Donald Trump has reportedly enjoyed watching New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik defend him, but allegedly does not trust the third-ranking House Republican who replaced US Rep Liz Cheney as chair of the House Republican Conference in 2021.
A profile on the rising Republican in The New York Times reports that Ms Stefanik has earned a reputation for her diligence “in advancing the party’s message” and her “unabashedly transactional” relationships to gain support as she advances in the lower chamber of Congress.
But sources close to the former president told The Times that any stories casting her as a “potential running mate [to Trump] are regarded as clumsy plants by her own team, and inspire bemusement and mockery.”
“Trump liked her, they said, and liked watching her defend him. But even he didn’t trust her,” according to the report.
The Times chronicles the rapid evolution of Ms Stefanik, a staunch supporter of the former president, from a relative moderate to a prominent figure on the GOP’s far-right flank with a self-described “ultra-MAGA” agenda, adopting Mr Trump’s baseless narrative of election fraud and embracing conspiracy theories that appeal to a reactionary base.
Before he made his 2024 bid official, she was among few senior Republicans to endorse Mr Trump.
“Republican voters determine who is the leader of the Republican Party, and it’s very clear President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party,” she said in November.
Notably, Ms Stefanik also allegedly once called Mr Trump a “whack job”.
On New Year’s Eve, as Republicans prepare for their slim majority in the House of Representatives after their midterm election victories, she also has pledged political retribution against President Joe Biden’s administration.
“For the past two years, the American people have suffered from crisis after crisis because of failed one-party Democrat rule in Washington,” she wrote on Twitter. When members of Congress are sworn in this week, “that ENDS,” she said.
Fellow New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also has criticised Ms Stefanik after the profile’s publication. She pointed to its characterisation of the Republican’s alleged annoyance that the Democratic representative “had not shown her the respect she felt was her due,” fuelling in part Ms Stefanik’s descent on the right.
“What is it with people randomly blaming the mere existence of others for their own descent into embracing neo-nazism? Like girl you did that all on your own,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez wrote on 31 December. “Unless her suggestion here is she started endorsing great replacement theory because she couldn’t treat me like the help.”
Ms Stefanik and other Republican officials came under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the racist massacre in Buffalo, New York, in May 2022 for echoing similar “great replacement theory” claims that fueled the attack.
Her campaign published a series of ads on Facebook in September 2021 alleging that Democratic officials are allowing immigrants into the US in an attempt to outnumber and eventually outvote Republicans, a tenet of the white supremacist theory.
“Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,” one of the ads said. “Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”