Rep. Ben McAdams, Utah’s lone Democrat in Congress, says special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe clearly shows President Donald Trump engaged in “dishonest and corrupt behavior.”
But the freshman lawmaker says that, so far, those findings do not merit impeachment.
“I’m going to call it what it is: It is dishonest and it is corrupt behavior that we are seeing in this White House,” McAdams told the editorial board of The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday.
But he said only the most serious crimes and misbehavior should result in impeachment to remove a president and essentially overturn a U.S. election.
“I am not ready to conclude that we’ve reached that high bar,” he said. “There are questions that are yet to be asked and answered. But, for me, impeachment is not what I am looking at.”
His comments come as Democrats are divided on the question. Presidential candidates such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have called for impeachment, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged a cautious approach because unseating Trump would be nearly impossible without GOP support and the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to vote for removal.
Also, it comes as Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he is “sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection” by Trump but was glad that Mueller found no basis to charge him. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, brushed off the report, saying nothing in it would change people’s minds about Trump — and that impeachment would be a mistake.
McAdams said Congress has a responsibility to investigate Trump’s actions further and perhaps that might lead to action against the president.
“The levels of dishonesty and corruption are troubling and raise a lot of questions that need to be looked at by a coequal branch of government," he said. “Congress has a duty to look at some of these issues.”
At the top of that list, he said, is studying Russian interference in the last presidential election — which he noted is undisputed.
McAdams said that while Attorney General William Barr concluded that Trump did not criminally conspire in that election meddling, "what’s undisputed is the president welcomed it, and invited it, and was grateful for it.”
The representative, a member of the Blue Dog group of moderate Democrats, said Congress should work to prevent such influence in the future.
“The primary issue for me is how do we ensure that the American people pick their own political leaders, not Russia or any other foreign power?" he asked. "And what is this administration doing ... to protect the integrity of American elections?”
McAdams said he hopes for some bipartisanship as Congress looks into such issues.
“I would hope that’s not done as a partisan exercise. But we do have a constitutional duty, and I think we would be negligent to not ask questions to inquire about certain things.”
He said Congress should find bipartisan support to protect elections from foreign attacks.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Kirstjen Nielsen, before being forced to resign as homeland security secretary earlier this month, was thwarted by White House staff in trying to make 2020 election security a top priority because the president viewed the issue as a challenge to the legitimacy of his 2016 victory.
“I don’t care who wins or loses elections if the American people choose that,” McAdams told The Tribune. “That’s the foundation of our democracy. That should be bipartisan.”
Does McAdams see anything yet rising to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors” that may trigger impeachment?
“I’m not ready to make that conclusion right now,” he said. “Trump won an election pursuant to the process laid out in the Constitution, and that needs to be respected. There is a constitutional process for removing the president, but I just think that is a really high bar.”
McAdams, who won his election by 696 votes last year to defeat two-term Republican Rep. Mia Love, said that as he’s met with people in his 4th Congressional District during the Easter recess, he finds they are split over impeachment — but feels most see it as a political sideshow and would rather have Congress focus on such things as health care and fixing immigration.
“Winning by 600 votes is really bad for a candidate. It is great for democracy because I am doing town hall meetings and open-door meetings, listening to people and just working really hard," he said. “I think that’s the best thing I can do to win reelection.”