As House Democrats move on impeachment inquiry of Trump, Utah’s Rep. Ben McAdams not yet on board

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Congressman Ben McAdams meets with the Editorial Board of the Salt Lake Tribune, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.

Washington • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday launched an “official impeachment inquiry” into President Donald Trump as a chorus of Democrats called for action amid reports Trump pushed Ukraine officials to investigate a political rival while withholding U.S. funds from the country.

Most House Democrats – more than 170 of the party’s 235 members – now support impeachment proceedings, though that does not include Utah’s lone Democrat in federal office: Rep. Ben McAdams.

McAdams said Tuesday that he's concerned about Trump's effort to get Ukraine's president to investigate the son of a political rival but McAdams is not calling for an impeachment process until more is known.

“Before making any judgments, I want to know the facts of what occurred between the president and Ukraine,” McAdams said in a statement.

Scores of Democrats had called for Trump's impeachment before and after special counsel Robert Mueller's report found several instances where the president attempted to hinder the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election to help Trump get elected.

And there have been increased calls by Democrats for proceedings to remove Trump from office – or at least probe whether he should be – after news reports surfaced of the president telling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky multiple times that he should investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. The former vice president is a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Trump said Tuesday afternoon that he has authorized the release of a full, unredacted transcript of his call with Zelensky on Wednesday. But the administration is still refusing to give Congress a copy of a whistleblower complaint that an intelligence official found legitimate.

The Senate on Tuesday voted unanimously on a resolution urging Trump to give that complaint to Congress.

Pelosi, who had pushed back on starting impeachment proceedings, gave in Tuesday as more and more of her caucus called for action. She now has asked the heads of six committees to gather information that could be later given to the House Judiciary Committee for an impeachment vote.

“The actions of the Trump presidency have revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said.

Democrats hold a majority in the House, though not enough party members are yet in support of impeachment to vote for removing Trump from office and the GOP-led Senate may not even try Trump if the House acts. It takes two-thirds of the Senate to convict a president and remove him from office.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters on Tuesday that impeachment proceedings were premature.

“It’s early to be having those conversations,” Romney said. “There’s so much we don’t know”

Romney tweeted Sunday the president's actions were troubling.

“If the President asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme,” Romney tweeted. “Critical for the facts to come out.”

McAdams, who is one of several Democrats who won in Republican-dominated districts in 2018 and who have yet to call for impeachment, said he backed Romney’s approach.

“I share Senator Romney’s view that if the president used his position to pressure a foreign power to dig up dirt on a rival for his own personal gain, it would be deeply troubling,” McAdams said in a statement. “I believe it would be a betrayal of the loyalty owed to our country and the Constitution.”

Trump has defended his conversation with Ukraine and those of his attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, urging the country to look at Hunter Biden’s dealings with a Ukrainian oligarch’s oil business. The Trump administration withheld millions in aid to Ukraine, finally giving it to the country after congressional pressure.

Investigators in the country found nothing illegal in Hunter Biden's actions.

Republicans, for the most part, have derided any efforts to bring up impeachment and say Democrats are still sore they lost the 2016 presidential election.

“This was never about Russian collusion or Ukrainian prosecutions,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “It is all about undoing the 2016 election and the will of the American people."

Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who is not seeking reelection to the House, said during his nearly 20 years in office that he's been asked to impeach presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Trump and he's rejected them every time because they were all political.

“Elections have consequences and the voters' will deserves respect,” Bishop said in a statement. “Impeachment is the ultimate power Congress has over a president and should be used as a last resort, not for purely political purposes.”

Bishop says since Trump got elected “some have frantically searched for any justification to nullify the will of the people.”

“They are still at it and there is not sufficient evidence to justify this approach. The speaker’s actions today take Congress away from doing things that meet the needs of the people."

Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican and member of the House Intelligence Committee who has been a staunch Trump supporter, told CNN on Tuesday that it's important that Congress find out the details of the Trump-Ukraine efforts but that everyone needs to “take a breath.”

“How can they so definitively say, like Pelosi has, that he has betrayed his office,” Stewart said. “You don’t start out with a guilty finding and then move to a proceeding.”

Stewart had told Fox News on Monday that it was too early to jump to conclusions.

“Adam Schiff doesn’t know,” Stewart said, referencing the House Intelligence Committee chairman. “Nancy Pelosi doesn’t know. The 87 Democrats running for president don’t know. And yet, all of them, in one fashion or another, already called for impeachment. And they just have no credibility on this at all.”

Stewart likened the calls for impeachment of Trump to Democrats who hollered for Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh to be removed from office based on what Stewart dubbed “absolutely sloppy and lazy reporting.”

“I think it’s fair to take a breath and say let’s just find out the facts and see what happens,” Stewart told Fox News. “If you want to have an investigation, President Trump is pretty clear he didn’t have a quid pro quo. He had no promises. But could you imagine putting Vice President Biden on the stand and asking him what his involvement was? Is it interfering with his investigation in the Ukraine?”

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, said he supported Trump’s release of the transcript of his call and looks forward to the opportunity to examine the whistleblower complaint and hear from the director of national intelligence.

He did not comment directly on whether he supported or opposed the impeachment inquiry, but he did not criticize it.

“I am closely monitoring the formal inquiry Speaker Pelosi announced today and have the utmost confidence in the investigative tools Congress has at its disposal to help us determine the facts.”

“At the same time, I am committed to legislating as well as oversight, both of which are important work that my colleagues and I have been sent to Washington to do," Curtis said. "I will continue to advocate for full transparency while also working to pass laws that are good for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District.”

Pelosi has up to now been attempting to keep her caucus from seeking impeachment, a move that some Democratic consultants say could fire up Trump’s base and help his reelection chances.

Courtney Tanner and Matt Canham contributed to this story.