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Stefanik says she supports GOP review of Biden's Arizona victory as she stresses embrace of Trump

By Clare Foran, Manu Raju and Kristin Wilson, CNN

Updated: Thu, 06 May 2021 17:33:13 GMT

Source: CNN

GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is poised to become the next House GOP conference chair, said on Thursday that she "fully" supports a controversial Republican-led effort in Arizona to cast doubt on President Joe Biden's victory there, arguing that "we want to be able to fix and strengthen our election security and election integrity," a move that aligns the New York Republican closely with former President Donald Trump's baseless effort to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election

Stefanik has rapidly won support, including from Trump and the top two House GOP leaders, to quickly replace Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney as the No. 3 in the leadership --- after Cheney has warned about Trump's lies that the 2020 election was stolen and said that such rhetoric is dangerous to democracy.

There was no evidence of widespread voter fraud or systemic issues in the 2020 election.

But Stefanik, who voted to overturn Pennsylvania electoral results even after the January 6 insurrection, while supporting a Texas-led lawsuit to throw out millions of votes in battleground states, has continually pushed the notion that something was amiss in the 2020 election, an issue that has become a litmus test in order to win Trump's backing.

"I fully support the audit in Arizona. We want transparency and answers for the American people," Stefanik said in an interview on Steve Bannon's radio show Thursday.

She later said, "We want to be able to fix and strengthen our election security and election integrity going into future elections -- that should be something whether you're Republican, Democrat or Independent, everyone should agree with, having faith in our election system."

An election audit of the 2020 ballots from Arizona's largest county -- one demanded by Republican state senators -- kicked off at the end of April. The partisan audit, which could stretch for roughly two months, comes after county election officials conducted two audits and found no evidence of widespread voter fraud and other issues.

The Arizona secretary of state has already certified the election results, showing Biden narrowly won the state. But the latest review highlights how many Republicans continue to cling to Trump's unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud in 2020 -- falsehoods that still roil the GOP.

Stefanik stressed an embrace of Trump and a message of unity for the Republican Party on Thursday even as she faces attacks from one conservative group that she is insufficiently conservative.

"My vision is to run with support from the President and his coalition of voters," Stefanik said, a reference to Trump, when asked what her vision is for GOP victory in the 2022 midterm elections.

"We are going to run as an alternative to the Biden agenda," she said, adding, "this is also about being one team. I'm committed to being a voice and sending a clear message that we are one team, and that means working with the President and working with all of our excellent Republican members of Congress."

Club for Growth, a conservative organization focusing on economic issues, came out Wednesday against Stefanik's bid to replace Cheney as House GOP conference chair, saying the New York moderate-turned-MAGA congresswoman is "NOT a good spokesperson" for the conference.

"Elise Stefanik is NOT a good spokesperson for the House Republican Conference," the group posted on Twitter. "She is a liberal with a 35% CFGF lifetime rating, 4th worst in the House GOP. House Republicans should find a conservative to lead messaging and win back the House Majority."

The club's ratings system measures how members of Congress vote on economic issues, and scored Stefanik much lower than the more conservative Cheney, who has a lifetime score of 65%. Stefanik voted against the 2017 Republican tax cut bill, putting her at odds with nearly all of her party and Trump, but has since tacked in his direction.

GOP leadership sources are still expecting the vote to oust Cheney from leadership to happen on Wednesday, even though some outside conservative groups are grumbling about Stefanik's more-moderate voting record despite her full embrace of Trump.

The vote has not been officially set, and the timing could change especially if a large number of GOP members ask for more time to debate and consider the shakeup of the leadership team, the Republican sources said.

The expectation is that the vote will be set for Wednesday at a majority threshold since the motion will be considered privileged with the backing of House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy. Most motions are voted on by a simple-majority threshold. If a rank-and-file member sought a vote without the support of leadership, it would need a two-thirds majority.

It's expected to be done by secret ballot, which is common for such votes.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.


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