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Bloomberg won't run, but he'll take on Trump

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, seen

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, seen in 2018, said Tuesday he would not run for president in 2020. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Jim Watson

Big wallet tossed into ring

Michael Bloomberg's aides had scoped out office space, built a campaign website and were about to decide on a logo. “I believe I would defeat Donald Trump in a general election,” Bloomberg said in a statement posted online Tuesday.

But he has decided against running in 2020, Bloomberg said, because "I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field.” Or as a confidante told Politico: "He’s old. He’s white. He’s a man. He’s a billionaire. He’s of Wall Street … How many strikes against him did he need? Mike Bloomberg wants to make a difference, not a spectacle.”

So can the president breathe because he won't have to go up against a potential opponent with the deepest pockets of them all — a $50 billion fortune that dwarfs even Trump's most self-aggrandizing estimates of his own worth? No.

Bloomberg's inner circle made it known recently that the former New York mayor was prepared to spend at least $500 million, whether he ran or not, to deny Trump a second term, a goal that was affirmed Tuesday. “It’s essential that we nominate a Democrat who will be in the strongest position to defeat Donald Trump and bring our country back together,” he wrote.

He took aim not just at Trump, but Trump's agenda. Bloomberg said he will launch a new climate change initiative, “Beyond Coal,” with the goal of eliminating coal-fired power plants in 2030, and push for stronger gun regulations.

Bloomberg planned to invest big in a political operation rich in data and deep in infrastructure to support the eventual Democratic nominee, the Politico report said. Bloomberg adviser Mitch Stewart said that includes drives to register new voters, persuade already registered voters to support the party's choice and make sure the Democratic base gets to the polls, especially in swing states.

Bloomberg had a caution to the progressive left. "We cannot allow the primary process to drag the party to an extreme that would diminish our chances in the general election and translate into ‘Four More Years.’ ” In bowing out, he cleared space for other centrists to make stronger bids, potentially including former Vice President Joe Biden.

Bleats and tweets

Trump has been complaining nonstop about the Democrats' investigations against him. Summing up the latest tweets: "Sore losers." "Ridiculous!" "Presidential Harassment!" "Stone cold CRAZY." "Greatest overreach in the history of our Country." "A big, fat, fishing expedition." "PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!" (Yes, again, for the fourth time this week.)

Trump expanded on those themes to reporters at a White House event on Tuesday. “They want to do that instead of getting legislation done,” he said. “Basically they've started the campaign. So the campaign begins.”

The White House signaled on Tuesday it will fight various records requests. Amid reports Trump overrode recommendations to deny a top-secret security clearance for Jared Kushner, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said in a letter to the House Oversight Committee that the White House would not turn over requested documents on the president's clearance process.

Trump said the Obama White House "didn't give one letter" in response to "many requests." That's false, according to former staffers for both Obama and the Republicans on the House Oversight Committee.

For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Career criminal?

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, 64 percent of voters believe Trump committed crimes before becoming president, and 45 percent think he has broken the law since he took office.

Asked who they trust more — Trump or Michael Cohen, the ex-fixer for the president who's going to prison for lying to Congress in 2017, among other crimes — Cohen got the nod by 50 percent to 35 percent. Cohen accused Trump of criminal conduct in testimony last week. By 65 percent to 30 percent, voters said Trump is not honest, his worst grade ever on that character trait in the Quinnipiac survey.

Separately, a HuffPost/YouGov poll found that by 50 percent to 27 percent, Americans believe Trump has committed financial fraud. More agreed than disagreed with Cohen's description of Trump as a racist.

Dread of his class

Days after Trump in 2011 challenged President Barack Obama to release his academic records to prove he hadn't been a "terrible student," the headmaster of the New York Military Academy got an urgent order from his boss: Find Trump's records and bury them, The Washington Post reported.

Evan Jones, the boarding school's headmaster at the time, told the Post that wealthy alumni who were friends of Trump wanted to keep secret his records from his five years there. The superintendent, Jeffrey Coverdale, confirmed he was pressured by "millionaires and multimillionaires on the board" who wanted to make sure the records didn't get out.

The revelation follows Cohen's testimony last week that Trump ordered him during the 2016 campaign “to threaten his high school, his colleges and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.”

Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller's a hero

Ty Cobb, who spent 10 months on the White House legal team, doesn't share his ex-boss' opinion of Robert Mueller or the special counsel's investigation.

“I don't feel the investigation is a witch hunt,” Cobb told ABC News. Recalling Mueller's Vietnam War bravery and his career as a prosecutor since, Cobb said, "I think Bob Mueller's an American hero … a class act. And a very justice-oriented person.” Since he left last May, Cobb said Trump and lawyer Rudy Giuliani have "ratcheted up the public's concerns" about the probe's "legitimacy," adding: "I object to that approach."

Cobb said he believed Mueller's report will spare Trump from any serious political harm, but the broader array of investigations isn't going away.

"It's never going to be over,” Cobb said. “I mean, this is going to go through 2020. And if the president is re-elected, it'll go beyond that.”

2016 never ends

Hillary Clinton's clearest statement yet that she won't run in 2020 drew a tweet of mock disappointment from Trump. "Aw-shucks, does that mean I won’t get to run against her again? She will be sorely missed!" Trump said.

He's not the only one reluctant to leave 2016 in the past. Former Clinton allies and advisers are making the media rounds to talk down Bernie Sanders' 2020 candidacy and point out what they see as his flaws and vulnerabilities, Politico reported. So, by the way, are Sanders advisers who are telling him he needs to appear less grumpy, The Atlantic reported.

As for Clinton, while she's staying out of the race, she has been meeting privately with many of the Democratic contenders. "I've told every one of them, don't take anything for granted, even though we have a long list of real problems and broken promises from this administration that need to be highlighted," she said in an interview with News 12 Westchester.

What else is happening:

  • New York State regulators have issued a subpoena to the Trump Organization's insurance brokerage, Aon, as part of a probe into its business practices. The move follows Cohen's testimony that Trump inflated company assets for insurance purposes.
  • North Korea is restoring facilities at a long-range rocket launch site that it dismantled last year as part of purported disarmament steps, South Korean and other sources report.
  • Cohen testified he didn't ask for a presidential pardon after his arrest, but The Wall Street Journal reports that a lawyer for Cohen raised the possibility with lawyers for Trump, and at least one, Giuliani, left the possibility open.
  • The House Intelligence Committee has hired Daniel Goldman — a former prosecutor who oversaw investigations of Russian organized crime for the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office — to lead its investigation of Trump's ties to Russia.
  • Trump signed an order to create a federal task force to come up with a strategy within the year to help prevent veteran suicides.
  • Two months after declaring all U.S. troops are leaving Syria, Trump wrote to members of Congress that he now agrees "100%" with keeping a military presence in Syria, NBC News reported.
  • Some elderly Democrats with terminal illnesses are hoping to hang on until the results of the special counsel's investigation come out, NPR reported. A 93-year-old World War II veteran, informed he had hours to live, told his son, "[Expletive], I'm not going to see the Mueller report, am I?"

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