WASHINGTON D.C. — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik was appointed earlier this week to a new Congressional panel dedicated to probing abuses of power within the federal government.
The Saratoga Republican is one of 15 members to sit on the U.S. House of Representative Judiciary Committee’s novel Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government — a group anticipated to dive into alleged acts of corruption associated with inter-agency politicization.
“There are serious questions about how government agencies have gotten away with this for so long, and we will get to the bottom of how these corrupt agencies are being weaponized against everyday Americans,” Stefanik said in a statement. “Accountability is coming, and House Republicans will deliver a government accountable to the people.”
The subcommittee was a key concession made by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to win over hardline members’ support for the speakership. Days after McCarthy gained the gavel, the already-controversial group was established on a party-line vote.
In a statement, Stefanik claimed that federal law enforcement agencies have covered up for the “Biden Crime Family” and punished former President Donald Trump during a search of his Mar-a-Lago residence back in August. She underscored alleged misconduct in federal law enforcement, as well as the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the IRS and the National Institutes of Health.
“Just as I proudly stood up for our Constitution in the face of radical Democrats’ sham impeachments against President Donald Trump and led the fight to expose and successfully defeat their partisan process, I will help lead the charge to root out corruption in our government agencies,” Stefanik said in a statement.
The U.S. Department of Justice, in particular, has become a major point of tension for Republicans, spanning the Mueller special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections to recent allegations from Elon Musk’s Twitter files that the White House colluded with Big Tech to censor dissenting opinions.
Between 2003 and 2017, partisan views of the FBI have flip-flopped. Pew Research data shows that within that time frame, Democratic approval of the agency moved from 44% to 69% and Republican approval, 69% to 49%.
“If you go back to the ‘60s and ‘70s, Democrats were quite skeptical to the point of suspicious of law enforcement and intelligence and military agencies conducting activities that they see as illegal or unethical,” Skidmore College political scientist Ron Syeb said. “And now we have Democrats defending the FBI and Democrats defending national security agencies.”
For Democrats, Syeb said that the new group is analogous to the House Un-American Activities Committee of the 1950s, which derailed the careers of presumptive communists — and for Republicans, it could seem closer to the Senate Church Committee of 1975, which brought intelligence agency corruption to light.
Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, in a statement compared the new subcommittee to McCarthyism, the act of pelting slanderous accusations of government treachery.
“This new panel will serve as nothing more than a weapon to damage public trust in the government,” said Tonko in a statement. “Chaired by one of the most right-wing partisans in Congress who voted to throw out the 2020 election results, this committee’s explicit purpose is to sabotage the work of the Department of Justice and the January 6th Select Committee.”
The January 6th Select Committee was created after 2,000 people in early 2021 stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election results. Members of Congress escaped through a tunnel to nearby federal office buildings.
Like Tonko’s view of the new House subcommittee, Stefanik has characterized the workings of the Jan. 6 group as a witch hunt. She was also one of 147 House Republicans on Jan. 6 who ultimately voted to decertify the results.
While political antipodes, Tonko and Stefanik have worked together in the past, including recent legislative efforts to bring Saratoga and Washington counties into the now-four million-acre Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.
The two officials pushed the FBI to internally probe potential malfeasance among agents in lead-up to the deadly Schoharie County Limousine crash of 2018. Since launching an internal investigation in April of 2022, the agency been mostly mum about the scope of the case.
Tonko told the Daily Gazette last month that he’s confident the FBI will eventually deliver answers for affected families. Stefanik has insisted that the bureau dodged document requests and additional information related in their response to a letter she wrote in the spring.
Her office never provided a copy of the FBI’s response letter and the bureau. The FBI only confirmed to have received a letter from Stefanik.
The congresswoman, also a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a Wednesday statement that she intends to use “every tool at my disposal, including subpoenas” to dig into the probe.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-527-7659 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.