PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Congress is still waiting to hear directly from a whistleblower whose report ignited the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, and a Republican sitting front and center at the House hearings says she believes that person will be called to testify if the process continues.
New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a frequent Republican foil during the probe by the Democrat-led House Intelligence Committee, said the Senate will likely seek the whistleblower’s closed-door testimony if the House delivers articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
The whistleblower’s complaint about a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested the U.S. president was holding up aid to Ukraine to elicit an investigation into activities of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son in that country.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last weekend his committee did not call the whistleblower because the report was corroborated by other witnesses, and “the president and his allies effectively put the whistleblower’s life in danger.”
“The president said the whistleblower and others should be treated as a traitor or spy and we ought to use the penalty we used to use for traitors and spies, and that’s the death penalty,” Schiff said.
Meanwhile, Trump and Republicans — including Stefanik — have insisted the whistleblower appear before Congress. Stefanik has publicly called out Schiff for his own statements and tweets in the past suggesting that the person would be called to testify.
During the hearings, tensions rose at times between the Intelligence Committee chairman and the Republican upstart from Upstate New York, with Schiff pounding his gavel at one point in an attempt to shut off her attempts to ask questions.
Stefanik reflected on the hearings -- and the potential for the whistleblower’s testimony in the Republican-led Senate -- in an interview during her trip back home to New York’s 21st District for Thanksgiving.
Stefanik was already a notable member of the House before her profile rose as one of nine Republicans on the committee leading the inquiry into the president. A Harvard University alumna, she worked in the White House under President George W. Bush and was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at the time she won her seat, in 2014.
Stefanik, now 35, said she believes the Intelligence Committee’s report on the president will be along party lines and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will determine its timing.
Stefanik said during the interview that she’d focused during the hearings on asking "good questions, substantive questions" about corruption in Ukraine, the potential conflict of interest posed by Hunter Biden's role with the Ukranian energy company Burisma while his father was vice president, and whether witnesses saw “direct evidence of quid pro quo, bribery or treason” involving Trump and his administration.
She reiterated her previous point that the aid to Ukraine was ultimately released, and no investigation into the Bidens resulted.
Of recently disclosed emails by White House officials seeking justification for Trump's hold on the aid, Stefanik noted that aid to other countries has also been paused or withheld.
"At the end of the day, this was part of an overall assessment of foreign aid, making sure that when we are giving U.S. taxpayer dollars that it’s not going to corrupt countries,” she said.
Cara Chapman writes for the Plattsburgh, N.Y. Press-Republican.