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GLEN ROCK, NJ – The topic of the president’s impeachment, or an inquiry as a precursor to impeachment, has divided Democrats as a worthwhile course of action as the campaign season marches on. While some, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), believe that that approach could actually be detrimental to Democratic efforts, preferring, instead, to elect more Democrats into office over all, others believe it is an appropriate and necessary action, and failure to do so would be tantamount to letting crimes go unpunished.
A group of Democratic Party and progressive-wing protesters from the area, many of them members of organizations such as Indivisible NJ5, the Democratic Club of Allendale, the Highlands Resistance, JOLT, Women of Action NJ, District 5 Coalition for Change, Ramsey Pins, Teaneck Women Working Together, Mahwah After the March, and Waldwick Progressives, gathered in the parking lot outside the office of Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ 5) Friday morning. Their grievance? The congressman’s inaction on calling for an impeach inquiry into President Donald J. Trump.
Gottheimer, who was not at his Glen Rock office at the time of the demonstration, has a primary challenge on his hands heading into next June. Accused of playing both sides of the aisle by the protesters, Gottheimer represents a district which has a significant conservative voting population, having been represented by Republican Congressman Scott Garrett for fifteen years.
For one hour, between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., the protesters, led by Susan Steinberg, called for impeachment inquiries to be opened, citing the Mueller Report and asserting that the president had undermined the democratic process during the election, colluding with Russian elements, and obstruction of justice, among other charges.
Other speakers who took to the microphone included Clara Licata of Glen Rock, an appellate attorney in Midland Park and member of JOLT; Robin Canetti, a retired Mahwah school teacher and member of the Highlands Resistance based out of Ringwood, West Milford, and Wanaque; Jude Ezeh, of New Milford, graduate student at Fairleigh Dickinson University and 2018-2019 political director of NJ College Democrats; Jeanne Stella of Bergen county, an artist and retired business owner who is also part of the Closeter Democratic Club; and Madeline Trimble, a member of Indivisible NJ5’s steering committee and data analyst.
The rally was a mixture of vocalized charges against the president and a combination of chastisements and appeals to Gottheimer to take the initiative in launching an impeachment inquiry. Flyers handed out included Josh Gottheimer’s office phone numbers and a number of protesters signed into his office and spoke to staffers.
One man, Brian Cameron, was recording the rally with his cell phone and took issue with the calls for impeachment. He was offered the microphone to speak his mind, defending Trump for a few minutes and citing the loss of manufacturing jobs as one of the reasons Trump was elected, but did not mention Gottheimer or the congressman’s lack of action on an impeachment inquiry.
At times the rally took on anti-Trump chants, calling for impeachment, and other times songs parodying known tunes. While most were directed at Trump, Gottheimer himself was the object of one, “A Man Named Josh,” based off the “Beverly Hillbillies” theme.
On Gottheimer, a “disappointed” Stella expressed her sentiments on Gottheimer and frustration with the congressman’s evasive answers to her questions. She took particular aim about the racial and gender diversity on the Problem Solvers Caucus and that she could not get the names of those on the caucus from the congressman after what she said were repeated attempts to obtain answers. “I’m very frustrated with this lack of transparency and using rhetoric without actually answering questions.” Gottheimer faces a challenge in the next primary election, going up against Glen Rock Councilwoman Arati Kreibich, a 44 year old neuroscientist. “It is pushing him to react a little more now that he has a primary opponent, so that’s a positive thing. In June I said, I will never vote for him again. I would crawl over broken glass to vote for his opponent because I really feel so frustrated. I was a party-line Democrat, it’s not easy to push me away, it’s just very frustrating to have someone I feel doesn’t represent my values.”
“Indivisible was formed with the idea of keeping tabs on local representatives, to make sure that they are being accountable to the people,” said Steinberg. “Unfortunately, this congressman often has said that he likes to play both sides of the aisle, and he’ll often say he hasn’t heard our voices. ‘Well, nobody’s talked to me about that,’ he can’t say we haven’t talked to him about this.” Gottheimer has hosted a number of meetings called “Cup of Joe with Josh” where residents can talk with him at a diner or other establishment. “I’ve personally been to about four or five of them,” Steinberg said, but that Gottheimer refused to go on the record during these occasions.
The congressman issued a statement in response to the group.
“As the Speaker has said, to fulfill our constitutional oversight responsibilities, we will continue to turn to respective committees and the courts to obtain the materials and information Congress — by law — is entitled to receive,” Gotheimer said. “That is why I have consistently voted for necessary subpoenas and to hold those in contempt who have refused to cooperate. The recent hearings with Special Counsel Mueller also confirmed my concerns that Russia meddled in our elections, and remains a threat.
“I believe we must hold accountable anyone, or any country, responsible for coordinating this interference,” the congressman added. “I have voted to increase election security and protect our voting systems from foreign interference, and I urge Senator McConnell to do the same. Finally, as we address this critical matter, I will also continue to focus on other pressing issues in my District, including lowering taxes, reinstating SALT, fixing our infrastructure, supporting our vets and first responders, and getting health care costs down.”
Gottheimer is the co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, along with Republican Congressman Tom Reed (NY23). According to the Problem Solvers Caucus congressional website, the whips are Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS). The website also has a list of “featured members” with committees the congressmen and congresswomen serve on.