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Utahns drown out Chaffetz with demand to ‘explain yourself’ at tense town hall

First Published      Last Updated Jul 01 2017 06:13 pm

Amid constant booing, the Republican has a hard time trying to answer questions about public lands, Trump and immigration.

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He also stood by his vote for Trump, though he had at one point during the campaign suggested that he wouldn't cast his ballot that way.

"By far, Donald Trump was the better choice," he said with a smirk, knowing it would upset the crowd. "There was no possible way I was ever going to vote for Hillary Clinton."

One Trump supporter — the only to ask a question — applauded Chaffetz and talked about moving forward. There was little chance to respond before the rumbling resumed.

Bill Willett, 57, from South Salt Lake, arrived at the town-hall meeting at 2 p.m., though doors didn't open until 6 p.m. He first said his name was "Barely Noticeable" because he feels looked over by Congress. Willett urged Chaffetz to be "the first banging on the White House doors" to investigate the president.

While discussing public-land use and his opposition to Bears Ears National Monument, Chaffetz was greeted by the strongest pushback of the night.

"I hope you do appreciate that not every person has the same viewpoint on the use of public lands," he said. "What we're trying to do is find a balanced approach."

The topic came up again, giving him a chance to speak about his bill to strip Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service employees of their law enforcement powers, an idea that elicited protest from the audience.

"I'm trying to be as representative as I can," he said.

Charlie Luke, a Democratic member of the Salt Lake City Council, wrote on Facebook that the harassment Chaffetz faced "ensured his reelection for as long as he chooses to run."

"It will embolden his majority Republican district," he wrote. "We need to resist, but let's be smart in the way we do it."

Chaffetz exited the stage to the right, disappearing behind a wall of blue curtains. The disgruntled residents filed out of the auditorium in the opposite direction. As they parted ways, nobody, it seemed, had a change of perspective after the meeting.

"He said what he wanted to say," one man told a friend, "and that was it."


Twitter: @CourtneyLTanner