By Mark Hallum
Freshman U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Huntington) reached out beyond his district Sunday for a breakfast Q&A with residents at the Hillcrest Jewish Center in Fresh Meadows.
Many in attendance, however, found his opinions on President Donald Trump less than agreeable. As the talk progressed with Suozzi slamming Trump for apparent conflicts of interest, about 10 people stood up and left out of the crowd of roughly 80.
Still, not all were in disagreement with Suozzi. The controversy started with one woman raising the issue that Trump is using city resources to secure Trump Tower with no federal reimbursement, as well as the fact the president is using his Mar-a-Lago in Florida as a diplomatic rendezvous point.
“Every president has the right to this protection, but this president is living an unusual life,” Suozzi responded. “His wife and son are staying Manhattan, and they’re traveling down to Mar-a-Lago on a regular basis. And they used to mock Obama, like, ‘he’s playing golf too much.’ Well, Trump has played more golf in 90 days than Obama.”
When one person asked who was paying for the president’s lifestyle, many sitting near the front of the podium grunted their disapproval for Trump’s behavior and shouted “You are!”
“I’m not as concerned about that because it’s legal. … But, more, my concern is from a financial and ethical point-of-view,” Suozzi said. “When the president meets with the president of Japan, and they stay at Mara-a-Lago, the president is there with his entourage and he’s got all his security and the reporters. They’re all staying there. That means the federal government is paying all these people to stay there. They’re staying at a private business that the president happens to own.”
There was applause following Suozzi’s point that Americans are paying Trump’s business to host diplomatic visitations and raise the value of Mara-a-Lago membership.
“Could it possibly be that the president of the United States of America is trying to make money out of his job?” Suozzi asked, resulting in gasps across the room. Arguments rippled through the room between audience members with one man exclaiming, “What are you picking on a rich guy for?”
Suozzi attempted to calm the crowd and find a middle ground from that point.
“We’re all living in our little bubble,” he said. “The Trump supporters are all listening to Fox News, the Trump haters are listening to CNBC We’re all listening to people repeat the same things, so we have to cross these lines a little bit and talk to each other.”
Ethel Levine and her husband Joe took exception to the congressman’s comments on Trump’s expeditions down to Mar-a-Lago.
“What about the Clinton Foundation and the money they got from foreign governments?” Ethel Levine said, with the two continuing on in unison about allegations of uranium mines sold to Russia by the Clintons, as well as large sums of money made by the former Democratic nominee for speaking engagements. “This was a very biased presentation.”
Suozzi’s district, which is concentrated on Long Island, covers part of northeast Queens, but does not extend to Fresh Meadows. But a show of hand in the audience indicted that more than half the people came from within his political stomping grounds.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall