PLATTSBURGH — On Friday, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik again shared her take on the impeachment inquiry, at times reiterating points she has made in the past.
She said leaks from witness's depositions — some of which have now been released — were portions that did not include questions asked by Republican members regarding whether the witnesses had direct knowledge of the July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
"For example many of the witnesses had no direct knowledge, many of the witnesses testified that this was second-, third-, or fourth-hand knowledge not based upon being on the call," Stefanik continued.
"Many of the witnesses were not on the call, were not on the receiving end as the call transcript was circulated to staff members."
Stefanik has and continues to refer to a rough memo of the call as a "transcript."
Stefanik again used the phrase "cherry-picked" to describe the leaked portions and summaries of testimony.
She is glad the transcripts from those depositions are now finalized, but said they should have been out a long time ago and released in the order the witnesses testified.
"But I think having these open hearings with many of the witnesses coming back to testify — really important, it’s too late but glad we’re finally having opening hearings.
"They’re going to have to testify that they don’t have direct knowledge."
Stefanik said U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland did not say in the amendment to his testimony that he told Ukrainians there was a quid pro quo.
In that addition, Sondland recalled how, on Sept. 1, he had a "brief pull-aside" conversation in Warsaw, Poland, with Andriy Yermak — a top advisor to Zelensky — following a larger meeting involving Zelensky and Vice President Mike Pence.
During the meeting, Zelensky "had raised the issue of the suspension of U.S. aid to Ukraine directly with Vice President Pence," Sondland wrote.
"After that large meeting, I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks."
Stefanik said that Sondland testified that he did not see instances of quid pro quo and believed the president was focused on anti-corruption.
When pushed on that point, she did not change course, and said the U.S. should try to encourage countries to stamp out corruption when giving out foreign aid.
"I do not believe there was quid pro quo."
Stefanik said she has sat in the majority of the hearings and stated again that she does not believe what was said in the Trump-Zelensky phone call — detailed in a rough memo — rises to impeachable offenses.
"I think this has been a broken process from the beginning but I will continue to listen to the testimony.
"I will be an active participant in those hearings this week."
Stefanik reiterated that she believes the whistleblower's anonymity should be protected, and that whistleblowers are supposed to be protected from firing or retaliation.
"It has been unfortunately released in some media and social media outlets. I’m not going to reference the individual’s name.
"I think we need to ask key questions, however, of the whistleblower."
It is important to do so in a setting that protects him from retaliation, she said.
President Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. has tweeted the name of the alleged whistleblower.
Asked if it was the right or best thing for Republicans to try to call House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) as their first witness, Stefanik said they can call whatever witnesses they want.
"Unfortunately, we don’t have unilateral authority to call witnesses. Chairman Schiff has to sign off on that."
She doubts he will answer questions, but referenced how special counsels in prior impeachment proceedings — such as Ken Starr during President Bill Clinton's impeachment — presented findings before the House Judiciary Committee.
"Adam Schiff should do that since he has been the lead special counsel regarding his investigation process."
Email Cara Chapman: