Trump Backs Incumbent Staten Island Congressman

STATEN ISLAND -

President Donald Trump endorsed a Republican congressman facing a tough primary, but misstated the Staten Island lawmaker’s record on taxes.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said “There is no one better to represent the people of N.Y. and Staten Island (a place I know very well) than [Rep. Dan Donovan], who is strong on Borders & Crime, loves our Military & our Vets, voted for Tax Cuts and is helping me to Make America Great Again. Dan has my full endorsement!”

But Donovan was one of just a few Republicans who voted against the tax law. He defended the vote on Thursday, saying the legislation slashed deductions for state and local taxes.

“The president was well aware [of the vote],” he said. “We’ve had discussions about my tax vote, the president and I. The president has to look at things of what’s good for 330 million people. My No. 1 responsibility is for the 740,000 people that I represent.”

Donovan is facing a challenge from ex-Rep. Michael Grimm, who made Donavan’s votes against Mr. Trump a centerpiece of his campaign in the Republican district. Grimm, who resigned after pleading guilty to tax fraud in 2015, said he would stand with the president.

Mr. Trump said in a later tweet that Donavan stood a better chance of winning the general election.

“Very importantly, [Donovan] will win for the Republicans in November…and his opponent will not. … We can’t take any chances on losing to a Nancy Pelosi controlled Democrat!”

Trump and Donovan first spoke about the race last week while flying back to Washington aboard Air Force One, Donovan said Thursday. The president also called Donovan on Wednesday night after the tweet.

“He was very encouraging. I told him we are here to help move his agenda forward,” Donovan said.

Wednesday’s endorsement was the result of two months of discussions between the White House and Donovan’s campaign, according to Donovan spokeswoman Jessica Proud. She said the specific content of the tweet was not discussed ahead of time.

How does the endorsement change Donovan’s race against Grimm?

“It allows the people who have been hearing the false narrative from my opponent realize that it was false, that he was again trying to deceive them about my relationship with the president, my support of the president,” Donovan told The Associated Press. “There’s already been calls for him to suspend his campaign, and it happened 12 hours ago.”

Grimm was unmoved.

“All the endorsements in the world can’t change the facts,” Grimm tweeted on Wednesday night. “Donovan has failed to pass even one substantive bill into law, and has voted against President Trump every time it’s mattered.”