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Opinion

Impeachment hearings begin

Daily Point

Tale of the tweets

The opening of impeachment hearings made for a busy day on Rep. Lee Zeldin’s congressional and personal Twitter accounts.

The Shirley Republican has been a prominent defender of President Donald Trump throughout the impeachment inquiry, so no surprise that he logged multiple viral tweets during Wednesday’s proceedings.

Some of the more colorful tweets involved one of Zeldin’s favorite allegations, that the charges being leveled against Trump were based on things that witnesses had heard from others. 

“Ambassador Taylor is telling Congress that Tim Morrison told him that Ambassador Sondland told Morrison that the President told Sondland …” read one tweet, which essentially repeated the language used by the GOP during the hearing.

He also linked to a song featuring the lyrics “heard it from a friend”: “Dedicating this REO Speedwagon classic to the testimony of Ambassadors Taylor and Kent so far today,” he wrote.

Rep. Gregory Meeks also was in a fiery, jokey mood on Twitter, firing off tweets and retweets about the proceedings, but from the Democratic perspective.

The rest of the Long Island delegation might have been locked in a SCIF for the morning as far as their Twitter accounts were concerned. Rep. Tom Suozzi was quiet through the end of the day’s session. Rep. Kathleen Rice chimed in with a late-afternoon summary, noting that testimony “made it clear that President Trump sought to use foreign aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine into interfering in our elections.”

Rep. Pete King, who announced this week he’s retiring in 2020, seemed more concerned with his legacy, retweeting a supportive tweet from an account that says it represents a Muslim group, as opposed to impeachment. 

Meanwhile, the fundraising-outrage machine was revving up on Facebook. The Democratic Party and Trump’s reelection campaign quickly released new ads asking for donations or email addresses to aid their side in the impeachment fight. 

Democrats went with sobriety and dark colors, saying Congress has a “responsibility to thoroughly investigate Trump’s wrongdoing.”

Trump’s ads, however, were more involved.

“FAKE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS HAVE BEGUN,” said a Trump ad, which included a wide-eyed, unflattering picture of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Please contribute ANY AMOUNT in the NEXT 24 HOURS and your gift will be DOUBLED!”

Another includes a video of the president railing about House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff and making a questionable claim about the history of impeachment inquiries, of which the nation has had multiple.

“Nothing like this has ever happened to our country before,” he says. 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

We’ll meet again

New York’s Public Campaign Finance Commission didn’t even address the hottest and toughest issues it faces when it met on Wednesday. 

Notable topics avoided included:

  • A ban on one political candidate appearing on more than one party line, called fusion voting. The practice is a huge factor in keeping the Working Families, Conservative and Independence parties alive in the state.
  • Whether to raise the number of votes needed in gubernatorial races to make parties automatic ballot qualifiers up from 50,000 votes to as many as 250,000, which also could decimate minor parties.
  • Whether to raise the thresholds for getting a party not automatically granted ballot access into a race, like the 15,000 signatures statewide and 100 signatures each needed in at least half the state’s congressional districts to get a party onto a gubernatorial ballot.   

The commission did agree, however, on a new individual contribution limits of $2,500 for primaries and $2,500 for general elections in Assembly races and $5,000 for primaries and $5,000 for general elections in Senate races, but got nowhere close to agreement on limits for statewide races.

And it voted to support progressive public matches for the first $250 of each donation that comes from within the electoral district being contested, matching the first $50 given with $600 in state money, the next $100 with $900 and the next $100 with $800. 

It would ban matches on contributions that come from outside the Assembly and Senate districts being contested. 

But commissioner Jay Jacobs, who is the state and Nassau County Democratic Party chair, noted that that some of these votes directly contradicted what the group approved in its last session, and told The Point after the meeting that he wants to revisit some of what was done Wednesday and may change his mind on some of these votes, too.

The commission definitively decided to cancel Thursday’s planned meeting, and tentatively agreed to come together again Monday, a plan that had the nine commissioners looking at schedules and murmuring about video conferencing. With Nov. 25 set as the date for them to vote to present a reform package that would automatically become law in 20 days if the State Legislature does not vote it down, these big items have to be ironed out fast if they are going to be ironed out at all.

“It all has to come together as one big package, and each part affects every other part,” Jacobs said when asked why there was still so much uncertainty. But it may not come together at all, according to Jacobs, and that’s not surprising. Factions inside the Democratic Party and its left-leaning frenemies are increasingly upset about what’s on the table, and if it gets ugly enough, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, whose created this commission, may decide doing nothing is best.

“We may not submit a plan,” said Jacobs, a Cuomo ally. “I believe we have to protect taxpayer dollars here, as well as creating laws that create more competitive races, and I will not be a party to a plan that does not do that.”

But it’s going to take more meetings to determine whether the threat to submit no plan is a bargaining tactic by Jacobs or a legitimate possibility.

Maybe a lot more meetings.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Shout it out loud

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Final Point

A new challenger rises

Tom Suozzi now has a Republican challenger in the 3rd Congressional District: 31-year-old newcomer George Anthony Devolder Santos of Queens.

Devolder Santos works in private equity — “not a one percenter, I work for the one percent,” he told The Point. This is his first campaign. He says he was driven to run by what he calls Suozzi’s “complacency” on the 2017 Republican tax bill. Suozzi, a Democrat, should have “negotiated” more, says Devolder Santos, who supports a higher SALT deduction. 

Suozzi campaign spokeswoman Kim Devlin did not comment about Devolder Santos’ candidacy. 

“I’m not your typical Republican,” Devolder Santos says. He is gay and supports marriage equality. He thinks it was not “necessary” to pull away from the Paris climate agreement. His parents immigrated from Brazil and he says he supports “bipartisan” immigration reform. While he thinks the Obama-era immigration relief program DACA was “an overreach of the executive," he doesn’t think President Donald Trump should rescind it altogether. 

In other areas, he more solidly aligns with Republicans. He says that “nothing new” is necessary on gun control beyond the laws on the books. And he says he voted for Trump in 2016 and does not think that Trump committed an impeachable offense, given the information now available. 

His lighthearted Instagram account includes vacation pictures and hashtags like #funtimes and #foreveronvacation sprinkled with #maga and #americafirst.

Democrats in the 3rd Congressional District enjoy an approximately 50,000 voter registration advantage over Republicans, according to state figures. A lot of blanks, Conservatives and Independence Party voters have kept the district relatively moderate, but Devolder Santos acknowledges that Suozzi will be a “formidable opponent.” The challenger is also from the Queens County portion of the district, which is the smallest and most Democratic. 

Born and raised in that New York City borough, Devolder Santos says his work took him to Florida for a stretch that included the 2016 election. Now he resides in Whitestone, Queens, but he was back in Florida for a work conference Wednesday, the day he officially launched his campaign.  His filings with the Federal Election Commission aren’t online yet, though he says he filed weeks ago. 

He says he’ll be back in the district on Thursday, hitting the GOP circuit.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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