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Stefanik clarifies on election meddling

In Thursday’s public impeachment inquiry hearing, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik addressed witnesses statements that her committee members were sharing “harmful” theories and received sympathy from committee members and witnesses for social media attacks.

Russian or Ukrainian interference

Former National Security Council member Fiona Hill, who is a witness in the inquiry, said in her opening statement Thursday that she believes theories spread by House Intelligence Committee members are “harmful.”

In his Wednesday opening statement HIC Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said “The thing that the Democrats have been unwilling to accept is that their operatives got campaign dirt from Ukrainians in the 2016 election.”

This is referencing an unsubstantiated notion that Ukraine was responsible for election meddling in the 2016 election, instead of, or as well as Russia.

The Federal Mueller commission concluded that Russia used a disinformation campaign to sway voters to Trump.

Stefanik has long spoke of Russia as a U.S. adversary and has for months stated that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, but she defended Nunes against Hill’s statement that her colleagues believe otherwise.

“Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps Ukraine did,” Hill said. “This is a fictional narrative perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.

“I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016,” she said. “These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes.”

When Stefanik’s time to speak came up, she started by saying, “Not a single Republican member of this committee has said Russia did not meddle in the 2016 elections.”

This is true. Nunes never said Russia did not interfere, but he said Ukraine did as well. Asked what Stefanik thinks about Nunes’ theory, her spokeswoman Madison Anderson said “Congresswoman Stefanik has never made that claim.

When she posted a clip of her quote on Twitter she wrote “My Democratic colleagues attempting to manipulate media coverage with untruthful statements about our efforts to combat Russian interference reeks of political desperation.”

Stefanik said the committee published a report with policy recommendations to tighten up cyber-security for future elections; however, few of these recommendations have manifested in successful legislation.

“Vile and hateful” attacks

Hill and Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, lamented social media attacks on Stefanik during conversations about an alleged “smear campaign” President Donald Trump waged to remove former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who testified Friday.

Hill said the president ran a “smear campaign” against Yovanovitch and said attacks like that shouldn’t be the “new normal.”

“I just want to echo that sentiment,” Turner said, “and certainly lament the attacks that have been levied against our colleague Elise Stefanik … which have been vile and hateful.”

As Stefanik drew national attention during Friday’s hearing, the hashtag #TrashyStefanik started trending on Twitter as people unhappy with Stefanik’s involvement vented, sometimes with sexist or demeaning tweets and photos.

Hill spoke about receiving death threats for being involved in the inquiry and said it was discouraging to see attacks on Yovanovich, including by Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. She also expressed sympathy for Stefanik.

“I’m very sorry to hear about what’s happened to Congresswoman Stefanik, and I think that this just illustrates the point and the problem that we’re dealing with today.”