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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Elite New Yorkers belong to President-elect’s power clique

Many months before he became the president-elect, Donald Trump began drawing a certain kind of well-heeled, well-connected New Yorker to his side.

Carl Paladino, 70, a Buffalo-area real-estate businessman most famous for his unsuccessful governor’s bid against Andrew M. Cuomo in 2010, has been with the Trump campaign from the start.

Often harsh in his public statements, Paladino has never been totally at one with the state’s party structure. But with an ally headed to the White House, he can count on some measure of clout. Nearly a year ago, he recalled Trump telling him: “You and I are much alike in the way we think.”

Former New York City Mayor and failed presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, 72, served as a frequent TV surrogate for the GOP nominee, and has been touted for a big cabinet position in a Trump administration. Some have said attorney general, but some from his old City Hall circle believe he’s bidding for secretary of state or secretary of defense.

In one of his more memorable quotes from the speech he belted out at the GOP convention last summer, Giuliani said of Trump: “This is a man with a big heart who loves people. All people, from the top to the bottom, from the middle to the side. I’m telling you this because I’m sick and tired of the defamation of Donald Trump by the media and by the Clinton campaign.

“I’m sick and tired of it!”

Much less voluble, but close to the president-elect, are elite hedge-funder Robert Mercer, 70, the CEO of Renaissance Technologies on Long Island, and his daughter, Rebekah, who are big-league Trump contributors. Their influence is assured. Neither he nor Giuliani were initially with Trump; Mercer at first backed Sen. Ted Cruz while Trump famously and repeatedly blasted the Texan as “Lyin’ Ted.”

John Jay LaValle, the 48-year-old chairman of the Suffolk Republican Committee, bathed in the glare of TV appearances throughout the year as a surrogate for Trump and sometimes absorbed the embarrassment of doing so. In May he claimed to have seen American flags burned at Hillary Clinton rallies but couldn’t name the instances and later said he misspoke.

LaValle also defended Trump’s controversial remarks tying a Mexican-American judge’s ethnicity to a ruling against him in a case involving alleged fraud by the defunct “university” bearing the candidate’s name. Could LaValle be a future ambassador, or some such official?

Over in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 54, has been conducting discussions and collecting funds for the Trump transition team. Partisan critics may have called his appointment skills into question after the Bridgegate conviction of several former close aides, but Trump’s failed GOP rival, who must leave the governorship anyway under term limits, soldiers on.


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