By Aaron Cerbone, Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Joe Lotemplio Press-Republican
July 21, 2018
PLATTSBURGH — North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has jumped on board the bipartisan Secure America from Russian Interference Act of 2018.
The package of legislation put forth by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland is designed to protect America’s interests against Russia.
It includes two bills co-authored by Stefanik (R-Willsboro) — the Countering Foreign Propaganda Act and the Defend Against Russian Disinformation Act.
It also includes 15 other bills aimed at improving relations with Russia and protecting American interests.
Some of those pieces of legislation have bipartisan support.
Stefanik and Walter Jones of North Carolina are two Republicans who have supported the entire package thus far.
“As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Armed Services Committee, I continue to be a leader in Congress on countering Russian aggression,” Stefanik said in a news release.
“In addition to the legislation I have authored and helped pass, I have supported $400 million in added funds to enhance election security. I am pleased to work across the aisle on this legislative package to bolster American security and strengthen our NATO alliances.”
The congressional candidates for New York’s 21st District — also Tedra Cobb (D-Canton) and Lynn Kahn (Green Party-Schroon) share opposition to President Donald Trump’s comments on the intelligence community following his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
They also object to his friendship with the leader and his country, but each say they will bring a different kind of expertise in how they address that opposition.
After meeting alone with the Russian leader in Helsinki, Trump gave a 45-minute joint press conference next to Putin, praising him, casting doubt on U.S. intelligence agencies and continuing to criticize a federal investigation into alleged collusion between the two leaders in the 2016 election.
NATO ALLIES ‘CRITICAL’
Stefanik told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise she disagreed with Trump’s statement, in which he sided with Putin over his intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
She also disagrees with Trump’s strategy of building a cordial relationship with the country and its leader, repeatedly referring to Russia as an adversary and saying that NATO allies are critical in countering Russian aggression. She said that it is in the country’s interest to support relationships with NATO.
When asked if Trump’s disparaging of NATO would make strengthening alliances difficult, Stefanik said it is the role of Congress to show support for NATO allies and invest in the international relationships.
When she was asked about the adjustments and backpedaling Trump has done over the days following his summit with Putin, Stefanik said she hopes the administration will be a partner with Congress on its bills to counter Russian aggression.
Asked about if the U.S. is becoming isolationist, given Trump’s aggressive rhetoric toward the European Union, France and Canada, some of the United States’ strongest allies, Stefanik said that the country has been isolationist for a while.
She said former president Barack Obama had been isolationist and created a “leadership void” in not helping Ukraine financially or with military aid when Russia occupied the country and annexed Crimea.
“Some of the consequences of the failed Obama (Russia reset) have put this administration in a challenging position when you consider Russia’s role in Syria, for example,” Stefanik said.
“(Russia) really filled the void as the U.S. took more of an isolationist approach. Putin certainly sowed discord because of the weak leadership from the Obama administration.”
She commended Trump’s administration on now sending aid to Ukraine, which she calls an ally.
Cobb said the congresswoman has not done enough to improve relations with Russia or distance herself from Trump.
“Elise Stefanik voted to shut down the Russian investigation in her own committee,” Cobb said.
“She has chosen partisanship and party over patriotism.
“Dropping a press release about adding her name to a pile of election year bills that haven’t gone anywhere or done anything to improve national security captures Stefanik perfectly.
“She is good at press releases and pictures but fails when it comes to providing real leadership on the issues that matter to Northern New York voters.”
CALLS INCUMBENT ‘WEAK’
Stefanik said she has been highly involved in international politics for years, and is specifically knowledgeable about Russia and the threat it poses to America.
“My opponent (Cobb) is incredibly weak when it comes to her understanding of national security issues,” the congresswoman said.
Cobb said the 17 bills that are part of the Secure America from Russian Interference Act of 2018 that Stefanik is touting, some of which were introduced as far back as January of 2017, have only languished in committee.
Cobb believes that it is not about what knowledge a candidate has, but what action they will take.
“Elise Stefanik is weak. Her actions show her weakness,” Cobb said. “Her actions show her inability to stand up to her own party, to stand up to this administration, to stand up for northern New York.”
‘US IN DANGER’
Cobb said that Trump’s pattern of breaking down relationships with ally countries and befriending hostile nations has put the U.S. in danger. She said he is not putting the nation first.
Again, she believes that actions, not words, are the only way to solve the problem, which is why she does not use the phrase “treason.”
She said she thinks the “traitor” label is hyperbolic and that it is not the the words that matter, it is the damage on international relationships.
Cobb said three things should drive politics: patriotism, the Constitution and the law.
Political party has overridden those in recent years, she said, and she believes the House Intelligence Committee has been compromised by partisanship.
The release of California Rep. Devin Nunes’s memo alleging FBI misconduct, she said, suppression of the Democratic response memo, and the shutting down of the committee’s investigation into the 2016 election back in May are all examples of that.
Cobb said she thinks Stefanik’s explanation for closing the investigation — to release its findings before the 2018 midterm election — was disingenuous.
“It only indicates to me that what she’s thinking about is the midterm election, before the Constitution and the law, and the work of her job on that committee,” she said.Cobb said she would act on Stefanik’s promise to protect Mueller’s investigation by pushing for the passage of the “Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act,” which sets terms for removing an Attorney General.