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President Donald Trump

Debra Bowling of Pasta Pasta talks to County Executive Steve Bellone. Photo by Kyle Barr

This past weekend, President Donald Trump (R) was in Suffolk County, raising money for this reelection. During his time on Long Island, he called requests for financial aid amid the pandemic a bailout, repeating some of the language he used two years in response to Puerto Rico’s request for financial aid after Hurricane Maria.

“I couldn’t disagree with this more,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said today on a conference call with reporters. “We need federal disaster assistance to respond to, and recover from, COVID-19.”

Bellone said the county abided by guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and that it shut down its economy to protect the health of its population, lowering the death toll at the cost of the economy.

Approaching an argument the president has made against the reaction to the murder by police of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, Bellone suggested that the lack of financial support from the federal government would be a form of defunding the police, taking away salaries from public health workers and removing the financial support necessary for the safe return of students to in-person learning this fall.

“This should have nothing to do with politics,” he argued. “We are still in the middle of fighting a pandemic.”

The county executive urged the federal government to provide vital financial resources to fund these recovery efforts.

“When President Trump talks about federal disaster assistance as a bailout, this is flat out wrong,” Bellone said. The money he has requested, including during a recent trip to Washington, DC, he argued will pay for police officers. Bellone also pointed out that Long Island has provided ample financial resources to the federal government during more prosperous years through tax dollars.

By taking away state and local property tax deductions, the federal government has added billions to what Long Island sends to Washington as a region every year, Bellone said.

“The notion of a bailout suggests we did something wrong in Suffolk County,” the county executive continued. “The fact of the matter is, we all did our jobs here.”

Viral Numbers

Separately, Bellone said Suffolk County has managed to keep illnesses and deaths down in the public health battle against COVID-19.

In the last day, the number of people who have tested positive for the virus was 55 out of a total of 5,030 people who received a test. The rate of just over 1 percent is tracking with the positive tests for the last few weeks and is well below the 5 percent threshold schools have for reopening.

The number of residents who tested positive for the antibody to COVID-19 stands at 24,392.

Hospitalizations, meanwhile, continued to be well below the worst of the pandemic, when the health care system strained under the weight of sick residents.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 stands at 33, which is an increase of 2. The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit was three.

Hospital bed occupancy stood at 72 percent overall and at 67 percent in the ICU.

The number of people who have died from complications related to the virus stands at 1,998. Four people were discharged the hospital in the last day.

Photo by Rita J. Egan 2018

Frustrated by a Veterans Affairs office that has denied his repeated requests to conduct flag planting at Suffolk County’s two national cemeteries over Memorial Day weekend, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is asking President Donald Trump (R) to get involved.

“I’m asking for his support once again on an incredibly important issue in this moment,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters.

Bellone thanked U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) and Trump for their help in securing personal protective equipment for the county and for helping to ensure that the county can tap into the municipal liquidity fund, which will allow the county to provide temporary property tax relief until July 15.

Without help from the president, Bellone said he is “afraid that a tradition that goes back a quarter of a century will end this Memorial Day weekend.”

Even if the county can’t place flags at Calverton National Cemetery and Long Island National Cemetery, Bellone and the county plan to place flags at 15 cemeteries. The County Executive is still looking for volunteers, who can sign up through his facebook page at facebook.com/SteveBellone. He is also looking for a donation of 3,500 8×12 inch or 12 x 18 inch flags in good condition.

Separately, the county executive indicated that Suffolk County residents shouldn’t expect fireworks displays in July to celebrate Independence Day.

“We know reopening our economy safely and being able to sustain that is directly connected to keeping our curve flat,” Bellone said. “Opening back up to mass gatherings” which would include July 4th fireworks “would undermine our goals.”

Viral Numbers

Hospitalizations continue to decline. The number of people in Intensive Care Units has declined by 29 through May 19 to 129, which is the “largest decline the county has seen” in a while, Bellone said.

The number of people who are hospitalized was 453, which is a decline from two days earlier, when the number was 497.

In the past day, 53 people have come home from the hospital.

The number of deaths due to complications from COVID-19 rose by 11 to 1,802.

The number of people who tested positive for the virus increased by 142 over the last day, rising to 38,553. That doesn’t include the 11,461 people who have tested positive for antibodies to the virus.

Stony Brook Update

Stony Brook is cutting back the hours of its drive-through testing site in the South P lot. It will be open from 8 a..m until 6 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. Residents must make appointments in advance through the New York State Department of Health Hotline, at 888-364-3065 or at coronavirus.health.nygov/covid-19-testing. The site will not accept walk ins.

Finally, America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer and Apollo Theater Competition Grand Prize Winner Christian Guardino will perform tonight at 8 p.m. at the entrance to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

The performance is for hospital personnel only.

The musical tribute will include a light show.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. Flie photo by Alex Petroski

Thousands of masks have come to Suffolk County over the past two days courtesy of the White House, both from purchases and donations.

After U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) put out a tweet asking for help for Suffolk County, where the number of positive diagnosis for COVID-19 continues to climb above 10,000, a member of the President Donald Trump (R) family connected with County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The county executive, who had run out of his supplies of personal protective equipment, purchased 150,000 surgical masks.

On Sunday night,  Trump announced that he would ship 200,000 coveted n95 masks to Suffolk County, which came from a federal procurement collection, said Zeldin.

“For the n95 masks to come in without a charge helps all of those local entities laying out a lot of cash at the moment,” Zeldin said.

Zeldin is continuing to reach out to other resources around the country, hoping to secure hospital gowns, among other equipment. Indeed, Zeldin spoke earlier today with the Ambassador to Iceland, who is “working the phones to see if he can help the county procure gowns.”

The 1st district representative said he believes the timing of his tweet seeking assistance for Suffolk County “connected with Americans who may not even live in New York, but who were feeling the spirit as fellow Americans to do whatever they can.”

As for ventilators, Zeldin indicated that the White House is likely to respond to any requests for additional equipment with a question about the location and use of the 4,000 ventilators the federal government already sent.

“It appears [the ventilators from the federal stock pile] haven’t been deployed yet,” Zeldin said. “If you went back to the White House right now and said, ‘I need another ventilator,’ it would be a fair question to be asked back, ‘Where are the ventilators that we sent you?’”

Zeldin said he understands the plan at the state level to increase the number of ventilators as the state prepares for any sudden increase in demand, adding he wouldn’t expect the state to provide a map of where every ventilator is located,  but he does believe an accounting of the life saving equipment would help the White House respond to any further requests.

Zeldin said putting together the location of ventilators in Suffolk County is, “something that [Bellone’s] office is working proactively on to identify. It appears that they know where every ventilator is in the county. They were working to obtain additional information beyond that and hopefully will yield some additional intelligence that helps in the process.”

Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) again today sharing he is optimistic New York could be hitting the apex of the virus, the number of cases on Long Island continue to grow as testing continues.

As of this morning, Bellone said the number of positive tests in Suffolk County for the virus had climbed to 13,487, which is an increase of over 1,000.

“We’re seeing a big increase in the number of people testing positive,” Bellone said.

The hospitalization rate, however, increased at a much slower pace than it had prior to Sunday as well. The number of people in the hospital with the virus stands at 1,463, which is up 26 patients, with 546 residents in the Intensive Care Unit, an increase of six patients.

“For the second day in a row, we’ve had a modest increase in the number of hospitalizations,” Bellone said “That is a good sign.”

Another positive piece of news, Bellone said, is that 63 people have left the hospital who had Covid-19.

These encouraging signs mean that the social distancing and New York Pause, which Cuomo extended until April 29, are working.

They do not, however, indicate that “we take our foot off the pedal,” Bellone said. “The worst thing is to see positive news and decide we can start adjusting our life back to normal. Then, we would see a rise in cases again and, instead of a plateau, we would go back up. We do not want to see that happen.”

As of today, Suffolk County had 710 hospital beds available, including 65 ICU beds.

The number of people who have died with coronavirus continues to rise. Bellone reported an additional 24 people who have died from complications related to coronavirus, which brings the total to 199. He expects those numbers may be under reported and the county may have crossed above 200 deaths.

Bellone continued to urge people who have recovered from a confirmed case of Covid-19 to donate blood plasma, which is rich in virus-fighting antibodies, to the Red Cross, to the New York Blood Center or to the Mount Sinai health system, which are available online at NYBloodCenter.org or MountSinai.org.

The Suffolk County Police Department continues to respond to calls about residents who are not complying with social distancing the New York Pause. Yesterday, the police department had 24 calls, of which three were non compliant. Once the officers spoke to those who were not compliant, they immediately changed their behavior and the officers didn’t have to issue any tickets.

Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said some of those who were not complying with the ongoing social distancing rules have been in the hard-to-reach immigrant community. The police department is going out with signage and fliers. This morning,  Hart participated in a radio show with La Fiesta “to make sure we’re communicating.” The police department has also reached out to community leaders to ask for their help.

To reach younger people who may not be complying, the police department has also used social media. Over the weekend,  Hart partnered with school superintendents to do a robocall to ask families to follow the current public health mandates.

As of this morning, 56 sworn officers and six civilians had contracted COVID-19.

Slurp Ramen in Port Jefferson has set up a unique means of serving customers, with a large screen in between workers and patrons. Photo by Kyle Barr

Local business owners are looking at an uncertain future due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis here on Long Island.

Due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order that shut down nonessential businesses last Saturday in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, entrepreneurs and others are worried if they will be able to survive the financial blow. With bills due at the beginning of the month and with no new income coming in, many are calling on the state and the federal government for help.

Indu Kaur, the director of operations of The Meadow Club, looks at blueprints of new the building in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Kyle Barr

On Tuesday, Congress and the President Donald Trump (R) administration finally reached a $2 trillion agreement to assist people during the ongoing crisis. The new bill includes one-time direct payments to residents of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year or $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. It also includes a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. Meanwhile, for larger industries the bill includes $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to bail them out as revenue has severely dropped.

Still, the question remains of how small local businesses will remain intact or even be able to open their doors again as the crisis ebbs.

Indu Kaur, director of operations of The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station, said, “This is a burden my father and I are trying to figure out, just like everyone else,”

A family of restaurateurs who recently took over The Harbor Grill had plans to open their third restaurant this month. In addition, The Meadow Club was set to reopen after being closed due to a fire in 2018. Kaur said the ongoing health crisis has put both openings on hold.

In the meantime, she said, The Curry Club in East Setauket is taking take-out and delivery orders.

“We had to lay off our staff,” she said. “There are still things like rent, insurance and utility bills that we have to worry about.”

When asked about the recent virus rescue bil from the federal government, Kaur said “it was great news and a good first step. “Many of us are suffering financially right now.”

She also said she is hopefully that Suffolk County can eventually do something similar to help business owners.

Currently, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering economic injury disaster loans to affected businesses. Funds come directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the maximum unsecured loan amount is $25,000.

Kaur said she doesn’t think that is a viable option for her and other business owners.

“I’m not sure we can take out one more loan on what we already have,” she said. “For others there might be no other option.”

Last week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the launch of the Business Recovery Unit, a component of the county’s Business Response Plan, to address concerns and questions that businesses have amid the coronavirus outbreak. Businesses are asked to complete a comprehensive survey on the county’s website (www.suffolkcountyny.gov).

In a conference call March 23, Bellone said that, with several hundred surveys completed, over 4,000 workers were indicated as laid off or furloughed.

“We keep getting calls and the numbers are going up; we are getting calls from workers who are self-employed who are in the same boat,” Bellone said.

In the new federal relief package, furloughed workers will have their salaries replaced for four months, getting whatever amount the state provides in unemployment plus a $600 add-on per week. Gig workers such as Uber drivers are included in that as well.

“There are still things like rent, insurance and utility bills that we have to worry about.”

Indu Kaur

In an effort to help business owners, New York State Republicans sent Cuomo a COVID-19 action plan that includes extending the payments of monthly sales tax by 90 days, making available no-interest loans immediately to entities that face a dramatic decrease in business and eliminating penalties for late payments of business and property taxes, among other things.

Similarly, over 17,600  people signed a Change.org petition titled Save Small Business Before It’s Too Late. It also called on the city, state and federal governments to take the necessary steps to save local businesses.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, creating jobs, generating tax revenue and providing valuable services,” said New York City Councilman Mark Gjonaj (D), who started the petition.

Lenore Paprocky, president of the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, said, while a lot of businesses are hurting, she is grateful how everyone is willing to come together and help fellow entrepreneurs.

“It’s difficult right now but we want to keep these businesses afloat,” she said.

The chamber has come up with a list of local businesses that are offering catering/takeout and automotive services.

Paprocky said they are trying to stay optimistic amid the ongoing shutdown, and she hopes elected officials can hash something out to help them.

“The future is uncertain, but we need to stay positive and work together to get through this,” the president of the chamber said.

The White House

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I want the weakest possible president in 2020.

As a representative democracy, the United States uses a system of governance that relies on checks and balances. Everything about the history of the country makes it clear that a collection of leaders, each with limited power, should reflect the diverse nature of the country, with states that have small populations getting equal representation in the Senate.

Whenever one of the three branches of government oversteps its bounds, the other two have the opportunity to keep that one in check. If, for example, the executive branch, through the president of the United States, takes actions that the legislative or executive branches find objectionable or questionable, Congress or the Supreme Court can hold that president accountable.

So, how do we ensure those checks and balances? Where do we find exactly the right kind of weak president who can do just his or her job without trying to tell the courts what to do or legislate new laws favorable to the officeholder?

Most presidents, including every candidate who seems to be running now, appear to be convinced that he or she will be a strong leader with a vision for the country that takes us to greater heights or that makes us a better nation.

That’s lovely, but no president can do it alone. The government should be a team effort, pulling together people with a drive to contribute to the world through public service and to represent not only personal opinions, but the values, goals and concerns of the entire nation.

That seems almost impossible, given the divided nature of the country as we enter the 2020 election, right? Someone is always winning and someone is always losing.

That doesn’t have to be the case if a president sees and understands the limits of their power.

While this may seem like a direct rebuke of President Donald Trump (R), it is not. If Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), who seems to be gaining momentum with each passing primary, wins the Democratic nomination and then becomes president, I don’t want him to be powerful, either.

Some of his ideas, like free college and Medicaid for all, seem compelling on the surface, but many Democrats, Republicans and Independents wonder how exactly he’ll pay for all of those ideas. I enjoy reading dystopian fiction, like “1984,” “The Giver,” and “Fahrenheit 451,” to name a few. The conclusions of all of them are that utopia doesn’t work and big government creates even bigger problems, particularly for the individual.

The idea of Medicaid for All may seem appealing because of the frustration so many people feel with their medical insurance, until they imagine the bureaucratic machine known as the federal government making decisions about their medical coverage. Many of us want to make informed choices.

That brings me back to the choice for president. In the next eight months or so, as we prepare for the onslaught of advertisements telling us how and why the other candidate may ruin our lives, We the People can do something about it. If we truly believe a Democrat will win the White House, we can vote for Republicans in Congress. If we believe Trump will continue to share his inspirational Twitter messages wishing everyone well — just a bit of sarcasm here — we should vote Democratic in all the other races.

I don’t want Sanders expanding government and running up a tab that even higher taxes seem incapable of paying, while I also don’t want Trump getting a free pass to follow his impulses where they take him and the rest of the country. For me, the best 2020 choice is a weak and controlled president.

A throng of Trump supporters rallies in front of Roger’s Frigate Feb. 2 to support a banner the Village of Port Jefferson has said is against the code. Photo by Gerard Romano

For a village that has largely tried to stay out of the national political arena, said circus has come knocking in a big way the past few weeks. A banner stretched over the second floor above a premier Port Jeff shop takes the official motto of the United States, “In God We Trust,” instead replaces “God” with “Trump,” hung to support the president during the impeachment trial.

A throng of Trump supporters rallies in front of Roger’s Frigate Feb. 2 to support a banner the Village of Port Jefferson has said is against the code. Photo by Courtney Biondo

More than a week after the owner of Roger’s Frigate building, George Wallis, hung the sign reading “In Trump We Trust,” well over 50 presidential supporters rallied in front of the ice cream and candy shop Feb. 2 to show their solidarity for the business and President Donald Trump (R). Village of Port Jefferson officials had ordered that the banner be removed, saying the owner did not even apply for a permit to hang the sign.

People at the rally came with large American and “Trump 2020” flags, and many heads were adorned with the red “Make America Great Again” caps. Several shouted slogans first heard during the 2016 campaign, such as “Build the Wall” and “Drain the Swamp.”

Supporters of the president took the village’s order to remove the banner as a sign of bias, with many saying such an act was suppressing free speech. Wallis even came down to stand alongside the protesters in support.

The rally was joined by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) who publicly showed support for the sign and assailed the village for its stance against it.

Village Attorney Brian Egan said the business could be fined up to $2,000 if they did not remove the sign five days after it received an order to remedy from the building and planning department. Though the owner could be fined for each day he keeps up the sign after those initial five, Egan said that would be determined by a village judge. He added the total of $2,000 has been thrown around too easily, and as of now they are ticketing it for the first five days, and then after another five days. 

“The goal of village code … is compliance, not punishment,” he said. 

Though Zeldin, in comments to the crowd, repeated the message the village was wrong to fine Wallis.

“How crazy is it you would have a small business owner put up a sign, and you have local elected officials fine that small business owner $2,000 a day just to say they support the president,” Zeldin said.

Village officials continued to maintain in the days before and since the rally that the order to remove had nothing to do with the message on the sign, instead that the owner had violated code. 

Wallis had hung the same exact sign back in January 2017, after Trump’s election into office. The village had ordered the sign down then as well, but it had been taken down within a few days of being put up. This time, the sign had been up since Jan. 21, but had been temporarily taken down Jan. 28 before being put back up the day before the rally. Despite the sign being briefly taken down, the village attorney said they would still have the ability to prosecute as if it were up continuously.

Roger Rutherford, the general manager of Roger’s Frigate, said he has no control over whether Wallis puts up signs on the building he owns, however he, “support[s] his right to freely express his support for our president.” 

Wallis’ intent, Rutherford said, had always been to remove the sign by the end of the impeachment trial, which was expected to end Wednesday after the U.S. Senate voted on party lines last Friday to hear no witnesses or receive any new evidence. Zeldin had been named to Trump’s legal defense team for the trial in the Senate.

The Roger’s Frigate manager said while he supports Wallis in his rights for free speech, he also understood the village’s position.

“I’m not going to knock the mayor — I believe she was showing her committed support that the law is handed down to the fullest,” he said.

Supporters of the sign have said that the village does not take the same stance with other signs in the village, pointing to banners hung by the village itself to advertise events like Paint Port Pink and the Charles Dickens Festival. 

Trustee Kathianne Snaden has said the village is not bound by the same requirements as businesses regarding banners or signs. 

A throng of Trump supporters rallies in front of Roger’s Frigate Feb. 2 to support a banner the Village of Port Jefferson has said is against the code. Photo by Courtney Biondo

“That would be the government asking the government for permission,” she said.

Zeldin also claimed the village board had some kind of bias against the president, that if the sign had said something negative about him than village officials would have supported it. 

“[They] would be paying for that sign if it was against the president,” the congressman said.

The mayor and trustees were largely disconcerted over Zeldin’s comment, saying he is using the national attention the sign has received to score political points.

“I think they’re using it as a platform,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “As an elected, that’s a real bad posture to do toward a local community and other local officials in that community.”

Snaden said she thinks Zeldin understands the village is attempting to enforce the code.

“He’s ignoring the real issue to make his own point,” she said. “He’s not a stupid man, and he’s not ignorant, he knows what the real issue is.”

Rebecca Kassay, who owns the Fox and Owl Inn in Port Jefferson along with her husband Andrew, said she had also before applied for a permit for a banner in Port Jeff, and saw the process as “rigorous.” She sees Wallis’ disregard for the code as unfair for the rest of the village’s shop owners.

“It’s in interest of fairness for all business owners,” she said. “Whatever side of the aisle you’re on, it’s creating a huge rift in our community, it’s making people say things online they would not say to one another’s faces … this is not a matter of free speech, it’s a matter of a sign.”

Other businesses have tried to stay out of the mess, but the national attention has also vicariously put the light on shops who want no part in the controversy.

The Port Jefferson Ice Cream Cafe, which is located on the other side of Main Street, posted to its business Facebook page, saying it had “received numerous calls and messages regarding this.”

“We respect everyone’s right to free speech as long as it does not infringe on others and follows the law and village codes,” the post further said. “This is not up to us to decide and is a matter for the village.”

Rutherford said he was sorry that another business had got mixed up in the controversy.

“It wasn’t our intention to affect any other businesses,” he said.

The sign was still up at the location by press time, but even with the assumption it will be taken down, officials are worried they could go through the same song and dance come the presidential election in November. 

“It’s not the first time, it won’t be the last,” Snaden said.

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The pro-Trump sign hung up Jan. 21 was the same sign the shop hung in 2017 during inauguration. Photo by David Luces

In time for the start of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump (R), a banner was hung above Roger’s Frigate candy and ice cream shop in Port Jeff reading “In Trump We Trust” on the building’s second floor. 

Barbara Sakovich, the village clerk, said the building and planning department issued a new order to remedy to the owner, George Wallis, after it was hung. The village has maintained the sign violates code 250-31D regarding signs, specifically the size and material of the sign being hung across the building’s second floor.

Frigate general manager, Roger Rutherford, did not respond to request for comment. By Wednesday, Jan. 29, the sign was still above the shop.

The clerk said she had already received some complaints as of Wednesday, but other than the violations of code, the village cannot restrict freedom of speech.

The business owner has five days from receipt of the order to remedy to remove the sign or be issued an appearance ticket and potentially face a financial penalty. Village Attorney Brian Egan said the maximum end of such a penalty could be a maximum of $2,000 per day not removed, but that would be on the extreme end for a sign violation, and could likely be less than that.

The candy store owner had put up the same sign three years ago in January 2017, during Trump’s inauguration. The banner caused several days of controversy before it was taken down. Rutherford said at the time the plan had already been to take the sign down after a few days. 

In October last year, the village board unanimously passed a resolution reducing the number of days a sign can be up before it must be removed from 30 to five. Egan said the change was to cut down on time that the board felt was too long for a violating sign to be up, especially when applying for a permit is “not burdensome.”

He added that the courts and village comply with a broad reading on the First Amendment, but municipalities such as the village have rights to impose “content neutral” regulations, such as size, material, etc. Those regulations were in place before the Frigate originally installed the sign in 2017.

Reaction on community Facebook groups was similarly divided as it was three years ago, with some congratulating the shop while others claimed they had been boycotting the shop since 2017.

Wallis has been a character in Port Jefferson for decades, and the Frigate has become a major staple within that community. The owner of the candy store, as well as the neighboring The Steam Room, has been known as a maverick in some of his past decisions on his properties, such as in 2002 when he replaced a statue of Thomas Jefferson with one of an eagle to commemorate those lost in 9/11, according to The New York Times.

Additional reporting by David Luces.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. File photo by Kevin Redding

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) was named to President Donald Trump’s (R) legal defense team regarding the Senate’s impeachment trial, which just began today, Jan. 21.

Seven other members of the U.S. House of Representatives have also been named to the team as well. Zeldin has been a big proponent of the president and has decried the impeachment trial constantly on cable news shows and on Twitter. The other members of the team have also been outspoken allies of Trump, including fellow Rep. Elise Stefanik, whose district includes a large part of upstate New York. 

“The President NEVER should have been impeached in the first place!” Zeldin wrote to Twitter, also congratulating his fellow congress members on being assigned to the legal team.

The White House statement announcing Zeldin’s position said that such officials have already provided guidance to the White House Team, and derided the impeachment proceedings in the house, saying it was “concocted” by Democrats.

People planning to run against Zeldin were quick to condemn him for accepting the position. In a release, Nancy Goroff, a Stony Brook Democrat planning to run for the 1st congressional seat, said the congressman “has his priorities upside down and backwards, caring more about lying for President Trump than standing up for his constituents.”

For a full Q&A of Zeldin and his thoughts on impeachment, visit: https://tbrnewsmedia.com/one-on-one-with-lee-zeldin/

Mourners march in Iran after Qassim Suleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike. Photo from Iranian leader’s website

By David Luces and Kyle Barr

The assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq three days into the new year sent shock waves nationally and globally. In response, Iran has threatened to retaliate. 

For people on the North Shore, it has meant a period of uncertainty and anxiety. As the fallout from the attack continues to make headlines, locals are left wondering what will be the outcome to the posturing and threats from both the U.S. and Iran.

The U.S. military recruitment office in Selden. Photo from Google Maps

Bernard Firestone, a professor of Political Science at Hofstra University, said there has already been conflict between the two nations, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordering attacks on American military targets directly, rather than through allied militias, as it has done so in the past.

On Tuesday, Jan. 7, Iran launched missiles at two separate U.S. military bases in Iraq, though officials said there were no American or Iraqi casualties. National newspapers reported the Iranian foreign minister said they had “concluded” attacks on American forces, adding they would step back from escalating into a war.

That does not mean that tensions between the two nations have stabilized, nor that there is the possibility for further contention down the road. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump (R) called on other western countries, who have largely condemned the Iranian rocket attacks, to defy Iran, and announced his intent to install new sanctions on the country.

“Over the past two weeks the U.S. has responded more forcefully to attacks by Iraqi militia allied with Iran, including the killing of Soleimani,” Firestone said. “So, we are already in armed conflict with Iran.”

Paul Fritz, an associate professor of Political Science from Hofstra, said the missile strikes were a “somewhat surprising” escalation of hostilities, and appear to be a direct challenge to the U.S. military, and a further escalation of strong rhetoric.

“The Iranian regime can’t be seen as folding to an outside power with an attack like last week and decided it had to do something big to maintain legitimacy, given strong nationalistic feelings following the killing of Soleimani,” he said.

Fritz said there is always a chance, however small, that armed conflict can spark between the two countries, most likely through an unsanctioned expression of military force that escalates into a full-scale war. America’s past wars against Spain and its entrance into World War I started much in that way, specifically when Spain and Germany attacked ships, killing American civilians, though of course there are differences today.

“When the rhetoric is sometimes over the top, what that can do to the other side is the Iranian regime has to respond in kind,” Fritz said.

At home, planning also begun, but for potential attacks to the U.S., New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and city police announced they would be going on high alert Jan. 3 fearing any kind of retaliation from Iran.

The Suffolk County Police Department said in a statement that it has a robust and long-standing homeland security program, which now includes our SCPD Shield program in partnership with NYPD Shield. They also said there is currently no credible threat to Suffolk County. 

With the U.S. military at a state of readiness, local recruiting centers on the North Shore said they couldn’t comment to the media about whether they are seeing any change in recruitment numbers. 

‘We are already in armed conflict with Iran’

— Bernard Firestone

Lisa Ferguson, chief of media relations for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said they have not seen much of a difference.

“At this point we have not seen an impact on our ability to recruit, and too many variables exist to draw a comparison to previous situations,” she said. 

The days after the Iranian general’s death have been a roller coaster. Residents opinions are split over whether Suleimani’s killing was a necessary act, or a way of painting a target on America’s back.

“I think it was a necessary evil,” said Lake Grove resident Patrick Finnerty. “The man [Suleimani ] was threatening people, threatening us.”

During a 2019 Veterans Day ceremony in Greenlawn, Lenny Salvo, a Vietnam War veteran had one message he wanted the public to know: “Stop war.”

“For me it’s not about politics,” he said. “All I see is the harm that it is going to do to people.”

In the days that have now passed, with tensions escalating and Iran potentially returning to build nuclear bombs, Salvo said his position has changed. He said he’s supporting the president. 

“If there’s going to be a conflict, it’s better now [than when they have a nuclear weapon],” he said.

Groups nationwide are already planning
protests. On Jan. 9 at 3:30 p.m., the North Country Peace Group is planning a protest at the corner of Route 112 and Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station against any further war in the Middle East. 

If anything, the threat of attack to New York has stirred harrowing memories of 9/11. Almost 20 years later, the memory of that day’s events has filtered down into the blood of those who witnessed it.

Port Jefferson Village mayor, Margot Garant, shared memories of that fateful day at the village meeting Jan. 6. On Sept. 11, 2001, the trains were down, cars jammed the highways and the Bridgeport to Port Jefferson ferry was one of the very few means for people to get off the Island.

Garant said she remembered cars backed up all the way up East Broadway and beyond for days. At the meeting, she said she will speak with code enforcement and the fire department in case any such crisis should happen again.

“It could be a chemical weapon, it could be a bomb, so many things could happen,” the mayor said. “If I’m not thinking about that, I would be negligent … you have a number of people saying they want to take revenge — that’s not normal — you’ve got to be prepared.”

The fear of home terrorism isn’t unfounded, though the experts said any kind of terrorism linked directly to Iran could provoke a full-scale war, something they don’t want. Firestone said that if there were to be terrorist-type attacks, it will more likely be launched at allied or American targets in the home region.

‘The Iranian regime can’t be seen as folding to an outside power with an attack like last week and decided it had to do something big to maintain legitimacy.’

— Paul Fritz

Though statistics say one is more likely to get struck by lightning than be involved in a terrorist attack, people from New York City and Long Islanders have a unique view and anxiety about any such attack.

After the birth of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the western world saw a slew of what was considered “lone wolf” terrorists, or people who conduct violence without the direct support and resources of any one group. 

These, Fritz said, are less likely in this case, since there is no one specific ideology such as seen with ISIS calling for such attacks.

Much depends on what Iran’s next step will be, experts said, and though a full-scale conflict is unlikely, Fritz said it begets people to be informed and to ask questions of one’s local elected representatives.

“Stay informed, but don’t turn this into something all-consuming,” he said. 

Leah Chiappino, Rita J. Egan and Donna Deedy all contributed reporting.

Congressman discusses impeachment hearings and more

Congressman Lee Zeldin. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

The U.S. House of Representatives has recommended filing articles of impeachment of the 45th president of the United States of America Donald J. Trump (R). Many elected officials, mostly Democrats and constitutional scholars, see a moral and legal imperative for their position, while Republicans have largely remained loyal to their party leader. With some experts saying that the nation is under threat, the situation demands   everyone’s full attention. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) is the elected congressional representative for most of Suffolk County. His district extends to the west to the eastern edges of Kings Park and includes Smithtown and Hauppauge and parts of Commack. Hours after the recommendation was announced on Dec. 5, Rep. Zeldin agreed to an email interview on the topic of impeachment. 

Do you see any compelling reason for impeachment?

No.

In your view, what constitutes a crime or misdemeanor offense worthy of impeachment?

Treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors as laid out in Section 4 of Article II of the Constitution.

(Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution: The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.)

What’s your reaction to the impeachment?

Instead of focusing on opposing everything and anything, House Democrats should focus on the issues most important to the American people, working on bipartisan victories to pass the [U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement] USMCA, combat the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic, secure our borders and so much more. 

(Editor’s note: The White House and House Democrats reached a deal Dec. 10 to pass the USMCA.)

Why did you, along with other House Republicans, interrupt a committee meeting that had members of both parties in attendance and stall the impeachment probe?

The premise of your question is false. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I was already in the SCIF in my seat when those other members walked in.

What is your take on House Republicans interrupting on Oct. 23 the impeachment probe committee meeting?   

There should have been greater transparency and a fairer process in the first place. They were very frustrated as elected members of Congress being completely in the dark while being asked questions back home from constituents and local media about what was going on with the impeachment inquiry.

Do you believe a U.S. president should use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to coerce a foreign leader to investigate a political rival? 

If you are asking that question related to the Ukraine fact pattern, then I disagree with the premise of your question.

What is your take on what happened with President Trump requesting [help from]Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelensky? 

Can you clarify this question?

Clarification: Do you find any of these actions objectionable? President Trump requested in a July 25, 2019, phone call that Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky take a call from his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to discuss an investigation into the son of his political rival. The White House then placed that same day a formal hold on $250 million congressionally approved security funding for Ukraine. The funds were ultimately released Sept. 11 after a whistle-blower filed a complaint, 85 days after the Pentagon announced that aid had become available, 19 days before funds expire.

That is your version of the story. You are entitled to your opinion but I obviously would disagree with the premise of your question.

Do you believe that Ukraine and not Russia interfered in the 2016 election?

Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Ukrainians also interfered in the 2016 election. That is indisputable. The scope and nature of the interference was different in the two examples, not on the same scale, and should not be equated.

Are you planning to make the impeachment proceedings a point in your upcoming reelection campaign?

The Democrats are ripping our country in half with their destructive impeachment obsession.

Has anything in the ongoing impeachment proceedings changed your mind concerning the actions of the president?

No.

Can you please tell us how many former members of Trump’s campaign, cabinet and personal lawyers have been investigated and/or convicted of crimes? What’s your reaction to this?

I’m not aware of any new information to add beyond what you know already.

As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, when did you become aware of the removal of U.S. troops from Kurdish territories? Do you believe other countries or leaders have benefited from that strategy?  

As I relayed to you immediately following the announcement, the Kurds have fought, bled and died fighting alongside the US. They have been warriors and brothers in battle along the way. The president is right to want to end endless war, but the Turks wiping out the Kurds would absolutely not be an acceptable outcome after all of that.

(On background, Zeldin voted in favor of the House resolution [H.J. Res. 77 Opposing the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in Northeast Syria] regarding this issue. The resolution indicated that the policy was in the best interest of Russia and not U.S.)

What do you believe are President Trump’s top three accomplishments in office? 

Helping grow the economy, tackling illegal immigration and going after MS-13, among many other victories.

Could you list three negative things that he has fostered? 

The SALT deduction change, an offshore drilling proposal impacting the Atlantic and certain funding levels in the federal budget.

Many of your North Shore constituents are calling for more Town Hall-style meetings. Are you planning any?

I had a town hall in September hosted by the Mastic Beach Property Owners Association. The event was completely open to anyone in the public and was widely promoted and attended by the Democratic Party and they got their questions and comments in, including multiple times with 2, 3, and more follow-ups to their original question/comment. This is in addition to Mobile Office Hours, Coffee with Your Congressman and many other meetings and events. This is the pace that I’ve set and maintained since entering Congress in 2015. As I’ve said time and time again, if someone wishes to participate in a future meeting or would like to schedule a time to meet one-on-one, they can contact my office at 631-289-1097 to find a time most convenient for them, including after work or on the weekend. For example, this year in Smithtown alone, I’ve held Mobile Office Hours and Coffee with Your Congressman. 

Can you please define for your constituents what corruption means? 

An example is a corrupt Ukrainian energy company run by a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch hiring someone with no Ukraine experience and no energy experience for at least $50,000 per month for the sole reason that they are the vice president’s son.

Can you please offer the distinctions between a democracy, autocracy and dictatorship? 

The widely accepted definitions are as follows:

Democracy: A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.

Autocracy: Government in which one person possesses unlimited power.

Dictatorship: A form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator or a small clique.

Also, Michael Cohen is behind bars for campaign finance violations that include paying Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to keep quiet about their affairs with Donald Trump. Cohen testified that it was done in coordination with Donald Trump. Does paying “hush money” to influence the outcome of an election equate with bribery or a high crime or misdemeanor? Why or why not? Is it corruption?  

He made these claims before Congress after pleading guilty to crimes, one of which was lying to Congress. He’s not a reliable witness to say the least.