trump – that led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”

Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, survived the gravest threat yet to her embattled leadership winning a party confidence vote and averting a leadership battle that threatened to plunge the country into prolonged crisis, but the future of her stalled plan to leave the European Union looked bleaker than ever.

Tom Steyer, the Democratic billionaire who has paid for television ads calling for the impeachment of Trump, is also considering a run for president himself, staffing up a potential campaign for 2020 via an anonymous LinkedIn page.

Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, ex-Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, took the first steps toward a possible 2020 presidential run.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi agreed to term limits in a deal with rebel Democrats that paved the way for her to become House speaker in January. The longest the California Democrat, who is 78, could serve as speaker would be four more years.

After months of debate and negotiation, Congress voted final approval to a massive farm bill that will provide more than $400 billion for agriculture subsidies, conservation programs and food aid.

First Lady Melania Trump made history by flying in a V-22 Osprey aircraft and onto the deck of an aircraft carrier.

The panel investigating the Florida high school massacre in Parkland recommended that teachers who volunteer and undergo extensive background checks and training be allowed to carry concealed guns on campus to stop future shootings.

The Boy Scouts of America is considering filing for bankruptcy protection as it faces dwindling membership and escalating legal costs related to lawsuits over how it handled allegations of sex abuse.

Two Amazon executives faced jeers and pointed questions during three hours of testimony at a NYC Council hearing about the plan to build a new outpost in Queens.

Amazon does not need the Council’s approval to locate new offices in Long Island City, Queens. Still, the appearance marked the company’s first major foray into New York’s public spotlight since announcing the deal.

One of the strongest points of contention during the hearing was a benefit that the plastics company Plaxall will receive for one of its sites near the proposed campus.

“We have a crumbling subway system, record homelessness, public housing that is in crisis, overcrowded schools, sick people without health insurance and an escalating affordable crisis,” said NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Democrat. “Is anyone asking if we should be giving nearly $3 billion in public money to the world’s richest company, valued at $1 trillion?”

Amazon executives sought to reassure its critics, saying it planned to hold recruiting events with the residents of the Queensbridge Houses, one of the largest public housing projects in the city.

The executives said Amazon zeroed in on New York City as a site for its second headquarters because of its deep talent pool, but the potential $3 billion in tax incentives and grants from the state and city sealed the deal.

Workers at the retail juggernaut’s new Staten Island warehouse are threatening to unionize in response to alleged harsh working conditions and shabby treatment by managers.

Trump is directing federal agencies and developers to rebuild distressed communities dubbed “opportunity zones” — including areas where his relatives own properties and the Queens neighborhood soon to host online retail giant Amazon.

Since it became well publicized last weekend, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio mostly kept silent about an episode last week in which law enforcement personnel at a Brooklyn government office ripped a 1-year-old boy from his mother’s arms and arrested her. Yesterday, he apologized to her on “behalf of all 8.6 million New Yorkers.”

The mayor defended NYPD cops involved in the Brooklyn fracas, saying the situation was “already out of hand” when they arrived on the scene, adding: “That was because of the mistaken actions, in my opinion, of the (Human Resources Administration) peace officers.”

Assembly Democrats are entertaining the possibility of take legislative action to overturn the limits on outside income that are set to go into effect in 2020.

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