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Wednesday, 5 February 2020

When NBC Reporter Refuses To Be Quiet, GOP Impeachment Hero Elise Stefanik Steps In, Tears Her Apart

Every major public congressional hearing produces its breakout figures. For the GOP, Rep. Elise Stefanik — the New York congresswoman who vigorously questioned many of the members on the Democrats’ curated witness list during the impeachment inquiry — became enough of a star that George Conway called her “lying trash.” That’s pretty much how you know you’ve made it inside the Beltway these days if you have an R appended to your name.
Much to the displeasure of the strangely married Mr. Conway, Stefanik’s profile has continued to rise. She also remains combative, something that NBC News correspondent Heidi Przybyla discovered last week.
Stefanik was part of a media “gaggle” about impeachment issues with Republican Reps. Lee Zeldin of New York and Mike Johnson of Louisiana. Gaggles, for the unfamiliar, are supposed to work thusly: A reporter asks a question of a group of public officials in an informal situation. One or several of the individuals give their answers. The reporter then asks a follow-up question or moves on to a different line of thinking.
Przybyla, instead, was determined to prove why Republicans often avoid the press. The question she asked was ostensibly about the Ukraine scandal — in particular, whether corruption was the real motivating factor behind the investigations that President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to explore.
It was less of a question, however, and more of a lecture.
Przybyla, for instance, began by stating that Ukraine had “met all anti-corruption standards” before military aid was withheld and asked “what specific corruption” prompted the withholding of aid.
Zeldin began by explaining the history of the issues behind the problems with Ukrainian corruption, which Przybyla didn’t want to hear, saying the history of corruption was already considered in the funding.
“Let me finish the answer, please, and I’ll get right back to you,” the congressman responded.
Zeldin then cited Zelensky as a reason to question the aid; Przybyla interrupted and said Zelensky ran on an anti-corruption platform. (And Barack Obama ran on a platform of lowering your health care premiums; what’s your point?)
At one point, Zeldin landed a solid riposte to the display: “If I give a good answer, that doesn’t mean that you have to cut me off, OK? I know that if I give a bad answer, you’d probably let me go all day.”
Przybyla asked Zeldin what the specific corruption was besides Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden — whose son Hunter was paid handsomely to serve on the board of the Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings while he was the Obama administration’s point man for U.S. policy regarding Ukraine — and Crowdstrike.
“I know it’s a hard question,” she said, since Trump “is not on the record mentioning anything other than Biden and Crowdstrike, and you haven’t mentioned anything else.”
“I’m happy to answer your question, but all I was asking was, because you have a lot of colleagues here,” Zeldin replied.
Przybyla said, “You guys want the answer, right?”
“OK, I’m happy to, but just, you have a unique style, OK, and it’s one that might not be as, I mean, you’re not looking around to see if anyone else has any other questions,” Zeldin said.
Eventually, Stefanik took the mic and things took a turn.
The congresswoman made it clear she cited testimony by ambassadors about corruption and noted that “as we’ve said, there was no official investigation into the Bidens, so you should get your facts straight.”
“Do you ignore the testimony of ambassadors? … This is ridiculous,” Stefanik asked Przybyla later in the exchange. “You need to go back and listen to the testimony. Every single witness has testified — well, what did the witnesses say about corruption in Ukraine?”
“Corruption is a problem,” Przybyla answered.
“Exactly,” Stefanik said.
Here’s the exchange, which gets Stefanik-heavy at about 2:10:
As for Stefanik’s performance — until she stepped up, this was another example of journalists owning the cons, at least for the liberals, who don’t mind when reporters just talk over politicians they don’t like. Stefanik made it an aggressive give-and-take — and one where she was right, by the way. Witnesses agreed there were issues with how, at least, Hunter Biden conducted himself in Ukraine, where he got massive amounts of money with no qualifications save for a surname.
One actually wishes the confrontation went on a bit longer, given the fact that Przybyla was getting pushback and not just giving her version of events in Ukraine to two Republicans who seemed almost flat-footed at the barrage.
As it is, one suspects this will be quite the donor clip for Stefanik and her campaign. It’s been earned.

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