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Wake Up To Politics - February 3, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: Meet the “Biden of Brooklyn”
Wake Up To Politics - February 3, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Thursday, February 3, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 278 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,006 days away.

Here at Wake Up To Politics, we’re proud to feature the work of a growing number of talented student journalists. Last year, New York City high school student Mac Healey contributed a piece on the crowded mayoral primary in his hometown.

In the months since, the winner of that primary has quickly established himself as a national figure. Today, President Biden will pay him a visit. So I’m excited that Mac is back to offer an introduction to the city’s new mayor, and explain why he’s already catching the eye of Democratic leaders:

Meet the “Biden of Brooklyn”
By Mac Healey

President Biden will travel to New York City today to announce new measures aimed at reducing gun violence and boosting community safety.

Biden’s visit will train a spotlight on the city’s newly-installed mayor, Eric Adams, who has received national attention after making crime a centerpiece issue of his young administration.

Just one month after his Times Square inauguration, Adam’s leadership has received an early test from a recent spate of shootings. Two NYPD officers — Wilbert Mora and Jason Rivera — were shot and killed responding to an incident in Harlem last week, following another three officers shot in January and a 38% increase in crime in the city so far this year.

Amid a corresponding nationwide uptick in crime, which Republicans are sure to highlight in the 2022 midterms, it’s not surprising that Biden will huddle with Adams today to discuss how to improve safety.

As a Black ex-cop, Adams brings a unique résumé to the issue. Adams was a victim of police brutality as a teenager, an incident he says inspired him to join the New York Police Department and try to reform it from within. Once part of the police force, Adams formed the “100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care” group and notably challenged then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s regressive changes to the NYPD back in 1994.

After spending 20 years on the force – rising to the rank of captain — Adams jumped into elected politics, representing parts of Brooklyn in the State Senate from 2007 to 2013 before serving as Brooklyn Borough President from 2014 until his election as mayor last year

Eric Adams has quickly risen to prominence within the Democratic Party. Wikimedia Commons

The mayor made crime a core issue of his campaign, emerging as a moderate alternative during a heated Democratic primary. “The debate around policing has been reduced to a false choice: You are either with police, or you are against them,” Adams wrote on his campaign website. “That is simply wrong because we are all for safety. We need the NYPD — we just need them to be better.”

Since taking office, Adams has continued with plans to redirect inefficient funding to lower crime and to increase diversity and transparency within the NYPD. Adams also backed the restoration of the NYPD’s controversial Anti-Crime Unit, a division of plainclothes officers with moderate success in reducing gun violence but a relevant history in over-policing and “brute force”. Each of Adams’ Democratic primary opponents opposed reviving the unit, which was disbanded by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio after the 2020 summer of protests against police violence.

In addition, Adams promised bail reform that has pit him against New York’s new governor and increased officer presence, among other measures. Adams has demanded help from the federal government in stopping the interstate flow of guns.

Long known for his unique brand of politics, Adams has quickly garnered national attention since taking office. Adams was known for his eccentricities before entering Gracie Mansion: as a state senator, he launched an unorthodox campaign against sagging pants. As Borough President, Adams led press conferences where he was shot with Kevlar restraints at 640 feet per second and displayed drowned rats to reporters.

Then, during his mayoral transition, Eric Adams requested his first paychecks in crypto, visited Ghana, and appointed five female deputy mayors. Within city politics, Adams reneged on his promise to avoid the race for City Council Speaker, then promptly backed the losing candidate, which the New York Times described as “a striking political defeat” for the new mayor.

Since his New Year’s Day swearing-in, Adams has kept public schools open despite the Omicron surge, dealt with a fatal apartment fire in the Bronx, controversially appointed his brother as deputy NYPD commissioner, called 9-1-1 on a street fight, and required New York City public school cafeterias to go vegan-only (as he is) on Fridays.

Adams has been one of the leading voices in his party opposing calls to “defund the police.” Erin Nekervis

Some Democrats are urging party members to take note of Adams’ mayoral coalition.  “Using Manhattan’s ivory tower and its ‘fancy candidates’ as a foil,” as Nathaniel Rakich writes, Adams tapped into the working classes of the more diverse outer boroughs he had already represented. This message carried Adams to dominating every borough besides Manhattan in the primary.

By the numbers, Adams’ mandate mirrored this coalition: The average median income in the assembly districts he won in the primary was $55,000, compared to $111,000 for the runner-up, Kathryn Garcia. These assembly districts also had more Black and Latino voters compared to his opponents, demonstrative of his diverse and energized coalition that turned out to support the Borough President.

As Democrats struggle to hold on to working-class and minority voters — and face backlash tied to the “Defund the Police” movement, which Adams has forcefully rejected — some top Democrats have identified Adams’ brand of moderation as a model on crime and other issues. Today, Biden will become just the latest party leader to seek his counsel.

This mix of factors has culminated in heightened national recognition, a closely orbiting White House, and even some presidential chatter. “I’m the Biden of Brooklyn,” Adams declared on Monday, ahead of the president’s trip. “I’m sure if you were to ask him, ‘Who is his favorite mayor?’ he’d clearly tell you, ‘It’s Eric’… We’re just like these blue-collar guys.”

Notably, Biden’s team has leaned into the comparison. “The coalition that Mr. Adams put together in New York is not dissimilar to the coalition that President Biden put together,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain acknowledged last year.

Or, take it from Adams himself: “I am the new face of the Democratic Party.”

The Rundown

Breaking news: A U.S. raid in Syria has killed Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of ISIS, President Biden announced this morning. All Americans returned safely from the operation, he said, although several civilians were reportedly killed, including six children and four women.

January 6 probe: More and more information is emerging about former President Donald Trump’s final days in office and his desperate attempts to subvert the 2020 election results. Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on the extent of his involvement in proposals for the federal government to seize voting machines to investigate his baseless claims of fraud — events that are now being investigated by the January 6 committee in the House.

  • Trump’s own words have also been revealing: in recent days, he openly said former Vice President Mike Pence should have “overturned” the election and suggested he could pardon January 6 rioters if re-elected to the White House.
  • Here’s what else we learned on Wednesday: Politico reported that Trump “seriously considered issuing a blanket pardon” for the January 6 rioters before leaving office, while the Times reported on a series of memos showcasing the various proposals weighed by Trump and his advisers to keep the then-president in power.
President Trump considered pardoning the January 6 rioters before leaving office. Tyler Merbler

Ukraine: President Biden ordered about 3,000 troops to deploy to Eastern Europe on Wednesday, the first major movement of U.S. forces to shore up NATO’s eastern flank amid Russian aggression around Ukraine’s borders. A Russian official accused the U.S. of “continuing to pump up tension in Europe” with the move.

  • Meanwhile, the White House has walked back from referring to a Russian invasion of Ukraine as “imminent.”

Biden administration: “President Biden unveiled a plan on Wednesday to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years — an ambitious new goal, he said, to ‘supercharge’ the cancer ‘moonshot’ program he initiated and presided over five years ago as vice president.” New York Times

  • “The Biden administration is moving to revise federal rules to address potential security risks from TikTok and other foreign-owned apps, eight months after opting not to pursue a forced shutdown of the Chinese-owned video-sharing platform.” Wall Street Journal
  • “The Biden administration launched a last-minute push Wednesday to derail the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to spend billions of dollars on a new fleet of gasoline-powered delivery trucks, citing the damage the polluting vehicles could inflict on the climate and Americans’ health.” Washington Post

Legal Roundup

Each morning, WUTP’s team of contributors rotate to offer a briefing on the latest news in a different policy area. It’s Thursday, so Anna Salvatore is here with the week’s top legal headlines:

Three weeks after being fired by the Miami Dolphins, former coach Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the National Football League for allegedly discriminating against Black coaches, executives, and job candidates. “The NFL remains rife with racism,” the suit said, “when it comes to the hiring and retention” of Black personnel. Flores accused three teams, including the New York Giants, of only granting him interviews in order to comply with the league’s “Rooney Rule,” which requires franchises to speak with Black candidates for head coach and general manager positions. He also claims that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered to pay him $100,000 for every loss so that the team would receive a high draft pick. On Wednesday, the NFL pledged to investigate these allegations.

After speaking with members of Ahmaud Arbery’s family, a federal judge rejected a plea deal for his killers that had been proposed by prosecutors. Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by a white father and son while jogging in his Georgia neighborhood in February 2020. Convicted earlier this month to life in prison, the duo now seeks to avoid a trial on federal hate crimes charges. On Monday afternoon, Judge Lisa Godbey Wood rejected such a deal, citing the Arbery family’s statements that “their wishes are being completely ignored.”

The Boy Scouts of America are nearing an agreement to pay billions of dollars to survivors of childhood sex abuse. According to Reuters, “the proposed deal has divided survivors,” with many supporting the settlement and others suggesting that $2.7 billion will not be enough for the 82,000 people seeking damages. A bankruptcy judge will review the proposal in a few weeks. If granted — which is no guarantee, given that the Boy Scouts still need 75% of claimants to approve the deal — it will be the largest sexual abuse settlement in American history.

And a few more stories to know from Anna:

-- Prosecutors charged a Brooklyn man on Wednesday for selling a fatal dose of fentanyl-laced heroin to Michael K. Williams, the actor who played Omar Little on “The Wire.”

-- The FBI has reportedly identified six “tech savvy juveniles” as suspects in a series of bomb threats to historically Black colleges.  

-- The founder of the Oath Keepers — a right-wing group active in the January 6 riot — spent six hours on Wednesday speaking with the House committee investigating the Capitol attack.

Ask Gabe

One of my favorite parts about writing this newsletter is getting hear from my readers. If you ever have any questions or feedback, you can always send them my way at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Today, I’m taking two questions I’ve received lately on the Ukraine crisis:

Q: How do sanctions work when it comes to specific people? Say, Vladimir Putin, or Nicolas Maduro, what effect can the U.S. have on these two people? Besides not granting them a visa (not that they could want to go and vacation in the U.S. anyway), what else can Biden do to target them directly?

I’ve heard a lot about economic sanctions, but again, it’s not like any of them would want to open a bank account in the US to keep their money safe. — Klever D. (from Bolivia)

A: This is a great question. There has been a lot of talks about sanctions lately — but what exactly does that mean in practice, and how do sanctions work against individuals, not just a country’s financial system?

Besides bans on coming to the U.S. (which can cause issues for trips to the United Nations), the American government has other potent tools at its disposal to cause financial pain for sanctioned individuals. This can include freezing any assets they have in America: to use the example of Nicolas Maduro that Klever brought up, these types of sanctions have led to the U.S. seizing $450 million in assets that he and other Venezuelan officials held, including condos and superyachts in Miami.

The U.S. can also impose “sectoral sanctions” — which the government already has in place against some Russian officials — that bar the targets from doing any business with U.S. individuals or companies, or sometimes even from making transactions in dollars. Since many of these officials have business ties to the U.S. and other locales where the dollar is dominant, these measures can be particularly damaging.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said the U.S. is preparing sanctions to strike at figures in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle — and possibly even, President Biden has threatened, against Putin himself. “Any of these individuals are particularly vulnerable targets because of their deep financial ties with the West,” Psaki said.

For the most part, the new sanctions would probably look like the travel bans, asset freezes, and business restrictions that the U.S. has imposed in the past. But there’s also one other measure under consideration: per the New York Times, “the United States also plans to ban the children of some elite Russian figures from attending prestigious universities in the United States and Europe.”

Many Russian elites send their children to American colleges, meaning this new sanction — a move with little precedent — could hit especially close to home for some in and around the Kremlin.

President Biden has threatened to personally sanction Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin

And here’s the second question...

Q: Why is Ukraine asking the West to support and act preemptively, while not doing everything they have the power to do themselves (as you said, not testing response systems or calling up military reserves)? Is this part of what is causing tension with the U.S.? — Erin C. (from Minnesota)

A: Yes, it is. Although both countries deny any friction, there has been a noticeable gap between the rhetoric espoused by U.S. and Ukrainian officials, with the latter growing increasingly critical of the dire warnings of a Russian invasion coming from the former.

Erin hit on two overlapping cross-currents of the tension in her question. One dimension is the American view that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has let his guard down by not making basic preparations for a possible invasion, while going around the Biden administration to call for immediate sanctions.

And then there is the Ukrainain view that Americans are hurting more than they help by spreading alarm — and declining to do what Zelsnky thinks would actually help: institute preemptive sanctions against Russia. “Kyiv would find more value in taking active deterrent measures such as immediate sanctions...than the persistent verbal warnings predicting imminent war for the last couple months that provide no deterrent, and are actually unintentionally negatively impacting the Ukrainian economy,” a Zelensky adviser told CNN.

The split boils down to a divide over how far Ukraine should go in preparing its citizens for the possibility of invasion, and a clash of philosophies on sanctions. While Zelensky has said “sanctions are supposed to be premeptive,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described their purpose as a “deterrent effect,” which he said would be lost if the sanctions are imposed. (Many Republican lawmakers have joined the calls for preemptive sanctions, bucking the White House.)

There is no indication that the rising tensions will preclude the U.S. from continue to aid Ukraine, but it has been an embarrassing episode for both countries at a time when they most need to present a united front.


All times Eastern.

President Joe Biden will attend the National Prayer Breakfast at 8 a.m., continuing a tradition that dates back to 1953. At 9:30, he will deliver remarks to the American people on the operation in Syria that killed the leader of ISIS. He will then travel to New York City, landing at 10:45 a.m. at JFK Airport. At 12:15 p.m., Biden will join Attorney General Merrick Garland, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul for a gun violence meeting at NYPD headquarters.

At 2:30 p.m., Biden and the other officials will visit a public school in Queens to discuss community violence intervention programs. The president will depart New York at 4:45 p.m. and arrive back at the White House at 6:05 p.m.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris will also attend the National Prayer Breakfast this morning.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to New York City. The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and continue consideration of a series of Biden nominees. At 11 a.m., the chamber will recess for senators to receive a classified briefing on Ukraine from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.

    At 12:30 p.m., the chamber will return and hold cloture votes to advance three nominations: Alexandra Baker (to be Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy), Reta Jo Lewis (to be President of the Export-Import Bank), and Leonard Stark (to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Federal Circuit).
  • Senate committee meetings will include an 8:45 a.m. confirmation hearing for three Biden nominees to the Federal Reserve (which will be a “potentially tense affair,” per Axios). The House will convene at 12 p.m. and resume consideration of the America COMPETES Act, a bill aimed at increasing U.S. competitiveness with China. The measure includes $52 billion to boost semiconductor manufacturing and research, as well as $45 billion to support supply chain resilience.

    The chamber will debate and vote on various amendments to the bill, followed by a final vote on the measure. Few (if any) Republicans are expected to support the measure, but Democratic leaders have expressed confidence that they will be able to pass it along party lines.

    At 1:30 p.m., the House will also receive a classified briefing on Ukraine from the same officials who will address the Senate.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference at 12:15 p.m. She will also testify before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China at 10 a.m. for a hearing on China’s use of the upcoming Winter Olympics to distract from its human rights abuses. Additionally, Pelosi will join other House leaders at 3 p.m. to rename a room in the Capitol for Joseph Rainey, who was the first Black member of the House.
  • House committee meetings will include a 10 a.m. roundtable with four former employees of the Washington Football Team (now the Washington Commanders) to discuss allegations of a toxic workplace culture, as well as an 11 a.m hearing on 5G technology’s impact on aviation safety.The Supreme Court is not in session.

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe