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Politics and Government

Katko holds 'motorcycle town halls' during tour of 24th district; Balter calls it a 'stunt'

Payne Horning
Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) talks to constituents at JP’s Tavern in Baldwinsville during a district tour.";

On a listening tour through central New York this weekend, Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) says he heard from his constituents about a range of local issues, and about the drama unfolding in Washington. 

In federal court last week, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen revealed that he violated campaign finance laws during the 2016 election when he paid two women to stay quiet about affairs they were alleging with Trump. Cohen implicated Trump as the one who directed him to carry it out.

Katko addressed the news during a stop on his motorcycle tour through the district. At JP’s Tavern in Baldwinsville Saturday, Katko said Cohen’s accusations and the conviction of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort on charges of bank and tax fraud show that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation should be seen through to its conclusion.

“People are starting to get convicted around him - it’s obviously pause for concern," Katko said. "That doesn’t mean he’s guilty of anything, but it reinforced my belief you gotta continue the investigation.”

Other Republicans in Congress have dimissed the revelations, suggesting that Cohen and Manafort's cases have nothing to do with Russian collusion, which is the focus of Mueller's investigation. Katko also responded to those claims.

"There’s always a question about how far the scope an investigation goes and what is the breadth and the power of the special prosecutor and whatever we do we need tidy that up going forward so there’s less confusion, but regardless - in my opinion this investigation needs to reach its conclusion," Katko said. "If they reach a conclusion and there’s nothing against Trump that’s chargeable, that’s a very powerful thing too and it very well might happen too and that’s why I think we should see it through."

If evidence does exist to charge Trump with a crime, Katko said he believes a sitting president can be indicted. As a former prosecutor, he said he believes no one is above the law.

But for Jamie Bondelos of Baldwinsville, who came to Katko’s event in protest, the congressman has been "all talk" on the Trump administration. 

“He basically supports the White House, which is immoral and completely corrupt," Bondelos said. "He also has been just kind of complicit in everything that has been going on.”

But many of those who attended Katko’s event expressed support for him and the president. Paul Calderwood of Phoenix was not phased by what Cohen alleged.

“I’m happy with the way the country is going and I want to express to my congressman that I want the wall built, I want him to start supporting Trump’s policies," Calderwood said. "That’s why I’m out here today.”

Katko held similar events in Fulton, Weedsport and Lyons over the weekend. His opponent, Democrat Dana Balter, criticized Katko, saying in a statement "the people deserve more than a Congressman who announces a stunt that is little more than a drive-by photo op with a motorcycle for a prop."