The House impeachment inquiry was picking up steam, a Fox poll had 51 percent of Americans now backing President Trump’s removal from office and Israelis were openly pondering the unthinkable: that the United States may no longer be a reliable ally.
But over a breakfast of omelets and oatmeal last week at the Premier Diner in Commack, in Suffolk County, a stronghold of the president’s in the deep-blue metropolitan area, a group of Jewish retirees were standing by their man, with some reservations.
As they pondered the president’s abrupt order to withdraw American forces from northeast Syria, all disagreed with the decision, noting that it cleared the way for invading Turkish forces to attack remaining Kurds who had been America’s ally in the war against the Islamic State.
Nevertheless, all were unswerving in their continued support of the president. And all believe the impeachment inquiry launched against Trump by House Democrats is nothing but partisan politics that will go nowhere.
Mel Lax of Dix Hills, L.I., said the impeachment inquiry “right now appears [to be] a joke. Everything they bring up seems to be in question, and so far there has been very little documentation to prove he did anything that is impeachable.”
Fred Roth of East Northport, L.I., said Trump will “never” be convicted by the Senate and that the impeachment inquiry is nothing but a “political ploy by the Democrats. … There is no substance” to the allegations.
For Trump supporters beyond Suffolk County, the move to abandon the Kurds cut both ways.
Sid Dinerstein, the former Republican Party chairman of Palm Beach County, Fla., said some of his Republican friends “agree with the decision and some don’t, but we don’t see it as a Jewish issue. Nobody is worried that it will impact the president’s support for Israel. We all appreciate that the Kurds have been real allies, but Trump’s position — not getting in the middle of tribal wars in the Middle East — is a political winner. It’s a flat-out winner. It is something whose time has come all across the political spectrum.”
Rabbi David Nesenoff, founder of Rabbis for Trump, said he wouldn’t criticize Trump’s decision on Syria because “the war with the Kurds has gone on for hundreds of years and the president said: ‘Let’s bring back our troops.’ … Having our soldiers there to be killed is counterproductive in the president’s eyes.”
Regarding the Democrats’ impeachment probe, Rabbi Nesenoff said he is “outraged” that the only two countries Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, asked his vice president, Joe Biden, to oversee, the Ukraine and China, were the two places “his son appears by magic and gets literally billions of dollars from those two countries. … Hunter Biden had no qualification for business other than his daddy was the vice president. Corporations gave money to Biden through his son.”
Obama did make then-Vice President Biden his point man on Ukraine following its revolution in 2014, and Biden did represent the administration on a trip to China in 2013, accompanied by his son Hunter. There is no evidence to Trump’s allegations that Biden or his son acted illegally in regard to Hunter’s business dealings in those countries, although both acknowledge they made for poor optics. There is no indication that Biden or his son made “billions” in either country.
Rabbi Nesenoff defended Trump’s decision to ask the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Hunter’s business dealings in the country.
“I want my president to dig out all areas of corruption,” the rabbi said. “That is why he was elected and what he is doing.”
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a New York wealth manager who has worked for Republican and Democratic elected officials, said he believes “Trump has a point when he says impeachment was their [Democrats’] goal from day one. It is nonsense anyway because the Senate will not support it. It is a gross political charade, and even sane Democrats say it has to be decided at the ballot box.”
Irwin Blumenthal, a semi-retired dentist from Glen Cove, L.I., said the claims of House Democrats that Trump withheld nearly $400 million in aid to pressure Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden — the central issue of the impeachment probe — are untrue.
“I read the transcript of the call [between Trump and Zelensky] and there was never any quid pro quo,” Blumenthal said. “And Zelensky said he did not know the aid had been held up. The real story is why did the vice president do a deal with the Ukrainians … and get his son a seat on the board of a company for $50,000 a month?”
In May 2014, Hunter Biden took a seat on the board of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings, but there is no evidence it was arranged by his father.
Geof Sitomer of Hauppauge, L.I., called the Democrats’ probe a “total and complete farce perpetrated upon the presidency by the Democratic Party. They cannot defeat President Trump in a legitimate election [next year], therefore they are trying to … build a case against him without any solid foundation.”
Dinerstein said his guess is “there is a 40-60 percent chance the House won’t impeach. … Anyone who votes to impeach will be putting his seat at risk, which is why the Democrats have not taken an impeachment vote.”
‘A Stupid Move’
Back at the Premier Diner, Trump’s supporters were more willing to question the president’s decision on Syria and the Kurds, which Howard Heller of Dix Hills, L.I., called a “stupid, ignorant move.”
“Did he forget what the Kurds did for us in Syria?” asked Heller.
In his decision, Trump gave Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a green light to invade northeast Syria, saying he was fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw American troops from “endless war” in the Middle East. Even close Republican allies, like Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said the move strengthened Syrian and Russia and abandoned Kurds who had allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.
Michael Newman of Smithtown, L.I. called Trump’s decision “asinine” because “we have long-term commitments [to the Kurds], the same way you can’t jump off a merry-go-round in the middle of the ride. … It’s a security issue. We have to be there to keep ISIS from reforming.”
Lax said he too believes Trump made “a big mistake. They had been our allies while fighting against ISIS and they wanted independence.”
Dr. Harvey Finkelstein of Dix Hills, L.I., said that in withdrawing U.S. forces Trump was simply “pandering to a dictator and betraying our friendship to the Kurds … . It was a morally unjust decision.”
Fred Roth of East Northport, L.I., agreed it was a “terrible decision,” but he said he believes Trump will eventually “send the troops back in and do a cleanup and in that way gain political points in the U.S.” And he suggested that Trump made the decision to “take pressure off the impeachment inquiry.”
Ephraim Likerman of Dix Hills, L.I., an Israeli-American, also decried Trump’s “extremely wrong move” and said the big losers are the Kurds and Israel.
“Israel is a loser because once the U.S. has no presence on the eastern border between Turkey and Syria, the corridor is open from Iran, to Iraq, to Syria and then to Lebanon [to send in weapons and troops to combat Israel]. Why would you make such a unilateral move without warning your allies?”
But Sitomer said he does not believe “in the remotest sense” that Trump would ever abandon Israel.
“Trump is the most solidly pro-Israel president we have ever had, maybe since [Harry] Truman,” he said.