‘She’s a killer’: Trump eyes Rep. Elise Stefanik as potential VP pick

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WASHINGTON — During a candlelight dinner with Mar-a-Lago members in late December, former Pres Donald Trump He walked around the table as the conversation turned to one of the biggest decisions he would have to make if he became the Republican nominee: Who should he choose as his running mate?

That’s when MP. Elise Stefanik, a die-hard Republican from upstate New York, came, according to someone at the dinner table. Those around Trump raved about the widely publicized moment a few weeks ago, when she questioned three university presidents at a congressional hearing about the matter. Anti-Semitism on campus.

When considering Stefanik as a potential vice presidential choice, Trump nodded approvingly.

“She’s a killer,” Trump said, according to the person who attended the event.

Since then, Trump and a growing group of allies have begun to look more closely at Stefanik as a running mate, according to eight people familiar with the matter, including people in Trump’s orbit, Stefanik’s fundraisers and former Trump administration officials.

At the time, the 39-year-old congresswoman was on the crest of a wave of national publicity after confronting top leaders at Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT. Their answers to the question: Does the call to exterminate the Jews contradict… [your college’s] Bullying and harassment rules? It eventually led to the resignation of two of them and sparked a storm of criticism against the schools.

But Stefanik was on Trump’s radar long before this hearing, because she possesses one of the key traits he looks for in his 2024 vice presidential nominee: loyalty. This, coupled with her ability to spread news on key issues, could be an irresistible combination for a vice presidential pick.

“Stefanik is at the top,” he said. Steve Bannonwho was Trump’s chief strategist in the White House and the architect of his 2016 campaign strategy.

“If you’re Trump, you want someone loyal above all else,” one Republican campaign operative said. “Especially because he believes that Mike Pence committed a mortal sin.”

On Wednesday, after this story was published, Stefanik announced that she would be Campaign with Trump in New Hampshire.

Once a moderate Republican who worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, Stefanik had shifted to the right and rebranded herself as one of Trump’s top allies on Capitol Hill after he won the White House in 2016.

“She’s come a long way, and she’s really with us now,” Trump said during a lunch in the spring of 2022, according to a source familiar with his comments, adding: “She was kind of with us before, but she’s really with us now.”

Stefanik declined to comment on whether she is interested in being Trump’s running mate, telling NBC News that she is focused on her role in Congress.

“I will not go into any of my conversations with President Trump. I am honored to call him a friend. I’m proud to be the first member of Congress to endorse him for re-election, and he won big in Iowa. “So we’re very excited about that,” she said.

A Trump campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Stefanik’s loyalty is public – including at home Interviewed this month on NBC’s “Meet the Press” – That’s a stark contrast to Pence, who became a target for Trump and his supporters after he refused to endorse Trump’s plan to deny Joe Biden victory in the 2020 presidential election. The former vice president frequently criticized Trump and his election denials during his short-lived presidential bid last year.

Stefanik, on the other hand, has been known for years in Congress as one of Trump’s most prominent defenders. She served on Trump’s 2019 impeachment defense team and supported his efforts to overturn the 2020 election that led to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Did not rule out “Meet the Press” interview. She will be the former vice president.

“Well, of course, I would be honored to serve in any capacity in the Trump administration,” Stefanik said.

Stefanik also attracted attention in that interview when she echoed the president’s language calling the Jan. 6 defendants “hostages.” On Wednesday, Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., announced he would introduce a resolution to censure Stefanik — a move that could make her more popular among Trump’s base.

It’s these displays of loyalty — including her refusal to certify the “unconstitutional” presidential election in 2020 Maybe in 2024 – Which shows the New York actress’s skill in seizing moments to advance Trump’s interests and eliminate his enemies, and it seems that it has catapulted her to the forefront of the competition.

The December dinner was not the first time Trump had mentioned Stefanik as a loyal friend and potential vice presidential nominee, according to another person who attended previous events in which they both participated.

At a Joint Committee fundraising event for Stefanik on June 6, 2022, at Trump’s home Golf lesson At Briarcliff Manor, New York, an audience source heard the former president tell those in attendance that he was watching how she would treat him as he neared a decision on whether to run for president.

“What Trump constantly commented on was how good she was as vice president,” this person explained.

Trump has long spoken of Stefanik’s prospects for higher office, telling attendees at a Mar-a-Lago fundraiser two years ago, which Stefanik attended, that after 2024 she could become the next president, the New York state conservative party chairman has confirmed. Jerry Cassar.

In November, Stefanik, in his capacity as Chairman of the House Republican Conference, Support Trump for president. At the time, the top leader in Congress was endorsing him in the primary.

Stefanik’s loyalty was also on display when she took the fight to the judges and prosecutors fighting Trump in the courtroom.

In recent months, Stefanik Gone yet The judge presiding over New York’s civil fraud case against Trump called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to do so Searching Former Assistant President Michael Cohen, W File a complaint Against the federal judge who oversaw the grand jury in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump.

“It is clear that Stefanik brings incredible talent at many levels, from the House, and knows how to defend President Trump and the MAGA movement,” Bannon said. “More importantly, she knows how to play what I call the unforgiving moment, when you have to make that decision to do it all.”

“She picks her shots and knows where her leverage is,” Bannon continued. “She understands something that is very rare today, which is modern communications. She knows what can have an impact. So she is clearly a huge talent.”

Her House GOP colleagues said Stefanik would be a tremendous asset to Trump because he knows her well, trusts her, and she would bring a deep knowledge of Capitol Hill to the ticket.

“She is very smart and very articulate, and she has done a great job as chair of the caucus. If President Trump chooses her to be his running mate, I think it will be a great team,” Rep. Kevin Hearne, R-Oklahoma, chairman of the largest conservative caucus in Congress, said in an interview.

“She has a great working relationship with the House… and is well-respected in the Senate as well,” he added.

In New York, Stefanik is known as a frequent presence not just in her district but across the state — and someone who is easily accessible.

“She’s someone I actually text,” Cassar said, adding that Stefanik, especially when it comes to fundraising, “does everything she can to help.”

For Trump, hiring Stefanik could also boost his already strong fundraising operation.

Stefanik’s team announced it had raised more than $5 million in the fourth quarter of 2023. The money coincided with Stefanik’s high-profile moment with university presidents.

Aside from Stefanik, Bannon weighed in on his view of Trump’s deep bench of potential vice presidential nominees. He named South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Arizona Senate candidate Carrie Lake as other possibilities.

He also said that Nikki Haley, who has received strong support from Wall Street and other right-leaning business and media circles, should not be left out.

“What MAGA needs to do is make sure that President Trump fully considers the alternatives, because he will be under tremendous pressure from donors to pick Nikki Haley, and from Fox,” Bannon said. “They’re characterizing it now. It’s Nikki Haley’s channel.”

Like Haley, Stefanik could serve as a bridge for some donors who are not entirely sold on Trump. However, Trump did just that On fire He called Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican primary rival, “untrustworthy and disloyal” and praised Stefanik for her political acumen.

Stefanik’s roots in New York and his success in winning a district that twice voted for Barack Obama for president may be another draw, as Trump looks to exploit Biden’s declining popularity with some voters in the traditionally blue state.

“She’s a tent maker. She expands the party in so many ways,” Gavin Wax, president of the Young Republican Club of New York, said of Stefanik.

“Haley’s name had been thrown around a lot because they were looking for someone to come on the ticket that could win over a certain demographic of voters that Trump struggled with, but I think anything that Nikki Haley was going to bring to the table wouldn’t have been brought to the table — without “That would cost any votes from the grassroots, or from MAGA, or from more conservative voters.”

Stefanik has also shown a willingness to defend Trump, said Roger Stone, a veteran Republican strategist who has long been loyal to the former president. However, Stone said there is a long way to go.

“Any shortlist in my opinion should include Elise Stefanik,” Stone said. She has shown her courage and leadership qualities. But it’s also very, very early in the process.

Trump said during a recent town hall in Iowa that he already knows who he is Operating colleague It will be, although a Trump campaign adviser later backtracked, saying: “Nothing has been finalized.”

While Trump has raised questions about the decision, those who know him well say a public announcement is not expected for some time.

“When does the convention start? Then you have to make a choice,” Bannon said. “It’s Trump — it will be ‘The Apprentice.’ And it will come down to the last episode.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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