Utah Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams to vote to open the impeachment inquiry, release transcripts

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Rep. Ben McAdams meets with the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board, Wednesday, April 24, 2019.

Washington • Rep. Ben McAdams said Wednesday that he supports opening up the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump publicly.

All members of Congress should have access to witness testimony, he said, and the president should have due process rights through the process.

The Utah Democrat may be the only one representing Utah in the House to support the measure coming up for a vote Thursday to formalize the impeachment inquiry and set guidelines for open hearings and public depositions as well as the right for the president’s team to fight back against potential charges.

Utah’s three GOP members — Reps. Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and John Curtis — haven’t said how they will vote on the measure, though their public comments up to now suggest they aren’t going to back the inquiry the president has labeled as an illegal “witch hunt.”

The House resolution — which is expected to pass with only five Democrats now opposed in the chamber led by their party — puts the impeachment process in the hands of the House Intelligence Committee, which eventually would forward its findings to the House Judiciary Committee. More hearings would be public as would some of the previous testimony from witnesses. Republicans, with the Democratic-controlled committee’s approval, could call their own witnesses to rebut others.

When the impeachment findings move to the Judiciary Committee, as expected, Trump’s attorneys could attend hearings, ask questions and give responses, all subject to the Democratic chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York.

It is, in essence, a move by Democrats to take away the GOP’s assertion that the opposition party is trying to hide hearings behind closed doors, one of the strongest remaining arguments in which Republicans don’t have to defend Trump’s actions.

McAdams, who won his GOP-majority district by the narrowest of margins last year, says it’s time to open the process so the American people can see all its aspects.

“These are serious times for our country,” McAdams said. “Utahns deserve an opportunity to judge the facts for themselves rather than taking the Republican or Democratic Party’s spin. To ensure transparency, facts, witnesses testimony and documents must be brought forward to be considered objectively by all members of the House and by the American people. I look forward to this process moving into the public view.”

McAdams stressed that he's not sure whether he'll support articles of impeachment and will wait until all the facts are brought forward.

Stewart, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and has been a vocal critic of the Democrats’ process so far, didn’t respond to questions about how he will vote Thursday and neither did his office.

In an opinion piece for the Deseret News, Stewart didn’t discuss his vote either but lambasted the inquiry and warned of the dangers of bringing one against the president for future damage it could do to those who succeed Trump.

“I remain unconvinced that there is evidence of a crime, much less a high crime, as the Constitution prescribes for an impeachable offense,” Stewart wrote, omitting that the Constitution actually says a president can be removed for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“The threshold for an impeachable offense, as set forth in the Constitution, is a subjective one, but the adjective used by the framers was 'high' crimes,” Stewart said, again leaving out “misdemeanors.”

“The impeachment process exists for extreme circumstances," he continued, “not routine efforts to weaken or remove the winner of an election.”

While Stewart has staunchly defended Trump on Fox News and in other appearances — he says he’s defending truth and the institutional process, not the president. Democrats have released potentially damning testimony from witnesses in the White House and in national security circles that suggests Trump was leveraging military aid to Ukraine and a meeting with that country’s president to urge an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Joe Biden is a leading Democratic challenger for president, and there has been no proven wrongdoing by him or his son.

The president and his allies have complained that Democrats are just trying to overturn Trump’s election.

Bishop’s office said he would comment after Thursday’s vote on the resolution.

Curtis’ office did not respond to requests for comment, though this week he’s complained that all House members should have access to testimony collected so far and charged that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s push for a resolution on the impeachment now is retroactive cover for the inquiry.

McAdams had not initially supported the inquiry, though later said, “I’m not on the fence” and said the facts should be brought to light.