Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) was named to replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as House Republican leader on Friday, replacing a stern opponent of former President Donald Trump with a senator who has been one of his most ardent supporters.
When Stefanik was elected to the House, she was deemed a moderate and now being heralded as a top Trump supporter, who has totally backed Trump’s Big Lie that the election was rigged against him.
Stefanik’s Trump support is notable because she used to be dismissive of him on core issues just a couple years back, long into his presidency.
Stefanik seemed more a harsh critic at times, as she demanded that Trump acknowledge that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to benefit him, demanded that he release his tax returns, and chastised him for his remarks about women.
Prior to declaring victory in the 2020 race, Trump’s grandest fabrication was claiming the Russia controversy was a fake.
He steadfastly declined to admit that Moscow staged a clandestine campaign to help him succeed in 2016, instead claiming he was the target of a Deep State conspiracy.
He also denied any knowledge of numerous meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, and he went so far as to conceal what was discussed at a private meeting between his senior campaign advisors and a Moscow broker, as well as his own business dealings with Russian developers and Vladimir Putin’s office during the 2016 campaign.
Stefanik was unconvinced by Trump’s ruse regarding Russia. In a March 2018 interview with the Watertown Daily Times, she reported that “Russia meddled in our democratic process,” (see interview below.)
She also said that the Kremlin scheme was set up to help Trump.
“We’ve seen evidence that Russia tried to hurt the Hillary Clinton campaign.”
Stefanik also expressed concern about the Trump-Russia contacts: “I am concerned about some of the contacts between Russians and surrogates within the Trump Organization and the Trump campaign.”
A year later, as Trump began to spread his “Russia hoax” assertion, Stefanik disagreed with Trump’s line that the Moscow attack was insignificant at a town hall meeting.
Stefanik said it was, “much more systemic, much more targeted, with very sophisticated hacking efforts, disinformation efforts targeted to specific campaigns.”
Stefanik, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, also said that the Trump administration must be forced to “to take the threat from Russia very seriously.”
She chastised the Trump campaign for conducting the clandestine conference with the Russian agent.
During the town hall, Stefanik also chastised Trump the other contentious issue of his taxes.
Trump told an Irish journalist a year before announcing his presidential bid in 2015 that if he ran for office, he would publish his tax returns. That never happened.
As president, he maintained this position, breaking from the modern-day practice of presidents making their tax returns official.
“He should at least release the tax returns to Congress,” Stefanik said. “He should do it voluntarily, I’ve been consistent in saying that.”
Stefanik was the youngest woman elected to Congress when she first won her seat in 2014.
She was quickly dubbed a rising star who could help her party gain female voters.
At one time, House Speaker Paul Ryan invited her to assist him in recruiting other female candidates for the Republican Party, and he referred to her as the “future of the Republican Party.”
After the Access Hollywood footage of Trump bragging about sexually harassing women became public during the 2016 election, Stefanik slammed Trump, adding, “Donald Trump’s inappropriate, offensive comments are just wrong—no matter when he said them or whatever the context. I hope his apology is sincere.”
But she refused to break with him.
She chastised Trump for a pattern of derogatory comments about women two years later.
Stefanik took offense when Trump referred to Stormy Daniels, the porn star whom he paid hush money to stay quiet about the accusation they once had an extramarital affair, as “Horseface” in an October 16, 2018, tweet.
Stefanik then told CBS News, “I think it’s unacceptable…I’ve disagreed with the President’s rhetoric numerous times when it comes to how he addresses women.”
Stefanik appeared as a full-throated Trump defender just after Trump’s first impeachment in the fall of 2019, spurred by his attempt to persuade the Ukrainian president to launch hearings that would tar Joe Biden and back a ridiculous conspiracy theory that suggested Moscow did not hack the 2016 election.
During the impeachment hearings, she took an outspoken stand, criticizing the Democrats’ case and wrongly accusing House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) of not opening the doors for Republicans to interview witnesses.
Trump was watching. “A new Republican Star is born. Great going @EliseStefanik!” he tweeted.
Stefanik was also one of 126 House Republicans who signed in favor of a Republican case urging the Supreme Court to overturn Biden’s win in December 2020.
Following the Capitol ambush, she joined a group of House Republicans in voting against certifying Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania.
In her early career, Stefanik saw Trump as misogynistic and willfully negligent in his handling of a major national security threat.
She has now joined his ranks and become one of Trump’s most loyal servants, assisting in his campaign to politically execute anyone who dares to counter his continued paranoia, leaving many curious as the details of how this came to fruition.