Stefanik holds firm in support of Trump

Congresswoman Elise M. Stefanik, NY-21. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

PLATTSBURGH — Following the first public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry, north country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, like her Republican colleagues, argued that witnesses put forth hearsay testimony and that no crime was actually committed by President Donald Trump.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent and acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor testified before the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday.

“Both of the witnesses have long lives of public service and have served this country honorably,” Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) told the Press-Republican Thursday.

“But the fact of the matter is neither of those witnesses had ever met with President Trump, had ever spoken with President Trump.”

IMPORTANT QUESTION

At the center of the inquiry is a whistleblower complaint that called into question whether, during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump conditioned the release of hundreds of millions in military aid in exchange for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

“One of the most important questions that was asked by one of my colleagues John Ratcliffe was, ‘Do you know of any impeachable offenses?’ and there was a resounding silence,” Stefanik said.

That was true for a few seconds, but after that brief pause Taylor went to reply.

Ratcliffe cut him off, saying he only had one minute left of questioning.

Following the short back-and-forth, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) intervened to suspend the clock and allow Taylor to answer the question.

“Mr. Ratcliffe, I would just like to say that I’m not here . . . to decide about impeachment,” Taylor said.

“That is not what either of us are here to do. This is your job.”

SONDLAND CONVERSATION

During his opening statement, Taylor shared some new information not included in his original closed-door deposition.

He told the committee that, last week, one of his staff members told him he had overheard a phone call between U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Trump on July 26.

When the staff member asked Sondland about the president’s thoughts on Ukraine following the call, the ambassador “responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which (Trump’s personal attorney Rudy) Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said.

Stefanik said she does not believe this information amounts to strong evidence.

“I care about firsthand evidence. We heard ... third-hand, fourth-hand, fifth-hand hearsay,” she said.

“In the court of public opinion and also as a legislator, I want to know firsthand about ... this information.”

The staffer, David Holmes, is scheduled to come in for closed-door depositions Friday.

‘NO CRIME COMMITTED’

During his five minutes of questioning, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) asked the two witnesses whether attempted murder and robbery are crimes, to which Taylor responded yes.

He stated, “I don’t know,” when Castro asked him the same of attempted extortion and bribery.

“The most important facts are aid was provided to Ukraine — in fact there was more aid provided to Ukraine than under the Obama administration,” Stefanik said.

“The second fact is there was no crime committed here.”

The funds were released on Sept. 11, several weeks after the phone call between Trump and Zelensky.

Stefanik did not respond yes or no when asked whether it would have constituted a high crime if the aid had not been given to Ukraine.

“The aid was given!” she exclaimed.

“First of all, the president is the decision-maker, ... as commander-in-chief, when it comes to our foreign policy and the fact of the matter is the aid was delivered to Ukraine.”

Stefanik pointed to Ukraine’s history of corruption, and said the law requires a focus on anti-corruption efforts in order for the country to get the aid.

“Again, we don’t want to be sending taxpayer’s hard-earned dollars to countries where there ... is not enough of an effort on corruption.”

SENATE

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said Schiff is the only member who knows the whistleblower’s identity, which Schiff said is false.

Stefanik did not say one way or the other whether she believed Schiff is lying about that point, but asserted that he is refusing to be questioned by the committee because the whistleblower reached out to him and his staff prior to making a complaint.

“The good news is ... he’s going to have to answer questions from the Republican Senate,” she said.

“He’s not going to be able to pick and choose by the time this gets to the Senate.”

INTERRUPTIONS

Though Schiff cautioned Taylor against assumption of “facts not in evidence” from both the minority and the majority when he interjected during Minority Counsel Steve Castor’s line of questioning, Stefanik contends Schiff has only interrupted Republican questions.

“There were many leading questions,” she said.

“If it was in a courtroom, there would have been many objections.”

This interruption occurred within 20 minutes of the start of Republican questions, she continued.

“The constituents that I am hearing from are flabbergasted at how Chairman Schiff has conducted himself and how partisan and how this has been a blatant abuse of power.”

LISTEN, READ

Stefanik did not come up with what she sees as the strongest points for the Democrats’ case when asked.

“I think every member should actively listen to all the testimony, should read all the depositions, which I have done, and make their decision based upon the facts, not make their decision based upon wishful political thinking,” she said.

The congresswoman reiterated a point she has made before that impeachment should not be a political buzzword or “last resort when a party loses an election.

“You have to respect the will of the American people.

“We are less than a year away from the presidential election and people are going to be able to make their voices heard.”

YOVANOVITCH HEARING

Asked what she would focus on during her questioning of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch Friday, Stefanik said she would not telegraph her questions.

“Of course, I will be prepared as I am before every hearing.

“I’m sure constituents and folks in the media will be tuning in so I would just suggest you listen.”

The hearing for Yovanovitch’s testimony is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. EST Friday.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Recommended for you

(14) comments

35YearArmyVet

Undert the House Resolution playing out procedures for the impeachment inquiry, the ranking members could only use his 45-minute period for his own questioning or to yield to his staff counsel. Stefanik's antics were manufactured for the low-information Trump base. The North Country deserves better than this carpetbagger who uses her parent's vacation home as her residence in the district.

Holmes -- the real one

Well put, 35YearArmyVet.

Brazenly, Stefanik answered those who called he on this by slinging yet more falsehoods and posting a picture of herself standing next to Trump while at Ft.Drum where Trump would not even say the name of one of our veterans in the Armed Forces.

Holmes

Elise was on Fox News last night and as stated in the interview it's no wonder she wins elections by double-digits. She is a bright representative and of course liberal media avoid her and denigrate her. She proved that you can’t convict someone of a crime when no crime was committed.

Farmer Liz

What Stefanik is doing is circumventing the entire issue, along with her GOP colleagues. "He released the funds," is like saying a thief isn't accountable because he returned the money he stole. 45 released the funds when the story broke, AFTER trying to use it as leverage. If Stefanik can't see what's wrong here, she must step down because she's ethically blind.

hermit thrush

well, everyone knows that when a republican is caught in the act, and then they reverse their behavior, they're supposed to get off scot-free.

hermit thrush

“But the fact of the matter is neither of those witnesses had ever met with President Trump, had ever spoken with President Trump.”

what incredible chutzpah. democrats have tried to interview multiple officials who have had direct interactions with trump, but the administration is defying the subpoenas. totally shameful.

Holmes -- the real one

Elise Stefanik providing a lesson in reasoning.

All Americans need to know is whether he actually killed that guy on 5th Avenue.

OK yeah, he was witnessed with the gun -- but as the "President" he has the right to open carry if that's what he wants. Besides, Trump "strongly denies" carrying the gun and makes clear that Giuliani does any actual gun carrying. Trump additionally asserts that Hillary's male grandchildren have been known to "play" with guns -- "the investigation of which has been suppressed by the liberal media."

OK, there are witnesses and photographs documenting him firing the gun -- but those so called witnesses are partisan and the photographs are photoshopped.

Now -- is the guy actually dead? Well, that's a matter of dispute too. He wasn't all that well just the day before. And frankly, all the American public needs to know is that he looks exactly the same as before the alleged "incident."

Thank you for your applause. Sorry, no questions at this time. I'm just too busy serving my constituents.

Farmer Liz

You rocked this one, Holmes.

Holmes -- the real one

Thanks, Farmer Liz.

Holmes

Thank you...

Holmes -- the real one

LOL

Holmes

Ever hear of "Logic 101?"

Holmes -- the real one

You crack me up.

Please regale us with your discussion of logic.

So what did you learn in Logic 101?

I can hardly wait.

hermit thrush

unintentional comedy gold.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.