Off the case

Was it a joke? Or a hint? A tweet from deposed U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara after his ouster by President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered a morsel for speculation:

“By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like.”

That was the Albany anti-corruption panel suddenly disbanded by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2014 — a move Bharara denounced then as premature with so much left to be done.

Bharara’s exit leaves unfinished business on the corruption-fighting front, including a coming trial of former Cuomo aides for alleged bribery and bid-rigging, and a probe into whether Mayor Bill de Blasio’s donors were rewarded with favors.

Speaking of Cuomo: The Times on Monday oddly includes this in its account: "Mr. Cuomo, who has done little to hide his frustration with Mr. Bharara, told a Trump adviser in passing that the prosecutor was “a bad guy,” saying, “Preet is not your friend,” according to a person familiar with the discussion. (A Cuomo spokeswoman denied that the governor had made such a statement.)" 

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Another pending investigation reportedly focuses on whether Trump-friendly Fox News structured settlements of sexual harassment claims in a way to keep shareholders unaware.

While presidents commonly replace U.S. attorneys with their own appointees — nearly four dozen were canned Friday — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said it’s rarely so abrupt. “It ruins the continuity of cases,” Schumer said.

See the story for Newsday by Laura Figueroa, Emily Ngo and Scott Eidler.

 

What changed?

Growing enmity with Schumer — Bharara’s top advocate — is just one theory on why Trump wanted the prosecutor gone. In November, the then-president-elect summoned Bharara to Trump Tower and asked him to stay on.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), on ABC’s “This Week,” speculated without offering evidence that there was some kind of connection to investigations of Trump.

“Suddenly, he’s changed his mind. I’m just curious as to why that is,” Cummings said. “And certainly there’s a lot of questions coming up as to whether ... President Trump is concerned about the jurisdiction of this U.S. attorney and whether that might affect his future,” he said.

The Washington Post said two people close to Trump explained the move as Sessions and the president’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, wanting a clean slate of federal prosecutors, and to assert who’s in power.

Trump has not nominated a replacement. For now, career prosecutor, and Bharara’'s deputy, Joon J. Kim will be in charge of the Manhattan-based office.

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The take-away: Who’s on first

The growth of nationalist movements around the world has prompted alliances against alliances.

France’s rightist leader Marine Le Pen, a contender to become her country’s next president, speaks with fealty to American and Russian presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, notes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

British anti-Brexit politician Nigel Farage appeared at rallies with Trump, who ran on “America First” policies. The question is how America First fits in with a stronger France, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, India, Britain or the Philippines.

The unassured

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Proponents of the Trump-backed House Republicans’ Obamacare replacement bill, appearing on the Sunday talk shows, had no direct answers on whether fewer Americans would have coverage if the plan passes, writes Newsday’s Ngo and Eidler.

“I can’t answer that question. It’s up to people,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). By removing the mandate to buy insurance, “people are going to do what they want to do with their lives, because we believe in individual freedom in this country.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said, “I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially.”

The threat of losing coverage may be highest in struggling parts of the country where Trump won strong support, according to stories by the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Washington Post.

Trump walls in the workplace

Trump’s presidency is presenting managers with new challenges in anger management.

Disagreements at Long Island workplaces over Trump have not only persisted, but in some cases, also have intensified since the election, playing out in conference rooms, employee cafeterias and office cubicles, Cara S. Trager reports for Newsday.

A Deer Park consulting firm says it was called in to defuse tension that led to near-violence at a company where a U.S.-born citizen told a naturalized citizen he would be sent back to his native country.

Productivity is also suffering because of working hours spent talking or reading about politics, a survey found.

Prez-cum-brander-in-chief

Trump says he has separated himself from running his business interests, but the body still goes where the mind purportedly does not. It seems like almost every excursion from the White House is an exercise in product placement.

On many weekends, he’s at the Trump resort at Mar-a-Lago and two golf clubs in the vicinity. This past Saturday, he held meetings at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia. Where to go for dinner out? A restaurant inside Trump’s hotel in Washington, of course.

What else is happening

  • At least two dozen anti-Trump groups have formed on Long Island to pressure members of Congress to stand up to administration policies, reports Newsday’s David M. Schwartz. They organize regular protests outside the district offices of GOP Reps. Lee Zeldin and Rep. Peter King, and are swelling the grass roots ranks of Democratic and progressive groups.
  • The upcoming budget is expected to include a "historic contraction" of the federal workforce, the Washington Post reports.
  • A Trump project investment in Toronto turned out to be a lousy deal, say investors who got their lawsuit upheld in Canadian court.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says she would have retired if Hillary Clinton won the election, but the shock of Trump’s victory “motivated me to stay.”
  • Schumer said that nearly $2 billion in funding cuts Trump plans for the Transportation Security Administration and Coast Guard would “spell real trouble for security” on Long Island and in New York City, reports Newsday’s Figueroa.
  • Bharara’s refusal to go quietly has parallels to a battle waged almost half a century ago between another U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Robert Morgenthau and President Richard Nixon, The Atlantic recalls.
  • Trump confidant Roger Stone — who admits to contact with hackers of Democrats’ email accounts last year — should be questioned in Congress’ investigations of Russian election meddling, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Of the broader probe, McCain said, “I think there’s a lot more shoes to drop from this centipede.”
  • After a week of Trump silence on his claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped him, the president should either substantiate or retract the allegation, McCain said. House Speaker Ryan said he has seen nothing to support Trump’s charge. Monday is the House Intelligence Committee "deadline" for submitting any such evidence.
  • Efforts to reinforce Trump's message through a public campaign seem to have run into infighting, Politico reports.