Capital Region

Stefanik to have impeachment hearing role

Congresswoman sits on House Intelligence Committee, which is leading investigation
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik answers questions from constituents in Johnstown in October.
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik answers questions from constituents in Johnstown in October.

CAPITAL REGION — When the first public hearings concerning possible impeachment of President Donald Trump begin in the U.S. House of Representatives today, only one Capital Region member of Congress will have a questioner’s seat.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, who represents the North Country 21st Congressional District, has already taken a prominent role among House Republicans in criticizing the impeachment process.

As a minority member of the House Intelligence Committee, Stefanik will have the chance to question witnesses at the hearings, which will focus on the president’s interactions with Ukraine and the reasons for them. She has participated in many of the closed-door sessions that the committee, led by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, has held in recent weeks. The committee is looking into whether Trump tried to use foreign aid to coerce the Ukrainian president to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son. 

“She will be an active participant,” Stefanik spokeswoman Madison Anderson said late Tuesday. She is expected to speak at least twice, including giving an opening statement near the beginning of the hearing, she said.

On Tuesday, Stefanik was soliciting ideas for questions she should ask from the public, using social media.

“Adam Schiff’s #RegimeofSecrecy emerges from the basement bunker tomorrow for the first time in two months. Millions of Americans will finally have the opportunity to see and hear from witnesses. My constituents shared many ideas for questions with me. Reply w/ your suggested ?s,” she wrote on Twitter.

Partisans on both sides were replying with ideas, not all of them serious, ranging from the number of pre-investigation contacts between Intelligence Committee staff and the anonymous whistleblower to whether the witnesses thought it was right to ask a foreign government to interfere in a U.S. election.

The televised hearings will begin at 10 a.m. today, with top U.S. envoy to Ukraine William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent scheduled to testify. On Friday, former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch will testify.

While the two Democrats representing congressional districts in the Capital Region — U.S. Reps. Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck — have both come out in favor of the impeachment investigation, Stefanik has said impeachment isn’t warranted. She has said she does not believe there was a quid pro quo in which Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine because he wanted the Ukrainians to investigate presidential rival Joe Biden.

“I believe many of the Democrats in Congress have had an interest in impeaching the president, frankly, since the day he won the election. I oppose impeachment,” Stefanik wrote on Facebook on Nov. 7.

She has also attacked Schiff, who became Intelligence Committee chairman last January, saying he has led an overly secretive investigation to date.

“Every American — no matter your political ideology — deserves transparency from the beginning of this process,” Stefanik said in a statement the day of the Oct. 31 vote to launch an official impeachment investigation, after weeks of closed-door depositions. “And from the beginning, Adam Schiff has denied that.”

Tedra Cobb of Canton, the Democratic candidate who lost to Stefanik in 2018 and is running for her seat again in 2020, supports the impeachment investigation, and has attacked Stefanik for voting against the impeachment resolution.

“I support the inquiry and its goal in finding the facts in this grave matter of national security,” Cobb said on Oct. 31.

On Tuesday, Cobb’s campaign announced plans for a tour of the district next week, during which she will to talk about expanding health care access.

“Tedra will highlight her experience fighting for Northern New York families and her commitment to expanding access to quality affordable health care, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, safeguarding Social Security and Medicare, and protecting our environment,” the campaign statement said.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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