We looked on in dismay this week as our local congresswoman was sucked into the vortex of partisan Washington politics to which she often claims to be above, because she is an independent voice in the Republican Party.
That didn’t seem to be the case Thursday.
Rep. Elise Stefanik was among the nine Republican members of the House Select Committee on Intelligence who called on Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff to resign for his plans to continue to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Rep. Stefanik compounded matters by going on Twitter and writing, “Chairman Adam Schiff has lost the confidence of his colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee. Today I joined my colleagues in asking for him to resign. We must return to the important bipartisan work of the committee to strengthen U.S. Intelligence capabilities.”
Our reaction was two-fold.
First, we beg Congresswoman Stefanik not to follow in the footsteps of our president and other politicians with attack-oriented tweets. It just further divides us.
Second, we remind the congresswoman that just last year, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee concluded there was no Russian interference in the 2016 election, even though the FBI, CIA and NSA had all concurred that Russia not only interfered in the election, but did so to help President Trump win.
The Senate Intelligence Committee also acknowledged there was interference by the Russians in the 2016 election.
Rep. Schiff said during an intelligence committee meeting at the time that the House Republican majority’s conclusions contained “any number of misleading representations and factual problems.”
Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat from Connecticut who is also on the committee, said at the time, “It is obviously no secret that this investigation has introduced a very sharp and ugly brand of partisanship into the committee.”
It was clear that the House Intelligence Committee – once above the partisan politics of the day in putting the country’s security first – has been compromised.
That continued this week and Rep. Stefanik has placed herself in the eye of the storm. We doubt that helps any of her constituents in the 21st Congressional District.
The politicking Thursday took place before an open hearing before the intelligence committee entitled, “Putin’s Playbook: The Kremlin’s use of oligarchs, money and intelligence in 2016 and beyond,” with expert testimony from four witnesses.
Through the miracle of C-SPAN and a bout of insomnia, one of our members tuned in to part of the televised replay of the hearing. The witnesses testified about the threat the country faces from Russia in a variety of ways and how sanctions have had a minimal effect.
It was important testimony and we hope the committee members were listening as the witnesses warned that Putin’s Russia is only going to get bolder in its effort to destabilize western democracies.
But we’re not so sure they were.
The Republican members of the committee kept returning to criticism of Schiff. At one point, Republican Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio compared Schiff to Joseph McCarthy and his “red scare” during the 1950s. At another point, the perplexed expert witnesses were asked about McCarthyism, with two of them saying they did not believe they were experts on the subject.
Nor was that why they were there.
Rep. Schiff in his response to the Republicans argued there was a difference between prosecutors proving a criminal conspiracy and the committee investigating evidence of foreign compromise.
We hope Rep. Stefanik understands that as well. If she wants to make a difference by tweeting, we’d prefer her to take up the cause of what the U.S. government can do to beef up its cybersecurity and keep Russia out of our next presidential election instead of participating in partisan politics.
The Republicans may argue that Democrats are retaliating for past partisan transgressions, but that is not an excuse. This political divide needs to be bridged, not widened.
It is long overdue to put the needs of Americans and America first.
That’s not what we saw this week and our own congresswoman was part of the problem.
Post-Star editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star’s editorial board, which consists of Interim Publisher Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representatives Jean Aurilio, Connie Bosse and Barbara Sealy.