Government

Lance Responds to Questions on Russia, Impeachment, Environment at Town Hall

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Rep. Leonard Lance Credits: Curtis Leeds
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Nash Theater at Raritan Valley Community College was filled to capacity for yesterday's Town Hall hosted by Rep. Leonard Lance. Credits: Curtis Leeds
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BRANCHBURG, NJ – There was so much interest in Rep. Leonard Lance’s Town Hall yesterday that a second one has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday.

Lance said Raritan Valley Community College’s Nash Theater was chosen for each event because it’s the largest venue in his district. Saturday’s Town hall will be Lance’s 42nd such meeting since being elected to Congress, according to Lance spokesman John Byers.

Security was in abundance at the Town Hall, with both uniformed and plain clothes police. But the event seemed well organized even if protestors helped create a chaotic atmosphere outside the theater.

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Inside, the exchange between Lance and his constituents was sometimes noisy, but mostly respectful. When Lance’s responses were drowned out by jeers, others shushed the crowd. Lance called the exchanges “vigorous” and beneficial.

Questions about Trump, Russia and his alleged conflicts of interests were on the minds of many.

Those concerns prompted questions about Lance’s position regarding a possible Trump impeachment.

“I think the responsibility in the House of Representatives to impeach or not to impeach is one of our most important responsibilities,” Lance said. “An impeachment is the equivalent of an indictment. The United States Senate would be the judge and jury in effect. It would take a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict and remove the president or other high official.”

Lance said he thinks “it’s clear there was involvement, I think that’s matter of public record” that the Russians are involved in influencing elections, but added, “I have confidence in the intelligence committees ... I have been encouraged by the bipartisan nature of those now investigating.”

Robert Yankowitz, a psychologist from Millburn, told Lance he’s “impressed that the Senate intelligence committee is proceeding with what appears to be non-partisan activity. However, I see no reason why the House shouldn’t launch its own investigation.” He said he thinks the House investigation is not bipartisan and is “dragging its feet.” Yankowitz wants a select House committee to investigate, something Lance doesn’t seem willing to yet endorse.

But Lance praised Trump’s appointment of H. R. McMaster as National Security Advisor.

“My view is that Russia is not a friend of the United States,” Lance said, “and that Vladimir Putin  has been a bad actor on the world stage, that the incursion into the Ukraine and Crimea is not to be tolerated.” Lance said that’s the view he thinks is shared “by colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the Congress.”

To large applause, Yankowitz said he hopes Lance stands with those colleagues and recognizes, “Now is the time to put country before party.”

Mary Schwenkler of the Stanton section of Readington challenged Lance’s support of removing federal rules for stream protection and allowing the Dakota access pipeline to be built.

“The building of such a pipeline here will be a disaster for our water supply,” Schwenkler said. “You have flip-flopped on your position on the environment.”

But Lance said we’re now relying on more cleaner sources of energy than ever and favors tax credits to produce more of it. “I believe climate change exists,” he said. And Lance said he hopes federal regulators will respect preserved land as it considers the proposed PennEast pipeline.

In an interview with the press after the event, Lance said he was asked more questions about Russia than he expected. “My views on Russia are the views of the Secretary of Defense, of the National Security Advisor and our ambassador to the United Nations.

“I hope Trump follows the advice he receives from those people,” he said. “I do not think Russia should be trusted.”

Lance said he did not think the questions posed to him were predominately partisan. “Those in the audience were constituents. I don’t think they were paid. I think they came in in the manner of public spiritedness.”

TAPinto will have more on the Town Hall, including Lance’s stance on Trump’s proposed border wall, education and the press.

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