Exclusive: Elise Stefanik Reflects on Her Two-Week Whirlwind

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Posted: Nov 22, 2019 12:00 PM
Exclusive: Elise Stefanik Reflects on Her Two-Week Whirlwind

Source: Andrew Harrer/Pool Photo via AP

It was the parliamentary inquiry heard 'round the world. Well, at least 'round Washington. Elise Stefanik, a Republican representative from New York, will forever be remembered as the lawmaker who dared to question Chairman Adam Schiff's biased tactics during the 2019 public impeachment inquiry hearings. Last Wednesday, she spoke up after Schiff's and ranking member Devin Nunes's opening statements, to ask whether Schiff intended to try and prevent witnesses from asking questions as he'd done in closed-door depositions. A few weeks before that, she called Schiff out for fabricating parts of the phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky that has served as the catalyst for the Democrat-led inquiry.

And so Rep. Stefanik finds herself in the spotlight. We got her on the phone on Thursday to see how she's handling the newfound attention, and what she thinks of the Democrats' priorities.

"This has been a breakneck pace for every member on the House Intelligence Committee," she said. "But while this has been the first time the public has been able to view these proceedings, this has been two months of closed-door depositions, which has been a travesty of a process."

Now, she's glad the public can catch a glimpse of how "long, and detailed, and furious the witness testimony is."

Schiff silenced Stefanik again last Friday after she tried to make a point of order before the committee questioned former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. It may have just been "the most partisan rule" in congressional history, Stefanik suggested.

A member of Congress should be allowed to yield his or her time to another colleague during these hearings, considering it's something they're allowed to do in nearly every other situation in the House, she reasoned. Yet, per the partisan impeachment resolution passed a few weeks ago, Schiff is now "judge, jury, and prosecutor."

Making the most of the time she was allotted in the hearing Q&As, Stefanik has at least tried to keep the conversation centered on corruption.

"My constituents are deeply concerned about accusations of corruption and potential conflicts of interest when a son of a sitting vice president [is] sitting on a corrupt company like Burisma and some of the decisions that the vice president made in terms of our support for Ukraine," she said.

"In these hearings, I haven't just focused on the Hunter Biden potential appearance of conflict of interest," Stefanik went on. "I've asked questions about the history of corruption in Ukraine. I've asked questions specifically about defense of lethal aid to Ukraine. I've asked questions about the decision making role of the president when it comes to national security."

Meanwhile, the House's legislative agenda is collecting dust.

"We have so much work to do," she said. "We have to pass USMCA."

Unfortunately, the Democrats have a one-track mind as of late. On Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed the House doesn't have time to get to USMCA by the end of the year.

"Speaker Pelosi has prioritized impeachment," Stefanik regrets. "They've broken their promise to the American people and is not bringing up USMCA...She is 100 percent focused on impeachment," Stefanik said. "It is a waste of taxpayer dollars, and it's a waste of the few legislative days we have left in session."

Negotiating the final NDAA is also a priority of Stefanik's because not only does she sit on the conference committee that's finalizing it, but she represents the 10th Mountain Division, the most deployed unit in the U.S. Army.

But, thanks to Democrats' skewed priorities, she said, they have "only had one substantive intel briefing on national security issues in two months."

Oh, and it would be nice to make sure they fund the government too, she adds.

"We're not doing our regular committee business."

Stefanik is running for re-election in NY21. Her opponent, former Gov. Cuomo appointee and St. Lawrence County legislator Tedra Cobb, claims to have benefitted from the Stefanik's impeachment performance, but the incumbent said Cobb can keep her Hollywood endorsements.

"Any day of the week I choose North Country families over Rosie O'Donnell and Chelsea Handler," Stefanik said.