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Stefanik cites independence from Trump, but does not support impeachment

Stefanik cites independence from Trump, but does not support impeachment

Audience members grill Stefanik on Trump support
Stefanik cites independence from Trump, but does not support impeachment
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik answers questions from constituents at the Johnstown Senior Center Thursday.
Photographer: Erica Miller

JOHNSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuyerville, told a crowd of about 40 people Thursday at the Johnstown Senior Center that she supports President Donald Trump and is against his impeachment, but also disagrees with him on a number of issues. 

Stefanik was peppered with questions pertaining mostly to Trump and environmental issues at what she said was her 23rd "Coffee with your Congresswoman" event since being elected to the 21st Congressional District in 2015. She said she's made over 1,000 stops throughout the district during her tenure. 

The order of questions for Stefanik was determined by pieces of paper with audience members' names written on them and placed into a bin. They were selected by Gloversville 4th Ward Supervisor Charlie Potter, a Republican.

People were allowed to make statements prior to asking questions, and, despite being held in a staunchly conservative city that voted heavily for Trump in 2016, nearly all of them were highly critical of the 45th president of the United States. 

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Drucilla Infantino of Johnstown said she's been made sick over Trump's decision to betray the Kurds who had over 10,000 of their people killed helping the U.S. fight ISIS in Syria.

"He doesn't think that's going to hurt us in the future," she said. "What are you going to do about it now, today, not sanctions."

Stefanik said she has spoken out against Trump's position to allow Turkey to invade Syria.
"This is one where I vehemently disagreed with [President Trump]. I was one of the first voices to say 'this is unacceptable,' not just because of this particular incident, because very tragically lives will be lost, but for what this means for the future when our partners and allies don't think they can rely on us," she said.

Cindy Fratianni of Mayfield said she's taken note of Stefanik's call for House Intelligence Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, to resign over his handling of the House investigation into Trump and allegations that he pushed Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden, a rival.

 "Soliciting [political campaign] aide from a foreign government is illegal, it's a federal crime," Fratianni said of Trump's efforts to have foreign governments investigate Biden.

"My question is when will you sign on to a resolution condemning and censoring Donald Trump over the 12,000 lies, falsehoods and misleading claims he has made. When will you be extremely concerned with our president's continuous record of reckless behavior. He has made a mockery of our government, and conspired with foreign governments, betraying our allies, separating families and children, this is America!" Fratianni said.

Fratianni's comments drew loud applause from the mostly anti-Trump crowd. 

"Thanks for your passionate viewpoint," Stefanik said "I am deeply concerned about the way Schiff has conducted himself. There are fact-checkers who have said there are numerous instances when he has not been honest with the American public. This is not the first time I've asked for Adam Schiff to step down; I actually asked for that earlier this year. When it comes to the president, I support the president. This district supports the president ..." 

"Then you support lies!" Judith Loebel, a resident of Salem, Washington County, said.

Stefanik said she's proven herself to be independent of Trump on issues like tariffs, which she said are a tax paid by American people and bad for farmers, and cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. She said was among the first Republicans to call for former EPA administrator and Trump appointee Scott Pruitt to resign. 

Several times during the question-and-answer period Stefanik told questioners that she was happy to see them again, referencing the tendency of some people in her district's to show up at many of her events throughout the sprawling 21st Congressional District. 

Stefanik conducted a "Coffee with your Congresswoman" event in Johnstown in 2017, during which there was a standing-room-only crowd there to interact with her. On Thursday there were many fewer people, with some empty seats and at least five Johnstown police officers present. 

A Johnstown police cruiser blocked the front entrance to the senior center, forcing people to use the rear entrance, not accessible from East Main Street. At least five Johnstown emergency personnel vehicles occupied parking spaces at the event, including a fire truck. 

One audience member asked Stefanik about Trump supporters blocking access to her office and threatening violence against Trump protestors at Stefanik events. 

Stefanik did not condemn the people referenced in the comment, but said she does not "condone" violence of any kind. She said she supports people of many views attending her events and that her office is "always welcome" to constituents.

One man said he does not believe the impeachment President Trump is legitimate because the motivations of Democrats in the House of Representatives are political.

Stefanik said she believes soliciting help from a foreign country in a U.S. election is illegal; she believes the 2016 election was tampered with by the Russians; and she supports increased funding to protect U.S. elections. But she did not call for any kind of punishment for Trump for his phone call with Zelensky. 

One person asked whether Stefanik believes Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution for accepting money from foreigners and foreign governments at his hotels, including the Trump Towers in Turkey. 

Stefanik said she does not believe Trump has violated the emoluments clause, which restricts U.S. presidents from receiving money from foreigners without permission from Congress. 

Stefanik took questions from journalists for 15 minutes before the event Thursday, but left with a police escort at the end of the meeting, not allowing followup questions to the questions asked by the public. 

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