Stefanik: Trump ‘more likely than ever’ to seek White House
COBLESKILL — Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said Sunday she expects former President Donald Trump and Republicans generally will derive political benefits from the FBI’s execution of a search warrant at Trump’s Florida residence.
When asked by CNHI if she was concerned the FBI investigation could erode support for Trump, who has yet to say whether he’ll mount a run for his old job in 2024, Stefanik responded: “Absolutely not.”
“It’s energizing Republicans because they see the politicization of the FBI,” added Stefanik.
In her nearly eight years in Congress, the 38-year-old Stefanik has a shot of becoming the most powerful female congresswoman in the nation if control of the lower chamber of Congress is captured by her party in the November election. She is now the House Republican Conference chair.
Stefanik argued the public has reason to be suspicious of the FBI in the surprise raid at the former President’s home last week.
“This is the same agency that perpetuated the Russian hoax,” said Stefanik, using the phrase Trump and conservative Republicans coined for an FBI investigation into suspicions Trump’s 2016 campaign collaborated with Russia to win the White House.
Earlier Sunday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, in the wake of the raid on Trump’s property, took issue with Republicans claiming President Joe Biden has politicized the FBI and the Department of Justice. The agents, according to an unsealed search warrant application, are investigating whether Trump violated the Espionage Act and unlawfully removed public records when he left office.
“This is not about politicizing anything,” Jean-Pierre told ABC “This Week.” She noted FBI director Christopher Wray was appointed by Trump.
But Stefanik, who spent Sunday afternoon mingling with attendees at the Cobleskill Fair, argued there is good reason to be concerned with the FBI’s direction.
She noted the FBI “hasn’t been transparent” about its relationship with the owner of a company whose stretch limousine crashed in Schoharie County in October 2018, killing all 18 occupants and two pedestrians in one of the worst motor vehicle tragedies in decades.
The owner of Prestige Limousine, Shahed Hussain, had returned to his native Pakistan after being an undercover informant for the FBI. The limousine company was managed by Hussain’s nephew, Nauman Hussain, who pleaded guilty to charges of criminally negligent homicide last September in exchange for being put on probation for five years.
Stefanik said there is ample reason for congressional scrutiny of the FBI, based on its handling of informants such as Shahed Hussain. Stefanik has remained a solid Trump ally following his defeat to current President Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Her name has surfaced as a potential running mate for Trump should he again seek the presidency.
She called it “very, very concerning” the FBI went through with the raid within 100 days of the 2022 midterm election.
“I think President Trump is more likely than ever to run for president,” Stefanik said.
As to her political future, Stefanik said she plans to support House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House if the GOP does succeed in taking the majority. Beyond that, she said, she is “getting a lot of encouragement for other positions in leadership,” while emphasizing she is currently focused on urging voters to support her re-election drive.
While much of her current district in the North Country remains intact through redistricting, Schoharie County and parts of northern Otsego County will be added to her district when new lines take effect in January.
On another front, Stefanik voiced disappointment that news media outlets in her district have not lined up a primary debate that would feature the two Democrats running for her seat, Matt Putorti and Matt Castelli.
“Voters deserve to know their positions, and that includes Democratic primary voters,” Stefanik said.
Stefanik’s district, New York 21, is among the three most solidly Republican congressional districts in New York, according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report.