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LI delegation reacts to Trump's acquittal on impeachment charge

Rep. Kathleen Rice speaks during a news conference

Rep. Kathleen Rice speaks during a news conference in Roosevelt on Sept. 8, 2020. Credit: Barry Sloan

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump’s impeachment acquittal by the majority of Senate Republicans on Saturday was denounced by Long Island’s congressional Democrats, who argued the move will leave the country vulnerable to future politically fueled violent attacks.

However, the delegation’s two Republicans sought to frame the end of Trump’s second impeachment trial as a turning point that will allow lawmakers to focus entirely on the pandemic and the economy.

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) said the "Senate’s failure to hold a president accountable who incited an insurrection leaves our democracy vulnerable to future attacks."

Rice praised the seven Republicans who crossed party lines and voted to uphold Trump’s impeachment by the U.S. House on a charge of incitement of insurrection.

"I commend the Republicans that took a stand and did the right thing. Those that didn’t will forever be on the wrong side of history," Rice said of the 57-43 Senate vote to acquit.

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D- Glen Cove), who was among the lawmakers in the House chamber on Jan. 6 when rioters attempted to break through windows to enter, said that "if you can't be impeached for inciting an insurrection against the capital of your own government, I don't know what you can be impeached for."

"The bottom line is that this is the thing that you read about in history books when you're in grade school and in high school," Suozzi said of the Senate’s consequential vote. "And it's hard to imagine that there wasn't enough people to impeach him. I mean it's clearly just based upon partisanship."

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), a Trump ally, in a statement said "the push to have the Senate convict a former President was not appropriate and was never going to be successful or achieve unity."

"Now with the Senate having rendered its final verdict, we must focus on ending this pandemic, getting our economy growing and all of America's kids back in school learning, strengthening our national security, defending our freedoms, and so much more."

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) in a statement said his feelings toward "the insurrection at the Capitol have not changed — it was un-American and every trespasser should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Without naming Trump in his statement, Garbarino said, "Now that the Senate has concluded its trial, I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass meaningful legislation that would deliver COVID relief to our communities and businesses, get our kids back to school and safely reopen our economy."

Garbarino’s predecessor, recently retired Congressman Peter King (R-Seaford), who served as a Trump ally on Capitol Hill, in a statement condemned what he called "shameful" and "disgraceful" actions by Trump leading up to the Jan. 6 attack, but said he agreed with the Senate verdict.

"While I do not believe President Trump’s actions and inaction rose to the level of Impeachment, they are a permanent stain on his legacy — a legacy which in other aspects had considerable successes," King said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), delivering remarks from the Senate floor, placed the blame for the Capitol attack squarely on Trump and denounced the 43 Republicans who voted to acquit, accusing them of choosing Trump over the interests of the country.

"The most despicable act that any president has ever committed and the majority of Republicans cannot summon the courage or the morality to condemn it," Schumer said.

Schumer invoked a foiled 1942 plot by a group of German Nazis who landed on a Long Island beach via submarine with the goal of attacking New York bridges. The four men were located by U.S. Coast Guard officers patrolling a beach near Amagansett.

"We heard the preposterous claim that the former president’s incitement to violence was protected by the First Amendment," Schumer said. "The First Amendment right to free speech protects Americans from jail, not presidents from impeachment. If a president had said, during WWII, that ‘Germany should attack the United States on Long Island, we’ve left it undefended,’ I suspect Congress would have considered that an impeachable offense."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), shortly after voting to convict Trump, tweeted that she was "gutted that the truth held no weight with too many of my Republican colleagues."

"We owed it to the American people and to the murdered and wounded Capitol Police officers to hold President Trump accountable," Gillibrand said. "At the very least, we have left an irrefutable record of President Trump's shameful actions. And now we can begin the hard work of repairing the damage he left behind."

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