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Long Island’s Peter King, John Jay LaValle meet with Trump

Rep. Peter King, left, and Suffolk County GOP

Rep. Peter King, left, and Suffolk County GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle speak to the media after meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. Credit: Charles Eckert

The Long Island connection

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Suffolk GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle met with the president-elect at Trump Tower in a 45-minute powwow that was said to have focused on national security.

“The main issues I discussed were what we have to do to have the Justice Department and the FBI be more leaning forward when it comes to investigating Islamic terrorism,” King told reporters after the meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, suggested to Trump that the federal government launch a Muslim surveillance program similar to the one NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly started in New York City after the 9/ 11 terrorist attacks, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.

“I suggested a program similar to what Commissioner Kelly did here in New York, and that we can’t worry about political correctness,” said King, who was also joined at the meeting by his daughter, Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney.

The ACLU, in a tweet issued in response, warned: “This would be unconstitutional and we would sue.”

LaValle said he did not discuss the possibility of a future role in the administration, saying the focus of the discussion was “national security and international security . . . the No. 1 issues this country faces right now.”

Nassau GOP Chairman Joe Mondello, while not at the meeting, was named to Trump’s executive transition team, joining other new additions, including Omarosa Manigault and Oracle software CEO Safra Catz.

Separation of Trump and state

On the day Trump was set to hold a news conference outlining his plans to separate his financial interests from his new role shaping policy, Senate Democrats derided him for scrapping the event and announced their plans to file a bill that would require him to divest from his business empire and place his assets in a blind trust.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), one of the sponsors of the measure, criticized Trump for canceling “a scheduled announcement about severing his business ties, taking time instead to meet with Kanye West” on Tuesday.

Bidding thousands of dollars for coffee with Ivanka Trump, by those with special interests in federal legislation has also become an issue. The funds are purportedly for charity.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said the divestiture bill would require the president and vice president to place their assets in a blind trust, saying it “has been the standard for previous presidents.”

Trump derided the media on Twitter for its reporting on the issue.

Events this week highlighted the blurred lines between Trump’s business and political interests — Trump’s children, who are said to be taking over the day-to-day operations of The Trump organization, sat in on a high-profile meeting with the nation’s top tech industry leaders, which drew criticism from government ethics groups. And the federal agency that Trump leases his D.C. hotel space from has said it is waiting to hear Trump’s final business arrangements before determining whether he must surrender his stake in the hotel.

Scott Amey of the Project on Government Oversight told The Hill: “If Trump is serious about only working for the American public, it should have started weeks ago and his children should have stayed in the boardroom.”

Roads to Moscow

President Barack Obama says in a new NPR interview:  "I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections ... we need to take action. And we will — at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be."

In addition, the Wall Street Journal reports that probers found the hackers were less persistent and aggressive in trying to hack the Republican National Committee than their Democratic counterparts. "Only a single email account linked to a long-departed RNC staffer was targeted," the newspaper said.

Top aides for Trump and the Obama administration sparred over reports tying Russia to campaign-related cyberattacks.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest doubled down on his earlier assertion that Trump knew about Russia’s role in hacking the emails of Hillary Clinton’s top campaign aides and the DNC.

“First of all, it is just a fact — you have it all on tape — that the Republican nominee for president was encouraging Russia to hack his opponent because he believed that that would help his campaign,” he said in a news conference.

Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, in an interview with Fox News, shot back that Earnest was “auditioning to be a political pundit after his job is over soon,” and said his claims were “irresponsible.”

All this, as U.S. intelligence sources in multiple news reports said they had a “high degree of confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a “personal role” in the hacking mission.

Interior motives

Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana was announced as Trump’s pick for Department of Interior secretary, but the appointment has once again drawn focus to Trump’s children serving dual roles on his transition team and leading his businesses.

Donald Trump Jr., an outdoor enthusiast, reportedly was key in selecting and screening candidates for the Interior secretary post, even as the president-elect has said his children will not play an active role in his upcoming administration, and instead will take over the daily operations of the family business.

Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller said the transition team has been “very transparent” that Donald Jr. would be “active” in “helping us form the government.”

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and self-described avid hunter and fisherman, vowed to “work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits everyone for generations to come.”

Cabinet count: Two to go

Zinke’s nomination means there are just two more major Cabinet positions for Trump to fill, as the president-elect draws scrutiny for the lack of diversity among his picks.

The departments of Agriculture and Veterans Affairs are still in need of nominees.

So far, of the 16 posts Trump has filled, only five nominees are women or nonwhite men, according to an AP report: neurosurgeon Ben Carson for secretary of Housing and Urban Development, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador, former Bush administration Labor Secretary Elaine Chao for Transportation, activist Betsy DeVos as Education secretary and World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon to head the Small Business Administration.

Obama had 13 women and minorities in his first-term Cabinet, George W. Bush had nine, and Bill Clinton had 10.

Rally and tweet reruns

Trump continued to preen about the election and the primaries at a rally in Hershey, Pa. on Thursday night. He said African-Americans in Pennsylvania were "smart" to heed his message and not come out to vote for Hillary Clinton. It is rare if not unprecedented for a presidential candidate to hail the act of not participating in an election.

Taunting critics, he vowed to win the state "by even more" in four years

Early Friday the president-elect made another of his false claims -- that the leak of a CNN question to Clinton from Donna Brazile was illegal. 

What else is happening

  • Trump nominated Manhattan bankruptcy attorney David J. Friedman to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel. He has supported Israeli settlement expansions on the West Bank.
  • A judge ordered Trump to sit for a deposition of up to seven hours in his lawsuit against chef José Andrés, which is to occur before the inauguration.
  • Secretary of State John Kerry pushed back on Trump’s dismissal of intelligence reports of Russian interference in the U.S. election, saying the reports were a “serious matter.”
  • The oil and gas industry is seeing a resurgence in the tone set by the Trump transition, The Washington Post reports.
  • Libertarians could form the main resistance to Trump in Congress, a Politico piece suggests.
  • While Democrats in other states are convening meetings to discuss their plans to combat Trump, New York State lawmakers are focusing their efforts on a legislative pay raise, which some pundits call a case of misplaced priorities.
  • Mainsteam media figures seem fine with Trump as long as they're from the right. Larry Kudlow is floated to chair his Council of Economic Advisers; Monica Crowley is due to join his National Security Council.

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