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A hefty letter of recommendation
Supporters of the two candidates the Trump administration is considering for the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District are busy getting validations and endorsements for their guys.
In August, the Justice Department sent a letter to New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand asking them to take a look at Edward McNally, a former Justice Department official and partner in a Manhattan law firm that has represented President Donald Trump over the years in personal matters; and Richard Donoghue, counsel to CA Technologies who was a longtime prosecutor in the Eastern District. Since then, the selection process has remained under the radar, but there are signs that Justice Department wants to fill the vacancy in Brooklyn.
Three dozen alumni of the Eastern District wrote to Schumer Wednesday lauding Donoghue’s character and qualifications, saying they wanted the office to “remain one of the jewels” of the Justice Department. “Those of us who know Rich’s work firsthand can attest that no one is more qualified,” they wrote, highlighting his role in fighting MS-13 when he headed the Long Island office.
Signing the letter was an impressive array of prosecutors, including Christina Dugger and Paul Schoeman, who both served as chief assistant in the office; and three former heads of the public integrity sections, Morris Fodeman, Roger Burlingame and Colleen Kavanagh.
But while the letter was addressed to Schumer, whose past practice has been to meet only with official nominees and who is particularly concerned about the nominations for the Eastern and Southern districts, the target audience was likely Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his team making the selection.
And the message? Donoghue has some friends who will go to bat for his confirmation.
From the front lines of the education wars
Charter school supporters had a much stronger voice working for them when Merryl Tisch, an advocate for the nontraditional but publicly funded schools, was chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents. When Tisch was essentially ousted from her role in 2016, she was replaced by Betty Rosa, a Regent much more aligned with the New York State United Teachers and traditional-school advocates who tend to fight charters.
But Tisch, a particularly strong ally of Success Academy, the largest charter network in New York City, and its leader, Eva Moskowitz, is still fighting for the causes charters support — in direct opposition to Rosa, and state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, whom Tisch helped select.
So while Rosa and Elia can rein in charters controlled by the Regents, Tisch took her cause to a new battleground. Tisch is the newest of five members of the SUNY Board of Trustees Charter Schools Committee, which also can grant charters to operate a school. On Wednesday, that committee voted 4-1, with Tisch in the majority, to let charter schools create their own teacher-training programs and certify their own teachers.
The legislation that allows these loosened standards for SUNY charters was passed this year by the State Legislature in a deal that traded off the extension of mayoral control for New York City schools.
The United Federation of Teachers has vowed to sue over the new guidelines, but the legal action might just be optics for its members.
Meanwhile, Tisch can point to the success at Success Academy, which is authorized by SUNY. Not only did its students outperform those in New York City’s traditional public schools, but those in every district in the state.
White House daycare
Warp speed, Mr. Israel
Steve Israel has boldly gone where he never went as a congressman.
The former congressman from Long Island was featured in a video by Mic, a news website geared to millennials, arguing that nothing will change in terms of gun legislation, even after another mass shooting, because of the gun lobby’s influence on Congress.
On Wednesday, actor George Takei, known best as Sulu on the original “Star Trek,” shared the week-old video on his Facebook page, calling Israel’s take “a bleak but understandable outlook.”
Or, as Spock might say, highly . . . logical?
Israel said he and Takei met once, only briefly, at a fundraiser. Takei’s sharing of the video, Israel said, wasn’t based on any personal connection. But it was the social media boost Israel needed. By Thursday morning, the video had been shared more than 14,700 times, garnering more than 25,000 reactions and 3 million views.
And such fortuitous timing.
Israel is coming out next year with “Big Guns,” a humorous novel about the gun lobby.
But with his own big gun in Takei, could Israel conquer a new frontier?
“These days, the helmsman on the Enterprise has far more power than a congressman trying to steer the country,” Israel told The Point. “But no. We’re not at warp speed. We’re not even at impulse power.”
Then he added, “I wish Congress would boldly go where they haven’t gone before and pass sensible gun safety standards.”
An interpretation for non-Trekkies: Don’t count on it.
Randi F. Marshall