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Trump on the attack

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is sworn in to testify to the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday. Credit: AP / Andrew Harnik

Daily Point

Yovanovitch responds

The second day of public impeachment hearings began in a relatively pro-forma manner Friday. But just as former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch read her opening statement, President Donald Trump attacked her on Twitter, saying: “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” citing Somalia and Ukraine. 

In an unusual moment, Rep. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, interrupted a relatively steady stream of questioning to read Trump’s tweet to Yovanovitch, and asked her about it. 

Yovanovitch, who Trump had previously disparaged in a conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, seemed taken aback. 

“It’s very intimidating,” she said. “I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but think the effect is to be intimidating.”

Schiff’s response: “Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”

Shortly after, the hearing headed into a recess. And quickly, the reactions spilled out, as observers suggested witness intimidation or tampering could end up in any articles of impeachment. 

Rep. Elise Stefanik, who represents part of upstate New York and later questioned Yovanovitch, said she disagreed with Trump’s tweet. But Rep. Lee Zeldin defended it, telling C-SPAN it wasn’t intimidation because Yovanovitch wasn’t on Twitter at the time. In his own interview, however, Schiff noted that it could “chill others who may come forward.”

In a bizarre mix of events on Friday, news broke during the committee’s break that Republican operative and Trump ally Roger Stone was found guilty of, among other counts, witness tampering. 

Soon after came the next Trump tweets, which contrasted the Stone conviction with a list of other people who Trump said lied. Tweeted Trump: “A double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country?”

When the hearing resumed, Trump’s Twitter account went quiet. But Trump didn’t stay silent for long. 

At a White House event on health care Friday afternoon, Trump defended his comments, and criticized the impeachment hearing process.

He added: “I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just as other people do.” 

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Bloomberg’s $100M promise

One potential rationale for Mike Bloomberg jumping in the Democratic presidential race is that he could tap into his own fortune to take on President Donald Trump.

The former NYC mayor seemed intent on reiterating that point when he announced a $100 million digital campaign to take on the GOP president. 

That would be a brushback to Trump, who has spent more than $22 million on Facebook ads alone since May 2018, swamping the Democratic field. 

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Bloomberg wrote on Instagram. “We’re taking the fight directly to Trump.”

The new Bloomberg ads mostly won’t feature Bloomberg himself, according to The New York Times, which first reported the ad campaign on Friday.

But we have some hints about how a possible Bloomberg 2020 campaign would position its candidate. 

The New Yorker has spent a not-insignificant half a million dollars since May on Facebook ads, visible in the social media giant’s archives. Those ads focus on Bloomberg’s favorite issues, and feature him in what seems meant to be a White House-ready manner. 

An August ad includes footage of Bloomberg speaking presidentially at a podium marked by the phrase “Presidential Gun Sense Forum.”

Another from June announces philanthropic actions on climate change and motion toward a clean-energy economy, with the slogan “JOIN MIKE BLOOMBERG’S NEW BEYOND CARBON CAMPAIGN.”

Given Hizzoner’s long tenure on the political scene, critics also have already honed their attacks. Trump and the NRA have run Facebook ads against Bloomberg this year, and the not-yet-a-presidential-candidate candidate has weathered incoming from fellow Democrats. 

Tha includes Cory Booker, whose campaign has run Facebook ads in recent days warning about Bloomberg, “yet another billionaire who will fund his campaign with millions from his personal fortune.”

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Hello, this is the president...

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Final Point

Rank and file

Now that New York City approved ranked choice voting for some elections, will other parts of the state follow suit?

Earlier this month, voters overwhelmingly supported a ranked choice ballot proposal. That initiative will change the way NYC residents vote in primary and special elections for mayoral and other city-level races: Voters can rank candidates. A winner has to get a majority of the vote — otherwise, the lowest candidate gets eliminated and the ballots for people who chose that candidate go to their second choice. This continues until a majority-winner emerges. 

The path to having this voting system on Long Island would be complicated. The Nassau County Attorney’s Office cited state Municipal Home Rule Law: “Any such proposal would require approval at a referendum, as it just did in NYC.”

The Suffolk County Attorney’s Office had a similar response: “Certain provisions of law specifically prohibit the County from amending its charter to supersede the New York State Election Law.” Suffolk officials told The Point they would need to research election and home rule law to determine the county’s power on this issue. 

A bill sponsored in the State Senate by Liz Krueger of Manhattan seeks to clarify the ability of localities to try ranked choice. 

It’s stuck in committee, but now that other election reforms have been passed, elections committee chairman Brian Kavanaugh tells The Point there might be more focus on ranked choice in the next legislative session. 

“I think it might be time to look at that for state elections as well,” the Manhattan Democrat says. 

There is plenty of murkiness and potential obstacles. When asked about how ranked choice might expand in NY, state Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin wrote in an email, “I think we have to unpack what NYC has done. There is an open question as to whether the certified machines in NY can perform ranked choice voting.”

A city BOE spokeswoman did not comment about the abilities of city machines. 

The political changes due to ranked choice voting are also up in the air. Will the system, championed by good government groups, solve the spoiler problem? Will it lead to candidates who appeal to wider groups to get second-place votes? Will that help moderates? 

In this month’s most recent results from San Francisco’s DA general elections, where ranked choice is in use, the progressive former-defense-attorney candidate was originally winning by a comfortable margin but only led by a hair after ranked choice kicked in.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano