By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor
Meeting with The Chronicle editorial staff on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik said the Democratic impeachment push is losing support, not gaining it.
“Among independents, their support of impeachment has gone down 20 points in the past two weeks,” she said.
“I think there is a lot of pressure on Speaker Pelosi from a certain wing of the Democratic Party to absolutely push for an impeachment vote. Some of the current members of Congress have called for impeachment before the President was even sworn into office.
“But interestingly today there was a pretty progressive Democrat, Brenda Lawrence [Michigan’s 14th District], who said, ‘We should not vote for impeachment. We should let the American people decide.’ So I think there will be more Democrats that cross the aisle and vote in opposition…”
Some Democrats have called for President Trump’s censure rather than impeachment. “That’s what this Democrat wants,” said Rep. Stefanik.
“Listen, I think I’ve had policy differences with previous presidents. I think that you vote based on the legislative issues that come to the House floor and that’s how I have conducted myself.
“I don’t think there is cause for censure, but I certainly don’t think there’s cause for impeachment, and the choice we have right now is an impeachment vote.”
Rep. Stefanik insists that her questioning has been substantial, not political.
“…I think when we consider impeachment, any member of Congress, no matter what party you are in, it should be dealt with as a constitutional matter.
“Not whether you agree or disagree with the policies, not whether you agree or disagree with the rhetoric, but really looking at the constitutional issues, which are: Is there evidence for high crimes and misdemeanor, bribery or treason, which a lot of my questions focused on specifically….”
Rep. Stefanik said, “There’s never been a president that has been removed from office through impeachment, and I think that’s how I’ve approached this whole process.
“And the questions that I asked were substantive and they were based on the testimony behind closed doors. There are examples where I’ve disagreed with the president, but in this case, based upon the witness testimony, I don’t view these as impeachable offenses.
“And you’re seeing nationally, as people are able to finally tune in, the numbers for support of impeachment are dwindling.
“I think the Democrats are going to have a real challenge on their hands when they bring this to the floor, because as every day goes by, there are more Dems saying this is not what we should be focusing our time on.
Rep. Stefanik said, “…the Democrats that I talk to who are from swing districts are in a very, very challenging position and they continue to be concerned with how partisan the process is and particularly in the last week, seeing the numbers shift in terms of the American public’s support of impeachment going down among independents but also among registered Democrats. I know, based upon my conversations, they are going to be voting carefully.
In terms of Rep. Stefanik insisting on asking questions during the House Intelligence Committee hearings even when she was deemed out of order, The Chronicle asked whether she simply refuses to accept the rules that Chairman [Adam] Schiff has set out here as far as who can question when and that Representative [Devin] Nunes cannot turn it over to her?
Rep. Stefanik replied, “I’m not the first member to question partisan rules. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris questioned rules when there was testimony by Kavanaugh during the Supreme Court hearings.
“What is unique about these rules is that they passed without a single Republican vote. They were very partisan and very unprecedented.
“Typically on the House floor or in committees, any member is able to yield to any other member. It’s you controlling the time.
“This is the first instance in the institution of the House where a member of Congress cannot yield to another member of Congress. That’s unfair and that’s why you saw bipartisan opposition to the rules package, with two Democrats voting with Republicans against that rules package.
“And if you take a step back, that rules package was only done under duress because there was so much outcry for the closed-door depositions where literally Schiff was writing the rules as each day went by.”
The Chronicle asked Rep. Stefanik why she thinks support for impeachment among independents has declined.
She replied, “I think there’s a couple of reasons. Remember, I’ve been focused on this for two months, but the American people have not been able to see anything during those two months of closed-door depositions.
“And I think the kind of cherry-picked leaks and excerpts that were released only showed one portion of the story.
“I think when this exploded…millions of people chose to tune in. I think Americans are very smart. They want to focus on, okay, what are the facts. Is there direct evidence? And that was not demonstrated from my perspective.
“And that’s why I asked those questions to witnesses. Do you have direct evidence, because regardless of whether you support the policies or not, that’s the question at hand.
“I also asked very detailed questions on the history of corruption in Ukraine. The fact that under the Obama administration, the first anti-corruption investigation was against the owner of Burisma, which is the company that Hunter Biden sits on the board of.
“I think the public has a very high bar for impeachment and they did not see the evidence, and Democrats didn’t do their job in terms of being able to point to direct evidence.”
Rep. Stefanik cites danger for the Democrats in bringing impeachment to the Senate for a trial.
“Well, the Senate functions as a jury,” she said, “so the procedures are very different than in the House. There will be an opportunity to call witnesses that have been blocked in the House.
“That includes the whistleblower behind closed doors in terms of getting a deposition, which I have requested. I think it’s very important to get that answer.
“I also think the Senate may consider calling Hunter Biden. I do not know. They have not made an announcement.
“They are going to be able to call the witnesses they want to, and it’s not…I mean, the Republicans have the majority in the Senate, so I think the witness list will be different than it was in the House, because we were very limited as to who we could call as witnesses.”
Rep. Stefanik said, “I think there’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered regarding the 2016 election, the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] applications — we will get that report December 9th. The criminal referrals that Durham is doing.
“One of my biggest critiques was of Comey’s decision when he chose not to notify Congressional leadership of the intelligence committees of opening a counter-intelligence investigation, which he’s required to do and circumvented that.”
Stefanik: On being ‘trashed’ by Teigen & Rosie O’Donnell; & reach of Hannity
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik insists she has a “thick skin,” but she says, “It is shameful, though, that people like Chrissy Teigen and Rosie O’Donnell are making #trashystefanik trend.
“These are people I have never met and I am much more proud of the support in the district from the voters than I am with those folks who are very distant from sort of our daily lives here.”
She maintains that favorable calls from her constituents outnumber unfavorable by a three to one margin.
As for being interviewed on Fox News Network by Sean Hannity, Rep. Stefanik said “it was really eye-opening to see the number of viewers we have in this district, just by the number of texts that were coming in real time.”
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