WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is underway in the Senate. Just hours before it began, north country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik was named to the president’s impeachment defense team.
Congresswoman Stefanik has become one of the president's most outspoken defenders during the House impeachment hearings. Now, Stefanik will be giving outside guidance during the Senate proceedings.
Eight Republican members of the House were named to President Trump's impeachment defense team late Monday, before the Senate would meet for hours on Tuesday, to debate rules for the trial on Capitol Hill.
"You know, I expect that Senator McConnell will ensure that we have a fair trial and as voters know I've been very critical of how it was conducted in the House. I think it's a distraction from the important work that we need to do on behalf of our communities whether it's continuing to focus on growing the economy, passing legislation to combat the opioid epidemic, so I will be paying close attention to the trial but I anticipate it will be a fair trial in the Senate," said Stefanik (R. - 21st District).
Stefanik is part of Trump's defense team, which is not part of his formal legal team, but will help "combat the impeachment."
In a statement, Stefanik said, "I am honored to be named by President Trump as a member of his Impeachment Defense Team. I am proud to stand up for the Constitution, my constituents in New York's 21st District, and the American people's vote."
"It's a pretty big deal considering her age and her relatively few years in the House. It's part of a larger move, you know, teaming up with the president," said Jack McGuire, Ph.D., professor of politics at SUNY Potsdam.
Stefanik has been one of the president's loyal defenders as the House voted to impeach him for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. According to CBS News, a senior administration official says Stefanik and the other representatives are not expected to present statements on the Senate floor, but will provide guidance and push facts and evidence in the media.
“When you look at the people are who are part of the Trump team, they are the president’s most vocal and ardent supporters. There is some question about the role that Republican House members can actually have in the Senate. There is nothing actually formally spelled out, so really what she and the other Republicans who were named, they are basically going to be on TV and be public relations, you know, talking heads,” said McGuire.
The impeachment trial will take days and with Stefanik seeking re-election this year, some political experts say, with many Trump supporters in the north country, continuing to defend the president could be a strategy that works.