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U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WASHINGTON — Rep. Elise M. Stefanik was just about to speak on the House floor as Trump supporters besieged the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. She was prepared to share her objections to certifying electoral results in four states, as she and several Republican lawmakers had promised in the weeks leading up to the congressional certification of the Electoral College ballots when the Capitol was overrun.

“I was actually on deck to give my speech, so I was seated towards the center of the chamber,” Rep. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said Thursday morning.

It was about 2:15 p.m. when she was preparing to object to the electoral votes from Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan, over how each state handled the presidential election.

Rep. Stefanik said she noticed something was wrong Wednesday when Speaker of the House Nancy P. Pelosi, D-Calif. and other leaders were rushed out of the chamber.

“The way she was removed was not normal,” she said, “and then Steve Scalise, who is minority whip, was seated behind me, and he was removed from the chamber, so it was very clear that something was not right.”

By now the mob was in the building, overrunning the Capitol Police, but what was unfolding outside the doors remained unknown by most in the session. She said debate continued for a few minutes until Capitol Police returned to the chamber to lock the doors.

The scariest moment, she said, was when she was preparing to stand to speak. A colleague told her to take shelter. Hide behind the seats, she was told.

“The next announcement was that we had gas masks under our seats, which I didn’t even know that’s where the gas masks are, and we were told to take out the gas masks and that there had been tear gas released in Statuary Hall,” she said. “You could also start to hear very concerning sounds, they started barricading the doors. It was very, very scary.”

Rep. Stefanik said she and her colleagues were locked into the House chamber until Capitol Police led them out, through the tunnels that connect the Capitol with the surrounding legislative office buildings.

She said she stuck with Republican Rep. Lee M. Zeldin, who represents New York’s 1st Congressional District, as they made their way back to the Rayburn office building.

“As we were in the tunnel, getting out, that’s when the shots were fired, that I later found out from a Capitol Police officer running, hearing on the radio, that shots were fired at the Capitol,” she said. “It had just been prior that there were members in the House chamber.”

None of Rep. Stefanik’s staff were hurt. She found them all in her office.

“As I’m describing it now, looking back, it didn’t really settle down until about 4 p.m., and it was still a very uncertain time, we were told to stay locked in our offices,” she said.

Congress reconvened after 8 p.m. with debate over Arizona’s electoral votes resuming in each chamber.

In her speech, shortly after the House resumed, Rep. Stefanik thanked the Capitol Police for their work protecting the Capitol during the mob invasion.

Those who broke into the Capitol are “violent criminals” who should be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she said, noting the Capitol Police saved lives.

Rep. Stefanik said her perspective was different than what viewers saw on television.

“We were locked in the chamber,” she said. “Some of the footage that people saw tuning into network television was very different than the vantage point I had. From my vantage point, there was a lot of confusion.”

Democratic congressional leadership quickly blamed President Donald J. Trump for inciting the violence. He hosted a rally near the White House continuing his claims that the election was fraudulent, telling protesters to march to the Capitol.

“We are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,” the president said. “And we are probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you will never take back our country with weakness.”

Members on both sides of the aisle have condemned the president’s actions, saying he did not do enough to stop the mob from becoming violent.

“I think the president has to be much clearer with the American people that he condemns any form of violence,” Rep. Stefanik said. “I do also think it’s important to note that the violent perpetrators and the mob that sieged the Capitol is not representative of the vast majority of people that were in Washington, D.C.”

Her constituents participated in constitutionality-protected protests, she said.

“What is not a constitutional right is committing violent acts, which is what we saw yesterday by the individuals that breached the Hill,” she said.

Conspiracy theories have arisen, claiming the people who broke into the Capitol were members of the left-wing group Antifa, rather than supporters of Mr. Trump. Rep. Stefanik said she would not speculate on motivations of the people who broke into the Capitol.

While it was a sad day for America, she is proud Congress resumed, carrying out its duty. The election was eventually certified in President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s favor.

When back in session Rep. Stefanik and other House GOP members carried on with their objection to electoral votes of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan once the House returned to debate.

“Tens of millions of Americans are concerned that the 2020 election features unconstitutional overreach by unelected state officials and judges ignoring state election laws,” she said after debate resumed. “We can and we should peacefully and respectfully discuss these concerns.”

She said Pennsylvania’s state Supreme Court and secretary of state “unilaterally and unconstitutionally” amended election law to eliminate signature matching requirements. For Georgia, Rep. Stefanik said the state’s secretary of state eliminated signature matching requirements, which she said was essentially eliminating state-mandated voter verification.

In Wisconsin, she said officials circumvented state law requiring absentee voters to provide photo ID before receiving a ballot.

According to Wisconsin state law, a voter’s first absentee ballot application must contain a copy of an acceptable photo ID, but those who are indefinitely confined due to illness or disability do not need to provide a photo ID, they may simply sign their ballot instead.

The Wisconsin state Supreme Court ruled that each voter was able to independently decide if they qualified as “indefinitely confined,” and those that were confined due to the pandemic could consider themselves confined.

In Michigan, Rep. Stefanik said there are thousands of signed affidavits that indicate election officials physically blocked legal poll-watchers from observing vote counts. She said Michigan officials also illegally counted late ballots, and hand-stamped ballots with prior dates to make them appear legal. The Detroit Free Press has reported there is not evidence to support the claims.

“These are hundreds and hundreds, I think over 1,000 individuals who signed affidavits, so they should be taken very seriously,” she said.

Rep. Stefanik said it was important to continue debate over the issue of certifying the election results.

“One of the greatest ways we can condemn the violence is to have a peaceful debate or discussion, which is what we had,” she said. “I stand by my decision to object.”

Rep. Stefanik said, for every Republican president elected in her lifetime, a Democratic member of the House has objected to Electoral College certification, which she said sets precedent.

Democrats have objected to Republican presidential electors. In 2005, after President George W. Bush was re-elected, both a senator and a representative objected to Ohio’s electoral votes, leading to a two-hour debate. Then, 31 members of the House, and one member of the Senate, voted to reject Ohio’s electoral votes. The measure failed, and Ohio’s votes were counted.

“In the case of last night, there were really only two states where senators and House members had both objected, that was Arizona and Pennsylvania, so I voted according to my announcement,” she said.

Rep. Stefanik said she would like to see a bipartisan commission prepare best practices for states to officiate elections.

While Democratic leadership has called for Mr. Trump to be removed from office in the wake of the Capitol siege, Rep. Stefanik disagrees.

Her spokesperson said the congresswoman is “vehemently opposed.”

“The Electoral College was certified for President-Elect Joe Biden, and President Donald Trump issued a statement to ensure his commitment to a peaceful transfer of power,” the spokesperson said Thursday.

Since Mr. Trump called Rep. Stefanik a “rising Republican star” following her defense of him during the November 2019 impeachment hearings, Rep. Stefanik has become a frequent guest on national media outlets like Fox News, as well as accompanying the president to Camp David and to his first campaign rally of the 2020 election. She said she plans to continue her appearances on national television, citing the popularity of national outlets with her constituents.

“The amount of feedback I get directly from constituents who are watching Fox, or they watch local news too, you have to reach people where they are, and there’s a lot of viewers in my district who really liked to see those updates,” she said.

Regardless of how Mr. Trump leaves office, he is leaving, and after Wednesday’s events, he leaves his party with questions over their next steps. Rep. Stefanik said she believes she has always worked with her north country constituency first, and will continue to do so.

“I’ve really been honored for the opportunity to make sure that the north country has a seat at the highest level of our nation’s government, and whether it’s working with the president or working with my colleagues in Congress to get things done for the district,” she said. “That’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

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(23) comments

JohnMcElroy

I guess the mob are all guilty of federal crimes which fall under pardonable offenses. That is pardonable except for who shot the Ashli girl and hit the policeman with the fire extinguisher. I do not believe their mssion was homicide but homicide did take place. Shooting the Ashli girl may have been under the rules of protecting the legislators in there chambers but the fire extinguisher incident well there is most likely more to that than we know. The whole attack was however very stupid and so is our president.

Jerry Moore Staff
Jerry Moore

mighty pen:

No, I don’t believe you thoroughly read Alex Gault’s story. Your initial statement claimed his article did not counter her false claims, and it clearly did. So your comment was not accurate.

And I regret if you believe Alex’s reporting was not in-depth enough for you. But it served its purpose. The primary objective was to allow Stefanik to relay her account of being inside the Capitol while it was under siege. Then the story offered a review of the claims she made during her objections, pointing out that some of them were false. This tells our readers that some of the information Stefanik provided is wrong. Now they can judge the veracity of her objections with the knowledge that they included falsehoods. And as for giving her the “last word,” what does it matter? Readers now know that some of the statements she made were false. They don’t become true just because she repeats them. This actually gives more insight into Stefanik’s mindset as she insists on standing by claims that have been proven false. Readers now know that some of her claims were falsehoods and that she isn’t troubled by continuing to assert them even though they’re wrong. This tells us a lot about who she is as a politician.

Alex and other journalists in our newsroom often communicate with representatives of the other newspapers in our alliance so they can discuss what everyone will be doing. As I said in another comment, we don’t need to replicate the work someone else is producing. My guess is that Alex and our editors knew the ADE story on fact-checking Stefanik’s of objections was coming, so there was no need for us to spend additional time looking into this if we planned on running a follow-up story in the works that did this. Collaborating in this way frees our journalists to get to the many other items on their to-do lists. With very limited resources, sharing the workload with these other newsrooms is beneficial.

So I’m not certain what you feel you didn’t get. Alex’s article reported on Stefanik’s experience and reviewed her objections, pointing out that some of her claims were false. And then a follow-up story delved more deeply into her assertions, documenting what was right and what was wrong with them.

Once again, we appreciate hearing from our readers on our work.

Jerry Moore

Editorial page editor

Watertown Daily Times

315-661-2369

jmoore@wdt.net

letters@wdt.net

JohnMcElroy

The capital mob is starting to come apart. Some are telling, "we were paid" thus my opinion it was all staged is starting to come together also. My first clue, how easily they go in to the chambers.

KRobbins

Thank you for the conspiracy theory. I’ll add that to my collection. It’s good that “they got paid” because many are going to be unemployed and/or facing criminal charges.

JohnMcElroy

The president has been suspended from Twitter. This was his venue and contact with his paid protestors. Now there is some conspiracy its coming apart further. However I believe it was a wrong move by Twitter, moderation would have done the job for the next 12 days. Trump's mouthpiece for the last 10 years was abruptly taken away IMO making him more of a danger.

Havenford

Here we are, two days after Republicans attacked the US Capitol and now several of them have been arrested and their ID's are clearly associated with the GOP. A Republican state delegate, a right-wing "pro life" activist, several TRUMP loving wackos with websites that for years have promoted violence and Trump. Yet the conspiracy theory junkies and are incapable of digesting facts.

This is why the GOP has never been the party of personal responsibility. All they do is create problems and then blame others. And the problem they created this week was they LITERALLY terrorized the US Capitol and the country.

The GOP is dead.

mightypen

Let's not be deceived: Stefanik's overweening political ambition continues to trump the best interests of the nation and of her constituents. Her appearances on Fox News and histrionic performances of smear and outrage in Congress are motivated by calculating self-interest. Her months and years of chronic mendacity in collusion with her far-right House cronies and cowardly servility to Trump finally and directly led to the violent attempted usurpation of the fair results of a democratic election. Let's see if she keeps her promise to continue "working with the president' on behalf of the 21st District after Jan. 20.

minder

[thumbup][thumbup]

mightypen

Where was an editor with a commitment to journalistic ethics on this story? You assigned a rookie reporter to interview a smooth-talking politician well known to lie in her public statements and allowed her to again promulgate the repeatedly debunked and judicially dismissed false claims of election fraud that sparked a deadly assault on and selfie-orgiastic occupation of the nation's Capitol without, at the very least, countering her outrageous assertions with truth and facts. Shame on the Watertown Daily Times.

Jerry Moore Staff
Jerry Moore

If you read the article carefully, you’ll see that Alex Gault countered inaccurate claims made by Elise Stefanik. He cited information pointing out where her assertions are wrong. Thank you for your input.

Jerry Moore

Editorial page editor

Watertown Daily Times

315-661-2369

jmoore@wdt.net

letters@wdt.net

mightypen

In response to Jerry Moore: I did read Alex Gault's report carefully and his fact-checking of Stefanik's false claims was inadequate. The article did not at all counter her false claims and objections to voting in both Pennsylvania and Georgia. It addressed balloting in Wisconsin; regarding her objection to Michigan voting, it allowed her the last word, claiming the creation of 1,000 spurious affidavits somehow validated the Trump campaign's false claims.

mightypen

It's a very tortured argument you make, Jerry Moore. Methinks ye doth protest too much.

The thorough Adirondack Daily Enterprise fact-checking article should have run simultaneously , side-by-side with Alex Gault's article on Stefanik at the Capitol, even if that meant delaying the latter's publication by several hours or a day.

I don't mean to disparage Alex Gault; he's a fine young reporter who will only get better with guidance from conscientious and demanding editors. The fact-checking omissions in his article could have been caught by an editor. And I know how overworked and understaffed local newsrooms are.

Earnest Everhard

WDT time to call out Elise for sedition, JUST like Josh Hawley’s Hometown paper did. Don’t get to walk back sedition, OWN it. 62/63 lawsuits thrown out, AG Barr says “no fraud” and WDT gives Elise a platform. Time to do your job as the 4th estate, WDT. Don’t worry, you’ll get more clicks if you break a few eggs.

Jerry Moore Staff
Jerry Moore

I hope you saw the editorial we published in today's newspaper:

https://www.nny360.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-fanning-the-flames-trump-and-stefanik-laid-foundation-for-assault-on-congress/article_864ccaf0-42b0-5d60-8c11-73bd2a98ce4c.html

Earnest Everhard

Thank you, I’ve just subscribed to home delivery of your Sunday edition.

KRobbins

Those who broke into the Capitol are “violent criminals” who should be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she said, noting the Capitol Police saved lives.

That’s right Trumpers. Those Republican politicians you followed into criminal acts are now throwing you under the bus.

KRobbins

Those who broke into the Capitol are “violent criminals” who should be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she said, noting the Capitol Police saved lives.

Should the people who instigated it like you and Trump and many of your colleagues face any repercussions or just the people who listened to your lies and believed them? January 6th will be remembered in history like December 7th and 9/11. Only this time the enemy was from within. And one of our major political parties was behind the attack. Stefanik is complicit.

Colbert had a woman on a clip crying about being maced after entering the Capitol. Then she goes on to say they were storming it and it was a revolution. He points out that in most revolutions the losers get beheaded. Maybe the instigators get off scott-free, tho. We’ll see how our North Country Star comes out of this. Does the WDT still feel good about endorsing her I wonder?

KRobbins

What was she scared of? These were her people. She’s a heroic Trump defender to them.

Kathryn

I hope she was terriefied! Just a little sample of how some of us, people of good will, feel living in a world where we don't know what our trump flag waving, confederate flag waving, AR15 toting neighbors might be capable of. Elise, you must share a portion of the blame. You were scared? You brought it on yourself.

Gracie

Flip flop

Eagle24

A Capitol policeman has now died. The party of the "Blue Wall" ...the party that ranted about the Seattle mob...claiming they were all left wing nuts... Stefanik, lacking the ability to call out POTUS for his wing nut antics... congressmen were sending their families out of DC for their safety...social media raged with predictions of what happened...the leader of our country, his family, his personal lawyer called for "combat justice"... Now we're supposed to feel sorry for Stefanik?? Cruz NOW says POTUS went too far??? Kick this gang out of the GOP and bring back the party of logical conservatism....

Mallow53

She shares blame. She had to know she was lying.

minder

She worked to perpetuate the lie that fueled the violent and deadly insurrection attempt. She should be ashamed and should take responsibility for the role she played.

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