MALONE — The House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump was a popular topic at Friday's Coffee with your Congresswoman event, hosted by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville).
About 30 people made their way to the Malone AMVETS Post 8 to participate in a face-to-face forum with Stefanik, where tickets pulled by Franklin County District 3 Legislator Andrea Dumas determined the order in which people could make comments and ask questions.
Several times during the briefing and the greater community forum, Stefanik accused House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) — who she has called on to step down — of “cherry-picking” excerpts of evidence, including depositions, and pushing them out through media.
“First of all, you can’t do that as a member of the House Intelligence Committee and my colleagues across the aisle have done that," she said.
“I think we should release all the transcripts, all the information for the American public to see.”
Schiff is the only person stopping witness testimonies from being made public, she added, though she is glad the memo of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — which she referred to as a transcript — was released to the American public.
“I do think that we should look into corruption when it comes to partnering with nations and foreign aid and, in the case of Ukraine, this has been a corrupt nation historically, particularly (over) the past few years."
Historically, the House of Representatives has held a vote to start an impeachment inquiry, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has not brought to the floor, Stefanik said.
As a result, witnesses are testifying with no set rules and Republicans are not able to call witnesses, she continued.
Stefanik asserted that Pelosi has not brought up the vote in order to shield Democratic members feeling push-back in their districts.
The question came up of how the congresswoman reconciles supporting transparency regarding the inquiry while planning to vote against opening a formal investigation.
“I reconcile that because I don’t support impeaching the president."
Since Pelosi announced the inquiry, six committees have been focused solely on impeachment, Stefanik said, distracting from important issues such as trade and lowering health care costs.
In regards to the arrests of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s associates who were charged in a campaign finance scheme this week, Stefanik said she has been following the news.
“Obviously, if there’s any corruption or abuse of the Federal Elections Commission rules, people should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
'LOOK INTO CORRUPTION'
Tempers flared for a moment when Stefanik and a couple attendees clashed over the findings in Special Counsel Robert Muller's investigation, specifically over whether obstruction was found.
“No collusion and no obstruction,” the congresswoman said, adding that she respected the constituents’ opinions and that no other action was taken after the report came out.
She brought the discussion back around to the impeachment inquiry and the need for a House vote, and expressed concern about corruption “as Ukraine tried to work with American officials in terms of finances with Hunter Biden," former Vice President Joseph Biden Jr.'s son.
“We should look into that. I think the Department of Justice should look into that and that’s a question that Hunter Biden should answer and Joe Biden should answer.
“But in the conversation with President Zelensky, as President Zelensky has said yesterday morning, there was no quid pro quo and I don’t think it rises to impeachment.”
Stefanik said she is both concerned and horrified by the loss of life likely to happen in Syria following the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the beginning of Turkey’s military offensive into its northern region.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurds are incredibly important and effective allies in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist organizations, she added.
Though both houses of Congress are working on legislation that would bring sanctions against Turkey, it will be very difficult to salvage the relationship with the SDF and Kurds, Stefanik said.
“We should not be leaving our allies on their own and, in some cases, these people are going to get slaughtered.
“It’s a horrible tragedy and it was the wrong decision by this administration.”
During the forum, Stefanik brought up that the SDF and Kurds have been manning and protecting a prison in Syria that houses 11,000 ISIS fighters.
“As the Turks are crossing the border — they already have crossed the border — the Kurds and the SDF will focus on that counteroffensive, therefore leaving the prison ... I’m just concerned about those ISIS fighters getting out and being able to re-establish parts of the Caliphate.”
In response to a report by North Country Public Radio and other media outlets that senior Stefanik adviser Alex de Grasse had reached out to Mike Kibling, head of the pro-Trump group North Country Deplorables, as part of an effort to fill the seats of Friday evening’s Kingsbury town hall event with conservatives, Stefanik said these are public events and people from all political ideologies are encouraged to attend.
“My staffer did reach out to hundreds of individuals to attend this town hall."
Kibling was one of those and mis-characterized the conversation on Facebook, she told media prior to the start of the constituent forum.
“I answer questions from all types of ideological backgrounds, tough questions, people that support the president and people that oppose the president.”
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