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Proceeding onwards with testimony

Daily Point

Ad nauseam

Headliner of the day Robert Mueller was still giving his House testimony Wednesday morning and on Facebook the political ads were popping. 

In D.C., House Democrats tiptoed toward high crimes and misdemeanors, gingerly trying to coax Mueller into reading viral-worthy snippets of his report on Russian 2016 election interference and Trump’s actions to stop the probe. Republicans dug deep to find conspiratorial statements about the political affiliations of Mueller’s staff. 

But clearly some of the 2020 Democratic contenders were miles ahead and saw a political purpose in using Mueller’s big day to call for impeachment. If nothing else, it gets them more email addresses of those who oppose Trump: In the ads, viewers were asked to “weigh in and let us know” what they think about impeachment, among other such list-building strategies, which aid fundraising. 

“Robert Mueller is testifying before the House about his investigative report on Trump’s collusion with Russia — and the evidence against the president is damning,” says an ad for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign. And the kicker: “It’s time to start impeachment hearings.” 

Sen. Kamala Harris’ ad splashed “Time for impeachment” over a picture of President Donald Trump.

Former representative Beto O’Rourke’s said Trump had “committed impeachable offenses,” and called on Congress to act.

Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro has been running campaign ads all week saying Trump must be impeached, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren was still paying for ads that went active in the spring reminding people that she “actually read the whole Mueller report” and “Congress has a constitutional duty to start impeachment proceedings.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, a secondary star of the day as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also started running ads saying “President Trump goes on the attack every time I try to hold him accountable,” and asking people to “like” his Facebook page. 

Others tried more directly to make money off Mueller. Facebook ads were active for a Mueller Report graphic novel and an action figure of the resolute G-man himself. 

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

MTA reorganization plan on track

As many eyes turned to congressional hearings in Washington, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board was holding its own particularly important meeting closer to home.

The MTA board voted Wednesday to approve a reorganization plan that could cut as many as 2,700 jobs and save up to $500 million annually. All but two board members voted for the plan, with Veronica Vanterpool voting against it, and David Jones abstaining. Both Vanterpool and Jones are New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s appointees.

Jones objected to the “lack of public process” and a lack of complete information. Vanterpool compared voting on the report to remodeling her house and signing off on the design without reviewing the details or specs of the work.

They weren’t the only two with concerns. Labor representative Vincent Tessitore Jr., a non-voting member of the board, worried about the workforce and its job security. Several members wondered whether it was wise to separate out the MTA’s engineering functions from operations, and noted that the plan lacked details or public input.

Their “yes” votes seemed hinged on a collective view that the plan wasn’t final. Board members used a host of synonyms to describe it, from “blueprint,” and “living document,” to “roadmap,” and ”first step.”

Whatever it’s called, the MTA reorganization plan now moves into a 90-day period where it can be altered and discussed further.

It was telling, perhaps, that the reorganization vote was followed by a presentation on the MTA’s financial plan, which showed that the reorganization could significantly reduce its operating deficits. Under the plan, MTA officials said, the authority’s deficit could be about $433 million by 2023. 

Without it, they warned, deficits would reach nearly $1 billion by that year.

Of course, if the “living document” changes, those numbers could, too.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

May I have this dance?

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/opinion

Final Point

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo kicked off his gubernatorial campaign in 2010, he did so promising to eliminate 20 percent of New York’s commissions, along with that same   percentage of the state’s voluminous roster of agencies, authorities and other bodies. 

It was a lot harder to do. 

If you keep up with Cuomo’s news releases, it’s clear he’s had more luck creating commissions than eliminating them.

Notable Cuomo efforts have included reviving the Moreland Commission to investigate corruption in the state, assuring the 2020 Census is done right, setting new MTA tolls and congestion pricing for vehicles entering midtown Manhattan, increasing the pay of Assembly and Senate members and other state officials as well as creating rules for public campaign financing and other election reforms.

Narrower commissions also have been established by Cuomo, like the Hurricane Maria Memorial Commission, and the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative.

But Cuomo’s announcement Wednesday that he had signed legislation creating a state commission to study artificial intelligence and robotics got us wondering: When will the robots be programmed to create all these commissions for every issue that arises so the politicians can move on to other things?

Who would teach the robots how to do it? That sounds like a job for the Smart Schools New York Commission on the State and Future of Classroom Technology, which Cuomo created in 2014.

- Lane Filler @lanefiller

Answer Point

The big reveal

Here are the answers to yesterday's quiz on the players surrounding the Mueller testimony. 

1. Don McGahn (D)

2. Corey Lewandowski (F)

3. Paul Manafort (I)

4. Michael Flynn (B)

5. Donald Trump Jr. (E)

6. Jeff Sessions (H)

7. James Comey (A)

8. Michael Cohen (G)

9. Hillary Clinton (C)

- Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Correction: This item has been updated to correct the spelling of ad nauseam in a headline.

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