WASHINGTON — The five lawmakers representing Long Island in the U.S. House said they’ll vote along party lines on the two articles of impeachment next week, but they gave their own distinct views on their reasoning, the Senate trial and the political fallout.
Reflecting the expected outcome of the full House vote, Democrats Kathleen Rice, Tom Suozzi and Gregory Meeks said they will support the impeachment of President Donald Trump, and Republicans Pete King and Lee Zeldin said they will oppose it.
The House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved, in a party-line vote, two articles of impeachment against Trump.
Article I charges that Trump abused his power by prodding Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, and his son, while withholding U.S. aid. Article II charges Trump obstructed Congress by refusing to comply with House subpoenas for documents and witness testimony.
Here are the views of the lawmakers about this wrenching and politically fraught impeachment process.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley)
“What they have been selling is a narrative that relies on presumptions, hearsay, lies, 3 percent of the story and tries to connect that all to dots that aren't actually connected.”
Zeldin, who opposes impeachment, attended every deposition and hearing in the inquiry and emerged as a high-profile defender of Trump and harsh critic of Democrats.
“What they have been selling is a narrative that relies on presumptions, hearsay, lies, 3 percent of the story and tries to connect that all to dots that aren't actually connected,” he said. Both articles of impeachment, Zeldin said, are “not within a galaxy of sane.”
Zeldin wants the Senate to hold a full trial with witnesses, not only from the inquiry but also about what Trump asked Ukraine to probe: Ukraine election meddling and Democrat Joe Biden’s son.
Impeachment helps Trump, and hurts Democrats, he said, because the voters who supported Trump in 2016, but voted for Democrats in House races in 2018, are going to be angry about it.
Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove)
Will vote for impeachment
“I was very reluctant all along because I know how divisive it is, because I've looked at the history of what happened with [Bill] Clinton and with [Richard] Nixon, and I know how serious it is because we are close to an election.”
Suozzi has been mum about impeachment. He has posted one statement, in favor of the inquiry. But on Thursday, he told Newsday he will vote for impeachment.
“I was very reluctant all along because I know how divisive it is, because I've looked at the history of what happened with [Bill] Clinton and with [Richard] Nixon, and I know how serious it is because we are close to an election,” he said.
But Suozzi said, “You can't send a message to this president or the future presidents that you could just do whatever you want and there’s no consequences.”
Suozzi didn’t object to the two articles. He hopes for a short Senate trial without witnesses. Impeachment helps Trump, not Democrats, he said.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford)
“Nothing impeachable has been shown. There was also nothing wrong with his conduct."
King said he’ll be the only Republican to vote no in the two most recent impeachments, of Bill Clinton and Trump. Two months ago, he opposed the impeachment inquiry but said evidence could emerge to change his mind — it didn’t.
“Nothing impeachable has been shown,” King said. “There was also nothing wrong with his conduct. He had the absolute right and the absolute responsibility to find out whether or not the Biden family was involved in corruption in Ukraine.”
King leans toward a short Senate trial. “The American people have really heard enough,” he said. “If it also appears that Republicans are playing games, it can end up working against Republicans.”
Impeachment, he said, will probably hurt Democrats “because it seems like three years of investigations have really gone nowhere.”
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City)
“There is no doubt in my mind that President Trump withheld congressionally-appropriated foreign military aid to a critical American ally to serve his own political agenda, not our national security interests.”
Rice, who declined to be interviewed, was an early supporter of an impeachment inquiry, but when it began two months ago she withheld judgment on whether Trump’s call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was an impeachable offense. On Friday she said it is.
“There is no doubt in my mind that President Trump withheld congressionally appropriated foreign military aid to a critical American ally to serve his own political agenda, not our national security interests,” Rice said in a statement. “That’s a gross abuse of power.”
Rice also said Trump did everything he could to “undermine and derail” the inquiry, an obstruction of Congress.
“I hope the Senate will hold a full impeachment trial with witnesses so all of the facts and evidence can be laid out in plain view,” she said.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans)
Will vote to impeach
“I have no choice but to vote to impeach based upon the evidence that has been presented.”
Meeks, who served on the impeachment inquiry as part of the foreign affairs committee, had been cautious about moving ahead, but said, “I have no choice but to vote to impeach based upon the evidence that has been presented.”
Meeks said he would have liked to see a third article of obstruction of justice based on special counsel Robert Mueller's report. And he’d like to see a Senate trial in which Trump produces the documents and witnesses he has withheld from the inquiry.
Health care cuts, separating families at the border and tax cuts for the rich will trump impeachment, Meeks said. Republicans will be hurt. “Look at the number of them that are retiring right now because they don't want to have to justify that in the reelection campaign.”