Stefanik: ‘Bad judgment’ for Trump campaign to take meetings with Russians

Candidate Elise Stefanik (R) speaks at a debate held by Spectrum News at its studio in Albany in October 2018. (Photo — Jenn March, Special to the Post-Star)

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said it was “bad judgment” for members of the campaign of President Donald Trump to take meetings with Russian representatives during the 2016 campaign.

But the report by special counsel Robert Mueller found no conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign, she said, and special counsel Robert Mueller conducted a thorough, nonpartisan investigation.

“He had free rein. He interviewed dozens of administration officials. He had 2,500 subpoenas. No executive privilege was asserted. He had access to tens of thousands of documents from the campaign and from the administration, significant testimony from top administration officials,” Stefanik said Friday to the media before a town hall-style meeting in Saratoga Town Hall.

“Mueller had all of those resources — $35 million of funding to ensure he was able to investigate to the best of his ability,” Stefanik said.

She believes Mueller should testify before Congress.

Congress needs to invest more funds in cyber-security to combat potential threats as the next presidential election is on the horizon, she said.

“We have a historic number of candidates running. All of those candidates should receive briefings about potential threats to their campaign, including their top campaign staff,” she said.

Stefanik highlighted three bills that Congress should pass to improve the integrity of elections. The “Honest Ads Act” would require digital political advertisements to disclose who paid for them, as required for TV and radio ads.

Another bill would prohibit foreign money from being contributed to U.S. political campaigns.

The third bill would require House, Senate and presidential candidates to be notified if a counterintelligence investigation is opened against someone on their staff.

Stefanik has criticized former FBI Director James Comey for “circumventing” the process by not informing the Trump campaign about the investigation into Trump associates.

Recruiting female candidates

Stefanik said more than 100 women have reached out to the National Republican Congressional Committee, seeking to run for office as a result of her E-PAC fundraising organization.

“That is a huge positive this early in the election process,” she said on Friday.

Among the candidates are Chele Farley, who ran against Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2018. Farley is seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in the NY-19 Congressional District.

Stefanik earlier this year launched E-PAC to recruit and financially support Republican women candidates in primaries. Stefanik had served as chairwoman of recruitment for the NRCC, but stepped down after the election when the Republicans lost 10 women in the House and only 1 of 100 female candidates Stefanik recruited was elected.

E-PAC has raised about $300,000, according to the most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Climate change caucus

Stefanik has joined The Roosevelt Conservation Caucus, a group of Republican lawmakers working to combat climate change.

Stefanik serves as co-chairwoman of the caucus, which formed at the end of February. The members of the caucus will: “embrace and promote constructive efforts to address environmental problems, responsibly plan for all market factors and base our policy decisions in science and quantifiable facts,” according to a letter to announce its formation.

The letter goes on to say that America finding solutions to protect the environment are essentially to ensure economic growth, energy independence and national security.

Stefanik said she has an independent record when it comes to environmental issues. She supports continued investment in renewable energy such as wind and solar, hydroelectric and biomass.

Stefanik said she has been able to help defeat anti-climate change amendments that her own party has offered on various bills. She highlighted her work to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. She also has advocated for funding to fight invasive species.

Border security

Stefanik said there is a crisis on the southern border and Congress needs to work on bipartisan legislation to increase border patrol funding and construct physical barriers where appropriate.

“It’s not a one-size-fits all approach,” she said.

Any immigration solution also has to address DACA recipients and create a year-round agricultural visa to help dairy farmers, she said. Also, families should not be separated.

Stefanik last year had co-sponsored a moderate immigration reform bill that would have shielded recipients from border deportation; upgraded border security through enhanced technology, manpower and physical barriers where necessary; and ended the practice of families being separated at the border.

Stefanik also wants to make sure that funds are not being diverted from the northern border to address issues on the southern border.

Fundraising protest

A group of activists are planning to protest outside the Saratoga Town Republicans’ fundraiser on Saturday where U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik will be the featured speaker.

The group, Indivisible, is organizing its “No to Pay-to-Play Politics” rally outside the event, which will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at Clark’s Steakhouse. There is a suggested donation of $20 per person. Children under 12 are free.

License fight

Sen. Daphne Jordan last Wednesday joined Republican lawmakers at a news conference protesting against legislation that would grant driver’s licenses to immigrants living in the country illegally.

Jordan, R-Halfmoon, was protesting the “Green Light Bill,” which is sponsored by New York City Democratic Sen. Luis Sepulveda.

Jordan and others oppose the measure because they believe it would compromise public safety and create a double standard for people applying for a standard license. They also believe it could lead to voter fraud, bank fraud and identity theft, according to a news release.

The law would prohibit the Department of Motor Vehicles from sharing any databases with third parties, including law enforcement. Opponents also worry it would make it easier for scofflaws to obtain another license when their actual license had been revoked, according to a news release.