WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - North country congresswoman Elise Stefanik has little to say so far about President Trump and a purported Russian plot to kill U.S. troops.
Stefanik was one of eight Trump allies who received a White House briefing on the matter Monday.
In a statement, she praised Trump for taking “decisive actions to counter Russian aggression” since 2017. But she did not address reports in the New York Times and elsewhere that the president was briefed earlier this year about the apparent Russian plan. Nor did she say specifically what should be done next to deal with the Russians.
When 7 News attempted to ask additional questions, a spokeswoman for Stefanik referred us to her statement.
Stefanik’s thoughts on the matter are of particular importance because Fort Drum is part of her district; because she is a member of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees; because she is an ally and defender of President Trump.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that President Trump got a written briefing in February on the apparent Russian plan to pay militants to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
The 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, has been repeatedly deployed to Afghanistan since 9/11, including a deployment in May that sent the 10th’s commanding general, Brian Mennes, to Afghanistan.
The White House claims President Trump was never briefed about the Russian plot, and also that there is substantial doubt about whether it’s real.
In her statement, Stefanik charged former president Obama and current presidential candidate Joe Biden “gutted” the nation’s “military readiness and intelligence capabilities,” which - she said - the Trump administration has rebuilt.
“I will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that our number one priority is force protection and protecting our national security – especially our brave men and women in uniform,” she said in the statement.
Stefanik’s opponent in the race for congress, Tedra Cobb, said Tuesday that “she (Stefanik) sits on the House Intelligence Committee, the Armed Services Committee, chairs the Emerging Threats Committee, and she represents Fort Drum.
“Yet, she’s silent on this issue. And she’s really, completely abdicated her responsibility to the American troops, her constituents, and our national security..”
A Stefanik spokeswoman called the comments “pathetic, inappropriate, and beneath the dignity of a candidate attempting to represent this district.”
Stefanik statement in full
“As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I participated in a White House senior level classified briefing today with the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Advisor, the Chief of Staff, NSC staff, as well as some of my Congressional colleagues,” said Congresswoman Stefanik.
“As the Representative and Chief Advocate in Congress for Fort Drum and the soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division, the most deployed unit in the Army, I will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that our number one priority is force protection and protecting our national security – especially our brave men and women in uniform.
“Since 2017, the Trump Administration has taken decisive actions to counter Russian aggression, including imposing strict sanctions, expelling Russian intelligence officers, closing Russian consulates, and significantly increasing US funding for the European Defense Initiative. In addition, I have worked with the Administration to rebuild our military readiness and intelligence capabilities gutted by President Obama and Vice President Biden.
“I anticipate additional briefings on this important matter in Afghanistan and my focus is on ensuring the safety and security of our troops.”
Cobb campaign statement in full
CANTON—On Friday, the New York Times reported that Russia paid the Taliban bounties to kill US and allied soldiers in Afghanistan. Since the initial reporting by The Times, The Washington Post and Republican lawmakers have confirmed the existence of this intelligence dating back to early 2019. Multiple intelligence sources confirm that this information was included in the president’s daily briefing book in February of this year. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers, including Cong. Elise Stefanik refused to attend House Intelligence Committee briefings for months.
“This is an incredibly important matter of national security,” said Cobb. “Not only is Elise Stefanik absent from the job, but she’s also refusing to stand up for the lives of American troops. If Stefanik can’t be counted on to represent the best interest of soldiers at Fort Drum, her time in Congress must come to an end.”
This isn’t the first time Elise Stefanik has skipped out on the job and put our national security at risk. When the president held talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban, Congresswoman Stefanik remained silent. When it was reported that Donald Trump asked the Chinese president for help with his reelection, Elise Stefanik remained silent. When the president called for Russia’s readmittance to the G7, Stefanik remained silent. Just yesterday, CNN reported that intelligence officials believe Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders is a “national security threat,” yet, Elise Stefanik remains silent.
“Stefanik has abdicated her responsibility to our soldiers and her constituents,” said Cobb campaign manager Gabie Hart. “Stefanik found herself in Iowa, in Tulsa, and on Fox, but she can’t show up to do her job. Repeatedly Elise Stefanik has shirked her responsibility to her constituents in favor of her partisan career. Unfortunately, this time, the lives of American troops are on the line.”
Statement of Stefanik spokeswoman in full
As the Representative and Chief Advocate in Congress for Fort Drum and the soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division, the most deployed unit in the Army, Congresswoman Stefanik’s primary concern is and always will be, the well-being, protection, and preparedness of our brave men and women in uniform.
Taxin’ Tedra’s embarrassing attempt to claim otherwise is pathetic, inappropriate, and beneath the dignity of a candidate attempting to represent this district. Unlike Taxin’ Tedra who has never read a shred of intelligence and merely parrots talking points from Nancy Pelosi (her choice for Speaker) and Adam Schiff,
Congresswoman Stefanik participated in a White House senior level classified briefing with the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Advisor, the Chief of Staff, and NSC staff. Taxin’ Tedra has never and will never receive a classified briefing from our brave intelligence community.
Taxin’ Tedra can continue to embarrass herself by shamelessly politicizing illegal leaks. But voters in this district know that Elise is one of the strongest supporters of our military in the entire country. This week, Congresswoman Stefanik is marking up the National Defense Authorization Act where she serves as the Ranking Member, a position with direct oversight of U.S. Special Forces, force protection policy, and related intelligence support.
Taxin’ Tedra has a clear record of failing to support those who protect our freedoms. She came out against our National Guard when they were deployed to protect our streets from violent rioters, anarchists, and looters. She is on record supporting defense cuts to our military that would devastate Fort Drum, military readiness, and hurt military families.
Taxin’ Tedra is dangerously unfit to represent the 10th Mountain Division and the North Country as a whole. She is a vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker, Adam Schiff for Intelligence Chair, and every North Country voter knows that Taxin’ Tedra is the number one pro-impeachment candidate in the entire country.
And then separately, on Cobb's intel meeting attendance claim:
Adam Schiff and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have a record of leaking classified information and their choice to conduct hearings online without adequate cyber protections puts our national security at risk. Congresswoman Stefanik has participated in national security and intelligence briefings in person, but she does not support Adam Schiff jeopardizing our national security by having these briefings online. The North Country knows that Taxin’ Tedra would be a puppet for Adam Schiff risking our national security.