A Jan. 6 connection for Santos
It was a brisk day in Great Neck in February 2022 — long after the violent Capitol riot of 2021 that resulted in hundreds of arrests — when an individual with a camera phone asked Republican congressional hopeful George Santos what he was going to do “to get the January 6 patriots out.”
“I’ve actually been working on funding a ton of them to get out,” Santos replied, adding that he “wrote a nice check for a law firm to see if we can help some of them out.” He then clarified that he didn’t “want to publicize it.”
But the person speaking with and filming Santos was a Democratic activist from Nassau County. And the footage, obtained by The Point, suggests yet another Jan. 6 connection to a Republican running for office, something Democrats around the country have been eager to highlight as the midterms approach.
Santos has said he was “at the Ellipse on January 6,” spotlighting the site of President Donald Trump’s speech that afternoon.
“That was the most amazing crowd and the president was at his full awesomeness that day,” Santos said on The Right View with Lara Trump in February 2021, after losing his first bid for Congress to Rep. Tom Suozzi.
At the Great Neck event a year later, Santos, in his second attempt for the CD3 seat, seemingly remained on the side of Trump partisans, including those who entered the Capitol, or the “people’s house.”
“Imagine breaking into your own house and being charged with trespassing,” he said.
Video of the encounter, which took place at the site of a “restore public safety” vigil, captures Santos’ voice and chest, briefly his face, and his hands holding a bouquet of small American flags. In the long tradition of “tracking” footage in which opposing-party candidates are sometimes surreptitiously captured making inopportune statements, the Democratic activist offers leading lines like, “I don’t know why they put those people in jail,” but Santos not only agrees but doubles down on his own.
“Me neither,” he noted to that last. Santos goes on to say he “went down to DC Gitmo,” presumably a comparison to the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, before offering the intriguing nugget about writing a “nice check.”
Santos’ Democratic opponent, Robert Zimmerman, jumped on Santos’ words in the video. In a statement, the PR executive criticized the idea that legal bills may have been paid “even after 5 brave police officers were killed and over a hundred were injured on Jan. 6th.”
Santos’ campaign sent its own statement about Santos “running to be a voice in Washington” for the district, but refused to answer questions about the video or any payments he might have made for legal causes.
The candidate appears to be much less eager to delve deeper into this issue than he was this February, when he took his leave from the Democratic activist by asking, “Are you local here? I would love to continue this conversation."
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Outside help for Zeldin
Two outside spending groups have surfaced in support of GOP gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin, who is expected to be far behind incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul in fundraising when the next campaign filings come out.
One group, Save Our State NY Inc., unveiled its first billboard near Grand Central Parkway last week, focusing on the possibility of new tolls to drive into Manhattan’s central business district.
The other — labeled “STOP THE INSANITY!!!” on its website, exclamation points and all — just shot interviews with people telling their stories, to be used in forthcoming ad content.
Groups like these can’t coordinate with the candidate, and they are typically a way for donors to funnel big sums into the race in excess of the limits placed on individual campaign contributions. In this case, the two outfits have different strategies. The Save Our State political action committee is focused on issues like crime, cost of living, and congestion pricing, says Joe Borelli, a spokesman for the group and a Republican city councilman from Staten Island. Stop the Insanity, which is set up as a network to help both Zeldin and U.S. Senate contender Joe Pinion, is “hyperfocused on New York City and the immigrant and ethnic communities that have started to trend rightward," says public affairs executive Chapin Fay.
The theory of the case is that some of those voters are “free agents,” said Fay, who is a senior adviser to the group. Its executive director is former City Council candidate Vanessa Simon.
Save Our State has raised “our first million,” says Borelli, including hundreds of thousands of dollars from former GOP state party chairman Ed Cox, Estée Lauder heir Ron Lauder, and developer Steve Wynn.
Stop the Insanity’s initial investment was “around $200,000,” said Fay, adding that the group is looking for more funds.
Asked if the outside groups were needed to bolster Zeldin’s ability to raise and spend, Fay said he had “no reason to believe they’re hurting.” But the benefits of incumbency and a blue state certainly don't hurt the Shirley Republican’s opponent. “They’re not going to be able to match Hochul,” Fay said.
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Less of a mess
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Trump papers probe puts a Dearie back in EDNY
On Tuesday Raymond J. Dearie, who served as chief judge for the U.S. Eastern District of New York between 2007 and 2011, returned prominently to Brooklyn’s federal court as a man in the news once more.
Dearie, 78, a Rockville Centre native, is serving as a court-appointed special master to review documents that U.S. officials seized from former President Donald Trump’s private domain in Florida. Dearie was meeting with prosecutors from the Justice Department, which is also familiar turf; he’d been U.S. attorney for the EDNY from 1982 to 1986, when President Ronald Reagan picked him for the federal bench on the recommendation of then-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato.
Trump’s representatives recommended Dearie, a Republican, to Judge Aileen M. Cannon, herself a 2020 Trump nominee, who ruled in the ex-president’s favor when he requested the special master process. Even legal commentators siding with the Justice Department in the case, who were critical of Cannon’s decision, hailed the department’s acceptance of Dearie for the job.
For the political record: Those with long civic memories also know the name Dearie because of the senior judge’s Democratic first cousin — John C. Dearie, who served in the Assembly from the Bronx between 1973 and 1992. At 82, he’s still the marquis name on the Dearie Law Firm P.C.; some neighbors remember him from Quogue, where he had a summer residence.
Even though there was no professional or other public association between the cousins, an incidental irony or two arose over the years about their coexistence in the same wider political galaxy. In 1991, for example, there was a bit of “small-world” buzz when Assemb. Dearie’s then-conference leader, the late Mel Miller, went on trial on mail fraud charges in a private real estate transaction in Judge Dearie’s courtroom.
The legislator was quoted in The New York Times as skillfully hailing both, calling his cousin "a man of great fairness and intelligence," but saying he was rooting for Miller from the sidelines. The Assembly speaker was found guilty and forced to step down, but the conviction was later thrown out on appeal over how the felonies involved were defined.
For now, it may require the seasoning of a Raymond Dearie to unravel the strange pettifogging before him. On Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers claimed they shouldn’t have to take the risk of answering whether the ex-president somehow declassified the secret documents in his possession, as he earlier claimed.
But the Trump team also refused to confirm the prosecutors’ account that they are still classified.
One stern statement from Dearie to the Trump crew Tuesday afternoon seemed to hit the target: ”You can’t have your cake and eat it.”
Keeping straight the historical careers of the extended Dearie family looks a lot easier than brooking this milestone legal muddle.
— Dan Janison @Danjanison