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Impeachment inquiry OKd by the House, 232 to 196

Stefanik votes no on proposal to continue probe of Trump

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville speaks at a Coffee With Your Congresswomen event on Oct. 10, 2019, at the Johnstown Senior Center. (Provided photo — Briana O’Hara, The Leader-Herald)

Since the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s conduct with Ukraine was set into motion in September, northern New York Rep. Elise Stefanik and other House Republicans have demanded a full House vote authorizing the inquiry. On Thursday morning they got that vote, and every Republican member of Congress, including Stefanik, voted against continuing the probe, which she has been a part of.

Tedra Cobb, a Democrat from Canton challenging Stefanik in next year’s election, said she would have voted for the inquiry resolution but remains noncommittal on impeachment.

The resolution passed, though, 232 to 196, and largely along party lines, with two Democrats voting against it and the sole independent member voting for it.

Opening up

The resolution would make past and future hearings with witnesses open to the public, but Stefanik said she voted against it because she believes it gives more power to the Democratic Congress members running the inquiry, whom she has accused of running a “regime of secrecy.”

“I will be voting NO on Pelosi’s partisan impeachment resolution because it further empowers Adam Schiff and further limits Members of Congress participation in this broken process,” Stefanik wrote in a tweet.

Schiff is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on which Stefanik sits.

“Adam Schiff continues to abuse his position of power in the closed, unprecedented, and unfair impeachment depositions and interviews,” Stefanik wrote in a tweet Tuesday. “Every American, no matter your political ideology, deserves transparency from the beginning of of (sic) this process. And from the beginning Adam Schiff has denied them that.”

The resolution sets ground rules for how the probe will be conducted, including releasing transcripts of the closed-door depositions held with witnesses so far — with some redactions. It would give Schiff the ability to open future hearings to the public and allow Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, such as Stefanik to request subpoenas of witnesses and documents. These requests will need approval by the Democratic chair or majority.

Stefanik later tweeted, “This Impeachment Resolution is a continuation of Adam Schiff’s regime of secrecy on steroids.”

Stefanik then said that despite the new rules allowing for increased transparency, the resolution does not make the process any more transparent.

“Every Democrat Member of Congress who is tweeting about ‘transparency’ today should know that the closed-door, unfair, unprecedented witness has continued today with absolutely ZERO changes to process,” Stefanik tweeted. “No increased transparency. No increased access for Members. No press.”

Stefanik was not available to answer questions, according to her spokeswoman Madison Anderson.

“We need a vote”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated the inquiry in September, but Stefanik, who has been a part of it through her seat on the the House Intelligence Committee, has said it was not yet legitimately started until a vote was taken.

Stefanik called for a vote on an impeachment resolution at a “Coffee with your Congresswoman” event in early October, adding that she does not think Trump needs to comply with the investigation until then.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why we need a vote in the House, because that will set the rules that the inquiry’s actually happening and formalized, and then I think the White House should comply,” she said at the Oct. 10 event in Johnstown. “Right now there’s no ‘inquiry’ because a vote hasn’t been taken.”

Congress conducted a vote for Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1999, but Constitution and House rules do not require it.

It is not yet known if the White House will cooperate with the investigation now, or if Stefanik will say it should.

A challenge

Stefanik, of Schuylerville, also tweeted a challenge to Cobb, who ran against her for New York’s 21st Congressional District seat last election cycle and is running again in 2020.

“The voters in our district deserve to know where my Democratic opponent stands on this critical vote,” Stefanik wrote in a tweet. “But my guess is she will continue to hide and refuse to answer, and the media will let her.”

Cobb gave her position in a press release Thursday, saying she would have voted for the resolution had she been in Congress.

“As I’ve said repeatedly, I support the inquiry and its goal in finding the facts in this grave matter of national security,” Cobb said in a press release. “This vote will bring further transparency to this incredibly important process.”

In a separate statement to the Enterprise, Cobb said while she supports the inquiry, she is not necessarily pro-impeachment, given the facts at this time.

“I do not agree with jumping to conclusions at this point,” Cobb added. “This is a serious issue and we must see what we learn from public testimony.”

Stefanik misrepresented Cobb’s position on her personal Facebook page when she claimed that Cobb supports impeachment.

“First she was against impeachment, now she is for it!” Stefanik wrote.

Stefanik spread false information in equating supporting the inquiry with supporting impeachment.

State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy also equated investigating the president with removing the president. In a statement Thursday he called New York Democratic Congress members who voted for the inquiry “enemies of democracy.”

Stefanik has said that she does not believe Trump should be impeached, saying his request that the Ukrainian president do him a “favor” and start an investigation into the son of Trump’s 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden, detailed in a memo, did not reach the level of impeachable offense. She has stated that she did not believe there was a quid pro quo of Trump withholding military aid from Ukraine until it did the investigation he requested.

Cobb spoke out against Stefanik’s use of the impeachment inquiry in campaign letters to potential donors. Stefanik asked donors to help her support Trump.

“Unfortunately, instead of taking her Constitutional duty seriously, Elise Stefanik is using this crisis to score political points, raise money and advance her career,” Cobb wrote. “She has repeatedly called for a vote to continue the inquiry and ensure an open and transparent process. Yet, when faced with the opportunity to do just that, she voted no. As a member of the Intelligence Committee, Elise Stefanik should do better. Her constituents deserve it.”

What now?

The new rules of the inquiry allow Trump and his lawyer to participate in the Judiciary Committee impeachment proceedings, providing and cross-examining witnesses, or requesting documents to make their case.

The House Judiciary Committee will be in charge of possibly advancing articles of impeachment.

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