As an early and outspoken proponent of impeaching President Donald Trump, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told a roomful of her constituents in Queens on Thursday that she wanted to keep her comments on the matter brief. The purpose of the meeting ostensibly was to unpack the five bills and one resolution that comprise her latest legislative proposal addressing poverty, dubbed a Just Society.
Still, before she could get to her intended agenda she said she had to address, “the news elephant” in the room. After summarizing the impeachment inquiry, accusing the President of using his power to “extort a foreign government” into investigating a political rival and violating the Constitution in the process, she paused to note what impeachment might mean in her congressional district, which covers portions of northwest Queens and the eastern Bronx.
“I do think it’s important to acknowledge that this is a cathartic moment for many people in our community that have been subject to the abuse of this administration for quite some time,” said Ocasio-Cortez citing the demographics of her district, about 50 percent immigrant, 70 percent people of color, and overwhelmingly working class.
“We’ve had to endure a lot in the last two years,” she said, “I’m not here to police your reactions to it because we all need to go through our process. Feel what you need to feel. But I am going to move on because, frankly, I think the whole thing is boring, he should have been impeached a long time ago, and like, I’m over it,” she added punctuating her comments with enough levity to elicit chuckles from the room.
This was the ninth town hall meeting Ocasio-Cortez has hosted in her district since taking office in January, but the first since the House decided to move ahead with an impeachment inquiry into the president.
In a modest-sized meeting room in the Queens Library branch at LeFrak City, a sprawling housing development in Elmhurst, more than a hundred people—and at least a dozen media outlets, including CSPAN which aired the meeting live—squeezed into the steamy space to hear from the freshman Congresswoman, a social media powerhouse and progressive stalwart.
Ocasio-Cortez did provide a roughly 10-minute overview of her Just Society proposal. A key piece of legislation would adjust the federal poverty line to take into account the variations in cost of living by geographic location. It would also take into account costs associated with health insurance, work expenses for the family like child care, and what she described as “new necessities,” like internet access.
Other bills seek to extend the social safety net to immigrants, including those who may be undocumented, and to those making re-entry after serving in the the criminal justice system; offer greater protections to workers; and seek to reign in corporate landlords to create more housing stability.
Despite the sweep of these ideas, when the floor was opened for questions, constituents used the facetime with the Congresswoman to talk either about their individual concerns or impeachment.
Michael Zullo, who praised Ocasio-Cortez’s Just Society proposal and said he hoped the first landlord that was targeted was Jared Kushner, also urged her to avoid public squabbles with her party’s leadership so that places like Fox News couldn’t seize on them.
“We need the Democrats united so we can get this guy out of office,” said Zulo.
Ocasio-Cortez said while Democrats may disagree on how they approach issues, she believes they share the same goals. “We all want to move towards justice, we all want to move towards economic prosperity, to center working families and we all want to root out the deep rot of corruption in this administration.” she said.
“I can assure you that nothing will shake the unity in the Democratic party in impeaching the President of the United States,” she added.
While most in the room shared her pro-impeachment stance, one woman interrupted the meeting to tell Ocasio-Cortez she was wrong to support the inquiry, arguing that the president had the right to ask foreign leaders for things he needed.
“You and I clearly have different takes on this issue,” said Ocasio-Cortez, “but I’m not going to try to tell you you’re wrong or anything like that. What I am going to do is to invite everyone to actually read the transcript and come to your conclusion,” she said.
“To me when someone says, ‘I need you to do me a favor, though,’ and then that favor is to investigate a political opponent, and then you connect that person to your personal attorney and the domestic attorney general—we’re not talking about a foreign secretary. That to me is a crime,” she said, again urging people to read it for themselves.
In one bizarre moment that appeared to be staged for social media, one woman stood up and in what began as a rant about climate change unzipped her coat to reveal a shirt that urged Ocasio-Cortez to change her campaign slogan to “eat babies” as a way to address the climate crisis.
The woman was removed by security but kept trying to get her picture taken with Ocasio-Cortez. Since the meeting was on C-SPAN, the moment was captured and shared by conservative media including Donald Trump Jr. and the President himself.
According to a writer for the BBC, the woman is actually part of the pro-Trump LaRouche cult.
Ocasio-Cortez also weighed in on the city's plan to replace Rikers Island with four new borough-based jails.