U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, on Tuesday defended President Donald J. Trump’s legal challenges over the 2020 presidential election results in several states, even though there has been no evidence presented of widespread fraud or irregularities.
“I support the effort by the Trump campaign to make sure every legal ballot and only legal ballots are counted,” Stefanik said during an interview on NewsMax, a cable news network that has run pieces supporting some of Trump’s claims about the election.
Her comments came the same day that Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, told the Associated Press there was no evidence of fraud sufficient to overturn the election results.
“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the AP.
Stefanik, a favorite of Trump’s for defending him during the 2019 impeachment investigation and who co-chaired his 2020 New York campaign, didn’t directly back Trump’s tweeted claims — repeated as recently as Tuesday — that the election was “rigged” or “stolen,” but said the campaign’s legal cases should be allowed to continue, implying some votes were cast illegally.
“We need to make sure every legal vote is counted, but we also need to highlight any of the irregularities,” Stefanik told interviewer Shaun Kraisman. “I also have concerns about universal mail-in voting, and making sure we have signature checks when it comes to absentees.”
The congresswoman’s talking points echo those of the Trump campaign, which has insisted that irregularities and illegal votes account for President-elect Joe Biden’s 6-million-vote lead over Trump in the national vote. The Trump campaign has filed dozens of lawsuits in battleground states questioning election results or seeking to halt vote certifications, but to date nearly all the cases have been dismissed after judges examined them.
“There’s a number of court cases pending from states like Wisconsin to Pennsylvania to Georgia, and it’s important that the American people continue to have faith in our electoral process, and this is also highlighting the need to clean up our elections and our voter rolls and our absentee ballot processes for the future, to make sure we have safe, secure, and ballot integrity,” Stefanik said. “I do support the Trump campaign and the president’s efforts to make sure that every legal ballot and only legal votes are counted.”
Stefanik also alluded to the theory that computer software for ballot counting could be manipulated to create more votes for a candidate than were actually cast — a conspiracy theory that has been widely debunked.
Barr, in his AP interview, was among the debunkers: “There’s been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that,” he said.
Stefanik represents the 21st Congressional District, a mostly rural district that stretches across northern New York where voters have heavily favored Trump in both 2016 and 2020. Trump campaign signs and banners remain prominently displayed in many locations across the district, including spots in Saratoga and Fulton counties. She easily won a fourth term last month, defeating Democrat Tedra Cobb.
Stefanik, who has generally not responded to local media requests for comment on the election, tweeted a link to the Newsmax interview from her personal Twitter account, where in recent days she has also repeatedly called Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo “the Worst Governor in America,” in an apparent appeal to the district’s conservative base.
When asked directly whether President Trump won the election, Stefanik said: “I think it is very important to have every legal ballot counted and let the legal process play out, and as the president has said, if the Electoral College and the vote is certified for Joe Biden, there will be a smooth transition.”