Written by Alex Gault for the Watertown Daily Times on July 2, 2020

Congresswoman Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, is focused on the illegality of the leaks regarding the revelations last week that a Russian intelligence agency offered Taliban-linked militias cash rewards to kill American troops in Afghanistan.

In an interview Thursday, Rep. Stefanik stressed how important it is to maintain secrecy regarding classified information, and dissuaded officials from discussing what she termed “unverified and frankly illegal leaks.”

She specifically called out her Democratic opponent in the race for the NY-21 House seat, Tedra Cobb.

“My opponent is discussing unverified and frankly illegal leaks, which is unfit for a candidate for office, but certainly unacceptable for an elected official,” the congresswoman said.

Over the past week, Ms. Cobb has repeatedly criticized Rep. Stefanik for what she has called silence on the issue.

“Cong. Stefanik should immediately join her Republican colleagues and call for an independent investigation into Russia, and this administration’s failure to act,” read a statement sent out by Ms. Cobb’s team on Sunday.

When Rep. Stefanik did issue a statement on Monday, she did not call for an investigation, but did state that she would continue to track the issue and was expecting additional briefings on the matter.

According to a story that appeared in the Albany Times-Union on Wednesday, Rep. Stefanik and eight of her fellow Republican representatives have skipped all but one of the House Intelligence Committee’s meetings, including the last three. Rep. Stefanik has criticized the meetings and the chairman of the committee Rep. Adam Schiff, stating that the topics the committee deals with are too sensitive to be discussed over the Internet, where foreign intelligence agents could eavesdrop.

On Tuesday, Ms. Cobb criticized Rep. Stefanik for skipping those meetings, and reiterated that criticism on Thursday.

“She had time to go to Tulsa and time for multiple cable news appearances, but she couldn’t find time to show up to Intelligence Committee hearings or to stand up for our troops,” Ms. Cobb said in an emailed statement. “The brave men and women of the 10th Mountain Division deserve a member of Congress who puts their lives first.”

According to a representative from Rep. Stefanik’s office, she will be attending an in-person meeting of the committee on Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday, the congresswoman was firmly set against Russia, but did not remark on the administration’s handling of the topic.

“Russia is a long-term adversary of the United States,” she said.

“I think it’s important as policy makers to focus on what our policy proposals should be to counter Russia,” she continued.

Rep. Stefanik said that she continues to support several initiatives to counter Russia, including sanctions, Javelin missile support in Ukraine, funding the European Defense Initiative and continued cooperation with NATO.

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