STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. ― Rep. Max Rose, a New York Democrat and one of his party’s last opponents of impeachment, endorsed an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump during a town hall in Staten Island on Wednesday.
“Now I have opposed a rush to judgment to date because the American people deserve to know that when this country is in crisis, we’re going to react responsibly and deliberately, especially when it involves impeachment,” he told an audience of more than 100 at the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island. "But instead of allaying our concerns, the president and his administration have poured gasoline on the fire.
“The American people have a right to know if their president used the power of his or her office to get a foreign power to interfere in our elections,” he added. ″We have got to follow these facts where they lead us. And where we find ourselves today, the president has no one to blame but himself.”
Rose, 32, who unseated Republican Rep. Dan Donovan in November, is exactly the kind of Democrat that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California had sought to shield from the potential political fallout of the impeachment process. In 2016, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton among voters in Rose’s district, which also includes a sliver of southwest Brooklyn, by nearly 10 percentage points.
Now the number of House Democrats who haven’t come out in favor of the impeachment inquiry is down to 10. The attendees at Wednesday’s town hall were largely supportive of Rose’s announcement, applauding after he made it.
One man interrupted Rose during his remarks to ask whether he had supported Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who created a dossier on Trump during the 2016 presidential race.
Rose and his staff told the man to sit down and suggested that he would get a chance to ask his question.
“Sir, I promise you that there’s not a question in this room that I will ignore. I promise you,” he said. (In the end, Rose completed the town hall after more than an hour without getting to the man’s question.)
Overall, Rose appeared to face more pressure in the room from activists to his left. Joe Schwartz, who identified himself as a retired union member and activist in a question submitted in writing, wrote that he would gladly give up his union-bargained insurance for the chance to enact a “Medicare for All” single-payer health care system. Schwartz asked whether Rose would support the single-payer bill in the House.
Medicare for All is “better than that union’s health insurance, including my union,” Schwartz wrote.
Rose, who previously worked as an administrator at a New York City-based health care provider, stuck to his opposition to Medicare for All. Instead, he reiterated his support for, among other things, increasing subsidies for people who buy insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 55 and allowing all Americans access to a public health insurance option.
“Our disagreement is centered around policy, not values. I will not rest until we have true universal health care in the United States of America,” he said, prompting applause from the audience.
They already tried, and we kicked their ass. And guess what: That’s exactly what is going to happen again. Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.)
Miriam Arnold, a retired city employee and union member, said she was pleased that Rose had come around on impeachment.
But Arnold said, “He’s got a long way to go yet on Medicare expansion, and possibly a single-payer system.”
Mark Birmingham, a union ironworker who arrived with a group of fellow workers to raise awareness about a dispute with a rival construction union, did not fault Rose for taking his time before supporting impeachment.
“He’s a man. He can make his own decisions,” Birmingham said. “No one should rush him.”
Speaking to reporters after the event, Rose denied that his decision to back impeachment was motivated by the news that Rose has a progressive primary challenger, Richard-Olivier Marius. Marius, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America who volunteered for Rose in the 2018 cycle and attended Wednesday’s town hall, is disappointed in Rose’s refusal to support Medicare for All and other progressive policies.
Rather, Rose said, it was various Trump administration officials’ indications in recent days that they would not cooperate with an investigation into Trump’s alleged solicitation of political help from Ukraine that convinced him “that this has got to be escalated” to an impeachment inquiry.
Rose also dismissed the prospect that his support for impeachment would endanger his reelection in the Republican-leaning district.
“They already tried once and we kicked their ass,” he boasted, referring to his 2018 victory. “And guess what: That’s exactly what is going to happen again. They have been absolute jokes.”
Rose nonetheless took pains throughout the town hall, which focused mostly on improving transportation infrastructure, easing commute times and addressing the opioid crisis, to distinguish himself from more liberal Democrats in Congress.
“On the one hand, we have Democrats who, before they have sworn the oath of office, want to impeach the president of the United States,” he said, making what appeared to be a veiled reference to comments by Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. “On the other side, though, we have Republicans who swore the same oath that I did but suddenly they become deaf, mute and blind whenever allegations against the president come up. That’s an even greater threat to our democracy.”