Political Roundup

In this week’s headlines…

Lawyers for President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn notified Trump’s legal team that they would no longer discuss special counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation into links between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. Since it is unethical for lawyers to work together when one client is under investigation and one is cooperating with prosecutors, this development could be a sign that Flynn is negotiating a deal with Mueller and his team.

Among Flynn’s actions under scrutiny are attending a meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Jared Kushner during the presidential transition, making false statements about discussions with Kislyak, failing to disclose payments from Russia-linked entities and possibly receiving secret payments of more than $500,000 from the Turkish government during the presidential campaign (The New York Times, “A Split From Trump Indicates That Flynn Is Moving to Cooperate With Mueller,” 11.23.2017).

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared on Nov. 22 that Myanmar’s brutal treatment of its Rohingya minority, hundreds of thousands of whom have been forced to seek safety in Bangladesh, constitutes ethnic cleansing. This classification will allow the U.S. to pursue sanctions against Myanmar’s military leaders (The New York Times, “Myanmar’s Crackdown on Rohingya Is Ethnic Cleansing, Tillerson Says,” 11.22.2017).

“He totally denies it,” Trump said on Nov. 21, in defense of Senate candidate Roy Moore (R-AL), whose accusations of sexual misconduct with teenagers have put his campaign in danger and prompted condemnations from Republican establishment leaders, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (The New York Times, “Trump Defends Roy Moore, Citing Candidate’s Denial of Sexual Misconduct,” 11.21.2017).

Trump claimed in a tweet on Nov. 24 that he turned down Time Magazine’s offer to “probably” be named Person of the Year, prompting Time to clarify, “The President is incorrect about how we choose Person of the Year” (The New York Times, “Only ‘Probably’ Time’s Person of the Year? No Thanks, Trump Tweets,” 11.24.2017).

Last week, the union Communications Workers of America sent a letter to eight top companies, including Verizon and AT&T, asking them to pledge a $4,000 annual wage increase for employees if the Republican tax plan goes through. GOP lawmakers have touted the plan as a boon to workers and families through increased competition created by slashing the corporate tax rate, but economists on the left maintain that the rich would reap most of the benefits (The New York Times, “Will a Corporate Tax Cut Lift Worker Pay? A Union Wants It in Writing,” 11.23.2017).

In our backyard…

Former Representative Maurice Hinchey (D- NY) died on Nov. 22 at age 79 in his home in Saugerties. Hinchey represented Poughkeepsie as a member of the 22nd Congressional District for 20 years, as well as serving 17 years in the New York State Assembly. He was an environmental advocate who supported dredging the Hudson River to remove toxins, was instrumental in the creation of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, backed the Clean Air Act and developed the country’s first law to control acid rain. In addition, he served as chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee in the state assembly and headed an investigation into Love Canal, a toxic waste site in western New York that sickened residents. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), who served with Hinchey in the assembly of the 1970s, commented, “‘Mighty Mo’ as I used to call him was a man of great conviction, principle, great energy and great legislative ability” (Poughkeepsie Journal, “Maurice Hinchey, former U.S. congressman, recalled as environmental champion,” 11.22.2017).

Poughkeepsie has joined 20 other communities as a member of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which was started by former President Barack Obama to lend educational support to boys and young men of color facing opportunity gaps. Communities are invited to join the program by the state Board of Regents, and given funding for internships and mentoring programs by the state Education Department (Poughkeepsie Journal, “My Brother’s Keeper expands to East Ramapo, Poughkeepsie,” 11.22.2017).

Chair-elect of the Poughkeepsie Common Council Ann Finney created controversy by sending a letter to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) declaring that the incoming council will restore Poughkeepsie’s bus service in the beginning of 2018. Currently, the city faces the possibility of a $1.9 million fine from the FTA if it fails to transfer its bus assets to Dutchess County by Dec. 3. “I am surprised and concerned,” said Mayor Rob Rolison of the Nov. 13 letter from Finney, who will become chair of the council in January. “…I’ve never seen a letter like that sent prior to someone taking office…I don’t necessarily think that is how the government is supposed to work” (Poughkeepsie Journal, “Council chair-elect’s letter to FTA claims council committed to restoring buses,” 11.20.2017).

On Nov. 20, two former correction officers were convicted for the beating of an inmate in 2013 at the Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill. Kathy Scott and George Santiago Jr. brutalized inmate Kevin Moore in 2013, sending him to the hospital for two weeks. The two were also found guilty of conspiring to falsify state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision records regarding the incident. Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim stated, “This verdict should send a loud, clear message to the New York state prison system that the protections of the U.S. Constitution do not stop at the prison wall” (Poughkeepsie Journal, “Former Downstate correction officers convicted of inmate beating, cover up,” 11.21.2017).

Spotlight on 2020 hopefuls…

Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti

The grandson of Mexican immigrants on one side and Russian Jewish immigrants on the other, Garcetti grew up in the San Fernando Valley and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Columbia University, during which time he studied at Oxford and the London School of Economics as a Rhodes scholar. Though his father, Gil, was Los Angeles county district attorney during the 1990s, Garcetti did not enter politics right after school; instead, he taught for four years at the University of Southern California and at Occidental College.

In 2001, Garcetti was elected to the Los Angeles City Council, where he went on to serve four terms as the council’s president. He was elected mayor in 2013, becoming the city’s first Jewish mayor and its youngest in more than a century at age 42. In this role, Garcetti’s accomplishments include increasing the minimum wage to $15, passing legislation that required reinforcement of buildings against earthquakes, convincing voters to approve taxes earmarked for funding transit construction and housing for the homeless and winning support for the restoration of the Los Angeles River. He was reelected in a landslide in March 2017, capturing more than 80 percent of the vote (Encyclopedia Britannica, “Eric Garcetti”). However, he has been criticized for being overly cautious in terms of putting out ambitious legislative proposals, especially in comparison to his predecessor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Over the last few months, Garcetti has shown signs of considering a 2020 presidential bid; if elected, he would be the first sitting mayor to make the leap to the White House. He has recently traveled to Florida, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Las Vegas and Indiana, where he announced the creation of a group of mayors, business and labor leaders to promote investments in infrastructure. “It’s audacious, but it’s not insane,” commented Mike Murphy, who was advisor to the presidential campaigns of Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeb Bush. “He’s good on his feet. Generational. He’s got a story: West Coast, the future.” Murphy raised concerns about Garcetti’s track record, however, saying, “He doesn’t have an ideological profile. He can’t brag about having done much of anything in Los Angeles.”

In an interview with the New York Times, Garcetti affirmed his support for single-payer healthcare, which is sometimes viewed as a litmus test for possible Democratic candidates, but was hesitant on the issue of impeaching Trump. He pointed to the last two elections as examples of a changing political landscape, in which it would formerly have been unheard of to have a Black man or a reality TV star as president. “There’s definitely an impatient next generation ready to move,” he said (The New York Times, “From City Hall to the White House? Eric Garcetti May Try to Defy the Odds,” 11.20.2017).

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