Here’s what we need to know about Rep. Elise Stefanik’s support for Donald Trump

Brian Mann talked with Martha Foley about Stefanik’s support for Trump on The Eight O’clock Hour, 8/30/16

Rep. Elise Stefanik, shown here visiting US soldiers in Afghanistan, is a respected expert on foreign affairs and military policy.  She sits on the House Armed services committee and represents the Fort Drum Army base, which sits within her 21st NY district.  NCPR has urged her to answer more substantive questions about her support for Donald Trump to serve as America's next commander in chief.  Photo:  provided

Rep. Elise Stefanik, shown here visiting US soldiers in Afghanistan, is a respected expert on foreign affairs and military policy. She sits on the House Armed services committee and represents the Fort Drum Army base, which sits within her 21st NY district. NCPR has urged her to answer more substantive questions about her support for Donald Trump to serve as America’s next commander in chief. Photo: provided

On the campaign trail this summer, Rep. Elise Stefanik has answered a smattering of questions on the fly about her support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. These exchanges have been brief, and lacking in specificity. They usually come during what we in the news business call a “scrum.” That’s the hasty exchange between a politician and reporters that happens after a campaign event.

In those exchanges, the congresswoman has suggested that the topic of her support for Mr. Trump is a distraction from her own re-election campaign. “Look, I’m focused on my race,” she said earlier this month during a stop in Watertown. (Hear her full comments here.)

We disagree. We have repeatedly asked Rep. Stefanik for a focused, sit-down interview to talk in detail about why she thinks Mr. Trump would be a capable commander in chief. We’ve offered to provide our questions in advance. We’ve offered to conduct the interview at a time and place that matches her schedule.

She has refused. Here’s why we hope she’ll reconsider.

If elected, Mr. Trump would hold awesome power over the health, the safety, the legal standing, and the honor of thousands of North Country service-members living here in New York’s 21st House district.

These include soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum near Watertown or serving overseas, as well as National Guard reservists in many of our small towns. For those men and women, and their families, this is as local and personal as any issue can be.

If he’s elected, Mr. Trump’s policies and ideas will shape every aspect of their lives.

Rep. Stefanik is widely recognized as an expert on military and foreign policy issues within the Republican Party. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee. In that role, and in her capacity as Fort Drum’s most important voice in Washington, here are the questions we feel she needs to answer.

  1.  When asked in March about his approach to foreign policy, Mr. Trump said his “primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.” Given statements of this kind and his behavior and rhetoric on the campaign trail, do you view Mr. Trump a safe and sober leader, a man to whom we can trust the welfare of our troops? There is a very real possibility of military conflict in the years ahead. Would you be comfortable saying to the spouses and children of soldiers from the North Country that Mr. Trump is the right man to make life-and-death decisions on their behalf?
  1.  Mr. Trump has said repeatedly that he will order service-members (including those from the North Country) to commit acts that include deliberately carpet-bombing civilian communities, targeting and killing women and children in reprisals related to suspected terrorist activity, as well as torturing detainees and military prisoners. These are widely considered to be illegal acts under international and US military law. Are you comfortable with these positions and the possible impact on soldiers from your district?
  1.  Dozens of your Republican colleagues, including many of the most senior military, intelligence and diplomatic experts from within the conservative movement, have concluded that Mr. Trump is “dangerous” to our men and women in uniform, and would erode our nation’s safety as well as the integrity of our military. On what grounds do you disagree with them?
  1.  You have suggested that the defense and foreign policy ideas of former New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent) would be worse than Mr. Trump’s. Please name some things Secretary Clinton has proposed (or done in the past) that would be riskier to our troops and to national security than disbanding NATO, accepting Russian expansionism, or ignoring the advice of our intelligence community when making military decisions, all of which Mr. Trump has said he may do?
  1.  You have suggested that you support Mr. Trump in significant part because of party loyalty. (When asked about your support for his candidacy, you responded, in part, that you are a Republican.) Yet this is an election to choose the president who will hold authority over all our neighbors who serve in the military. In that context, why does Mr. Trump’s party affiliation matter, particularly if you disagree with him on key policy matters?
  1.  There have been credible reportssome from within the conservative movement – that Mr. Trump maintains significant undisclosed financial ties to countries that the U.S. counts among our chief security concerns, including China and possibly Russia. Mr. Trump has declined to release his taxes or provide detailed information about debts owed to overseas lenders. Are you comfortable supporting Mr. Trump as commander in chief without that information being made public?

As we urge Rep. Stefanik to sit down with us and address these questions, it’s important to say again that this isn’t ‘gotcha’ stuff. These are issues of life and death and national security. These are questions central to Rep. Stefanik’s work representing the military families who live right here.

It’s worth pointing out that NCPR isn’t the only news organization urging our congresswoman to explain more fully her support for the Republican presidential nominee. In recent weeks, journalists and editors with the Watertown Daily Timesthe Glens Falls Post Star, the Sun Community News chain of newspapers, and Time Warner Cable News in Watertown have all demanded a far more substantive explanation of the congresswoman’s decision to back Mr. Trump.

There’s a reason we’re pushing for answers. We live in a dangerous world. The North Country has suffered grievous losses since 9/11, with local troops serving and dying on the front lines in the war on terror and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our neighbors have paid a heavy price. They will almost certainly be asked to make more sacrifices in the years ahead.

Meanwhile, serious questions have been raised from within Rep. Stefanik’s own party and her own conservative movement about Mr. Trump’s character and fundamental readiness to serve as commander in chief. As Fort Drum’s voice, we need our congresswoman to speak fully and in detail about why she thinks the Republican nominee is the right man for the job.

In the interest of full disclosure, Brian Mann’s son Nicholas Mann, a college student at George Washington University, worked for part of the summer as an unpaid volunteer for the campaign of Democratic candidate Mike Derrick, one of Stefanik’s challengers in the 21st district House race. 

37 Comments on “Here’s what we need to know about Rep. Elise Stefanik’s support for Donald Trump”

  1. Local Nerd says:

    I would also like her to explain her support for Trump in the context of his racial attacks on St. Regis Mohawks in 1993.

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  2. Flatlander says:

    I also can’t help but think of any connections with the other NCPR piece about racism in the Adirondacks…THings that make you go “HMMMMM”

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  3. telfish says:

    653 million in debt mostly to Russian Oligarchs, And another 1.3 billion liability on a NY city Building. How can a man beholden to Putin’s friends be allowed to have this country’s defence in his grasp.

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  4. joe minerva says:

    It has baffled me how she can support this canidate but fails to tell us why.Is there a why ?

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  5. Emmett Hoops says:

    I have tracked her votes on GovTrack.us for the past year. It is clear that she takes her orders from the House Speaker and never crosses party lines unless it is very, very safe to do so. She shows absolutely no proclivity to vote independently nor in such a manner that would benefit NY-21 in particular. It’s not likely she would show any independence with a President Trump calling the shots to a reactionary House.

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  6. Michael Ludovici says:

    Elise is obviously not a leader.

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  7. Ashley House says:

    I am a registered Republican woman. Trump is dangerous. His repugnant words will be used by our enemies to describe America for generations.

    To me, the primary goal of this election is to defeat Trump. For my grandchildren’s future, I will vote for Clinton. It is too risky to vote for a third party to “send a message” that I don’t like Clinton. My grandchildren’s future is at risk.

    Elsie is a coward if she won’t stand against hate messages Trump spews.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  8. The Original Larry says:

    Elise Stefanik is in a difficult position, like scores of other Republican candidates (and voters) across the country. She’s trying to maintain as a Republican without tying herself to a potentially sinking ship. That’s another subject all together. She can only lose by answering your questions. She is, after all, a politician, and not a stupid one.

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  9. bea goode says:

    I was wondering the same things. But “look” she just wants to get reelected as a carpet bagger in a district where she should have never been allowed to represent in the first place

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  10. cw.lavery says:

    She has voted against increasing funding for Veterans Adiminstration.
    Always pictured with troops but puts a knife in their backs when voting.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  11. CJ says:

    Elise is just being a politician. In her estimation answering the questions will do more harm to her reelection chances than not answering them.
    On another topic… glad to comment on this story but most of the others direct to facebook. What about those of us that don’t do facebook?

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  12. Pete Klein says:

    I think it is more likely for Clinton to get us involved in more military conflicts than Trump would.
    I believe Clinton wants to be Queen of the World more than she wants to be President of the USA. Becoming the President for her is only a stepping stone for the power she seeks.
    I fully intend to vote for Trump and Stefanik.

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  13. telfish says:

    I see the tinfoil brigade has arrived. Queen of the world. LOL!

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  14. telfish says:

    I wonder why she won’t answer any questions on Trump.

    After all. He has threatened his opponent’s life, said that if he is President he will try to prosecute her and jail her, asked a foreign power and dangerous adversary to intervene in the election on his behalf, encouraged violence at his rallies, urged a massive assault on the civil liberties of a group of Americans, offended an historic ally and neighbor, the Republic of Mexico, in the most unhinged way, threatened to rip up stable treaty alliances that protect our security, lied constantly about policy questions of fact, engaged in smears and conspiracy thinking, flirted with anti-Semites and white nationalists, suggested that he will encourage nuclear proliferation if he is President, and he has urged his base to treat his electoral defeat, if it happens, as a case of illegitimate and rigged defeat.

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  15. You wrote “here’s why we hope she’ll reconsider”. Who are the “we”? If that’s her opinion, so be it. I am not one of the”we”. I can speak for myself.

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  16. Alan Hoffman says:

    James Fallows, a national correspondent with The Atlantic, posted this relevant letter from a reader:

    I think you might be missing the GOP strategy here regarding Sec. Clinton’s bigotry speech, and the fact that no Republican came forward to defend Donald Trump. Republicans know that she spoke the truth—the indefensible truth about Donald Trump—and they want to squelch any discussion about it. That’s what they are doing.

    Because they don’t want this speech on the airwaves, debated on panels, over several news cycles, with more and more of the dirty laundry getting debated in the mainstream news cycles, leading the Nightly News with dramatic music. Screaming headlines. Any any—ANY—statement by a Republican will trigger that discussion that no GOPer wants.

    The mainstream news guys are sitting there at their email boxes, waiting, waiting, for statements, so they can write a piece on it. Benjy Sarlin mentioned it on Twitter, which you probably saw. [JF: I have now] And a couple of other journos, agreed.

    But without some outraged statement from Ryan, Cruz, anybody, the mainstream journos have nothing to write about, there is no news cycle, no panels, no screaming headlines, no multi-news cycle. Just a Wow! Clinton gave a rough speech!” End of story. And that’s the strategy. Bury this story. And it’s working.

    That’s how the GOP handles this kind of story. And it works just fine, every time. The mainstream journos can’t find a both-sides hook, and they are nervous about this alt-right stuff anyway, so the story dies. Journos fear the brutality of GOP pushback. So it goes. Every. Time.

    Contrast that with the non-story about the Clinton Foundation. Every GOPer was sending out a truckload of statements to keep that story going. Chuck Todd has stated in the past that he—they—have no choice but to write about whatever the GOP is upset about because they all put their shoulder to the wheel. And the GOP always has something for journos to write about. Controversy! And no fear of brutality from the Democrats. That’s how that goes.

    That’s why we hate the media. Still. Even more than ever.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  17. Michael LaCroix says:

    Can someone please explain to me why, as this piece says, ” Rep. Stefanik is widely recognized as an expert on military and foreign policy issues within the Republican Party”. Also, As I see it, in regards to being the commander in chief, what’s the difference between warmonger one and warmonger two.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. telfish says:

    She went to Fort Drum once, that makes her an expert on military matters. And she took a vacation to Canada. That makes her a foreign policy expert.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  19. James Bullard says:

    You state (twice) that ” Rep. Stefanik is widely recognized as an expert on military and foreign policy issues within the Republican Party”. Aside from being appointed to those committees, what is the source of her supposed expertise? Did she study those things in grad school? is she a graduate of a military academy? Has she even served in the military? Looking at her Bio, I see none of those things. She worked in the West Wing during “W”s administration but given how the whole Afghanistan & Iraq situation was handled I hardly think that qualifies as “expertise”.

    Face it. She is a carpetbagger who owns no property in the district. She claims residence at her parent’s home but she actually owns a home and lives in Washington. She is a Carl Rove “Bot” inserted into the North Country to serve his agenda and she votes the way she is told. The rest is smiling face photo ops.

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  20. Brian Mann says:

    This is a response to James Bullard: It’s a matter of public record that Rep. Stefanik has an extensive background on these matters. More than ten years ago she worked during her senior year at Harvard with a group called Foundation for Defense of Democracies that focused on foreign policy and security issues. In 2011, she worked for the Foreign Policy Initiative, co-founded by William Kristol (who now happens to be one of Donald Trump’s fiercest critics).

    After her election in 2014, the congresswoman was named to the House Armed Services Committee. She has traveled overseas repeatedly in her first term to visit troops and has been a leader on major military-affairs issues, including the budget cut debate known as “sequester.” It is enough of a focus for her that last year she hired a special staff member to work in her office on military affairs.

    –Brian Mann, NCPR

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  21. telfish says:

    So Brian, shoe is a Neocon acolyte with little if any practical Military experience. That you would use always wrong Bill Kristol as a plus for her is hilarious.

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  22. scott couch says:

    Yep just like liberals-spin your questions in a negative way. Why not ask her the question: “With Clinton’s lieing about her emails is Trump more fit to keep the countries secrets safe?”
    Or
    “Should people like Bush and Cruz keep their word and support Trump. By not supporting them are they showing they are not men of their word?”

    You won’t ask that question because your a liberal and think you should push the public to the left. When I went to college for broadcasting the first day of intro to broadcasting-day one,page one-said the media is considered gate keepers of information,and as such they need to be impartial so as not to push the viewer in anyone direction.
    I agree she should get some balls and defend Trump. By not actually coming out and supporting him 100 percent she shows she is more concerned about her reelection then the outsider that is going to change Washington from the top down. But I can’t blame her for not doing an interview with such a liberal organization like Public Radio.

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  23. Michael LaCroix says:

    With all do respect to the response to James Bullard, I would say with those credentials Rep. Stefanik has some experience with the Military and foreign affairs. It takes much more time and much more experience in life to become an expert at something especially something as complex as the military and foreign affairs. As someone who was four years old when the first Gulf War started, I’m just not sure she is there yet.

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  24. Donna Ransier- VanWaldick says:

    This female veteran is VERY disapointed in Ms Stefanik, and while I will not cast a vote for the democrate, neither will I vote for her….. guess I will be leaving that race empty.

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  25. Mike Flynn says:

    “Getting Rep. Stefanik on the record – is the Responsibility of PRESS!”

    Rep. Stefanik established as her right last campaign for Congress, that leaving reporters in a lurch, and refusing to answer the Press’s questions was okay. After two years we know very little about “this single woman’s’ (her words) commitment to a significant other, stating a family or having children. The nuts and bolts of family life are something a reporter hasn’t gotten her to talk about to date. Yes she has a right to live a single life, but voters have a right to know if she understands the issues that go with raising children. The economic strain on families involved with bringing up kids, getting them to school & college, etc.

    It is a little ingenuous to call Rep. Elise Stefanik an expert of foreign affairs , because she sits on the House Armed Services Committee, and the GOP says that makes her one. I followed her positions closely on Crimea, and Eastern Ukraine. I felt that her immediate declaration that boots on the ground was off the table to be foolhardy. However, she was newly elected at the time, and I’m sure she’s become a lot more policy savvy since those initial days in office, where I felt she was a bit of a lightweight on foreign policy issues.

    Rep. Elise Stefanik has basically told the press to stuff it for over two years. Well its time the Press told her that’s not acceptable in terms she’ll understand. Rep. Stefanik doesn’t seem to believe in the voters right to be informed about herself, or her policies & politics. In terms of who she’s supporting this election, including Donald J. Trump, and why she’s so lukewarm about Trump to begin with is a good place to start! The Press has dug their own grave, by accepting such whoppers as, “I’m totally independent of Rep. Paul Ryan, who after all is her long-term mentor, and a big reason why she’s cold shouldered Donald J. Trump this election.

    Rep. Stefanik needs to go on the record and the Press needs to find a way to get her too.

    Mike Flynn ‘Middle Class Mike’

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  26. Kent Gregson says:

    If I were her I would not entertain those questions even though the reporter says they’re not “gotcha” questions. The reporter constantly advocates for paddling, hiking and the Democratic Party. The pattern is unmistakable, even to someone like myself who does not join or represent any one else’s party or opinion. If the intent is to have the candidate answer questions, those questions need to be carefully worded not to trap, but to ascertain the actual thoughts of the candidate. Then a service is rendered for the listener, not another lecture about how bad your opposition is because they won’t answer your questions. The tone here is telling.

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  27. Janet Burto says:

    This is a reasonable request. Offering to make the interview around her schedule and providing questions in advance is very accommodating. A public official has an obligation to the public, even the ones that are not registered to her party. Avoiding issues, controversial issues, like Donald Trump, someone she says she supports, deserves explaining. She needs to put her big girl panties on and do the interview. No matter how she answers, at least she did the right thing.

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  28. Walter F Wouk says:

    Stating that Elsie Stefanik “is widely recognized as an expert on military and foreign policy issues within the Republican Party” doesn’t mean much when you consider that the Republican Party gave Michelle Bachmann — who claimed carbon dioxide is harmless — a seat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

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  29. Michael Ludovici says:

    Elise is as bad as Hilary, and now Donald Trump, holding her finger to the political wind before taking a stance on an issue.

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  30. tracy landon says:

    These are gotcha questions and she is smart to avoid this ‘reporter’.

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  31. telfish says:

    How is it a Gotcha question to ask a representative why they support the Presidential candidate for their own party?

    If that is a gotcha question then the answer must be pretty brutal if solicited!

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  32. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I believe it is absolutely fair to say “Rep. Stefanik is widely recognized as an expert on military and foreign policy issues within the Republican Party.” The key word is “issues.”

    It is similar to saying that Sen. Inhofe of OK is an expert on climate change issues within the Republican Party. You CAN be an expert on having bad policy on issues.

    One military issue that Stefanik is likely considered an expert on is sexual assault in the military. Despite all the evidence that Stefanik should be supporting the policy outlined by Sen. Gillibrand (and supported by her opponent, Derrick) Stefanik is instead in favor of keeping prosecution of sexual assault within the chain of military command that has failed so miserably for decades.

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  33. We need a representative that makes votes based on reality and scientific evidence. The questions Brain Mann relates vis a vis Trump are great ones. It also bothers me that Ms. Stefanik voted against funding Planned Parenthood 5 times, apparently on the basis of a cobbed up video that every sentient being could tell was phony.

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  34. I’m sorry, Brian Mann. Damn dyslexia.

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  35. MOFYC says:

    Typical liberal bias, asking tough questions and all.

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  36. Brian Mann says:

    Hi folks,

    Some of you have asked questions and raised concerns about our approach to this issue. In the interview above (click Play on the Soundcloud feature) you can listen to Martha Foley and myself talking about why we’re asking our questions and why we think this approach is fair to Rep. Stefanik.

    Thanks for the interesting discussion,

    Brian Mann, NCPR

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  37. sandra says:

    Ms. Stefanik has side stepped the issue of broadband in the Adirondack Park. She has not in my opinion actually taken direct action with Frontier. What Ms. Stefanik does is cheer on the need for broadband but does nothing directly that will make a difference in residents seeking high speed internet services.

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