Washington • Rep. Chris Stewart on Sunday defended President Donald Trump but declined to weigh in on the president’s continued attacks against Sen. Mitt Romney, a fellow Utahn.
Stewart, a Republican and member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News Sunday that there was nothing political — as Romney has charged — in Trump’s calls for Ukraine and China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Trump pressed for an investigation in a phone call with the president of Ukraine, and the White House has released a rough transcript of that call.
“It all comes down to this one thing. It comes down to one sentence in one phone call. And when you read that in its entirety, it’s very clear, he doesn’t ever link it to military aid,” Stewart told host Chris Wallace. “It’s never even mentioned. He doesn’t ever offer a quid pro quo. He never even mentions the upcoming election.”
At the time of Trump’s July request to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Trump administration had been withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid, and text messages released by the Democrat-led House Intelligence Committee appear to imply a quid pro quo, which Wallace mentioned in the interview.
Stewart said the American president was just raising concerns about corruption in Ukraine and wanting to get to the bottom of it.
“He talks about one thing: We want to investigate corruption,” Stewart said of Trump. “And I think that’s a reasonable thing for him to ask. And these other assumptions are things that some people, in their judgment, are concerning, but it’s simply not found in this phone call.”
Stewart has previously said Trump’s actions were concerning, but he has become one of many Republicans who have gone on Fox News to argue Trump did nothing wrong. On Sunday, he was responding to news of a second whistleblower who is expected to come forward alleging wrongdoing by Trump in pressuring Ukraine to probe Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of an energy company that had previously faced scrutiny over business dealings.
Ukrainian authorities have not found any wrongdoing by the Bidens.
Wallace pressed Stewart on why the president specifically raised the Bidens and not anyone else alleged to be involved in corruption, and the Utah congressman said Trump would if he was told of anyone else involved in graft in Ukraine.
“If someone else brought other accusations against other Americans, and — and they had reason to investigate that — I’m sure the president would as well,” Stewart said. “But these were the facts that were brought to him and these were the individuals that were associated with those facts.”
But Stewart didn’t defend Romney, whom the president called a “pompous ass” and suggested Romney be impeached in tweets Saturday after Romney criticized Trump. Romney had said that it “strains credulity” for the president to claim he’s not being political by asking the countries to find dirt on an opponent. (Senators can’t be impeached.)
“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated,” Romney wrote on Twitter on Friday.
Stewart, when asked about Trump's attack on Romney, pushed back that Wallace just wanted him to go after members of his own party.
“I'm just going to say, you know what, Mitt Romney is a big boy. President Trump's a big boy,” Stewart said. “They can settle their differences. I'm not going to weigh in on that.”
Trump, who visited his golf course in Virginia for the second day in a row Sunday, later retweeted Stewart's appearance on Fox News and his comments about Democrats.
“Dems have been trying for 3 years to impeach the President,” Stewart wrote. “They aren’t 'pained' by this. They’re excited. And it’s terribly divisive for the American people.”
Trump also took on Romney again Sunday morning in a tweet.
“The Democrats are lucky that they don’t have any Mitt Romney types,” Trump tweeted. “They may be lousy politicians, with really bad policies (Open Borders, Sanctuary Cities etc.), but they stick together!”
While Stewart didn’t want to step into the fight between Trump and Romney and neither has any of Romney’s Senate colleagues, Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant praised Romney for having the gravitas to take on Trump.
“Uhh, sorry [President Donald Trump], I’m afraid you have no idea what you are talking about,” Merchant responded to the president on Twitter after Trump used a hashtag urging Romney to be impeached. “Thank you @MittRomney for standing up for #democracy.”
Meanwhile, Romney's office declined to comment on Trump's tweets.
Saturday night, Romney posted a picture of he, his wife, Ann, and a couple of their grandkids harvesting pumpkins.
“Enjoyed the pumpkin patch with my sweetheart and the two little pumpkins we brought with us!” Romney wrote.