Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) sat down with this newspaper’s editors and reporters last Monday to talk about issues, both national and local, including immigration, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the gun debate and allegations surrounding Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, including his asking a staffer to contact a Chick-fil-A executive about securing a franchise for his wife.
Here are some of Mr. Zeldin’s comments:
“You haven’t seen a real immigration bill get done, because it’s not because there isn’t support behind a particular solution, it’s because you have to get to 218 votes in the House and 60 votes in the Senate and there are several proposals out there that can get close. It’s really about getting something over the finish line in both chambers.
“I’m one of those people who could think up a thousand different immigration-related bills that I’d support in getting over the finish line. That doesn’t mean I’ve given my proxy where any immigration bill that comes up for a vote I would just support [it] because we really need to do something on immigration, doesn’t matter what it says — I’m not one of those people.
“I will say where you have some people who say just do DACA and let’s not do anything else, it’s ignoring a reality of where our country and where our Congress is. And for anyone who says let’s just do the wall and let’s not do anything else, it’s ignoring a reality of where our country and where our Congress is. So if you’re not willing to compromise then we’re not going to get anything done.”
IMMIGRATION AND UNDOCUMENTED FARM WORKERS
“I think ICE’s priority has been focused on people who aren’t just here illegally but have something else in their background that’s putting them on the radar.
“I wouldn’t be able to guarantee [farmers] that [undocumented workers] wouldn’t end up getting targeted. Not all farmers handle this issue the same way. Not all employers, business owners in the hospitality industry, are handling this in the same way. Some do file their paperwork; they ask for Social Security numbers, they pay taxes, have their employees pay taxes. Some of their employees have been coming here legally for one season after another where the next farm may not be following that same process. I’ve experienced different narratives from even one farm to the next. But if the farmer wanted to have more assurances, the best thing would be to ask them for paperwork. You’re supposed to pay taxes.”
ON THE MUELLER PROBE
“I don’t anticipate that the president would be issuing a pardon of himself because the president’s position is that there’s nothing to pardon himself for.
“It’s kind of like all the questions about whether or not he’s going to fire Robert Mueller. There are people who are concerned that he may and every time he’s asked, the White House is asked, someone’s asked about firing Robert Mueller, they reiterate the position that they are not considering firing Robert Mueller.
“The hypothetical that’s been proposed doesn’t seem realistic right now because the president’s position is that he hasn’t committed a crime. He kind of would be admitting that there’s something to even pardon himself for.
“The special counsel that was created was created with a particular scope that was related to the 2016 election. I believe that Russians were meddling in our election in 2016. I’m concerned about Russia wanting to meddle in future elections.”
“I’ve gotten money from people who are on both sides of the gun issues. I’ve had many a conversation with people all across the spectrum on the gun issue.
“I don’t support banning all semi-automatic weapons, but I want to articulate the reason why is because semi-automatic weapons aren’t automatic weapons. Semi-automatic weapons is a broad classification of firearms where you pull the trigger and one bullet comes out.
“There are some people who blame the gun without providing any perspective or wanting to talk about why that person who needs help is choosing to end their own life.
“We should be talking about the mental health piece of it. We should be talking about the gang violence piece of it. We should be talking about deaths that are caused by law enforcement.”
ON EPA DIRECTOR SCOTT PRUITT
“As far as an oversight function, regardless of whoever the president is, whoever the cabinet member is, there is a certain way of doing your job and following the rules that everyone should be abiding by. I don’t have all of the facts, but we know enough that there needs to be more transparency and accountability as it relates to many aspects of our government, always.
“For our local issues, I’ve worked very well with the EPA, both the last administration and this administration. We have a lot of interaction with the EPA out here. We’ve got the Long Island Sound Program, the Peconic Estuary, the Army Corps of Engineers projects and interacting with the EPA on a number of those things.
“The interaction with the EPA has been great. Our regional administrator is someone who was in the state Legislature with me. He’s been out here. He’s helped pass out money to local entities.”