Bay Ridge

Rep. Max Rose in hot seat as holdout on Trump impeachment inquiry

September 27, 2019 Clifford Michel, THE CITY
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This story was originally published on Sept. 26 by THE CITY. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 220 other Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives say they’re committed to an impeachment inquiry on President Donald Trump — leaving one New York City member of Congress among a conspicuous handful of holdouts.

U.S. Rep. Max Rose, who represents Staten Island and a sliver of southern Brooklyn, has steadfastly refused to join his party’s pack, placing him in a squeeze between Democrats demanding he join their impeachment wave and a GOP angling to take back the precarious seat Rose won in 2018.

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Rose put out a carefully worded statement Tuesday after reports emerged that Trump was pressuring Ukraine and withholding military aid for political gain.

“This is a serious crisis, all options must be on the table, and it’s time Republicans are as interested in the truth as the American people,” he said — while also urging restraint.

“It’s now assumed that it doesn’t matter who’s in the White House, the opposing party will try to impeach them,” the statement continued. “That there is such a lack of trust is a damning indictment of both parties and why I ran for office in the first place. It’s also why I have opposed a partisan impeachment process that would only deepen those divisions, not solve them.”

Dem supporters disappointed

Rose’s stance has perplexed and stunned many grassroots activists on Staten Island who worked tirelessly to canvass for him in his upset victory against former U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, a Republican.

As Election Day neared, hundreds of volunteers flooded in from around the region to help the 31-year-old Army veteran win a district that Trump had carried by 10 points.

Nicole Negron, with the activist group Staten Island Women Who March, said that in the past, members of her organization defended and understood the congressman’s pragmatic and measured approach to national issues that could alienate moderate voters in New York’s 11th Congressional District — where only one other Democrat has won in three decades.

Meanwhile, Capitol Hill politics have moved more rapidly than Rose has. When seven other freshman House Democrats with military experience came out Monday in favor of impeachment in a Washington Post op-ed, Rose’s name was noticeably absent.

“Many of our members are disappointed, and even personally offended, that the representative they worked so hard to elect has refused to call for impeachment,” Negron told THE CITY. “Especially in light of the latest whistleblower complaint and the fact that a majority in the House now support impeachment.”

She added, “Whether it’s true or not, there’s a feeling that Max is prioritizing politics and his desire not to alienate the so-called moderate Staten Island voter, over his constitutional duty to act as a check on the executive branch.”

Julienne Verdi, chairperson and founder of the social justice advocacy group Move Forward Staten Island, said they are discussing doing a “call to action” to make their position known to the congressman.

“We believe that a formal inquiry is now appropriate,” said Verdi. “And while we have a lot of respect for and share Congressman Rose’s concerns on how an impeachment inquiry has the potential to divide the country — we definitely share that concern — we do not believe that a serious abuse of power by the president can go unanswered.”

GOP on attack

Meanwhile, Staten Island GOP rivals swiftly moved to criticize Rose for shifting from his strict opposition just weeks ago to being open to impeachment hearings.

“Once again Max Rose is speaking out of both sides of his mouth and not really disclosing to people in the district where he really stands,” said Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis on Thursday afternoon. She is running for the Republican nomination for the congressional seat next year.

Malliotakis said that the House’s focus on impeachment will be the party and Rose’s downfall, and will prevent the House from accomplishing anything substantive.

“They’re too busy playing political games before even having any information or any evidence of criminal wrongdoing,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Rose dismissed her response as posturing.

“I don’t have time for Nicole’s nonsense,” Rose said. “She’s just trying to make up to Trump for when she admitted she wished he wasn’t president. I’m doing my job. My position hasn’t changed, but the American people deserve to know if any president worked with a foreign power to target American citizens. Let’s get the facts not tear the country apart.”

As Staten Island Republicans gathered at Grand Oaks Country Club in the borough’s South Shore Wednesday to celebrate new officers and a revamped fundraising operation, the Democratic demands for impeachment couldn’t be avoided.

Staten Island GOP chairperson Brendan Lantry told THE CITY that voters on Staten Island, which he calls “the last great Republican bastion in New York City,” will bring Rose to account.

“We won’t let them forget,” said Lantry. “We will remind voters of that comment and many other comments where we see a tale of two Maxes.”

This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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