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Stefanik echoes Trump on Justice Department, special counsel

After Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith, Donald Trump demanded that Republicans fight for him. Elise Stefanik apparently got the message.


After Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith to oversee the criminal investigations into Donald Trump, the former president didn't just launch a hysterical offensive; he also told his Republican allies about his expectations.

As we recently discussed, just hours after Garland broke the news about the new special counsel, Trump declared at Mar-a-Lago, “You people have to fight. You have to fight. You have to be strong.” Earlier, he said something similar to Fox News, insisting that the Republican Party should “stand up and fight” on his behalf.

It appears that House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik got the message. Indeed, the New York congresswoman spoke yesterday to a far-right outlet called Breitbart News, which reported:

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the third senior ranking House Republican, ripped special counsel Jack Smith on Tuesday for being a “compromised” member of President Joe Biden’s politicized Department of Justice.

“The facts are clear: Jack Smith is compromised,” Stefanik told Breitbart News. “Joe Biden’s weaponized DOJ has launched an illegitimate special counsel to investigate his number one political opponent.”

She added that the incoming House GOP majority will launch a new investigation into the Justice Department over what she sees as its “corrupt” politicization of law enforcement.

To the extent that reality still has meaning, Stefanik’s rhetoric is impossible to take seriously. There are no “facts” to suggest Smith, a respected prosecutor who most recently served as the chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, has been “compromised.”

What’s more, Stefanik might be willing to echo Trump’s bizarre rhetoric about a “weaponized” Justice Department and “corrupt” law enforcement, but like the former president whose script she’s reading, the New York congresswoman has no evidence of DOJ wrongdoing. Her attacks are little more than hollow, partisan chest-thumping, focused more on riling up the base than anything resembling responsible governing.

But just as notable as Stefanik's ongoing descent — remember when she encouraged voters to see her as one of Congress’ “most bipartisan“ members, voted against GOP tax breaks, and was reluctant to even say Donald Trump’s name out loud? — is what her nonsensical claims might signal about Republicans and Smith’s investigation.

Brendan Buck, a former top aide to then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, recently appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and explained that Republican leaders “spent an incredible amount of time behind the scenes trying to get our members not to undermine” Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.”

Buck added that GOP lawmakers “wanted to try to meddle in” the process, but House Republican leaders had to say, “Hard no.” The former aide concluded, “I don’t know that the current House of Representatives is set up to be that disciplined.”

It’s a safe bet that it isn’t. Not only is the House GOP Conference chair lashing out at the special counsel by way of a conservative website, but Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio — the likely next chair of the House Judiciary Committee — has also vowed to investigate Smith’s appointment.

Ideally, Trump’s sycophants on Capitol Hill would let the process play out, wait for the findings, and let the chips fall where they may. As the former president demands that Republicans try to shield him, that’s obviously not good enough for the likes of Stefanik and Jordan.