Rep. Eliot Engel Adds His Voice to the “Protect Mueller” Chorus
It was crisp but not cold as members of the Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club assembled, waiting for a press conference with several of the top Bronx officials that they had just helped to elect.
Local media, both print and television, showed up. There was a CBS microphone in place. The event was called for 4 p.m. It was still daylight, with time to spare before the White Plains demonstration taking place at 5 p.m. — in conjunction with the nationwide “Nobody Is Above the Law” action put into play by MoveOn.org.
Rep. Eliot Engel, in line for the House Foreign Affairs Committee in January, was running a bit late. After the presser, he had a call scheduled with Nancy Pelosi — before he headed up to the Westchester rally.
Thanks to the increase in on-the-ground engagement post-Trump, Engel has come to know many of his constituents by their first names. Members of the local Indivisible groups, Northwest Bronx and NYCD16 were in attendance, along with the club’s leadership. Councilman Andrew Cohen and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz joined Engel.
Dinowitz gave the opening remarks, and began by recalling the “Saturday Night Massacre” of the Nixon era. He noted that the country was “headed toward a dangerous situation” and emphasized that as a community, “we are united and stand together.”
Two days after the midterm election, and one day after the Trump ninety-minute meeting with the press corps that had heads spinning, the country plunged into a new crisis. The firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the choice of the interim replacement, Matthew G. Whitaker, set off another firestorm.
Cohen shared his evident concerns with me before the presser began. “The president has no respect for the law. He’s an existential threat to the country.”
When Engel stepped up to make his comments, his quieter voice had to contend with the din of passing traffic and teenagers waiting for buses.
Regardless, his message came through clearly.
“Here we go again,” he said. “On Tuesday, we had an election. The president lost control of the House of Representatives. He fired Sessions and hired a flunky.” Engel paused. “It’s no coincidence,” he said flatly.
Engel delivered his words succinctly.
“I have news for the President. We are not going to sit idly by and allow him to destroy the country.”
Invoking the man and the hashtag of the day, Engel stated, “Let Mueller do his job.”
Pointing to the lack of pushback on Trump’s continued attacks on American norms, Engel related, “I’ve said to my Republican colleagues, ‘Where are you? What’s more important?’ ”
Engel gave an unambiguous signal that the newly minted Democratic House of Representatives would not be giving Trump a pass.
“We know there was collusion. I want to know about it.” He suggested that there were hearings and investigations “that are highly warranted.” Shifting back to a summer head-scratcher, Engel said, “We still don’t know what happened in Helsinki.”
There was plenty to reflect on, and Engel covered a wide swath of the indignities that have occurred over the past two years.
“It has to stop. This is not a dictatorship. I won’t stand for it, the Democrats won’t, and neither will my constituents.”
Identifying the “arrogance” of Trump, Engel remarked, “The President thinks he has carte blanche. We will not allow anyone to undermine our democracy.”
Engel then closed down with a definitive challenge:
“I have a message for the President. We will not allow you to sweep things under the rug. The American people want the truth!”
After Engel finished his remarks, others spoke briefly to reinforce the importance of local momentum to support federal action. Bruce Feld, a Vice President of the club, touched on its sixty-year history. Referencing the current state of the nation, Feld underscored, “The circumstances are dire.”
Helen Krim, a local activist who also serves as the club’s Recording Secretary, was passionate about what lies ahead.
“The battle is not over,” she declared. “I depend on Democrats across the country.” Enumerating the groups who had most at risk under the Trump administration, Krim insisted vehemently, “We won’t tolerate the separation of children from their parents, bigotry or racism. The genie is out of the bottle.”
She was resolute about the road ahead.
“We’ve got another two years of battle. We can’t get tired. We can’t quit.
Photo: Marcia G. Yerman