Back in Park Slope, Weiner defends Huma from Grassley, and takes a shot at ‘lord governor’ Lhota
On Sunday afternoon, Anthony Weiner arrived at a street fair in Park Slope with his father, Morton, and his son, Jordan.
"It was my day to watch him, and plus it's Father's Day, and I was coming to visit his grandfather in the neighborhood, so it worked out well," Weiner told a handful of reporters, about his son's debut on the campaign trail.
Not along for the family outing was Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, who appeared briefly in Weiner's campaign kick-off video, but has yet to join him on the campaign trail.
Weiner said he expects his wife will be campaigning with him soon enough, and that she's "very busy."
Abedin's work has come under scrutiny in recent months, after reports that she worked as an outside consultant while also working for the State Department. On Friday, Politico reported that Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa had sent a letter to the State Department asking about Abedin's time as a "special government employee," and whether her outside clients might have benefited from the "political intelligence" she enjoyed as a department employee.
"He's got a right to ask what he'd like," Weiner said when I asked about Grassley's letter. "Huma has perhaps one of the most documented lives in America. She's been in public life her entire life, and so there have been all kinds of filings he can take a look at. So have mine. We have very transparent financial lives. But he's entitled to ask anything he wants. And a lot of the questions should be directed to the State Department.
"But I'm very proud of her service and she certainly has done everything exactly as she was supposed to, and exactly above board, so we have no problem answering those questions."
Asked if he thought Grassley's questions were motivated by politics, Weiner said the couple would take the questions "at face value."
"The senator has questions he'd like answered," Weiner said. "There's nothing unusual about Huma's situation. In fact, over 100 State Department workers, I've read in the papers, have the exact same status, so there isn't anything unusual about it. But I'll leave it to someone else to determine what his motivations are."
The street fair was Weiner's first campaign stop in Park Slope, the neighborhood where he grew up, and the reception was decidely positive, with dozens of people stopping to take photographs, as Weiner directed them to one of a handful of volunteers with clipboards.
He answered questions from potential constituents about education, stop-and-frisk, fracking and one on public transportation from a young man in nurse's scrubs named Adany Paulino.
Weiner said, "There's no accountability now and we have to push back, we have to get some control," and he took a shot at Joe Lhota, the former commissioner of the M.T.A., who is running for mayor as a Republican.
"There's a guy running for mayor right now, who was appointed by the state to come in and try to keep track of us all, as the lord governor of M.T.A., when at the time we should have been saying we want control of that ourselves," Weiner told Paulino.
Later, Weiner elaborated for reporters on his criticism of Lhota.
"You can't be the M.T.A. head for five minutes without realizing that New York City doesn't have the control that it should have," he said. "And that should be, if you're really doing your job, you're working for the governor, and you're not working for the city. That's kind of the structure of the job, and that's the job he did. But it's certainly not, you can't now, after you leave the job, say, 'Boy, I wish the M.T.A.—I wish the city had more control over the M.T.A.' It's sort of like 'stop me before I kill again,' that kind of thing."
Many of those who stopped to chat with Weiner were less interested in policy, and more interested in reminiscing. There were those who remembered him as a kid, who had his mother as a math teacher at nearby Midwood High School, and some more distant Weiner connections.
"I worked with your cousin at the V.A., Warren Weiner," said one man.
"Oh no kidding, tell him I said hello," said Weiner.
"Anthony, I know your sister's best friend, Judy," said another as Weiner made his way south on Seventh Avenue. "Do you know Judy?"
"No," said Weiner.
"Yes you do," said the man.
"Judy who?" Weiner asked.
"Judy with the walker," the man said.
Weiner was stumped. "Give me a last name, work with me," he said, before the man came up with a name that sounded like Neuderman.
"Oh, Judy! I do know Judy," he said. "I haven't seen her in 30 years, 20 years."
Weiner just missed seeing another former friend who lives in the neighborhood.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, who served as Weiner's mentor but has repeatedly declined to speak about his candidacy, was shaking hands just a few blocks away. The two didn't cross paths.