Comey hearing a lot to digest for voters at New York diner

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The testimony by fired FBI director James Comey had been hyped around Washington as the political equivalent of the Super Bowl, but at the Colonnade Diner in Staten Island, N.Y., it was more a side of political theatre served with breakfast.

In between bites of his omelette, Thomas Loverdi, 80, a registered Republican, didn’t see a need for today’s hearing. 

“I believe this is a waste of our money for our country. The Democrats are still in denial from losing this election,” he said.

While most of the boroughs in New York City are hotbeds of Democratic Party support, Staten Island is an outlier. Donald Trump held well-attended campaign events here and won the suburban area easily with 56 per cent of the vote.

So while bars in Brooklyn held parties to watch the hearing, with overflow crowds spilling out onto the streets, at the Colonnade Diner it was sometimes hard to hear the testimony over the din of the late-morning crowd of retirees.

Like Loverdi, many here dismissed the entire investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election as fake news and put little stock in what Comey said under oath against Trump.

“Now it’s his words against his,” Loverdi said. “Is there any tapes?”

In the Democrat corner

The rare table of Democrats a few booths away watched the hearing through a very different political lens. For retired teacher Barbara Fleming, Comey is speaking the truth.

Santina Grilli and Barbara Fleming

Retired teachers and Democrats Santina Grilli and Barbara Fleming say they’re happy that Comey is being allowed to air his side of the story and they hope that it will inspire more voters to call for Donald Trump’s impeachment. (Steven D’Souza/CBC)

“I’m happy to see that someone has the courage to stand up for what he believes in,” she said.

Her friend Santina Grilli said she’s happy the Republicans in the Senate are giving the issue a fair hearing.

“The power right now is in the hands of the Republicans — legislative, executive and also judiciary — they could’ve very easily hidden the truth, but the truth is coming out,” she said.

Fleming said she didn’t need a hearing to conclude that Trump obstructed justice and the investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election. She hoped today’s testimony spurs others to act and fuels the push for impeachment.

“He’s telling us things that we didn’t know behind the scenes more or less, not known to the public, and I think that’s very important.”

A Democrat for Trump

But bridging the stark political divide in America isn’t easy. Especially so for voters like Judy Barnett, a registered Democrat who voted for Trump.

At times she defended Trump: “Mr. Trump is not a politician, he’s a businessman, and President Trump doesn’t care who he hurts.”

Judy Barnett

Judy Barnett says Trump could have handled James Comey’s firing in a better way, but that he’s a businessman and handles things differently from regular politicians (whom she doesn’t hold in high regard). (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

In another instance, she said he should face consequences, though she doesn’t have much faith in the system or politicians.

“Maybe they should put [Trump] on trial, but he’ll lie, they all do.”

Fleming hoped voters will take time to digest today’s testimony and try to make an informed decision about the president’s future. She worries too many Americans have political blinders on and can’t see beyond party lines.

“You have to keep an open mind, you to listen to everything, if you’re an educated person and you want to make an educated decision.”

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