Linda McMahon is stepping down as head of Small Business Administration to chair the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action, according to three people familiar with the move.
Trump allies have spent weeks searching for someone to chair the super PAC, which officials view as a key plank in the president’s reelection campaign. The president’s top aides believe they will need to raise around $1 billion, and say the super PAC will be a major part of the effort. Brian Walsh, America First Action’s president, declined to comment.
The president is expected to huddle with major donors on Saturday evening at Mar-a-Lago, according to two people familiar with the plans. Trump is planning to speak to reporters at 4 p.m. McMahon is joining the president at his private club this weekend.
Trump administration officials had long seen McMahon as a leading contender to replace Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has repeatedly angered the president, when he eventually steps down. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has also been eyeing the Commerce job and McMahon’s exit better positions him to replace Ross.
White House and SBA spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A longtime professional wrestling executive and former Republican Senate candidate, McMahon is an original member of Trump’s Cabinet, having been confirmed for the job in February 2017. She’s also one of just five women in the president’s Cabinet.
McMahon and her husband Vince built the company that would go on to become World Wrestling Entertainment, a large multinational corporation best known for creating a universe of brand name professional wrestlers who face off in tightly scripted televised events.
McMahon, who has known Trump for years, has kept a relatively low profile at SBA. Unlike other Trump administration Cabinet officials, she has not been dogged by scandal. Inside the White House, she’s seen as a loyal foot soldier. She regularly travels around the country to promote the president’s agenda, including recent trips to promote the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal.
For the PAC job, senior Republicans had been looking for someone with deep connections to the world of GOP donors — a profile fit by McMahon, who raised millions as a two-time Connecticut Senate candidate.
McMahon is expected to fill the vacancy created when Tommy Hicks Jr., a businessman and close ally of the Trump family, left the super PAC to become Republican National Committee co-chairman.
It’s unclear who will replace McMahon at the SBA. One possible candidate, according to administration officials, is Pradeep Belur, the agency’s chief of staff, who has taken on a broader portfolio in recent months. One administration official said Belur has left the impression among some Trump aides that he’s interested in the job.
Trump has often praised McMahon’s business prowess, calling her “one of the country’s top female executives” when he announced her nomination to lead the Small Business Administration in December 2016.
McMahon stepped down as CEO of WWE in 2009 to run for Senate in Connecticut. She lost to Richard Blumenthal. She ran again in 2012, but was bested by Chris Murphy.
Now is when the true bosses of major league baseball teams, the general managers, get to see if their off-season brilliance of player signings and acquisitions turn out, on the field, as well as they seemed to be in the planning stages, on paper.
Welcome to the 2019 baseball season. For the Mets, after one game, so far, so good.
If Brodie Van Wagenen is keeping score after today’s opening day game for his New York Mets, he’s accepting high-fives from the Wilpon family tonight after the Mets defeated the Washington Nationals in Washington, 2-0, behind his key acquisition.
Robinson Cano, acquired by Van Wagenen from the Seattle Mariners to be the number three hitter in the Mets lineup, supplied the offensive firepower, such as it was, to bring the Mets home to a 2-0 win this afternoon over the second best pitcher in baseball, Max Scherzer of the Nationals. Cano led the way with a first inning home run and a clutch single to the opposite field in the sixth inning, driving in both Mets runs to pave the way for the first win of the season for the best pitcher in baseball, Mets ace, Jacob deGrom.
Cano’s production led to the first win of the season for deGrom, he of the two-day old, ink not quite dried $137.5 million, five-year contract extension. After his Cy Young season in 2018, in which the Mets averaged 1.7 runs per game for him, the two runs Cano drove in must have felt like a deluge.
But, deGrom made those runs stand up, shutting down a solid Nationals lineup in front of a full house in D.C.
DeGrom finished his day, throwing six innings, allowing five hits, zero runs, zero walks, and 10 strikeouts. A dominating performance even if his command early in the game wasn’t at its peak.
“I made some good pitches when I needed to,” deGrom said. “I threw some sliders and changeups, especially later in the game. I didn’t have great command of my breaking pitches early on but I was able to battle.”
Last season, deGrom, finished only one game over .500, with a 10-9 record, as astounding a set of numbers for a Cy Young winner as has ever existed. He almost needed to shut out opposing teams to have a chance at getting a win. Even though his support today wasn’t much better, the presence of Cano, the former Yankee who is on a Hall of Fame track as one of the best hitting second basemen the game has seen. adds star power to a Mets lineup that can only look better because of his presence.
“Scherzer is one of the best out there,” said Cano after the game in discussing his home run in the first. “I was looking for a pitch over the plate. I was able to make contact with one right over the middle.”
DeGrom was thankful for his two runs but just as happy to get good defensive support from his mates.
“We had good plays in the field, behind me,” deGrom added. “I was nervous today. Once I get out there, I’m okay. But, I felt the pressure today with it being Opening Day.”
This was the first time Cano had played behind deGrom.
“DeGrom is so special,” Cano said. “It’s unbelievable how he can pitch out of tough situations. He’s fun to play behind.”
To top off the Brodie ratings of player acquisitions, the Mets new closer, the 6’3″, 165 lb. beanpole, Edwin Diaz, pitched a tidy and high-powered (hitting 99mph on the radar gun) last inning to close the matter out.
Brodie Van Wagenen was smiling at the end of the game.
Notes: Today’s outing by deGrom was his 30th straight start allowing 3 runs or less, a major league baseball record. Cano was the 10th player in Mets history to hit a home run in his first at bat with the team. Mets rookie first baseman, Pete (“don’t call me, Peter”) Alonzo got his first major league hit, a single in the eighth inning.
According to Andy Martino, a Mets beat reporter for the New York Daily News, the Mets have reached a deal with their National League Cy Young award winner, Jacob deGrom, on a contract extension.
DeGrom’s new contract calls for another five guaranteed years, with a no-trade option for $137.5 million. This deal is on top of the current one-year contract the pitcher signed for this upcoming season, in which the Mets are paying him $17 million.
DeGrom will receive a $10 million signing bonus, and the 25.6 million per year average when the $137.5 extension is added-on to his current $17 million deal for 2019 is in line with similar deals for club aces, such as Chris Sale of the Red Sox.
DeGrom will have a full no-trade clause and can opt out of the deal in 2022, while the Mets have a club option for $32.5 million in 2024.
“Honestly, I really have been trying not to think about it,” he said Saturday after his final Grapefruit League appearance before starting Opening Day against the Nationals. “Yeah, I said I wanted to get something done, but it’s getting close to Opening Day and I think my focus is on that right now.”
Noah Syndergaard also had begun politicking for deGrom, and while he couldn’t get the team’s trip to Syracuse canceled, at least he can be happy about this.
“Jake is the best pitcher in baseball right now,” Syndergaard said. “I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth and I want to keep him happy so when it becomes time to reach free agency, he stays on our side and pitches for the Mets. I just think they should quit all this fuss and pay the man already.”
Up until last season, deGrom had been represented by current Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen at CAA. DeGrom opted to stick with that agency, and Jeff Berry handled negotiations with Mets brass this offseason.
DeGrom pitched to a brilliant 1.70 ERA last season, striking out 269 batters in 217 innings.
The deal is pending a physical. He is in NY right now for physical while the rest of the Mets team is in Syracuse, New York, the home of their Triple A minor league team.
Federal prosecutors in New York and California have charged celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti with extortion and bank and wire fraud.
In the New York case, Avenatti was charged with attempting to extort more than $20 million in payments from Nike by threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.ADVERTISEMENT
Avenatti, 48, had previously represented adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen.
Nicholas Biase, spokesman for the Southern District of New York, told ESPN in a statement Monday that “the defendant was arrested earlier today and is in custody. He is expected to be presented in Manhattan federal court [Monday] afternoon.” The Southern District tweeted that it would hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m. ET to discuss the matter.
According to the New York complaint, Avenatti last week threatened to hold a news conference on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call and the start of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at which he would announce allegations of misconduct by Nike employees.
“Avenatti stated that he would refrain from holding the press conference and harming Nike only if Nike made a payment of $1.5 million to a client of Avenatti’s in possession of information damaging to Nike … and agreed to ‘retain’ Avenatti and [an unidentified co-conspirator] to conduct an ‘internal investigation’ — an investigation that Nike did not request, for which Avenatti and [the co-conspirator] demanded to be paid, at a minimum, between $15 [million] and $25 million,” the complaint said.
Federal prosecutors identified the co-conspirator as “an attorney licensed to practice in the state of California, and similarly known for representation of celebrity and public figure clients.”
The complaint says Avenatti’s client is a “coach of an amateur athletic union (‘AAU’) men’s basketball program based in California.”
“For a number of years, the AAU program coached by Client-1 had a sponsorship agreement with Nike pursuant to which Nike paid the AAU program approximately $72,000 annually,” the complaint says.
In the California case, Avenatti was accused of embezzling a client’s money to pay his own expenses and debts — as well as those of his coffee business and law firm. The U.S. attorney’s office also said he defrauded a bank by using phony tax returns to obtain millions of dollars in loans.
Federal prosecutors announced the charges against Avenatti on Monday less than an hour after he tweeted that he was holding a news conference on Tuesday morning.
According to the complaint, the co-conspirator contacted Nike and stated that he wished to speak to representatives of the company and that the discussion should occur in person, not over the phone, as it pertained to a sensitive matter. During a meeting with Nike’s lawyers in New York on March 19, Avenatti stated that the AAU coach, whose contract Nike had recently decided not to renew, had evidence that “one or more Nike employees had authorized and funded payments to the families of top high school basketball players and/or their families and attempted to conceal those payments, similar to conduct involving a rival company [Adidas] that had recently been the subject of a criminal prosecution in this District. Avenatti identified three former high school players in particular, and indicated that his client was aware of payments to others as well.”
According to prosecutors, Avenatti demanded that Nike pay his client $1.5 million for any claims the coach might have regarding Nike’s decision not to renew his team’s contract, and that Nike must hire Avenatti and the co-conspirator to conduct an internal investigation, with the stipulation that if the company hired another firm to conduct the inquiry, it would still have to pay Avenatti and the co-conspirator “at least twice the fees of any other firm hired.”
“At the end of the meeting, Avenatti and [the co-conspirator] indicated that Nike would have to agree to accept those demands immediately or Avenatti would hold his press conference,” the complaint says.
Later that day, Nike’s attorneys contacted the co-conspirator to tell him that the company needed more time. Avenatti and the co-conspirator agreed to give Nike two days to consider the offer. Nike’s attorneys contacted the Southern District of New York and made prosecutors aware of Avenatti’s threats and extortion demands.
On March 20, one of Nike’s attorneys sent the co-conspirator a text message to schedule a telephone call later that day. The call was recorded and monitored by law enforcement. During a three-way call later that day, Avenatti reiterated that he expected to “get a million five for our guy” and be “hired to handle the internal investigation.”
“If you don’t wanna do that, we’re done here,” Avenatti told Nike’s attorneys.
“I’m not f—— around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games,” Avenatti said during the call, according to the complaint. “You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem. And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing. A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me. I’m just being really frank with you. So if that’s what, if that’s what’s being contemplated, then let’s just say it was good to meet you, and we’re done. And I’ll proceed with my press conference tomorrow.
“I’m not f—— around with this thing anymore. So if you guys think that you know, we’re gonna negotiate a million five, and you’re gonna hire us to do an internal investigation, but it’s gonna be capped at 3 or 5 or 7 million dollars, like let’s just be done. … And I’ll go and I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap. But I’m not f—— around.”
During a meeting with Nike’s attorneys the next day, Avenatti said that he and his co-conspirator would require a $12 million retainer to be paid immediately and to be “deemed earned when paid,” with a minimum guarantee of $15 million in billing hours and a maximum of $25 million.
When one of Nike’s attorneys asked Avenatti if the sneaker company could pay one lump sum and not hire them to conduct the internal investigation, Avenatti said, “If [Nike] wants to have one confidential settlement and we’re done, they can buy that for twenty-two and a half million dollars and we’re done. … Full confidentiality, we ride off into the sunset.”
Avenatti told Nike’s attorneys: “I just wanna share with you what’s going to happen if we don’t reach a resolution. … As soon as this becomes public, I am going to receive calls from all over the country from parents and coaches and friends and all kinds of people. This is always what happens. And they are all going to say, ‘I’ve got an email or a text message.’ Now, 90 percent of that is going to be bullshit because it’s always bullshit 90 percent of the time, always, whether it’s R. Kelly or Trump. The list goes on and on. But 10 percent of it is actually going to be true, and then what’s going to happen is that this is going to snowball. That’s going to be the Washington Post, the New York Times, ESPN, a press conference, and the company will die — not die, but they are going to incur cut after cut after cut after cut, and that’s what’s going to happen as soon as this thing becomes public.
On March 21, Avenatti tweeted a link to a story about an Adidas employee being sentenced to nine months in prison for his role in a pay-for-play scheme to send high-profile recruits to Adidas-sponsored programs. Avenatti included the remark: “Something tells me that we have not reached the end of this scandal. It is likely far far broader than imagined …”
Marty Noble, whose capacity to report on baseball and write artful prose about it was surpassed only by his love for the sport, died on Sunday evening in Florida at a ballgame, a family member said.
Noble was a mainstay on New York baseball coverage at Newsday for more than two decades and shaped the way the paper approached his favorite game. He was 70.
Noble grew up in the Bronx and was a college basketball player, but he was best known as a source of information and perspective on the baseball team in Queens. He chronicled the Mets’ rise in the 1980s and their ups and downs in the 1990s. He developed close relationships with players, front office executives and support people. Noble was on either a first-name or nickname basis with an A-list that included Tom Seaver, Whitey Ford, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and David Wright.
The man whom fellow writers considered a wordsmith began his reporting career in New Jersey at the Herald News in 1970 and moved to the Bergen Record in 1972, joining the baseball beat there in 1974.
He arrived at Newsday in 1981. During his early years, the paper had beat writers switch beats during the season, so he went back and forth between the Yankees and Mets. He covered the Mets exclusively from 1990 to 2004 and later worked for MLB.com.
He was widely recognized for decades worth of scoops, from his days with Billy Martin’s Yankees to his seasons with Bobby Valentine’s Mets. When the Mets were flailing in 1999 and replaced their entire coaching staff during a Subway Series against the Yankees, it was Noble who came up with the story a day before the club made its announcement.
He covered the Mets-Braves game in Atlanta on July 4, 1985, that went 19 innings and lasted 6 hours and 10 minutes.
Long before baseball discovered analytics, Noble was a devotee of numbers, and he often used them in his stories and Sunday columns. He was a strong devotee of the Baseball Hall of Fame, usually attending induction weekend festivities even when he was not assigned to cover them.
His ability to dig for stories and find unusual angles became a model for a generation of baseball writers, many of whom wrote for him in his most recent role as editor of the program for the annual New York Baseball Writers’ Association of America dinner.
In the most recent edition, Noble expounded for several pages on some of his favorite things in the game. That list was long and eclectic, reflecting his encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, especially New York baseball, and his passions for storytelling and the newspaper craft itself.
He maintained his sharp reporting instincts when he later wrote for the major leagues’ digital platform. He covered the Mets for MLB.com and also compiled numerous extremely detailed and engaging obituaries.
He prepared those long before his subjects died, interviewing people who were puzzled by the process. He occasionally spoke about the time he called Ford about a contemporary and explained that the fellow was not yet dead but that his website wanted to have something ready for when the day did arrive. Ford wondered if his own obituary had been prepared yet. Noble told him it had, and Ford offered some additional information.
If there was anything that captured Noble’s heart as much as the sport and his family, it was music. He had encyclopedic knowledge and a passionate devotion to all kinds of music, particularly early rock. His email address was “dw5254,” representing “doo wop” and two of his favorite baseball seasons.
The club has not commented, though Astros owner Jim Crane said on Friday that both sides were talking about a contract and that any extension would likely have to be finished before the club breaks camp on Sunday.
“I don’t think anything is final, but if it’s going to get done, it’s going to get done before we get out of here,” Crane said. “He doesn’t really like to do it during the season, but that could change, too. There’s interest on both sides, so we’ll see what happens.”
Verlander, 36, was acquired by the Astros on Aug. 31, 2017, and helped them win their first World Series that year, when he was named ALCS Most Valuable Player. Verlander went 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA last year and led the AL in strikeouts (290) and quality starts (26), finishing second in the AL Cy Young race to the Rays’ Blake Snell.
Set to become a free agent after the coming season, Verlander said last month that he wasn’t dwelling on free agency, but he expressed happiness about pitching in Houston.
“The city, the fans, my teammates, the organization from top to bottom — from Mr. Crane all the way down to the locker room — stuff has made my transition easy and joyful,” Verlander said. “I felt accepted right away, and I really enjoyed my time here. That’s a testament to all those people.”
The Syracuse Orangemen and St. John’s Red Storm just suffered opening round losses in the NCAA tournament, so March Madness came into those two schools like a lion but disappeared in 40 minutes last night with nary a whimper, for the legendary basketball programs used to greater successes in the past.
The coaches of these programs, the guys who made the programs legendary in the first place, Jim Boeheim, the Hall of Famer for his coaching, and Chris Mullin, who was a Hall of Fame player at St. John’s but has yet to prove he has the same skills as a head coach, are now under fire, from alums and from the media who cover the schools.
Boeheim, 74, has spent his entire adult life at Syracuse University as a student, player, assistant coach or head coach for 58 consecutive years, beginning in 1962. He’s been leading the Orange for 46 years, guiding them to ten Big East regular season championships, five Big East Tournament championships, and 33 NCAA Tournament appearances, including five Final Four appearances and three appearances in the national title game. In those games, the Orange lost to Indiana in 1987 on a last-second jump shot by Keith Smart, and to Kentucky in 1996, before defeatingKansas in 2003 with All-AmericanCarmelo Anthony.
Mullin, one of the greatest players in NBA history and, the greatest player ever to play at St. John’s, has been leading the Red Storm since 2016, taking over a moribund program that had not won an NCAA tournament game since 2000 and whose best years were in the 1980s, when Chris Mullin was playing for the legendary Lou Carnesecca.
With two years left on his contract, Mullin fully plans on fulfilling his deal to lead his alma mater.
Mullin just led St. John’s to its first winning season in four years, leading the Red Storm (21-13) to its first NCAA Tournament in five years. But many (mostly in the local NYC media) believe more was expected this season than finishing 8-10 in the Big East and losing a play-in game in the tournament.
His top two players, Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron, could go pro after they both tested the NBA draft waters last spring. Marvin Clark II will graduate. Next year’s team may look very different.
So, the wolves are out for these two legends.
What would you do, if you were running these programs? Let us know, below.
University of Minnesota head basketball coach, Richard Pitino, the 35-year old son of legendary coach, Rick Pitino, will never admit to getting a little more satisfaction than usual from today’s surprise win over the heavily-favored Louisville Cardinals, but you know he is dancing the two-step inside his head and his heart.
The satisfaction he is undoubtedly feeling comes from his 10th seeded underdog Gophers winning a huge opening round NCAA tournament game over the seventh-seed Cardinals, truly a landmark victory for Minnesota, never known as a basketball school, let alone a power in the sport.
But, the other reason Richard Pitino is doing his little dance is because of who he and his kids defeated this afternoon. The same school that fired young Pitino’s father two years ago after scandals in the athletic department and within the basketball program were, in part, blamed on his father’s malfeasance. To this day, senior Pitino denies any knowledge of what was transpiring around him but, school administrators had to blame somebody. Pitino, a Hall of Fame coach who has won two NCAA titles with Kentucky in 1996 and Louisville in 2013, along with head football coach, Bobby Petrino, were the scapegoats.
Younger Pitino’s Minnesota team defeated the Cardinals, 86-76, thereby busting everyone’s brackets on Day One. But the real storyline of this game remained the Pitino story, as much as the Minnesota coach tried to deflect interest in it.
And, now, Minnesota awaits the winner of the Michigan State-Bradley game, to decide which team will advance to the sweet 16. Nothing could be as sweet for the Pitino family than today’s victory over Louisville.
The kid from Akron, Ohio, LeBron James, is a generational talent and courageous athlete who has been an interesting guy to interview and be around. Nobody in sports has been more focused on success and championship missions than LeBron, unless your name is Michael Jordan or Bill Russell.
But, the more exposed the public persona of LeBron James becomes through his broadcasting projects, urban works, and his game time demeanor, such as his not participating in team huddles at timeouts, the less I’m appreciating him. Now 34 years old, he’s projecting a “get off my effing lawn” kind of approach around his teammates and the kids who make up the majority of the NBA, these days.
LeBron sees himself, and rightfully so, on the Mount Rushmore of the NBA, in fact, of sports history. But, as an increasing number of NBA free agent stars are publicly pronouncing no interest in playing on the same team as the ball dominant James, a little of his monument gets chipped away, in my view.
LeBron James, the athlete and civic leader, particularly in his hometown of Akron, does belong on Rushmore. It’s the other James, the aging, evolving, teammate/curmudgeon version of LBJ, that needs to become more aware of how he’s projecting to a society which looks to bring down idolatry.
Cory Booker is running high on my list for POTUS…Any politician who played major college football and can make an inside cut along the sideline and add YAC’s (Yards After Catch) by making a future NFL star, Todd Lyght of Notre Dame look silly, gets my attention. He also found the seam on his second catch, a talent only future presidents and NFL tight ends, can develop.
Booker played football at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan (that’s the whole name) in New Jersey, where he saw reps at both defensive back and wide receiver/tight end. When Booker was there, he was a sought-after recruit.
If Booker were a recruit now, he’d probably be a four-star.
Booker didn’t play football until his freshman year of high school. As a senior in 1986, he was named the Gatorade New Jersey Football Player of the Year, and also earned a spot on theUSA Today All-USA high school team as a defensive back. That year, he caught 46 passes for 589 yards and six touchdowns, and he made 53 solo tackles and nine interceptions as a safety. He was an AP all-state DB in high school, too.
Booker ended up signing with Stanford, where he played tight end. His decision was mostly focused on academics instead of football.
“I’ll never forget that that year, U.S. News & World Report academically ranked the colleges and they ranked Stanford over Harvard and Yale as the number one academic school in the country,” Booker has said. “That sealed it for me. I was like, ‘If I have a chance to get a football scholarship to the top academic school, I’m going to take that opportunity,’ because even back then, I realized that football was going to be my ticket and not my destination.”
Before he signed, his recruiters included Duke’s Steve Spurrier, Notre Dame’s Lou Holtz, and even former president Gerald Ford, who wanted Booker to play at his alma mater, Michigan. Because he played defensive back, receiver, and tight end, it’s fair to guess Booker would have been listed as an athlete as a recruit. He appears to have had serious offers from Michigan and Notre Dame, and he racked up accolades in a state that now produces a good number of blue-chips. Four stars seems reasonable.