A Lawyer for Payday Lenders Is Confirmed for F.T.C. Job

WASHINGTON — The new director of the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer protection unit, a watchdog with broad investigative powers over private companies, stands out even in an administration prone to turning over regulatory authority to pro-industry players.

The director, Andrew M. Smith, has recently represented Facebook, Uber and Equifax — all companies with matters before the commission — and plans to recuse himself from dozens of cases now that he has been confirmed for the post.

And in 2012, Mr. Smith was also part of the legal team that defended AMG Services, the payday lender founded by the convicted racketeer Scott Tucker, whose predatory practices against impoverished borrowers eventually led to a $1.3 billion court-ordered settlement, the biggest in the commission’s history.

“It’s outrageous the F.T.C. would pick the lawyer for a criminally convicted racketeer’s payday loan company as consumer protection chief,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, who opposed Mr. Smith’s selection. “The agency should pick someone with a track record of protecting consumers, not companies that cheat people.”

Mr. Smith was confirmed by the commission on Wednesday, with the agency’s three Republican commissioners voting in favor of and the two Democratic commissioners voting against his appointment.

Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, a Democratic commissioner, said she voted against Mr. Smith because requiring him to step aside from the consumer protection bureau’s most high-profile investigations “undermines the public’s confidence in the commission’s ability to fulfill its mission.”

But the commission’s chairman, Joseph J. Simons, a Republican, said he was “disappointed that two of my new colleagues have chosen to turn Mr. Smith’s appointment into a source of unnecessary controversy.”

Mr. Smith, regarded as a hard-working and knowledgeable lawyer even by critics, worked as a lawyer for the commission in the early 2000s, drafting many of its regulations on credit reports and identity theft. In private practice for much of the last decade, he has represented industry groups, including payday lenders. He has also appeared before Congress to argue for loosening regulations and scaling back aggressive enforcement of existing laws.

Mr. Smith “has defended the worst of the worst,” said Karl Frisch, the executive director of Allied Progress, a progressive advocacy group based in Washington that opposed the appointment.

Mr. Smith, in an interview on Wednesday, pointed to his previous work at the commission and said he would continue the mission at the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Andrew Smith, was confirmed on Wednesday as the next director of the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer protection bureau.CreditCovington & Burling

“I look forward to working with all the commissioners to do what’s best for consumers,” he said. “I obviously don’t think I’m disqualified because of prior client relationships. I have a long history of service to consumers, to the industry and the profession.”

As a lawyer with Covington & Burling, Mr. Smith has represented dozens of companies over the past two years, including many banks, lenders, credit-reporting agencies and technology companies, which will force him to recuse himself from any potential investigations or enforcements against those organizations, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

But Mr. Smith’s work for AMG raised new questions about his fitness to run a division that polices payday lenders among many other industries accused of fleecing consumers.

In early 2012, the Federal Trade Commission filed a court case against AMG, arguing that the firm — a complex web of companies overseen by Mr. Tucker — had engaged in an array of deceptive and fraudulent business practices, including the illegal use of threats against borrowers who were unable to pay back high-interest loans.

Mr. Smith, then a lawyer with Morrison & Foerster, met with the agency’s lawyers and other defense counsel on at least one occasion, a group that included Mr. Tucker’s personal lawyer, Timothy Muir. Mr. Muir would later be charged and convicted of helping Mr. Tucker run what prosecutors described as a $3.5 billion criminal enterprise.

Mr. Smith said his work had been limited to advising his client, technically a company overseen by an Indian tribal council, on the commission law. He said the Morrison & Foerster team worked on the case for about six months.

In October 2016, a federal judge in Nevada hit AMG with a $1.3 billion settlement and held Mr. Tucker personally liable for setting up the complicated enterprise. In January, he was sentenced to over 16 years in federal prison “for operating a nationwide internet payday lending enterprise that systematically evaded state laws for more than 15 years in order to charge illegal interest rates as high as 1,000 percent on loans,” according to a news release from the Justice Department. (Mr. Tucker had used his profits from the payday lending scheme to fund a side career as a racecar driver.)

Mr. Muir, his lawyer, received a seven-year sentence.

Mr. Smith declined to say whether he had spoken with Mr. Tucker, saying he was unsure whether answering would violate confidentiality agreements with his former clients.“And does it matter?” he said.

Asked whether he had second thoughts about representing companies that had helped Mr. Tucker bilk vulnerable people out of millions of dollars, he said: “I think all lawyers think about that. I was a part of a team at MoFo, and I think that everyone deserves a good defense.” He said the Native American firms he represented believed they were helping people.

Mr. Smith also declined to name other companies on his recusal list. He said many we re banks, and were thus typically not regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. He added that he would still stay busy at the agency because there were many companies that were not on his list. “It’s a big world and the F.T.C. has very broad jurisdiction,” he said.

Mr. Smith’s selection comes at a time of drastic deregulation of financial services — especially enforcement of laws meant to protect poor people — led by Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In recent weeks, Mr. Mulvaney has scaled back the bureau’s investigations into student loan abuses and payday lenders while calling for the elimination of an online database of complaints against banks.

Schneiderman’s Resignation Leads to Turmoil and Speculation About His Successor

None have publicly expressed interest, and it is unclear whether they would also seek to run in the general election in November.

New York’s solicitor general, Barbara D. Underwood, will lead the office in the meantime, according to Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office. Ms. Underwood, a graduate of Harvard and Georgetown, has argued 20 cases before the Supreme Court and served as a clerk for former Justice Thurgood Marshall.

According to The New Yorker, Mr. Schneiderman slapped, choked or spat on at least four women with whom he had been romantically involved, two of whom spoke on the record. The horrific accusations included alcohol-fueled rages, racist remarks, drug abuse and threats — including to kill the women or use his power as the state’s top law enforcement officer against them if they defied him.

Politicians and pundits in both parties joined in swift and unsparing condemnation of Mr. Schneiderman. But the conversation quickly turned partisan, given Mr. Schneiderman’s meteoric rise as a relentless and outspoken legal foe of Mr. Trump who had sued the federal administration more than 100 times over policies ranging from immigration to taxation.


New York’s solicitor general, Barbara D. Underwood, will lead the attorney general’s office until a replacement for Mr. Schneiderman is found.

Office of the New York State Attorney General

Prominent Republicans nationwide reveled in the news. Donald Trump Jr. mockingly shared several old tweets from the attorney general, in which he had denounced the president and expressed solidarity with victims of sexual assault; “This didn’t age well,” he wrote. Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor, wrote in a tweet that Mr. Schneiderman had been “drunk with power.” By early Tuesday, the president had not commented on Mr. Schneiderman’s resignation.

Mr. Schneiderman’s fellow Democrats had also called on him to step aside, with Mr. Cuomo, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Mr. Heastie saying the attorney general was incapable of continuing in his office.

And people in both parties were quick to point out that some right-wing pundits who blasted the attorney general were also staunch defenders of President Trump, who has himself been accused of a slew of sexual abuse.

While Mr. Schneiderman’s resignation signals the probable end of a career that many had seen as gaining quick national prominence, the legal fallout is most likely only beginning.

A spokesman for Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said Mr. Vance’s office had opened an investigation into the allegations in The New Yorker article. Mr. Schneiderman had, at the direction of Mr. Cuomo, himself been probing Mr. Vance’s office over questions about its handling of groping allegations against the film mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2015. A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office did not immediately comment on whether that review would continue.

Separately, Mr. Cuomo also said on Monday that he would direct an “appropriate New York district attorney” to investigate the allegations. An administration official said Monday that the governor’s office wanted to avoid any conflict of interest and ensure the proper jurisdiction, given the attorney general’s review of Mr. Vance and the fact that some of the alleged abuse occurred on Long Island.

Mr. Schneiderman had been in contact with a criminal defense lawyer late Monday afternoon to advise him on his response to The New Yorker, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Later, an associate of Mr. Schneiderman was looking for a lawyer to represent him in connection with the criminal investigation, several other people with knowledge of the matter said.

Mr. Schneiderman has denied wrongdoing, describing the acts as part of consensual relationships.

Several women’s groups that had previously supported Mr. Schneiderman — he was known for being an outspoken advocate for women’s advancement, especially reproductive rights — expressed shock and sorrow. The National Institute for Reproductive Health, which had honored the attorney general at a May 1 luncheon, said in a statement that it was “appalled and horrified.” (By Tuesday, the group had removed Mr. Schneiderman from its list of honorees.) Sonia Ossorio, president of New York’s arm of the National Organization for Women, which endorsed Mr. Schneiderman in his 2010 and 2014 campaigns, said she was “in shock.”

“I’m just beside myself right now,” she said.

And political observers said the news would further erode public trust in Albany, which has been roiled repeatedly by corruption trials, sexual harassment scandals and other ethics controversies.

Douglas Muzzio, a political-science professor at Baruch College, said the allegations were “another blow” to our “trust in government officials and in the institutions of government itself.”

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Inside One of America’s Ugliest Political Feuds: Cuomo vs. de Blasio

Both men and their closest aides have dropped any pretense of cordiality, sniping at each other on Twitter and in interviews; Mr. de Blasio, in particular, has adopted an Oprah-like confessional tone in his lamentations.

“I never get that call that says, ‘How can we help you get the job done? What would make your life, as the city, work better?’” Mr. de Blasio said in a recent television interview that people close to him said captured his frustration. “A lot of politics, a lot of posturing, a lot of interference, a lot of red tape, that’s what I get.”

The contours of the feud, and its effects, have been puzzled over for years: Why would two men, whose stated goals often run on similar tracks, allow their onetime friendship — “in the deepest sense of the word” as Mr. Cuomo once put it — to deteriorate into pure detestation?

This portrait of a relationship fractured is based on interviews with more than two dozen past and present aides, advisers and officials who have worked with Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio over the last two decades. Many spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from either camp. Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio both declined to speak on the record.

In their own way, Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio both are vying to define the Democratic Party’s future in New York and beyond: the mayor as a progressive beacon for unrepentant liberalism succeeding, the governor as a deal-cutting Democrat who can actually make good on progressive promises.

“I believe in action. I believe in results. I believe in making a difference in people’s lives,” Mr. Cuomo said this year when asked about the mayor. “I don’t believe it’s about giving speeches about values.”

But the compulsive rivalry makes both look small.

“All rules of political decorum are out the window with these two,” said Andrew Kirtzman, a New York communications strategist. “The Cuomo people genuinely feel that de Blasio is incompetent and the de Blasio people genuinely feel that Cuomo is pernicious.”


The friction between Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio has only worsened with Cynthia Nixon’s bid for the Democratic nomination for governor; Ms. Nixon and Mr. de Blasio are friends, and Mr. Cuomo blames the mayor for her candidacy.

Stan Honda/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Things have only worsened with the candidacy of Cynthia Nixon, the actress, education advocate and friend of Mr. de Blasio who is challenging the governor in the Democratic primary. Mr. Cuomo has seethed about what he believes is Mr. de Blasio’s hidden hand in her run, and has signaled to allies that he intends to punish the mayor for it, even against the counsel of his advisers.

The latest flash point: the recent state budget that served as a cudgel to exert his dominance over Mr. de Blasio. He added new oversight to the city’s mayor-run school system. He forced the mayor to hand over $418 million for subway repairs, threatening to garnish property taxes if Mr. de Blasio resisted. He gave $250 million to the city’s beleaguered public housing system — but then declared a state of emergency and ordered an independent monitor.

On the Monday after the state budget passed, Mr. Cuomo held a triumphant event with the city’s top elected leaders to celebrate the new funding and sign the order. Mr. de Blasio was pointedly not invited. And when the mayor found out, he pressed at least one elected official not to attend, according to three people familiar with the efforts.

Later that week, at almost the exact moment that Mr. Cuomo was in a Manhattan ballroom condemning the city’s public housing as “disgusting,” Mr. de Blasio was on the roof of a New York City Housing Authority development in Queens swiping at the governor for acting “like the great white knight.”


Mr. de Blasio, visiting a New York City Housing Authority property earlier this month, noted that some politicians like Mr. Cuomo “suddenly believe it is stylish to visit Nycha.”

Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

“There are some politicians who suddenly believe it is stylish to visit Nycha,” Mr. de Blasio said. He didn’t leave it for people to read between the lines.

“Of course I’m talking about the governor,” Mr. de Blasio said when asked. “Let’s be real.”

Friends of Convenience

It is more than a little ironic that the current tug of war between Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio is over housing: They came to know each other when Mr. Cuomo, then the secretary of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, hired Mr. de Blasio to oversee the New York region.

It was a critical job for Mr. Cuomo, who had clear political ambitions where his father, Mario M. Cuomo, had served three terms as governor. Mr. de Blasio became the younger Cuomo’s point man in his home state.

Mr. Cuomo had worked the phones to get Mr. de Blasio, then a rising star in New York politics, to take the job.

“He would say to them, ‘Tell Bill this is why he should do this job and why it’s important to his career,’” recalled Karen Hinton, who worked for Mr. Cuomo at HUD and later served as Mr. de Blasio’s press secretary in City Hall.


Two decades ago, when Mr. Cuomo was HUD secretary, he hired Mr. Blasio to oversee the New York region for the department; the two, while not close friends, were certainly political allies at the time.

Paul Hosefros/The New York Times

People who worked with them at the time, and others who have spoken with Mr. Cuomo in the years since, said he found Mr. de Blasio to be politically sharp but not particularly substantive. Others say even then Mr. de Blasio displayed a more ideologically leftward bent than his boss.

“I was proud to work for him,” Mr. de Blasio said recently of his tenure.

They were definitely seen as a pair.

In late 1999, when Mr. Cuomo’s department declared that Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani could not be trusted to fairly dole out millions in federal funding for the New York City homeless, Republicans immediately suspected collusion — between Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio, who was then Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager.

“It seems like Cuomo and de Blasio are still working together,” a Republican official said at the time.

By 2002, when Mr. Cuomo embarked on his quixotic bid for the governor’s mansion by challenging Mr. McCall, widely seen as the Democratic heir apparent and potentially the state’s first black governor, Mr. de Blasio was among his few backers.

“You could have gotten all of his supporters into a phone booth,” Mr. de Blasio joked recently.

But their bond, even then, appeared to many as one of political convenience.

“Friends might be a stretch,” said John Marino, another emissary deployed by Mr. Cuomo in that 2002 weekend when he withdrew from the governor’s race. “They both respected each other. There was no question Andrew respected what Bill thought, and vice versa.”

They climbed the ladder of New York politics in parallel steps. Mr. de Blasio to the City Council in 2001; Mr. Cuomo to state attorney general in 2006; Mr. de Blasio to city public advocate in 2009; Mr. Cuomo to governor in 2010; Mr. de Blasio to mayor in 2013.

There was mutual respect, too. Matt Wing, who worked for Mr. de Blasio as public advocate and later for Mr. Cuomo as governor, still vividly recalls watching Mr. Cuomo’s first budget address in 2011 over junk food with Mr. de Blasio.

“I remember Bill and I both being impressed and more than a little inspired,” Mr. Wing recalled.

Weeks after Mr. de Blasio’s inauguration on Jan. 1, 2014, Mr. Cuomo proclaimed, “I don’t have a better political friend than Bill de Blasio.”

But the problems to come were already apparent.

On the day that Mr. de Blasio’s last Democratic opponent bowed out in September 2013 (Mr. Cuomo had not endorsed his friend until then), aides to Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio nearly came to blows over the speaking order at a unity rally. It was meant to be Mr. de Blasio’s day of triumph; Mr. Cuomo spoke longer.

The battle to be the alpha male of New York politics had only just begun.

V for Vendetta

This is hardly Andrew Cuomo’s first feud. He has quarreled with a parade of politicians in the last decade: Eliot L. Spitzer, David A. Paterson, Eric T. Schneiderman, Michael R. Bloomberg and Thomas P. DiNapoli. While he was HUD secretary in the 1990s, Mr. Cuomo’s clash with the department’s inspector general was legendary. Before that, he tossed sharp elbows professionally for his father in the 1980s.

Those who have worked closely with the younger Mr. Cuomo over the years say he has a zero-sum approach to power, especially among Democrats in New York: The more anyone else has of it, the less there is for him.

Enter Mr. de Blasio into a job where tensions between Albany and New York City have been longstanding, even among members of the same party. In the 1980s, it was Mayor Edward I. Koch and Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, two Democrats. In the 1960s, it was Mayor John V. Lindsay and Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, both Republican moderates.

“They couldn’t be in the same room together,” Sid Davidoff, a lobbyist who served in Mr. Lindsay’s administration, said of his former boss and Mr. Rockefeller. “But it wasn’t a public spectacle. Now it is.”

If Mr. Cuomo has a penchant for picking fights, Mr. de Blasio has a notoriously stubborn streak. Some early advisers gave up trying to even help him out of exhaustion of his obstinance. For example: his lonely trip to Iowa to canvass for Mrs. Clinton in 2016, which some top advisers counseled against; his daily 12-mile treks to a Park Slope gym.

Mr. de Blasio’s recalcitrance can make it difficult for him to walk away from fights with the governor.

In some ways, Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio are more alike than either would care to acknowledge: two ex-operatives who now serve as the principals themselves. They are demanding, if not difficult bosses. They operate with sometimes excruciatingly small circles of advisers, none of whom they seem to trust as much as themselves, often to a fault.

“He’s a lot like Andrew,” Mario Cuomo had said in 2009 when he endorsed Mr. de Blasio as public advocate.

What both sides do agree upon is that the seeds of their split were planted in 2014, Mr. de Blasio’s first full year as mayor. They just cite different episodes.

For Mr. Cuomo, it was the new mayor’s insistence on pushing for a tax increase on millionaires.

Mr. de Blasio had just been elected on a platform to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund an extra year of prekindergarten — but New York’s arcane political structure required him to go to Albany for approval.

Even before the election, Mr. Cuomo had told Mr. de Blasio raising taxes was a nonstarter given Republican control of the State Senate but that he would provide money for the prekindergarten expansion, people briefed on those conversations said. But the freshly elected mayor told the governor that he would be publicly pushing for it anyway.

Mr. de Blasio saw it as fulfilling a key promise to voters. Mr. Cuomo first saw it as irksome, and eventually disrespectful, as the mayor rallied the governor’s union allies to his cause.

There were competing rallies and hurt feelings. Eventually, the state approved money for prekindergarten without a tax increase.

For Mr. Cuomo, the experience fueled a belief that he has voiced with escalating emphasis in recent months: Mr. de Blasio is more concerned with political rhetoric and talking points than practical results.

“The job of government is to get things done for people. Not to issue press releases saying ‘I propose doing this,’” Mr. Cuomo said at a recent Nycha stop, talking about the mayor without naming him.

People close to the governor say Mr. de Blasio reminds Mr. Cuomo of what he sees as the failed liberal ideologues of the past.

“For 40 years, Cuomo has consistently said that the prior generation of Democrats focused too much on poetry and not enough on the prose of governing,” said Jon J. Cowan, Mr. Cuomo’s chief of staff at HUD.

But Mr. de Blasio’s allies have recently cited a different dividing point late that same year.

When many New York City police officers turned their back on the mayor after the killing of two police officers in December 2014, Mr. Cuomo offered the mayor no support. Inside City Hall, the episode felt like an existential crisis for the administration and Mr. de Blasio had hoped that his old friend would be of some assistance, according to people in touch with him at the time.

Instead Mr. Cuomo said he supported both the mayor and the police union chief, who had just said there was “blood on the hands” at City Hall.

“There are so many ways for you to be both a responsible actor and a good friend and he did none of them in that moment,” one person close to Mr. de Blasio said.


Through the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York State controls the purse strings over the city’s ailing subways, providing yet another flash point between the mayor and the governor.

Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

The relationship soured entirely in 2015. The governor shut down the subways during a snowstorm without first telling the mayor. The mayor did not give the governor’s office a heads-up on plans to redevelop a rail yard in Queens, and the governor quickly squashed the idea.

By June, the governor was knifing the mayor through thinly cloaked anonymous interviews mocking him as “Mr. Progressive.” Then, Mr. de Blasio went on television to deliver the kind of public broadside rarely seen between two members of the same political party, let alone old friends.

“If someone disagrees with him openly,” the mayor said, “some kind of revenge or vendetta follows.”

“Vendetta,” in particular, stuck in Mr. Cuomo’s craw, people familiar with the episode said, in part because of its Mafia connotations in a fight between two men of Italian heritage.

It was notable, then, that on the day Ms. Nixon emerged as a likely challenger, a “Cuomo insider” used the very same V-word to link Ms. Nixon to Mr. de Blasio in a statement to multiple news outlets.

“This distraction is clearly an outgrowth of the mayor’s vendetta against the governor,” the insider said.

It was a clear message, especially for the two veterans of Mr. de Blasio’s warring with Mr. Cuomo, Bill Hyers and Rebecca Katz, who are now advising Ms. Nixon. In one of her first interviews, Ms. Nixon called Mr. Cuomo “famously vengeful.” The echo reverberated loudly through the governor’s chambers.

Point of No Return

Of course, the mayor and the governor do talk, often by phone in calls that are hastily arranged via text message between the two leaders. Their calls are often not scheduled and, as such, aides are not always on the line or in the room, especially on Mr. de Blasio’s end, according to a city person with direct knowledge of the routine.

But even when relations appear to momentarily improve — as after terrorist strikes — they quickly worsen again.

From the perspective of City Hall, opinion has hardened that Mr. Cuomo can no longer be trusted, and some despair of trying to fight back. The state remains pre-eminent over most city affairs, a power the governor never shied from using: It is as if the mayor can only bring a knife and the governor avails himself of military artillery.

“The mayor can’t place a monitor on the governor’s decrepit state prisons, or his failing upstate jobs programs, or on the water supply in Hoosick Falls,” said Eric F. Phillips, Mr. de Blasio’s press secretary. “New York’s governance structure makes this an uneven fight that would only get worse if you give in to a governor this obsessed with hurting New York City and a fellow Democrat.”

That the state controls perhaps the city’s greatest resource, its sprawling transit system, has set up a protracted battle over funding and responsibility as the subway system has faltered.

The mayor and his team have sought, indirectly, to lump Mr. Cuomo in with a group of old-line Democrats — the “descendent Democrats” — facing challenges from what they see as the party’s ascendant progressive wing.

Still, Mr. Cuomo chafes at the primacy given New York City mayors in times of terrorism, those who know him say: The city is the target and the mayor controls the New York Police Department, and therefore access to information.

Mr. Cuomo had seen how Gov. George E. Pataki saw himself diminished by Mr. Giuliani after Sept. 11, 2001, and would not be similarly left in this mayor’s shadow.

And so, the governor deployed the State Police in the middle of Mr. de Blasio’s first term. “They never had uniformed guys patrolling in New York City,” said a former senior law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the discussions. The move served no apparent policing need, the official said, and led to the departure of the head of the State Police in 2016.


During Mr. de Blasio’s first term, the governor, walking with the mayor at the site of a terrorist bombing in Manhattan in 2016, began moving State Police troopers to New York City, citing global terror threats.

Pool photo by Justin Lane

It was an example of a governor exerting his influence on the city directly. He has done so increasingly in recent months, from forcing a state monitor on public housing to an order to close one jail facility at the troubled complex on Rikers Island.

In response to a request for comment, the Cuomo administration said that its involvement in municipal matters is a function of state law, along with responding to tenant requests, federal investigations and security needs.

Mr. Cuomo has also cited the “incompetent” management of Nycha, which his office notes is controlled by the mayor, and he has mocked the mayor’s timeline to close Rikers.

Even on areas of agreement, there is no comity. Mr. Cuomo’s aides reached out to aides for Mr. de Blasio to suggest a joint push around bail reform — an important progressive issue in this year’s budget negotiations. City Hall officials suspected ulterior motives. In the end, it did not happen.

A majority of New Yorkers, among them Corey Johnson, the new City Council speaker, say the conflict is hurting the city.

“I don’t think it’s helpful for the city,” Mr. Johnson said. “At the same time, you deal with the cards that you’re dealt.”

Nearly everyone has been pressured to pick sides — few more so than Mr. Johnson, who has had three face-to-face meetings with the governor in three months, and weekly sit-downs with the mayor that included a recent one that stretched to two and a half hours.

“I would just say that it’s a little overwhelming,” Mr. Johnson said. “I didn’t expect to be drawn into this.”

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New York Attorney General Seeks Power to Bypass Presidential Pardons

While Mr. Schneiderman’s jurisdiction does not encompass many of the areas being investigated by Mr. Mueller, a president has no authority to commute sentences or pardon offenses at the state level. That leaves convictions obtained by the state attorney general’s office or any other local prosecutor outside the president’s ability to intervene. The proposal would be structured so that it would not affect people who sought clemency after long jail sentences, an aide to Mr. Schneiderman said.

If the proposed law is passed, anyone indicted on state charges after being convicted in federal court and then pardoned would likely challenge the state law in court. But Mr. Schneiderman wrote in the letter that he and his advisers were confident the legislation would withstand any constitutional scrutiny.

Even though New York is a reliably blue state, Mr. Schneiderman’s proposal is hardly a foregone conclusion, given the narrow political divide in the State Senate.

“We are disturbed by reports that the president is considering pardons of individuals who may have committed serious federal financial, tax, and other crimes — acts that may also violate New York law,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement provided by his office.

“We must ensure that if the president, or any president, issues such pardons, we can use the full force of New York’s laws to bring such individuals to justice.”

The White House declined to comment.

The president has openly discussed his pardon powers, and reportedly even asked his aides whether he could pardon himself, though one of his lawyers denied it.

“While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon,” he tweeted last year, “why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.”

Just last week, when lawyers for Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, who is himself the subject of a criminal investigation apparently unrelated to Mr. Mueller’s probe, were in court clashing with prosecutors over a search warrant, Mr. Trump pardoned former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr.

OPEN Document

Document: New York Attorney General’s Letter on Presidential Pardons

Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and a frequent Fox News commentator, said after reading Mr. Schneiderman’s letter that his proposal raises constitutional questions that cannot be answered without examining the legislation.

“The first is the specificity of the statute — of the exception — focusing on a limited number of people,” he said, noting that legislatures cannot make laws that apply to specific individuals. But he added that it was possible that such legislation, if properly drawn, would be constitutional.

Mr. Schneiderman’s move could set off a battle in the State Senate, where Republicans have narrowly controlled the chamber through alliances with Democrats. Earlier this month, though, most Democrats in the chamber ended a long-running feud, which has left a degree of doubt over long-term control of the body. An April 24 special election in Westchester County could determine who will lead the chamber.

The measure would likely be supported by Mr. Cuomo, who is tacking left in the face of a primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon, the actress and activist. The state’s Assembly has long been a bulwark of liberal ideals.

State Senator Todd D. Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Island, said in a statement that he would introduce a bill to “close the glaring loophole” highlighted by Mr. Schneiderman’s letter. Similar legislation will be introduced in the Assembly.

Mr. Schneiderman’s move is likely to inflame allies of Mr. Trump, who see Mr. Schneiderman as an opportunist bent on making political hay, and whom they see as unlikely to treat Mr. Trump fairly.

This is hardly the first time Mr. Schneiderman has challenged Mr. Trump.

A month before the 2016 election, his office ordered Mr. Trump’s foundation to stop raising money in New York amid scrutiny over Mr. Trump’s claims about charitable giving. The $25 million settlement over Trump University came shortly after the election. Mr. Schneiderman called the settlement “a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”

The attorney general’s office has also investigated Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul J. Manafort, who was indicted on federal charges last year, though he deferred his inquiry amid the federal investigation.

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution has a double jeopardy clause that says “nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” But that applies to multiple prosecutions of the same federal offense.

The states are almost evenly split between those that have additional double jeopardy protections at the state level and those that do not. And Mr. Schneiderman has successfully backed changes to the double jeopardy law before. In 2011, the state closed what was known as the “Helmsley loophole,” named for the headline-grabbing hotelier Leona Helmsley, allowing it to prosecute tax cheats who had already been prosecuted federally.

“New York’s statutory protections could result in the unintended and unjust consequence of insulating someone pardoned for serious federal crimes from subsequent prosecution for state crimes,” Mr. Schneiderman writes in his letter, “even if that person was never tried or convicted in federal court, and never served a single day in federal prison.”

Whether Mr. Schneiderman’s office would even seek to become involved in a criminal prosecution of Mr. Trump or his aides remains to be seen. But his move only adds to Mr. Trump’s legal problems.

Several of Mr. Trump’s former aides have pleaded guilty in Mr. Mueller’s inquiry, including Rick Gates, a former campaign adviser, and Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser. Earlier this month, the Southern District of New York, an office of the Justice Department outside of Mr. Mueller’s, revealed it was investigating Mr. Cohen.

Mr. Trump has made his feelings about these investigations plain in a recent tweet that said, simply, “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!”

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Flexing Their Support for Cuomo, Key Unions Leave Working Families Party

Ms. Nixon counts legalizing marijuana, increasing taxes on multimillionaires, giving driver’s licenses to those here illegally, and making New York a “sanctuary state” among her early proposals.

The political maneuvers around the Working Families Party echoed a strategy used in 2014, when Mr. Cuomo was first seeking re-election, but encountered a primary challenge from Zephyr Teachout. The Working Families Party strongly considered Ms. Teachout before reluctantly backing Mr. Cuomo.

This time around, with Working Families leaders hinting of a Nixon endorsement, Mr. Cuomo’s emissaries struck first. Some of the party’s top members were summoned to a meeting with labor leaders on Friday at the Manhattan headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the teachers’ union, said he urged the advocacy groups on Friday to have the Working Families Party remain neutral until after the Democratic primary.

If the group endorses Ms. Nixon and she loses the Democratic primary to Mr. Cuomo, she could remain on the ballot through November competing for votes, potentially to the benefit of the Republican nominee.

“My only concern is some reckless behavior that will have an unintended consequence of us ending up with a Republican governor,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “When these elections are over, we will judge any decision we have to make off your behavior if you caused bad things to happen — even though it was not your intent you are responsible for them.”

He declined to comment on whether Mr. Cuomo had asked him to defund community groups backing Ms. Nixon, saying he has “requests on all sides.”

“I’m not going to divulge personal conversations,” he said.

But Bill Lipton, the state director of the Working Families Party, said that he had attended a meeting earlier this week in which the governor had said, “If unions or anyone give money to any of these groups, they can lose my number.”


Since announcing her candidacy for governor last month, Cynthia Nixon has been collecting endorsements from a handful of liberal Democratic groups.

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

Mr. Lipton added that the groups in question — Citizen Action, New York Communities for Change and Make the Road Action — had been “at the forefront” of several of the governor’s signature accomplishments, including increasing the minimum wage and criminal justice reform.

“W.F.P. has always fought for the rights of unions and for all working families, and that will never change,” he said. “Our friends in labor are in a tight spot and we respect their decision.”

The governor, a second-term Democrat facing re-election in the fall, has been aggressive in fending off Ms. Nixon’s unexpectedly vigorous primary challenge, which was announced in mid-March, and has since garnered endorsements from a handful of liberal groups.

The most recent nod came early Friday, when Make the Road Action — a grass-roots immigrant rights group that receives ample funding from labor — said it would back Ms. Nixon because of “her strong progressive platform and her commitment to passing and implementing the full protections and supports that our communities need and deserve.”

The governor’s campaign said that no member of Mr. Cuomo’s administration was at the meeting on Friday, and characterized it as an internal dispute “between its founding labor unions and their organizing groups.”

“The governor stands with organized labor and will follow their lead,” said Abbey Fashouer, a campaign spokeswoman.

According to two people in the meeting, the governor’s funding threats went unspoken but still loomed large.

“You have the largest labor unions in the room who also have been our biggest funders arguing Cynthia should not get the W.F.P. line, which is a pretty forceful argument coming from your biggest funders,” said one participant, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting and for fear of angering Mr. Cuomo.

Among the labor leaders in attendance were leaders or representatives from Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union; the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; Communications Workers of America District 1; and the United Federation of Teachers, which collectively provide hundreds of thousands of dollars to the community groups.

Héctor Figueroa, president of Local 32BJ, and Dennis Trainor, vice president of C.W.A. District 1, confirmed their unions’ withdrawal from the Working Families Party, saying in a joint statement that they “fundamentally believe that endorsing Governor Cuomo is the most effective way to put the interest of working families first. “

“The latest developments show that the current leadership of the W.F.P. disagrees with that approach, and we have been unable to convince them otherwise,” they said, adding, “We are not attending tomorrow’s state committee meeting and will be pulling out of the New York State Working Families Party.”

The pressure in labor ranks comes as the W.F.P. is expected to meet in Albany on Saturday to consider endorsing Ms. Nixon, an educational advocate and actress who is making her first run for public office.

“This shows Cuomo will do absolutely anything to win except become a progressive,” said Rebecca Katz, a top adviser to Ms. Nixon.

On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Cuomo had appeared at a rally with a variety of labor leaders to present himself as their champion, and they as his ardent supporters.

“It is the union family,” Mr. Cuomo said. “When one of us is in trouble, we’re all in trouble. It’s solidarity. We stand together.”

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The Subway Is So Late, It’s Making New Yorkers Early

Still, just because on any given day the subway may offer an on-time surprise does not mean riders will be pleased. “Because then you hate that you’re there early!” said Adanna Roberts, a hair stylist who builds in an extra 30 minutes to travel from Brooklyn to work in Midtown Manhattan.

While delays and failures — broken-down trains, malfunctioning signals, sick passengers and track fires — are extensively tabulated, no one (perhaps unsurprisingly) keeps statistics on when the subway gets riders to their destinations on time.

“You make that sacrifice to get up extra early to be at work, and if then you get there early, nobody is going to recognize that — but if you’re late, it’s an issue,” said Eduardo Andrade, who lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and works as a custodian at Lincoln Center. He has rearranged his family’s life around the subway, making his two children go to bed an hour earlier so he can wake up earlier and give himself more time for the ride to Manhattan.

Subway riders have good reason to assume the worst. Despite an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars and an emergency turnaround plan heavily promoted by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who controls the subway, the system is still faltering — in January it fell to a new low with just 58.1 percent of all weekday trains arriving at stations on time. Weekends were not much better, with 64.7 percent of trains reaching their terminus on time, a nearly 10 percentage point drop from January 2017.

It is a reality to which New Yorkers have grown accustomed and around which they have adjusted their lives. Mr. Apter, the sightseeing guide, moved from Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, to Astoria, Queens, to shorten his commute to the attractions in Times Square where he spends so much of his time. But now, in anticipation of the increasingly fickle subway, Mr. Apter still gets up at the same time each morning as when he lived twice as far away.


“It’s kind of magical if you arrive precisely on time,” Ms. Hart said.

Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

“Of all the things that makes tour guides in New York City good, promptness is paramount,” Mr. Apter said. When his commute goes smoothly, that promptness leads to an early arrival — and a bit of a problem. “I don’t have an office where I can retreat to,” he said. To compensate, before he heads out to meet a group of visitors, he leans on his tour-guide knowledge of the city to identify churches or hotel lobbies where he can sit and wait.

At Sweet Corner Bakeshop in the West Village, where Ms. Hart works as a barista, the subway is responsible for ferrying the entire staff, from the baker to the chocolatier.

As the subway crisis spiraled and to avoid being late, Ms. Hart added a buffer of time to her commute from Bushwick, Brooklyn. But when the subway operated the way it was supposed to, Ms. Hart would sometimes arrive 30 minutes before the shop opened at 8 a.m. — only to shiver outside until the bakery’s muffin maker strolled up with the key. “It’s kind of magical if you arrive precisely on time,” she said.

But after spending too much time waiting in the bitter cold, Ms. Hart threatened to quit. To keep her from leaving, the owner sped up the bakery’s clock: Now the shop opens, the brioche bakes and coffee brews 15 minutes earlier, all to keep up with the failures of a subway system that New Yorkers feel they can no longer rely upon.

“Construction workers, bakers, nurses — everybody wakes up early in the morning, and they need a specific time to be there,” said Rodolfo Goncalves, an owner of the bakery, who noted that he has to pay workers extra for the earlier start.

For some professions, like teachers, nurses and home-health aides, where a late arrival is not acceptable and could even pose a risk to patients, being early is the only option. And looking for an alternative on the city’s other major mode of public transit is not necessarily the answer. New York’s public buses, which are operated by the same agency that oversees the subway, have achieved the distinction of having the slowest speeds of any large city in the country.

If Megan McCormick, a teacher in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, is late, her students are left lingering, waiting for class, she said, unless she scrambles to find someone to cover for her. “Every morning I feel panicked. By the time I get off the bus it is such a sense of relief that I am finally in control of when I get to work,” she said.

To cope, she has more than tripled the time she allots for what should be a 20-minute bus commute, even if that means getting there so early that the school is empty of children. In her dark classroom, she listens to a podcast — one morning, she tested out some new Play-Doh. “Might as well be Zen,” she said.

Some riders who have added time to their travels say there is a benefit to an early arrival. Dogan Baruh, 41, a real estate broker, no longer factors in a lunch break when he is booking apartment showings across the city because he assumes at some point during the day the subway will get him to an appointment sooner than expected and he’ll have a snack break. He adds 15 minutes of extra time to each journey, hopeful that he’ll find himself with time to kill. “The positive is I get to potentially finally eat lunch!” he said.

Mr. Emig, a bond trader who lives on Staten Island and is running as a Democrat to represent the 11th Congressional District, does much of his campaign emailing from the tiny benches in the cafeteria of the elementary school his twins attend in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where he sits after he arrives from his office in Manhattan. Surrounding him are other parents, folded into the child-size seats, similarly early, he said, looking at their phones until their children are dismissed.

“I remember a decade ago when you could more or less count on the subways to be on time most of the time,” Mr. Emig said. “Now, the worst part about it is just the not knowing, really.”

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Democrats in New York State Senate Appear Set to Reconcile


Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo with Senator Jeff Klein, who leads the Independent Democratic Conference, and Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who leads the main group of Democrats on a trip to Cuba in 2015.

Desmond Boylan/Associated Press

After years of Democratic infighting that has helped keep Republicans in control of the New York State Senate, two long-warring factions of Democratic lawmakers in Albany are on the brink of reunifying, according to five people familiar with the discussions.

At a closed-door meeting at a Manhattan steakhouse on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo asked the two rival Democratic leaders to consider reconciling immediately, according to people in the room and people briefed on the discussion.

Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who leads the main group of Democrats, and Senator Jeff Klein, who leads the breakaway group, the Independent Democratic Conference, appeared to tentatively agree. Ms. Stewart-Cousins asked to discuss the matter with her rank-and-file members and is expected to do so as early as Wednesday morning, before giving official approval.

The reunification would end one of the oddest political arrangements in the country, and in the history of New York State. In it, the breakaway conference, which is made up of eight Democratic state senators, has helped ensure Republican control of the State Senate.

The conference was formed during Mr. Cuomo’s first week as governor and has become a scourge of liberal activists across the state and a central talking point for the actress Cynthia Nixon in her current primary challenge to Mr. Cuomo.

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New York Envisions a State-Run Retirement Plan for Private Workers


The state budget that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to sign includes a program to create a state retirement option for private sector employees without 401(k)-like programs at work.

Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

New York is close to joining a growing list of states that are creating a retirement plan option for private sector employees who do not have access to 401(k)-like programs at work.

The New York program was included in Friday’s budget deal, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to sign. The plan would enable businesses to provide workers with access to Roth individual retirement accounts overseen by the state. An estimated 3.5 million private sector employees in New York work for employers that do not offer a pension, a 401(k) plan or another savings option, according to AARP, which has lobbied in support of the plans.

“For years, we have been working to develop and pass a retirement program that would give millions of New Yorkers the opportunity to save for their futures,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “In this year’s budget, we proposed and passed a common-sense, progressive reform that will strengthen our work force.”

Ten states, including New York, are on the verge of enacting such plans or already have them. The plans have been moving ahead even though Congress rolled back Obama-era rules meant to encourage states to create retirement programs for people without workplace savings accounts.

Oregon was the first state to begin rolling out its program last summer, and several other states are in varying stages of progress. Besides New York, they are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington, according to the Center for Retirement Initiatives at Georgetown University.

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Albany Strikes Deal on a Budget That Sidesteps Trump’s Tax Plan


Many of the elements in the massive $168 billion budget deal were scaled-back versions of promises Mr. Cuomo had laid out, as discussions on more divisive political issues were pushed back.

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

ALBANY — After months of promises to defy Washington and blaze a progressive trail, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday announced a deal on a new state budget that would grant New Yorkers some protection from the Republican-steered federal tax plan, pour a quarter-billion dollars into public housing projects and enact a raft of new sexual harassment policies.

The agreement, coming after several days of negotiations with little noticeable progress, was a victory for Mr. Cuomo, who is rumored to have presidential aspirations, and who made his scorn for President Trump’s policies — particularly the federal tax plan — a centerpiece of his State of the State and budget addresses in January, and in speeches ever since.

“We’re under attack by the federal government,” Mr. Cuomo said on Friday night, sitting in the ceremonial Red Room in the State Capitol.

As he had done for months, the governor singled out a cap on deductibility of state, local and property taxes, a major issue in his high-tax state, and something he referred to as “an arrow aimed at the economic heart of New York.”

Mr. Cuomo’s vivid rhetoric belied the more muted reality of the budget language, which provided for an optional employer-side payroll tax to replace an employee-side state income tax, and the ability for localities to establish charities to funnel property tax payments to schools, allowing such payments to be deductible on residents’ federal returns.

Mr. Cuomo seemed to acknowledge that his maneuvers could only do so much, saying his priority going forward would be to overturn that part of the new federal tax law.

“This provision hurts every New Yorker, period,” he said. “The ultimate solution is repeal.”

Many of the elements in the massive $168 billion budget deal were scaled-back versions of promises Mr. Cuomo had laid out over the past few months. Indeed, as budget negotiations — which are conducted behind closed doors between the governor and three top legislative leaders, out of sight of even other lawmakers — unfolded over the past week, it became increasingly clear that the Legislature would punt policy issues such as gun control or criminal justice reform to after the budget’s April 1 deadline, in favor of financial considerations. Republicans in the State Senate, control of which is expected to hotly contested this fall, had fought hard against any new taxes and fees and were able to claim a win on that account, as well as many deferred social policies.

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In Cuomo-Nixon Showdown, Black Votes Are an Early Flashpoint

Ms. Nixon, an education advocate and actress best known for her role in “Sex and the City,” has also personally been reaching out to community leaders, knowing she must crack Mr. Cuomo’s hold on the black vote — he scored 77 percent support in the race’s first poll — to have any chance at victory.

Black leaders in clergy, politics and the media are well aware of the courtship and savoring their newfound leverage.

“We’re free agents,” said the Rev. Johnnie Green Jr., the pastor of Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem, who hosted Mr. Cuomo on Sunday after he said he rejected a request the week before to introduce the governor at a sister church. “We’re like LeBron James in the hotel room waiting for the phone to ring.”

Senior administration officials say the governor’s recent activity has nothing to do with Ms. Nixon and everything to do with the state budget, due next week, where the governor is seeking to mobilize black support for some of the thorniest remaining issues, including on public housing and school funding. Mr. Cuomo has appeared at black churches during past budget seasons.

Mr. Miller, the pastor of Brown Memorial Baptist Church, said that after he hung up with Mr. Cuomo’s team, he sent text messages to another 30 black pastors across New York City to ask that they not reflexively acquiesce. “I requested that they think carefully about hosting the governor until he becomes responsive to our concerns,” Mr. Miller said, specifically citing minority and women contracting.

Mr. Cuomo has had a complex relationship with black leadership in the state dating back to his first failed run for governor, in 2002, when he challenged H. Carl McCall, then the state comptroller who was seeking to become New York’s first black governor, for the Democratic nomination.

But in recent years, black voters have provided him a bulwark of support. Mr. Cuomo’s last challenger, Zephyr Teachout, never penetrated Mr. Cuomo’s political standing in minority communities. She finished with an abysmal 14 percent of the vote in the Bronx.

“Clearly, Cynthia Nixon understands that if she can’t break through Andrew Cuomo’s African-American firewall, she has no shot at being competitive,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, a Cuomo ally.

Before she launched her campaign, Ms. Nixon gave a quick heads-up call to the Rev. Al Sharpton, the influential civil-rights leader and media figure. She also sat down privately with the Rev. Michael A. Walrond Jr., senior pastor at the 10,000-member First Corinthian Baptist Church in Central Harlem; she showed up to services unannounced the following Sunday. Bertha Lewis, president of the Black Institute and a longtime community activist, said Ms. Nixon also called her days before announcing a run to solicit her opinion.

The exact minute that Ms. Nixon announced her campaign on Twitter — 2:02 p.m. last Monday — she personally texted Elinor Tatum, the publisher and editor of the Amsterdam News, the historic black newspaper, to alert her to the news. Ms. Nixon granted her first sit-down interview to the paper.

“She understands how important the African-American vote is,” said Ms. Tatum. “And she is not taking it for granted.”

Ms. Nixon, who also attended services at a predominantly African-American church, Mount Pisgah Baptist in Brooklyn, on Sunday, is expected to follow up her call to Mr. Sharpton with a meal together soon at the famed Harlem soul-food restaurant Sylvia’s, likely at the same window table where Mr. Sharpton met separately with Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders as they ran for president.

Mr. Sharpton “will weigh in after he’s met with Ms. Nixon,” according to Rachel Noerdlinger, a spokeswoman for Mr. Sharpton. Mr. Sharpton has worked closely with Mr. Cuomo on criminal justice-matters, praising him at the governor’s mansion as recently as last month.


Even before Cynthia Nixon announced her candidacy last week at the Bethesda Healing Center in Brooklyn, she consulted with several black ministers and activists.

Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Not all of Ms. Nixon’s early maneuverings have played well.

She made her first stop in Brownsville, for instance, without alerting the area’s elected officials. Alicka Ampry-Samuel, the local Brooklyn councilwoman, called it “disrespectful.”

Ms. Ampry-Samuel said she still had not heard from Ms. Nixon or her team as of Friday but has spoken with the governor’s team multiple times in recent days, mostly about the state budget.

In addition to his private outreach, Mr. Cuomo has appeared alongside mostly black and Latino residents multiple times this month at New York City Housing Authority developments to decry their “filth” and threaten to declare a state of emergency.

Earlier this month, the governor met with a small group of influential black leaders in Albany about education equity funding, related to a proposal he made in January.

One of the attendees, Rev. Alfred L. Cockfield, II, executive pastor of God’s Battalion of Prayer Church in East Flatbush, got a call from Mr. Cuomo’s team afterward asking if the governor could appear at his pulpit.

Mr. Cockfield said he knew “it was strategic” for Mr. Cuomo, and that he experienced some pushback from some Democratic elected officials, but decided to let him speak anyway.

“It’s the first time any sitting governor came to our church. Why would I turn down that opportunity?” he said.

The governor’s speech was about closing Rikers Island, fixing public housing and equitable education funding — all issues tuned to appeal to an African-American audience, and potentially at stake in the state budget.

“It tells you he thinks there’s a vulnerability there,” said Bill Hyers, a senior strategist advising Ms. Nixon.

”The governor has overwhelming support in the African-American community but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t take any African-American votes for granted,” said Charlie King, an adviser to Mr. Cuomo who has helped with black outreach, “And I know that he won’t.”

Mr. Cuomo’s operation pointed to his track record for the black community, including increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 and issuing an executive order naming the state attorney general as a special prosecutor for police-related civilian deaths.

“Why in the world would we abandon him when throughout his time in office he’s never abandoned us?” Mr. Jeffries said.

Some black leaders are looking for more.

Mr. Green, president of a group of pastors named Mobilizing Preachers and Community, said he rejected Mr. Cuomo’s first request to introduce him at a black church a week ago in part because he is unhappy with the governor’s record on minority contracting. “Why should we continue to give him access to our pulpits?” he said in an interview earlier in the week.

But as he introduced Mr. Cuomo to on Sunday, he said, “Someone said wise men disagree but fools fall out.” He praised the governor for providing money to public housing and pushed him for more: “We ask Mr. Governor that you not stop there.”

Mr. Cuomo swayed and clapped as the congregation sang, he hugged and kissed members of the choir and he quoted scripture three times in his speech.

Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, who has been critical of Mr. Cuomo on minority contracting, said the governor’s team has begun reaching out to her almost daily about Vital Brooklyn, a $1.4 billion proposal from March 2017 to address poverty and violence, since it became clear Ms. Nixon might enter the campaign.

Another wrinkle is that Mr. Cuomo’s lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, is facing a challenge from Jumaane Williams, a black New York City councilman from Central Brooklyn. Shortly after Mr. Williams announced, it was floated that Mr. Cuomo was considering swapping Ms. Hochul for Lovely Warren, the mayor of Rochester, an African-American woman.

“Governor Cuomo generally is concerned about himself so I’ve found he treats people in those positions like chess pieces,” Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Cuomo has since said Ms. Hochul would be his running mate.

Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president who has been critical of Mr. Cuomo, leapt into the middle of the primary last Tuesday when he requested on Twitter that Ms. Nixon tour a Brooklyn public housing complex with him. “This campaign season gives us the chance to raise these issues,” he said.

It took Ms. Nixon all of 25 minutes to respond on Twitter: “I accept.”

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