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Zeldin, Trump and a News12 protest video gone wrong

Rep. Lee Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

Rep. Lee Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley). Credit: James Escher

Daily Point

Zeldin visits Camp David amid LI video controversy

As President Donald Trump tweeted this weekend in support of Long Island protesters who had physically intimidated and verbally assaulted News12 reporter Kevin Vesey Thursday, Rep. Lee Zeldin was with Trump at Camp David in Maryland. And while the protest was in Rep. Tom Suozzi’s district in Commack, the organizing group, Setauket Patriots, is based in Zeldin’s.

But Zeldin said he learned very little about the now-viral video, shot by Vesey, of attendees at an event assailing New York’s pandemic-inspired economic and social restrictions and berating Vesey, before surrendering all his electronics for the weekend when he got to Camp David early Friday evening.

“I had spoken to one reporter from Politico Friday about the incident and did not know much about what had happened,” Zeldin told The Point Monday. “And I never discussed the video or News12 or anything like that with the president.”

Trump, of course, does not have to surrender his electronics when he gets to Camp David, and first retweeted Vesey’s post and video Friday night just after 9:30, adding “FAKE NEWS IS NOT ESSENTIAL!” That’s one thing attendees were yelling at Vesey.

Trump again retweeted the video a bit later Friday with no comment.

Then again Saturday morning, adding, “People can’t get enough of this! Great people!”

Then again Monday morning, adding, “This love of Country went all over. They hate Fake News and so do I!”

Zeldin, meanwhile, said he was mixing a weekend of intense work on the coronavirus pandemic that included pitching needed aid for Long Island and New York with soaking in the atmosphere of Camp David on his first trip to the presidential retreat.

“There’s a lot people don’t know and can’t know about Camp David,” Zeldin said, marveling at the level of security. “But it is extraordinary to be there, to be aware of the leaders who have been there before you and the conversations that have taken place.”

Zeldin said he stayed within throwing distance of the spot where the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt were agreed to, and was particularly taken with the guest registry in his cabin, which showed past visitors who’d stayed, often before they reached the heights of power. He named George W. Bush signing in in 1985 while his father was vice president, and Dick Cheney staying in the cabin in 1972 while working in the Nixon administration, as two notable entries. 

And Zeldin did tweet about Camp David and Trump, and got retweeted by Trump. His note just had nothing to do with Vesey and News 12.

At 4:35 p.m. Sunday, Zeldin tweeted, “Returning now from a very productive weekend at Camp David with @realDonaldTrump and a few of my @HouseGOP colleagues. The man never slows down or sleeps. It’s incredible. A lot of work on coronavirus response and other important topics to make our great nation even stronger.”

Trump quickly retweeted Zeldin’s comments.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Controversy over NYC decision on beaches

New York City’s beaches have been making waves on Long Island ever since Mayor Bill de Blasio said they would be closed for Memorial Day weekend. 

See Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s spokeswoman Christine Geed calling de Blasio’s decision “irresponsible and short sighted” over the weekend, or Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Monday announcing a policy where only Suffolk residents would be allowed on the the two county beaches opening this week.

However, Curran seemed to take a new tack in a Monday briefing, saying that she had spoken to de Blasio and “I do understand his reasoning about the city's continuing pause on beaches.” 

That reasoning has generally been a concern about crowds on public transit en route to beaches, and the amount of time those crowds would stay in close proximity on the beach. 

Still, NYC is training lifeguards, suggesting that de Blasio could have the option of an eventual opening.

“I spoke to him personally last week,” said State Sen. Diane Savino, who represents beachfront sections of Brooklyn and Staten Island including Brighton Beach and Coney Island. “I believe that they are working on it.”

But given the risk of people drowning on un-lifeguarded beaches, she says: “Speed it up.” 

Meanwhile, NYC has jurisdictional beach challenges within its own borders given federal beachfront like Riis Park. The National Park Service website lists numerous closures in New York and says the agency is “working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic.” Park service officials in published reports have cited similar rules as those for city beaches. 

But Savino said that at least parts of the NPS might be functioning differently from NYC. She said she saw a playground this weekend occupied by children at Staten Island’s Miller Field, whereas city playgrounds are closed. 

“Obviously they’re getting a different directive than the city parks,” she said.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

All clear

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Quick Points

  • President Donald Trump fired his fourth inspector general in the past six weeks when he removed State Department inspector general Steve Linick, saying Linick no longer had his full confidence. Who, besides Ivanka, ever has Trump’s full confidence?
  • Linick was investigating claims that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a staffer do personal errands like walking his dog, making dinner reservations and handling his dry cleaning. Linick has our full confidence that that is not allowed.
  • Former Republican Rep. Justin Amash decided not to seek the Libertarian Party nomination for president saying, “circumstances don’t lend themselves to my success as a candidate for president this year.” Hey, Justin, the number of years in which circumstances have lent themselves to success for a third-party presidential candidate is zero.
  • Pushing for students to return to schools closed by the coronavirus, Sen. Rand Paul advised at a congressional hearing to “observe with an open mind what went on in Sweden, where the kids kept going to school.” OK, let’s observe: Sweden, which largely stayed open, has seen 30% more people die than normal, similar to the United States, and has the highest death rate by far of the four Scandinavian countries. 
  • President Donald Trump reportedly is leaning toward making permanent his announced funding cut for the World Health Organization because of what he says was gross negligence in the early days of the outbreak. Mirror, please.
  • Former President Barack Obama told graduates of 74 historically black colleges and universities in a virtual commencement that the COVID-19 pandemic “has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many folks in charge know what they’re doing.” And that’s before he actually gets on the 2020 campaign trail.
  • An anti-shutdown protester in Commack trying to get closer to a News12 reporter who kept backing away, shouted, “I’ve got hydroxychloroquine, I’m fine!” That’s the same drug, pushed by President Donald Trump, that proved ineffective against the virus but effective in raising the risk of death for some people.
  • A pair of 1985 white, black and red Air Jordan sneakers worn by Michael Jordan during his rookie season and autographed by him was auctioned off for $560,000. That’s a record LeBron James might have trouble breaking. 

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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