‘The Legend of Zeldin’: How Long Island’s GOP Congressman Became Impeachment’s Biggest Star

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) speaks during a press conference on the impeachment process in the Rayburn Room of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on October 31, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

The effort by House Democrats to impeach President Donald Trump has created plenty of political stars on both sides of the aisle, from Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) in the GOP to Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) in the Democrat Party.

But perhaps no bigger star has emerged in the fight than Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), a hard-charging GOP congressman from Long Island whose district includes the Hamptons.

It’s not because of any viral moment in a public hearing. Zeldin actually is not on either of the committees that have held public impeachment hearings, though he is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which granted him access to the Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF) during the behind-closed-doors deposition-taking part of the Democrats’ impeachment push.

It’s not because of some outrageous thing he said or did on television. Zeldin has been remarkably reserved, sticking to the facts, in press conferences and television appearances during this whole process. But he also has no problem taking the heat right to the Democrats when they deserve it, as they often have shown they do. Zeldin believes the Democrats are committing a fatal political mistake with impeachment, and is helping lead the GOP in the party’s efforts to recapture the House majority because of it.

“Nancy Pelosi is throwing away her majority,” Zeldin told Breitbart News in an interview for this piece. “She’s sacrificing her majority-makers from these districts that Donald Trump won. Those Democrats who are in those districts got elected with promises to work all in on issues to move our country forward and instead of delivering on those issues they just voted to move forward with this impeachment circus. From that House resolution vote that almost every one of those Democrats in those districts voted for to the possibility of actual Articles of Impeachment in the coming weeks, Nancy Pelosi is throwing away her majority. She’s going to lose it for all the right reasons. Republicans are getting re-elected for all the right reasons. The Senate is going to stay in Republican control as opposed to Chuck Schumer becoming the next majority leader. So politically it’s a horrible endeavor for our republic, it’s been a horrible endeavor on the merits, it’s been entirely devoid of concern for charges, facts, and evidence. You can tell that charges don’t really matter, facts don’t really matter, and evidence doesn’t really matter. It’s about a payoff to the Democrats’ base from 2018, but it’s going to cost them a lot politically in 2020 and it’s costing our country a lot right now in 2019.”


Zeldin’s Twitter feed has become a must-read for anyone wanting to understand what the Democrats are doing in a nonstop stream of information from a key insider about not just the problems with the Democrats’ impeachment process, but also more importantly the flaws in the Democrats’ case. Members of his conference and top movement leaders and allies of the president both inside and outside Congress and the administration have nothing but high praise for Zeldin’s work on this issue.

“Lee has been leading the fight in Congress to pass the President’s America First agenda and he’s a bonafide warrior for his constituents back home in New York’s 1st district,” the president’s eldest son Donald Trump, Jr., told Breitbart News. “We need more people in Congress like Lee who are unafraid to always do the right thing for the American people, regardless of the smears and lies they may face from the establishment media for doing so.”

Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior adviser to the president’s re-election campaign, added that Zeldin has stopped the fake news in its tracks throughout the impeachment process many times.

“Lee Zeldin is one of Congress’s most effective communicators when it comes to commanding the attention of the media and clearly articulating his position,” Guilfoyle said. “Lee routinely stops fake news narratives in their tracks, while in the same breath delivering a bulletproof defense of President Trump and his America First agenda. He’s the kind of leader we’re lucky to have in our corner.”

White House senior adviser for strategy Tony Sayegh, whom the president brought back into the administration to handle impeachment messaging when it became clear the Democrats were heading down this route, said Zeldin has become a star in the GOP.

“For those of us who have known Lee from the earliest days of his political career, his rise to stardom comes as no surprise,” Sayegh told Breitbart News. “He is tenacious, hard-working, smart, sincere, and truly dedicated to public service for all the right reasons. He is the exact model of the patriots our framers hoped would enter government.”

Cliff Sims, a former White House adviser and top ally of the president from the outside now, added that Zeldin has earned the nickname among Trump supporters, “The Legend of Zeldin”—a play on the title of a popular Nintendo video game The Legend of Zelda.

“There’s a reason he’s earned the nickname ‘The Legend of Zeldin’ — he’s a total warrior for the President and the movement as a whole. In a town that’s too often full of spineless jellyfish, Lee has shown time and again that he’s got a serious backbone. The impeachment fight is just the latest example,” Sims said.

Andy Surabian, a GOP strategist and adviser to Trump, Jr., added that Zeldin’s “brawler” mentality puts him front and center in the fight against the left.

“Lee is a brawler,” Surabian said. “He understands that his job isn’t to bow down and serve the interests of media and their friends in the Democrat Party, but rather to stand up and fight for the American people. The Republican Party would be better off if we had a whole lot more Lee Zeldins in office.”

“Lee has been a tremendous asset to the party and the president,” Arthur Schwartz, a GOP consultant with close ties to the White House, added. “Lee is one of our most effective and informed communicators and strategists pushing back against the democrats’ ridiculous impeachment sham. We’re lucky to have him.”

There are countless quotes like these from across the party. But Zeldin has been invaluable, perhaps most of all, to his colleagues on Capitol Hill, whom he would arm with facts, key details, narrative backup, talking points, and more as they set out to defend the president from this impeachment nonsense.

“I’ve had a lot of communications. Sometimes the conversation will be one-on-one with other members and other times it will be larger groups,” Zeldin told Breitbart News in his interview for this profile. “In some cases it could be the entire conference. Not only was the American public kept in the dark on many of those deposition transcripts, but if you don’t serve on one of those three committees—Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, or Oversight and Government Reform—then you were kept in the dark as well. That’s terrible for a colleague who’s being kept in the dark but getting asked questions by constituents and getting asked questions by local media. They want to be able to help sort fact and fiction, but even they don’t know all the information, and that’s why I was calling for all these transcripts to be instantly released—the delay was a problem and, as of this conversation, there are still multiple transcripts that still haven’t been released. So in order to be able to best respond to constituents and best respond to the media, you want to have as many facts as possible. While I was subject to the deposition rules even in talking to my own colleagues, I still could help them think through certain questions and help get them certain answers and avoid pitfalls that some members of the media might try to rope them into if they do an interview. It was really about having maximum amount of dialogue with colleagues who wanted to talk.”

Part of the reason the final Articles of Impeachment vote on the floor of the House on Wednesday will have no Republicans voting in favor is the work of Zeldin, leading among his colleagues, getting them information and facts that debunk key fake media narratives. His colleagues and the key players in the GOP conference like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) definitely appreciate it.

“Lee has been an invaluable voice in the Democrats’ sham impeachment,” McCarthy, the House GOP leader and would-be Speaker should the GOP retake the majority next year, told Breitbart News. “Since Democrats launched the inquiry, Lee has used the skills he learned as an Army judge advocate to dismantle Adam Schiff’s false, hyper-partisan narrative. Most importantly, his constituents should be proud that he’s focused on fighting against impeachment in order to get things done for our country, like passing the USMCA, lowering prescription drugs, and keeping our nation safe.”

“Lee was an amazing member of the Republican team both during the depositions and the hearings,” Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, added. “He provided excellent legal advice that we acted on time and again. The guy has been invaluable.”

Zeldin earned his star status throughout the impeachment process because he has become one of the go-to members that key leaders in the GOP conference, including the ranking members of both the House Judiciary Committee and HPSCI, have turned to for guidance on questions, messaging, key facts and details, and the narrative as a whole.

But it’s not just them—or GOP leaders, like McCarthy or the White House—who have depended on Zeldin. His colleagues in the House GOP conference consider his guidance invaluable. Conservative leaders and Trump allies outside the White House, in addition to key insiders, consider him the connective tissue that has helped hold Republicans together by fighting the Democrats’ narrative and presenting facts that exonerate the president in a manner that truly challenges the left’s and establishment media’s drive for impeachment.


In a nearly 30-minute interview with Breitbart News for this story—which was sandwiched between HPSCI hearings last month—Zeldin launched into an uninterrupted 11-minute-long complete destruction of the case Democrats have been building against President Trump when asked for his general thoughts on the whole matter.

“This entire process lacks legitimacy and credibility,” Zeldin said. “It started with the election of Donald Trump and his inauguration. To some extent, it even started before he was elected. People needing to go outside of their house and scream to the sky in order to vent their emotional and mental frustrations coping with the 2016 election kicked off this push for impeachment, and a pledge to resist, oppose, obstruct, and impeach anything and everything. Because of this unhinged effort and view of how government should work, the House ended up flipping in 2018 from Republican control to Democratic control. The activist base of the left put many Democratic candidates just over the top. There weren’t many votes making up the difference between a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic-controlled House. I see this current impeachment effort as a payoff towards those people who still haven’t accepted the results of the 2016 election. That’s the reason why Nancy Pelosi has a gavel in her hand and why Adam Schiff has a gavel in his.”

Zeldin continued on this epic explanation by explaining that he’s spent countless hours in the secure room where HPSCI chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who has somehow managed to make himself even more of a villain to the right throughout this process, conducted the secretive depositions that were selectively leaked to the media before becoming the basis for the later public hearings and now actual Articles of Impeachment.

“This started before any of the allegations really get to President Trump and Ukraine and President Zelensky,” Zeldin said. “I have spent tens of dozens of hours in the Capitol basement bunker, Schiff’s house committee SCIF, even though all of these briefings have been unclassified. The depositions have been conducted in a way to keep the public in the dark. The strategy has been to cherry pick out leaks following the depositions, withhold key facts, and then outright lie in order to deliberately mislead and confuse the public about what’s true and what’s not true.”

Zeldin’s interview with Breitbart News came the day before Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s public hearing. Democrats had hoped that him showing up in his military uniform would push public opinion toward their efforts—which it did not, as countless recent polls indicate—and before the Democrats had released the transcripts of most of the interviews they conducted in the secretive Capitol bunker. Zeldin continued in his uninterrupted debunking of the Democrats’ impeachment narrative by explaining that because Schiff had been holding back certain transcripts before public hearings, members of his committee could not use the full contents of the facts gathered to question the witnesses—and thereby the testimony of people like Vindman was incomplete at best or, at worst, misleading to the public.

“We still have not seen all of the transcripts from all of the depositions that took place, and I don’t believe that another hearing should happen until the rest of the transcripts are released,” Zeldin said. “For example, tomorrow morning when Lt. Col. Vindman testifies, someone may have a question for him based on what Mark Sandy of OMB said on Saturday. But Adam Schiff’s deposition rules end up gagging the member who has that question. Back in that deposition setting, Adam Schiff played the role of prosecutor, jury, judge, witness coach, and chief strategist for lying and leaking. While he was saying this was analogous to a grand jury proceeding, there has never been a grand jury proceeding in the history of our country that has been anything like the Schiff show that I was witnessing firsthand in his Capitol basement bunker. The open hearings have been staged. The order of witnesses to get called, the denial of most witnesses the Republicans want to call, the denial of the precedent to allow the president’s counsel to be present to, at the very least, be able to assert executive privilege when appropriate, I believe the president’s counsel should also have the ability to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.”

Zeldin, continuing with this streaming destruction of the Democrat narrative, explained next how the Democrats have been misusing the Intelligence Committee for impeachment purposes—noting that it should have been conducted in the House Judiciary Committee, to which it later was moved. He noted, too, how Schiff’s team was coordinating with the so-called “whistleblower” who kicked this whole thing of, and how Schiff has made himself a “fact witness” in the process–something the House Democrats refuse to act on.

“I don’t like that there’s—here you have the House Intelligence Committee, which isn’t even the appropriate committee to be dealing with this,” Zeldin said. “But, honestly, this is Adam Schiff’s baby that has his fingerprints on it going back to even before there was a whistleblower complaint. It appears that the whistleblower was in touch with Adam Schiff’s team before the whistleblower even had a whistleblower’s attorney or even filed a whistleblower’s complaint. Adam Schiff and a couple members of his staff have become fact witnesses.”

Next, Zeldin explained how the president’s requests with regard to foreign aid to Ukraine fit with longstanding U.S. policy and law—and how the facts are on Trump’s side in these particular cases he mentioned, both with Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and with the corruption surrounding Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma.

“At the heart of what the president requested was concern over corruption in Ukraine, which has been longstanding U.S. law and U.S. policy,” Zeldin said. “The president specifically mentioned two cases which are important and legitimate concerns. Ukrainians did in fact interfere in our 2016 elections, and there are many facts to these allegations—all should be pursued. If there are seven allegations of Ukrainians interfering in the 2016 election and one or two turn to be a dead but the other five or six are 100 percent are factual and true, then it’s worth pursuing all to ensure that we’re getting to the bottom of Ukrainians interfering in the 2016 election.”

Burisma, of course, is the company that paid former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden tens of thousands of dollars per month to be on its board while the then-Vice President was pushing Ukraine to fire a prosecutor investigating the company. Joe Biden succeeded: Ukraine fired the prosecutor. The Bidens and most Democrats have argued that it was U.S. policy and international consensus that said prosecutor, Victor Shokin, needed to be fired, but questions about this and, at a minimum an appearance of a conflict of interest, have raised concerns from even some of the Democrats’ star witnesses. A cloud has hung over Burisma and its co-founder Mykola Zlochevsky ever since. Zeldin continued by explaining that the president is right to have concerns over corruption swirling around the Bidens.

“As for the president’s concerns with Burisma and Zlochevsky, the fact is Burisma is a corrupt Ukrainian gas company run by a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch who hired the son of the vice president for at least $50,000 a month despite Hunter Biden having no Ukraine experience or energy experience,” Zeldin said. “This was a payoff simply based off Hunter Biden’s last name. He wouldn’t have gotten the position otherwise. In the middle of all of these massive monthly payments, the Vice President of the United States—Joe Biden, who is really the most conflicted personality in the Obama administration to be running point on Ukraine—goes to Ukraine and threatens Ukraine with the loss of $1 billion if they don’t immediately fire the state prosecutor who had an open investigation into Burisma and Zlochevsky. If that whole setup isn’t illegal, then it should be. Never again should someone like Hunter Biden be able to get these massive payouts simply because he’s the son of the sitting vice president running point for Ukraine. So, those are specifically two concerns that the president raised. And, all of our research into both topics have shown that there are actual important issues that unfortunately people who work in the executive branch didn’t take seriously enough when they should have—instead turning a blind eye towards all these concerns forced the president to take even more concern upon himself directly.”

Zeldin concluded his 11-minute destruction of the Democrats’ case for impeachment by pointing out that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he felt no pressure or demand from President Trump, and that Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland have both testified that there was no quid pro quo push from the president. He noted that when it comes to process and when it comes to substance, the Democrats’ case for impeachment has been fatally flawed.

“President Zelensky said there was no demand, no pressure, no quid pro quo, there was nothing wrong at all with the July 25 call or anything else for that matter,” Zeldin said. “But the people who have testified, such as former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, have laid out the facts as to how President Zelensky didn’t know there was a hold on aid on July 25, the readouts from Ukraine following that call mentioned nothing about withholding aid or a quid pro quo. On July 28, President Zelensky meets with Ambassadors Volker and Sondland and mentions nothing about quid pro quo or a hold on aid. In the several weeks that follow, there’s no notice by any Ukrainians about a hold on aid or a quid pro quo, and it’s not until the end of August after reading it in Politico that Ukraine receives confirmation that there was a hold on aid. The hold got lifted soon after, and Ukraine didn’t have to do absolutely anything to get that hold lifted. So, on the substance, the president’s right. On the process, Adam Schiff couldn’t have specifically been more wrong. Whether we’re debating process or substance, the impeachment charade needs to end. The only thing that you can possibly give Schiff credit for is his ability to write parodies and engage in damaging theatrics.”


Zeldin spent countless hours holed up in the basement of the Capitol during the deposition-taking phase of the impeachment inquiry. He was critical in terms of explaining to the public what he could about what was happening down there without actually revealing anything he could not reveal from the room, and preparing his colleagues and the public for the eventual public phases of the impeachment sham. While Zeldin is not on the Judiciary or Intelligence committees, he is on the Foreign Affairs committee–which granted him, unlike so many other members of Congress and countless millions of Americans, access to the secret depositions in real-time.

“The room is set up with multiple tables that form a long rectangle,” Zeldin told Breitbart News of the SCIF in the basement of the Capitol. “The Democrats sit on one side, the Republicans sit on the other side. At the head of the table is the witness with the witness’s attorneys. The depositions have an opening one-hour round Democrat, then Republican, then alternating 45-minute rounds until the deposition is complete, with some break in between that could be as short as five minutes or as long as a half hour if it’s a lunch break in the middle of the day. There has been tension at times in the room, especially as Adam Schiff engages in his witness coaching. The other thing Adam Schiff has liked to do at times is interject himself in the Republican line of questioning. He just can’t help himself because in Adam Schiff’s min, he’s king. There have been times where there are a lot of productive questions asked in a row with interesting answers. I’ll say that most of what gets elicited is second, third, or fourth-hand information and asking people about their opinions on matters which they don’t actually know, and you’re asking them to guess and to speculate.”


One of the things Zeldin has made particularly clear over the course of his quest to destroy the Democrats’ impeachment case is that he understands the power of the media and their ability to wield facts and narrative to mold and shape public opinion. Zeldin told Breitbart News he does have respect for many members of the press who are trying to get the truth out, but he knows that several bad actors exist throughout the media in the Capitol Hill press corps, spreading disinformation as willing accomplices of the Democrat Party.

“You have some members of the media who want to get information to be able to do their jobs and report on the facts,” Zeldin said. “You have other members of the media who are willingly used by Democratic members and staffers to put out information that’s just not true. I wouldn’t want to paint all of the media with just one brush. Some of the people who are staked outside of the SCIF looking for information want accurate information, they don’t want to put out something that is not accurate information because the deposition transcripts are going to get released, and it’s not good to be relying on poor sources to put out bad information. So some of the more responsible members of the media not running these thin stories haven’t been writing on some of the leads that others have run with, and it’s bad scoops most of the time.”

But then there’s bad actors, and Zeldin has been aggressive in reshaping the public narrative— using his social media accounts and any other place he can as a platform to get the full story, which he argues vindicates President Trump, out to the public.

“In some cases it’s zero percent of the story, in other cases it might be three percent of the story, but the lack of context with the Democratic leaks were very problematic,” Zeldin said. “I take the biggest issue with the members of the media, whether it’s print media or on TV, where they ran with something that just wasn’t true enthusiastically, even though I or someone else could be telling them before they run with it that it’s not an accurate story. They print something and you can go back to that reporter and let them know they should take their story down, and they have no interest in doing that, because they’re part of the resistance but working inside the media. It’s really important that I don’t try to paint them all with one brush, because I’ve definitely seen at least a couple different kinds of journalists.”


Zeldin argues that in addition to jeopardizing their majority by putting the vulnerable Democrats from the 31 districts that President Trump won in 2016 at risk with a pointless vote going nowhere in the Senate, the real reason Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving forward with Articles of Impeachment is because it’s “payoff” to the leftist base of her party.

“It’s a payoff to their activist liberal base that put them into power in November of 2018,” Zeldin said. “Nancy Pelosi got rolled not just by that activist base but also by the furthest left elements of her party. Many of these members are freshmen with bigger followings than Pelosi has, and they rolled her—successfully.”

Zeldin is thankful that the leftist base wing Democrats cannot “roll” President Trump or  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying the nation would be in “bad shape” if “Squad”-connected socialists like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) had that kind of influence over the GOP too.

“Thank God they also don’t have the ability to roll the White House and the Senate Majority Leade, because our country would be in very bad shape if the far left was capable of rolling everyone and not just Pelosi,” Zeldin said.

He also said that Democrats facing primary challenges to many establishment Democrats have helped the leftists associated with the Squad corner many top Democrats and force their hands on impeachment.

“The other part of it is the threats of primaries to these congressional Democrats, people running to their left, where if they’re not going back home to their district able to tell these Democratic primary voters everything that they’ve done to tear down the republic and unseat a sitting presiden, then they might not win re-election,” Zeldin said. “That’s a motivator for many Democrats who might not know any better.”

Zeldin concluded by noting that the reason the nation is where it is right now is because of the “hate-filled base” of the Democrat Party, and the only way to course-correct is for the voters to reject this leftism and re-install a GOP majority in the House along with a GOP Senate majority and reelecting President Trump in 2020.

“But I think that’s the reason why we are where we are right now, where this extreme activist hate-filled base of the Democrat Party is at the moment, as well as the power of a number of members to the furthest left of the Democrat Party who serve in Congress,” Zeldin said.


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