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The Mueller effect

Daily Point

Spinning their own narrative

The spinning already had begun well before special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released.

Facebook’s archive shows hundreds of political ads including the words “Mueller report” that have run in recent weeks.

Many of them -- more than a thousand -- came from Stand Up America, an anti-Trump group formed after the 2016 election. The group was founded by Sean Eldridge, who is the husband of a Facebook co-founder and himself a failed 2014 candidate for New York’s 19th Congressional District.

But other New Yorkers got involved, too. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was the only high-profile presidential candidate to go Mueller early, having started running ads on Monday saying “Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his investigative report into the Trump campaign’s coordination with Russia, and Trump’s desperate to keep the truth hidden. We can’t let him get away with it.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of Manhattan had been running ads throughout April pushing for the release of the report, demanding “full transparency.”

On the other side of the partisan equation, GOP donor John Catsimatidis was promoting his weekend interview with Rudy Giuliani with the tagline “Mueller report based on a lie.”

Rep. Pete King was pushing his Facebook posts anticipating that the report’s release “will not deter manic reactions from too many Democrats and their allies in the liberal media”.

Naturally, President Donald Trump’s own campaign had paid for more than 100 posts in April previewing his “WITCH HUNT” argument quickly adopted on Thursday, post-report.

Welcome to the muddle.

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

A new play against congestion pricing

In many ways, New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer has become part of a regional delegation of sorts. He rooms with Rep. Tom Suozzi, with whom he works on the Problem Solvers Caucus. He has introduced bipartisan bills with Rep. Pete King regarding big regional efforts like the Gateway Project, and most recently announced legislation with Rep. Lee Zeldin seeking to reinstate the state and local tax deduction.

But this week, Gottheimer distanced himself from his neighboring state with a very public pro-New Jersey effort to bash New York’s congestion pricing plan. Gottheimer proposed the Anti-Congestion Tax Act, which he referred more colloquially to in a news conference as the “Manhattan Moocher Prevention Act.” It could cut federal funding to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and it could provide a tax credit to drivers who head into Manhattan from New Jersey. Alternatively, Gottheimer suggested giving New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey a slice of the congestion pricing pie.

Gottheimer’s effort is likely an easy play to his New Jersey voters. He’s a target of the National Republican Congressional Committee and there’ve been reports of potential challengers looking at Gottheimer’s seat. Unsurprisingly, Gottheimer leads all New Jersey Democrats in fundraising, allowing one New Jersey political website to dub him the “Human Fundraising Machine.” Gottheimer raised more than $830,000 in the first quarter of 2019, and has more than $4.9 million on hand. The Center for Responsive Politics ranks him sixth in fundraising among House Democrats nationwide.

In turning congestion pricing into a political issue, Gottheimer may have found yet another issue on which he could bond with New York Republicans. Last week, King blasted the plan as a “tax” on Nassau County residents.

- Randi F. Marshall @randimarshall

Pencil Point

The black mark

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Final Point

Yet another report is released

The report was finally released, long after the investigation was finished. Key parts were redacted. The unbowed politician was not taken away in handcuffs, but the report found plenty of questionable behavior.

Such was the situation on Wednesday for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who faced his own Mueller report of sorts with the release of a damning city Department of Investigation look at his now-defunct political nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York. Like with President Donald Trump, law enforcement officials have declined to charge de Blasio in that and related matters, though they leveled stern criticisms that fall short of full exoneration.

In announcing his decision not to charge, U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in 2017 that de Blasio “solicited donations from individuals who sought official favors from the City, after which the Mayor made or directed inquiries to relevant City agencies on behalf of those donors.”  

The new DOI report, which had been completed in October but released this week thanks to Freedom of Information Law requests, suggested that the mayor played it fast and loose with city rules about fundraising from those with business before the city.

The mayoral response to the media frenzy about this and other probes has been: no wrongdoing, no wrongdoing, no wrongdoing, we answered these questions already, in fact it has been said “a million times: the Mayor acted lawfully and ethically.”

Sound familiar?

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

The next edition of The Point will be on Monday, April 22. We hope you enjoy the holiday weekend.

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