Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.
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- Adam Schiff in a new book said “there are two hundred Elise Stefaniks” in the House GOP caucus.
- In “Thank You for Your Servitude,” Mark Leibovich detailed Trump’s influence over the party.
- Schiff said the recent paths taken by Liz Cheney and Elise Stefanik reveal a lot about the GOP.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff pointed to the ascension of Rep. Elise Stefanik and the diminished influence of Rep. Liz Cheney within the GOP as a major sign of the party’s overwhelming fealty to former President Donald Trump, according to a newly-released book by Atlantic staff writer Mark Leibovich.
“I think you can basically tell a lot of the story of the GOP over last several years by looking at two women, Liz Cheney and Elise Stefanik,” he said. “She [Stefanik] basically just put up her hand and said, ‘Do you need someone to tell a Big Lie? Sure, I’ll tell any lie you want me to tell, just give me that position.'”
In the book, “Thank You for Your Servitude: Donald Trump’s Washington and the Price of Submission,” Leibovich described how Stefanik, a Harvard-educated congresswoman who represents upstate New York, was initially seen as one of the more “serious” GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee — which at one point featured Trump allies like Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and ex-Rep. Devin Nunes of California.
However, in the lead-up to Trump’s first impeachment in December 2019, when the House voted to charge the then-president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his alleged efforts to solicit Ukraine’s interference in the 2020 presidential election, Stefanik emerged as a staunch defender of the White House.
And Trump and those in his orbit were very receptive to Stefanik’s loyalty, which went a long way in overcoming her more moderate voting record earlier in her congressional career. In 2017, for instance, she voted against the GOP-led Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
When Cheney refuted Trump’s debunked election claims about the 2020 presidential election and voted to impeach him for “incitement of insurrection” for his role on January 6, 2021, her stock within the party began to fall.
As the chair of the House Republican Conference, Cheney played a critical role in party messaging, but her vocal criticism of Trump led to rumblings about her future in leadership. And Stefanik — who objected to the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which were all won by Joe Biden — stood to benefit from any upheaval.
“When it was clear that Cheney was about to be ousted as the conference chair, Stefanik made her move, despite having been a vocal admirer of Cheney’s and having previously nominated her twice for that same job,” Leibovich wrote in the book.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California.
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After Cheney was removed from leadership, Stefanik was soon selected by the caucus to replace the conservative Wyoming lawmaker.
While Cheney would go on to become the vice chair of the House committee investigating the January 6 riot — with national visibility and subpoena power — Stefanik joined Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana in leading the party in the lower chamber.
Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the January 6 panel, told Leibovich that the treatment of Cheney by many of her Republican colleagues said a lot about the direction of the party.
There are only two Cheney-like lawmakers in the House GOP — the congresswoman herself and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, he said. Kinzinger, who is retiring from Congress, is also on the committee probing the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
“There are two hundred Elise Stefaniks in the caucus,” Schiff said. “And you can’t even blame it on being uninformed, in the case of Stefanik.”
“It’s just pure ambition, and nothing else matters. She just wanted the job,” he added.