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“One thing we’ve learned from watching Northam and several of these others is if you just don’t go anywhere, it’s hard to get rid of you,” said David Doak, a retired longtime Democratic strategist and ad maker. “The question is, can you withstand the pressure?”

Cuomo is confronting the dual crises with a spartan circle of weary advisers, with some of his more tenured staffers moving in recent days to close ranks, appealing to wavering aides that “we’re in this together, this administration has done great work and will continue to do so,” according to a former administration official.

The Cuomo crisis management playbook now unfolding is essentially a repeat of Clinton’s: Do everything possible to focus the public’s attention on governing instead of the scandal, and hope to wait out the outrage.

“Go buy some time, and hope that things calm down” was how the official described the administration’s current approach to overcoming the scandals. The strategy was reflected in a call Cuomo held with reporters on Sunday, in which he said state government has work to do and pledged he is “not going to be distracted.”

Cuomo, who got his start in politics on his father’s campaigns for governor in the 1980s, is well aware of the mortality rates of wounded politicians. As the New York governor himself acknowledged in his recent — and now widely mocked as premature — book about “leadership lessons” from the coronavirus pandemic, “dead politicians don’t usually come back to life.”

But a Quinnipiac Poll last week showed some cause for hope for Cuomo: A majority of New Yorkers don’t want him to resign.

Indeed, for most of his governorship, Cuomo operated as if made of Teflon — seemingly impervious to scandal. And it wasn’t just his overbearing temperament that New Yorkers and Democrats across the country were willing to overlook. Among the catalogue of controversies Cuomo weathered: his former aide’s bribery conviction, “Buffalo Billion” and his office’s meddling in a high-profile corruption probe.

The sexual harassment accusations and claims that Cuomo concealed the number of coronavirus-related deaths at nursing homes have hit him harder than any of those past controversies. The two scandals are mushrooming at the same time, and the issues they touch — the coronavirus and mistreatment of women — are both readily digestible and at the top of voters’ minds.

In Albany, legislators have already moved to strip Cuomo of his emergency powers related to the pandemic (which Cuomo on Wednesday characterized as the result of a mutual negotiation, something lawmakers bidding to reassert their authority amid Cuomo’s self-destruction quickly refuted).

Cuomo has not said whether he still plans to run for a fourth term.

One looming problem for him is that the fallout has metastasized far beyond New York. In Washington, the sexual harassment accusations are squeezing Democratic lawmakers who have been leery to interject — but for whom Cuomo has become a test case of fealty to the #MeToo movement. Republicans at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida recently held Cuomo up as a joke, while Bill de Blasio, the progressive mayor of New York who is his nemesis, has been skewering his alleged behavior as “terrifying” and “perverse.”

Cuomo, once accustomed to being asked whether he planned to run for president, was reduced last week and again on Sunday to telling reporters he won’t resign.

“With Andrew, it’s a cumulative thing,” said George Arzt, a Democratic strategist in New York, noting that the nursing home and sexual harassment scandals are attracting constituencies from across the political spectrum. “The two together … it’s his twin nightmares.”

Still, Arzt said: “If anyone could get through it, it’s Andrew. The man is a master tactician.”

Chris Lehane, a former Clinton White House staffer who helped to manage the fallout from his impeachment proceedings, said that for a politician beset by scandal, the immediate priority is less to mount a full-throated defense than to ensure that “whatever position you establish early on” is sustainable for the duration of the saga.

“Your North Star’s ultimately going to be credibility. Can you earn back trust?” he said. “If you effectively do that, then you want to be able to buy yourself some time by using the processes that are available that, in effect, extend the time window on this.”

Lehane wasn’t speaking specifically about Cuomo. But that’s exactly what Cuomo’s done. While expressing contrition for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” he said last week that he “never touched anyone inappropriately” and that he “never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.”

In his book about leadership and the pandemic, Cuomo wrote that he viewed himself as living a rare “second life” following his unsuccessful bid for governor in 2002. He planned to serve, he said, “as long as the people will have me.”

But that will largely depend on whether he can hold his grip on the party’s power grid and maintain relationships with establishment Democrats who have so far calculated that getting along with the overbearing governor was preferable to getting on the bad side of a man who’s been known to hold grudges for decades. And much of his fate will hang on an investigation by state Attorney General Letitia James into the sexual harassment accusations.

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Cuomo’s standing appeared to worsen significantly over the weekend. Before Stewart-Cousins and Heastie came out against him, the governor had the friable backing of almost all the state’s top Democrats, who have said they’ll wait for a report from the state attorney general before judging his political future. While neither Stewart-Cousins nor Heastie have had reputations as particularly strong Cuomo allies, they necessarily work with the governor to keep New York running. The state budget is due at the end of March, and it is typically negotiated by the two legislative leaders and Cuomo, who has in the past held outsize advantage in those talks.

Calls for resignation have come from dozens of rank-and-file members in both chambers, and it is possible that Stewart-Cousins’ statement will open the door for even more legislators to speak up. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will take formal action against the governor before his term is up, said Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic strategist who has advised Cuomo in the past.

“Legislative leadership responds to Senate and Assembly members and must appear independent of the governor,” he said. “Thus Stewart-Cousins and Heastie are doing exactly what they must do. Added benefit: they both will appear unified and tougher during budget negotiations. Their play is tactical. You’ll know it’s over if impeachment proceedings start.”

It’s possible Cuomo’s call with reporters on Sunday, in which he said “there is no way I resign” and noted that he was elected by people, not politicians, was a preemptive strike to the statements he knew or suspected were coming, Sheinkopf added.

In the meantime, coverage of his dual scandals has been nonstop. Rebecca Katz, a consultant who advised Cynthia Nixon in her primary campaign against the New York governor in 2018, called it “the worst press he’s ever gotten.”

In the past, Katz said, negative publicity “never stuck” to Cuomo. But with the avalanche of news about the nursing home and sexual harassment scandals, “People get it now. …They know he’s a bully.”

“Andrew Cuomo is one of the meanest, most vindictive public officials in America,” Katz said. “If there’s a way to use his power to hurt or squash people, he will. The question remains, does it backfire now?”

The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Clinton had feminist Gloria Steinem on his side. Northam had timely controversies surrounding two other Virginia Democrats, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring, to deflect attention from him. And both of those politicians had friends.

“With Northam, you know, it was a little rocky for him at the beginning, but a lot of people liked Ralph and stuck with him. He was a likable guy,” said James Carville, the former Clinton strategist. “Andrew doesn’t have anybody who wants to get in the foxhole with him.”

Even so, this year’s political climate may be uniquely conducive to a rehabilitation. More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, conditions are on the upswing in a state that was marking close to 1,000 Covid-19 deaths per day during spring 2020’s peak infection weeks. The vaccine rollout has been clunky, but Cuomo’s office is heralding advances in the effort daily.

Running for a fourth term, however, will be “problematic,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion in New York.

“He’s not likely to resign,” Miringoff said. “But I think it might make a reelection campaign a more steep climb than it probably already would have been.”

The 2022 primary, if Cuomo runs, is still a year off. The Quinnipiac poll found only 36 percent of New York voters want Cuomo to seek a fourth term. But 50 percent of Democrats want him to run again.

That number isn’t great. But it isn’t dig-his-governorship-a-grave bad, either.

“People say his career is over, but by what standard?” Sheinkopf said. It’s possible Cuomo’s career will wither if the attorney general’s findings are dire, he said, but “we haven’t seen a report yet.”

For now, Sheinkopf said, “He’s not going anyplace.”


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Black Lives Matter thought they had Washington’s ear. Now they feel shut out.

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Now, leading Black activists say those issues aren’t getting the hearing they deserve.

“It was grassroots and base building organizations that put our issues at the forefront. That’s who delivered this win to the administration,” said Amara Enyia, policy director for the Movement for Black Lives. “At minimum, those folks should be given an audience.”

Part of the disconnect may be the cultural gap between activists — for whom justice is an absolute, but attainable ideal — and politicians, who deal with the messy realities of governing, forging compromise, and accepting incremental wins. Many BLM leaders, for instance, pushed to “defund” city police departments, only to find little appetite among lawmakers for what was widely seen as a politically suicidal position.

On Sunday, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) signaled that he was willing to water down qualified immunity, which currently shields officers from civil liability for misdeeds, in order to pass some sort of policing reform legislation.

“Well, I will never sacrifice good on the altar of perfect. I just won’t do that,” Clyburn told CNN. “I just won’t do that. … Sometimes you have to compromise.”

So while, at the outset of the new Congress, movement leaders stressed they wanted to play a role in enacting policy change, and insisted they weren’t interested in empty rhetoric or piecemeal reforms, they’re now reassessing that approach as frustration sets in.

Now, where there was once more momentum behind the push for sweeping systemic change, bureaucratic policy hurdles and political calculations have pushed activists with the Movement for Black Lives back to the sidelines.

While this has forced activists to refocus their efforts, they maintain that their organizing is multi-dimensional. And they’ve amassed a sizable war chest. The Black Lives Matter Global Network, armed with more than $90 million in fundraising following last summer’s protests, has channeled those funds into initiatives and campaigns. One, launched in February, targets police unions and police budgets–efforts that have the most heft at state and local levels.

They’ve also used that funding to publicize their assessment of Joe Biden’s performance as he passed the 100-day mark. A recent advertisement paid for by the Black Lives Matter Global Network, criticized the administration’s handling of police reform. The ad, which aired in Washington, D.C., for a limited time, specifically condemns what they see as Biden’s lack of action on the transfer of military equipment to law enforcement.

“We are the people who elected Biden,” the ad says. “It’s time he started acting like it.”

When asked for comment, a White House official did not specify where talks with movement leaders stand. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly explain the administration’s stance, said there is an “open and ongoing dialogue” between senior White House officials and leaders of the movement as well as with legacy civil rights organizations.

Movement leaders also met with members of Congress early in the planning stages for the Justice in Policing Act last summer and asked for a platform to outline the BREATHE Act, several activists said. However, even those they view as allies on the Hill — including Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who is spearheading police reform discussions — were unwilling to diverge from the bill’s core tenets.

As members of Congress continue to hash out a bill to pass with enough Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, activists say they have not been included in any of those discussions.

Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and one of the movement’s first lead organizers, said movement leaders have not abandoned their national advocacy work.

She pointed to a number of allies in Congress like Bass with whom she and other leaders have had “critical conversations” in the past about the movement’s role in policymaking.

“One of the things we’re looking at moving forward is having a better relationship [with lawmakers],” Abdullah said. “So rather than lawmakers making laws without the input of a movement that gives traction to them, we want to do a better job of coordinating on the front end.”

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But complicating things is the fact that movement leaders stand vehemently against the Justice in Policing Act, which Congress drafted as a response to their protests. They argue that instead of holding officers accountable, the bill — which passed the House in March — actually gives more funds to law enforcement. Moreover, activists say, police de-escalation training, universal body cameras and data to track use of force, all provisions of the Justice in Policing Act, don’t go far enough.

The bill “requires that police be the fixers of their own problems,” said Karissa Lewis, national field director for the Movement for Black Lives. “And we know that that just has not been a successful strategy.”

Still, the Movement for Black Lives has come out in favor of some national policies that have implications for the work they do on the state level. Activists point to both the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act as critical to their work. If passed, the bills would curb a number of the provisions in state laws that limit access to the ballot.

Organizers said they were happy to hear Senate Majority Leader ´ say that he would like to pass a major voting rights bill by August, though it’s not clear how he would do so without reforming Senate rules.

And there are activists who are continuing their work locally. A national platform, they say, was never one of their chief goals. Following an unsuccessful effort to reallocate police funds in Minneapolis last summer, activists there say they’re doubling down on their push for more comprehensive public safety plans that give community members more power.

“We know the history of the failure, where we’re expecting [police] to reform themselves,” said D.A. Bullock, a lead organizer with the Minneapolis-based group Reclaim the Block. “We know that’s not possible. We’re looking to a more fundamental change in the way we do public safety.”

Nor do they see Derek Chauvin’s conviction as the final chapter following last year’s organizing against police violence and systemic racism under the umbrella of a “racial reckoning.”

“People are still asking this question of, ‘is anything coming?’ Yes, it’s coming. It’s happening on the local and state level,” said Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party and lead organizer with the Movement for Black Lives.

Still, Mitchell added that he and other lead organizers feel they are “duty bound to ensure that [police reform] happens on the federal level.”

Mitchell called for Biden to issue more executive orders and make full use of the bully pulpit to pressure Congress to act quickly on criminal justice reform as discussions around the Justice in Policing Act seem unlikely to conclude in time for Biden’s May 25 consensus deadline.

Federal legislation, activists argue, should address the root causes of the issue: A system of law enforcement that disproportionately harms communities of color. And that means they’ll continue to push for a public safety overhaul — and lobby those members of Congress willing to hear them out.

“We’re not interested in easy solutions, and we’re not interested in nibbling around the edges,” Mitchell said. “This is an urgent and real crisis for us.”


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Palestinians, Israel trade new rocket fire and airstrikes

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In recent weeks, tension has been soaring in Jerusalem, marked by clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in the walled Old City, located in east Jerusalem which Israel captured and annexed in the 1967 war.

One of the flashpoints in the Old City has been the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam and the holiest site of Judaism. Another driver of Palestinian anger has been the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in an east Jerusalem neighborhood by Israeli settlers.

Monday was a long day of anger and deadly violence, laying bare Jerusalem’s deep divisions, even as Israel tried to celebrate its capture of the city’s eastern sector and its sensitive holy sites more than half a century ago. With dozens of rockets flying into Israel throughout the night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with top security officials and warned that the fighting could drag on, despite calls for calm from the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

Hamas, the militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, fired dozens of rockets Monday evening, setting off air raid sirens as far as Jerusalem. The barrage came after Hamas had given Israel a deadline to withdraw forces from the Al-Aqsa compound.

By Tuesday morning, Hamas and other Gaza militants had fired more than 200 rockets. That included a barrage of six rockets that targeted Jerusalem, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. It set off air raid sirens throughout Jerusalem, and explosions could be heard in what was believed to be the first time the city had been targeted since a 2014 war.

There appeared to be some first signs of de-escalation in Jerusalem early Tuesday. Palestinian worshippers performed the dawn prayer at the mosque without confrontations as Israel apparently limited the presence of its police officers around the compound. Amateur videos showed dozens of faithful marching to the mosque and chanting “we sacrifice our blood, soul for Al-Aqsa.”

In Gaza, an Israeli drone strike killed a man in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis early Tuesday, according to local media reports. In another strike, a woman and two men were killed when a missile struck the upper floors of an apartment building in the Shati refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City, according to Gaza Health Ministry and rescue services.

Hamas’ armed wing said it intensified the rocket barrages following the airstrike on the house.

The Israeli military said it had carried out dozens of airstrikes across Gaza overnight, targeting what it said were Hamas military installations and operatives. It said a Hamas tunnel, rocket launchers and at least eight militants had been hit.

Dozens of rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. But one landed near a home on the outskirts of Jerusalem, causing light damage to the structure and sparking a brush fire nearby. In southern Israel, an Israeli man was lightly wounded after a missile struck a vehicle.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “terrorist organizations in Gaza have crossed a red line and attacked us with missiles in the outskirts of Jerusalem.”

He said fighting could continue for some time and that “”whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price,” he said, warning that the fighting could “continue for some time.”

Gaza health officials gave no further breakdowns on the casualties. At least 15 of the 22 deaths in Gaza were attributed to the airstrikes. Seven of the deaths were members of a single family, including three children, who died in a mysterious explosion in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. It was not clear if the blast was caused by an Israeli airstrike or errant rocket. More than 100 Gazans were wounded in the airstrikes, the Health Ministry said.

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In a statement issued early Tuesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the rocket attacks would continue until Israel stops “all scenes of terrorism and aggression in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque.”

Tensions at the site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, have triggered repeated bouts of violence in the past.

In Monday’s unrest, Israeli police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets in clashes with stone-throwing Palestinians at the compound.

More than a dozen tear gas canisters and stun grenades landed in the mosque as police and protesters faced off inside the walled compound that surrounds it, said an Associated Press photographer at the scene. Smoke rose in front of the mosque and the golden-domed shrine on the site, and rocks littered the nearby plaza. Inside one area of the compound, shoes and debris lay scattered over ornate carpets.

Over 600 Palestinians were hurt in Jerusalem alone, including more than 400 who required care at hospitals and clinics, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Palestinians and police reported renewed clashes late Monday. Israeli police also reported unrest in northern Israel, where Arab protesters burned tires and threw stones and fireworks at security forces. Police said 46 people were arrested.

Monday’s confrontations came after weeks of almost nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The month tends to be a time of heightened religious sensitivities.

Most recently, the tensions have been fueled by the planned eviction of dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where Israeli settlers have waged a lengthy legal battle to take over properties.

Israel’s Supreme Court postponed a key ruling Monday in the case, citing the “circumstances.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned “in the strongest terms” the rocket fire on Israel and called on all sides to calm the situation.

“More broadly, we’re deeply concerned about the situation in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including violent confrontations in Jerusalem,” he said. He said the U.S. would remain “fully engaged” and praised steps by Israel to cool things down, including the court delay in the eviction case.

In an apparent attempt to avoid further confrontation, Israeli authorities changed the planned route of a march by thousands of flag-waving nationalist Jews through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to mark Jerusalem Day.

The annual festival is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. But it is widely seen as a provocation because the route goes through the heart of Palestinian areas.


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Vatican warns U.S. bishops about rebuking Biden, other Catholic pols

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Ladaria, in his letter, said any new policy “requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”

Even then, Ladaria advised, the bishops should seek unanimous support within their ranks for any national policy, lest it become “a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”

Ladaria made several other points that could complicate the plans of bishops pressing for tough action:

— He said any new statement should not be limited to Catholic political leaders but broadened to encompass all churchgoing Catholics in regard to their worthiness to receive Communion.

— He questioned the USCCB policy identifying abortion as “the preeminent” moral issue, saying it would be misleading if any new document “were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics.”

— He said that if the U.S. bishops pursue a new policy, they should confer with bishops’ conferences in other countries “both to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal church.”

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— He said any new policy could not override the authority of individual bishops to make decisions on who can receive Communion in their dioceses. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.

Among the leaders of the campaign to rebuke Biden is Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who recently issued a pastoral letter arguing that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not receive Communion. A few days later, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego published an essay saying such an initiative “will bring tremendously destructive consequences.”

Ladaria’s letter was dated May 7. It was first reported Monday by Catholic News Service and the Jesuit magazine America.


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