Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Elise Stefanik interview, 10/18

By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor

Editor’s note: Short excerpts of a long Chronicle interview with Rep. Elise Stefanik, conducted Oct. 18.

Chronicle: Do you believe Joe Biden won the 2020 election?
Stefanik: Joe Biden is President of the United States. I believe there’s always going to be questions about the unprecedented nature of the 2020 election for a lot of different reasons. In a once in a century pandemic, you had tens of millions of absentee ballots cast, you had a very unprecedented ballot counting process. Even if you look at the absentee numbers in this district, or mail-in ballots, so absentee, it was a huge, huge increase.

And I stand by my objection on January 6, about the unconstitutional overreach of unelected officials unilaterally changing election law in states like Pennsylvania. Remember, New York tried to do that under Governor Cuomo. And we pushed back very aggressively, very publicly, to avoid that unilateral change to election law…

But certainly Joe Biden is President of the United States and we’ve seen the result of his failed policies. But I do think there are rightful questions on the integrity of the 2020 election.

Chronicle: Does President Trump bear any responsibility for what happened in the Capitol on January 6?
Stefanik: I have condemned the violence that occurred inside the Capitol on January 6. I do not believe President Trump bears responsibility. I believe those that committed violence, those that destroy property should be prosecuted. I’ve said that from the very beginning, just like the entire summer of 2020‚ the summer of riots.

There’s a difference between peaceful protests, which is constitutionally protected, and criminal acts, desecration of property, violence and riots, burning of churches. And Republicans condemned that violence as well. That violence Democrats were silent on and did not condemn throughout 2020.

Chronicle: Do you expect Donald Trump to run for President in 2024?
Stefanik: I do. I think he’s going to announce a lot sooner than people think. I think if the election were held today between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Donald Trump would win walking away.

Prediction for next week’s election?
Stefanik; I think it’s going to be a very big Republican year. If we win five seats in the House, we win back the majority. If we would win 35, that will be the largest majority since the Great Depression. I think we’re on pace to win that 35, if not more…

And this crime crisis is real…It’s shocking to folks that do not feel safe in their communities that felt safe five to 10 years ago. So I think there’s going to be a huge earth shattering surprise on election night when Lee Zeldin is elected Governor of New York State.

Chronicle: How confident are you going forward in NY State elections?
Stefanik: I will certainly accept the results of the election. I have faith in our local BOE [Boards of Elections]. I have faith that we will have safe and secure elections in the 21st Congressional District.

Chronicle: What’s your stance on Ukraine?
Stefanik: Ukraine is an incredibly important partner to the United States. It is turning towards the west, which is a good thing. I believe that we made a mistake years ago of Ukraine not being admitted to NATO…I was one of the Republican leaders prior to the invasion from Russia who believed that we should have provided support earlier as a form of deterrence. The Biden administration totally failed any effort to deter Russian aggression. They completely botched that….

I am concerned, however, about the tens of billions of dollars, and there’s no inspector general overseeing those funds, to ensure that they’re not going to waste, fraud, corrupt entities. We saw that for years in Afghanistan, that there was a huge amount of corruption. And that was U.S. taxpayer dollars. I do not think we should write a blank check to Ukraine, given the significant economic challenges that we are facing as a country right now. There should have been an inspector general appointed to oversee those funds, and Democrats did not allow that amendment. They killed it in the Senate.

What about China and Taiwan?
Stefanik: I think we need to learn the lessons of the failure to provide defensive aid and deterrence earlier in Ukraine. I’m very concerned about China’s growing aggression. And I believe that both Putin and Xi have watched Joe Biden’s leadership very closely. And this is a result of weak leadership on the global stage that Putin obviously saw weak leadership and took advantage of it in Ukraine and started a war. And I’m very concerned that Xi is watching, again, a weak commander in chief and we’re seeing increasing aggression in all fashions.

With also no consequences of the origin of COVID, for example, so many aspects of the past two years, that the American people are really waking up on how much of a threat China is existentially to the United States of America.

Chronicle: What do we do about guns?
Stefanik: As a young parent now, I want to make sure that we have as safe schools as possible for our kids. And I’ve been a big supporter of school resource officers. They’re liked by the community, they’re loved by the students, the school resource officers love being there. The teachers love having them there. I think that sense of security is really important.

There’s been some controversies for example, in Saratoga Springs, where there’s been a back and forth, and the Democrats have not supported school resource officers. I think it’s important to have school resource officers in our schools, whether you’re rural, suburban or urban school districts.

But I believe deeply in the importance of Second Amendment rights. And as we’ve seen in some of these attempted mass shootings, like in churches across the country, when you have a good guy with a gun, they’re able to take down the criminal who is seeking to do harm and kill fellow Americans.

I also think we have a deeply disturbing mental health crisis in this country. That’s been further exacerbated by shutdowns — by just so many challenges that people face day to day. And I think we need to do more to support earlier, not only the individuals who are facing mental health challenges, but helping families figure out where to go, because families are oftentimes at a loss of where do we go to get help when we clearly need it?

Chronicle: How about red flag laws where people can say this guy’s dangerous, you need to intervene?
Stefanik: My concern with red flag laws is there’s no due process. And it doesn’t protect the constitutional rights. When you take away a constitutional right of someone. The bar needs to be extraordinarily, extraordinarily high. And I do not think red flag laws reach that bar, because there’s no there’s not enough protections for due process,

Chronicle: What about banning semi-automatic weapons?
Stefanik: Listen, this is some of the safest parts of New York State in this district, and we probably have some of the largest number of gun owners, law-abiding gun owners. And I feel very safe with our law abiding gun owners in this district. And we have, you know, tens of thousands of AR owners throughout the district. It’s one of the most popular firearms in America. I don’t support gun banning. I have a pristine record when it comes to standing up for the Second Amendment.

And New York State has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. And yet, we are one of the epicenters of crime right now, and shootings. I believe that it’s not a result of the firearm. It’s a result of the crime crisis we’re facing, and a lack of rule of law and a lack of support for our law enforcement and failed bail reform, where you have a revolving door of criminals just getting released over and over again into communities.

Chronicle: How do you curb inflation?
Stefanik: You curb inflation by stopping reckless spending. It’s been $9 trillion of spending since Joe Biden took office. That amount of taxpayer dollars going into the economy is just extraordinary, and has led to the fastest rate of inflation growth in our lifetimes. So you stop that. You also unleash American energy independence. The rising cost of energy, whether it’s gas, home heating prices, that is a crushing issue for this district…The inflation problem is the number one issue in every district, and certainly in every county in this district.

Chronicle: When’s the last time you spoke with President Trump?
Stefanik: Last time I spoke with President Trump was probably a week and a half ago. We talk about a lot of different things. We talk about different elections, different races, he knows New York like the back of his hand. I mean, he knows all these seats. He knows all these candidates. The media underestimates how much he knows about, district by district, county by county. There’s a reason he was elected President of the United States and he is just very, very in tune with what’s happening across the country, and very in tune with the issues at play.

Chronicle: Can you dial him direct? Or do you go through somebody?
Stefanik: I can dial him direct.

Chronicle: Do you think you’re going to be his vice presidential choice?
Stefanik: You know what, this is a big district, a lot of responsibility. And I’m a young mom. I’m honored to even be considered, and I would be honored to serve in a Trump administration and Republican administration in the future. But I’ve got a lot of responsibility. There’s a lot of issues that need to be fixed; there’s a long time between now and 2024.

Chronicle: When’s the last time you spoke to Nancy Pelosi?
Stefanik: You know, Nancy Pelosi has never acknowledged me on the House floor. She tends to not acknowledge any of the Republican women. And she’s about to be fired once and for all. So that’s okay.

Chronicle: What obligation do you have to people in the district who disagree with you?
Stefanik: I represent all of them. And I take that very seriously. My staff knows that anyone who comes to our office on casework or with a viewpoint on a call, we take that information down, it’s shared with me, I get a weekly report every single week, even if it’s a very negative call about me. And we serve and do case work for every constituent. Sometimes we will have frequent callers to our office who are very critical, but when they need help with casework, they’ll hesitantly call and we of course say we’re going to help you with that VA case or Social Security case. That’s our job.

Chronicle: Do you believe a Congressperson should represent their own values or their district’s values?
Stefanik: I think a Congressperson works best when the values are shared by the district and I believe that I represent the values of this district and my own values. When people prioritize their own values, they lose the priority of their district. And this prominently happened in Wyoming where there was definitely a divergence in those values. And it was not just because of her position on impeachment about Trump, but it was because she wasn’t talking about issues that were important to Wyoming, values that were important to Wyoming, like the oil and gas industry, like ranchers, like farmers, which are fundamentally important to that state.

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