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Pencil Point

Stepping up to the plate

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Daily Point

Overlooked moment in Sessions hearing

Why President Donald Trump has such a soft spot for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, while he trashes our traditional European allies is one of the great unknowns of this administration.

One theory Newsday columnist William F. B. O’Reilly wrote about on Sunday is the influence of Trump chief advisers Steve Bannon and Steve Miller. Both men are nationalists, he writes, who see Russia as having more traditional pre-World War I views of how to keep the world order. Hint: It’s anti-Muslim and anti-progressive policies.

That’s why an overlooked remark in Jeff Sessions’ testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday is worth revisiting. He was asked by Sen. Kamala Harris of California about the nature of any conversations he may have had with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.

“I may have had some conversations, and I think I did, with the general strategic concept of the possibility of whether or not Russia and the United States could get on a more harmonious relationship and move off the hostility,” he said. “The Soviet Union did in fact collapse. It’s really a tragic strategic event that we’re not able to get along better than we are today.”

Rita Ciolli

Talking Point

Moving trucks in Suffolk

Escalating a feud over who best represents the Hispanic community in the Brentwood area, Assemb. Phil Ramos and his wife, Angela, have changed their voter registration so the spouse of the well-known politician can challenge Suffolk County Legis. Monica Martinez this fall.

Martinez told The Point that the Ramoses updated their address for registration purposes from Legis. Steve Stern’s 16th Legislative District into the 9th LD to mount a challenge. Angela Ramos recently screened with the Working Families Party for its endorsement against Martinez, a Democrat.

Prospective candidates district shop all the time. There’s nothing improper about the address change, but it highlights the factional tensions.

Insiders say that Martinez, who won a primary against incumbent Rick Montano in 2013, has had a high profile, and that upsets the senior representatives of the area. For example, she served as the grand marshal of Brentwood’s Puerto Rican/Hispanic Day parade on June 4.

Phil Ramos’ 6th Assembly District includes much of the county’s 9th Legislative District — Brentwood and Central Islip — so Angela Ramos might benefit from his wide name recognition. He has served in the Assembly since 2002.

Ramos’ Assembly office hasn’t returned a call for comment.

Martinez said she’s heard accusations that she doesn’t stand firmly enough against the Trump administration and doesn’t live in the 9th District. “It’s not true,” she said. “What they’re attacking me on, I can prove to you isn’t accurate.”

Anne Michaud

Pointing Out

Operation Tone Deaf

On Wednesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement unveiled the recent launch of a multiagency effort to combat the violent gang MS-13 around NYC and Long Island.

That initiative’s name? “Operation Matador.”

Significant action already has occurred, with 39 alleged MS-13 members arrested by the task force in the last 30 days, in the wake of recent brutal killings connected to the gang in Suffolk County.

But the operation name is something of a strange choice given its goals. Is MS-13 the bull, to be killed only slowly by a thousand tiny pricks as part of an elaborate performance? Are the feds waving a flag and enraging the pursued? Was there supposed to be an ethnic connection? Bullfights are most prominently parts of Spanish and Mexican culture, and MS-13 has El Salvadoran roots.

Regardless of the term’s precision, federal officials appear to like it. A 2016 MS-13 investigation in which ICE took part in California also was named Operation Matador.

ICE spokeswoman Rachael Yong Yow emailed The Point that she “was unaware of an Operation Matador in California. This is not connected to that.”

In all but name and target.

Mark Chiusano