Washington • Utah’s Republican House members opposed a resolution Thursday setting up guidelines for the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump while Democrat Rep. Ben McAdams supported the measure that passed the chamber largely on partisan lines.
Reps. Rob Bishop, John Curtis and Chris Stewart aligned with all their GOP counterparts to vote against the resolution. Meant to alleviate complaints by Republicans that the process so far has been held behind closed doors in a secure basement room, the new rules would open it up and allow the president due process rights.
Republicans, though, charged the effort mirrored a “Soviet style” attack and castigated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democratic leaders for organizing what they said was an attempted coup against Trump.
The final vote to approve the resolution was 232-196. Two Democrats voted no but not a single Republican broke ranks to support the resolution.
McAdams said this week that Utahns deserve to judge the facts of the impeachment inquiry for themselves, without spin by either major party.
“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,” McAdams said Wednesday. “I look forward to this process moving into the public view.”
Immediately after the vote, Trump tweeted, “The Greatest Witch Hunt in American History.”
Trump’s campaign took only minutes after the vote to slam McAdams, who represents a majority-Republican district that he won by a narrow margin.
“Democrats like Ben McAdams chose to side with Nancy Pelosi, [House Intelligence Chairman] Adam Schiff and the socialist squad over their constituents, and have officially committed political malpractice,” said Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager. “Americans will remember how these Democrats chose to pursue division and investigation over progress and promises.”
McAdams, though, said the move, pushed by Democratic leaders, will open up the impeachment inquiry so Americans can see for themselves the testimony, adding that he makes no judgment on whether there is evidence to impeach the president.
“Today’s vote is not a vote for or against impeachment,” McAdams said. “It is a vote to gather facts and create a fair process. Utahns deserve an opportunity to judge the facts for themselves rather than taking the Republican or Democratic Party’s spin.”
He added that he's not taking a position on the impeachment but that he backs the resolution to ensure there's transparency in the process.
“These are serious times," McAdams said, “and we must treat this process with reverence and respect for our country and our Constitution.”
Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee who has been a vocal critic of the process and a frequent Fox News guest to defend Trump, said he wasn’t going to support a measure that adds credibility to the process.
“So far the Democrats have held hearings behind closed doors while selectively leaking sound bites in order to mislead the public,” Stewart said. “Now, more than 35 days since the beginning, Speaker Pelosi is rushing to retroactively legitimize her flawed investigation.”
An impeachment process works only if it is bipartisan and both sides are given the opportunity to investigate, he said, charging that the Democrats’ new rules don’t meet the standard used in the impeachment of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
The Trump process is different than both Nixon and Clinton, where a special prosecutor was involved in gathering facts — behind closed doors — before Congress took up the findings. With Nixon, both parties were able to issue subpoenas to compel testimony and documents and the president’s legal team was allowed copies of any materials. Many of the early weeks of that process was secretive.
With Clinton, much of the material the House used to impeach him came from special prosecutor Ken Starr, who investigated the president outside of public view. Only five Democrats voted with Republicans for impeachment.
Curtis, who has been privy to the impeachment process so far as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said there is broad support in the House for a “careful and balanced look” at potential wrongdoing.
“Unfortunately, the vote we took today does not do that,” Curtis said. “Similar to Speaker Pelosi’s self-proclaimed impeachment inquiry, which we have been moving forward with for over a month, this new impeachment inquiry is out of harmony with normal justice and impeachment precedents that protect against political and personal bias. Should one party have veto power over the other subpoenaing witnesses or over questions that can be asked? Of course not. Should the chairman of any committee have the power to deny the president’s legal counsel in the room? Again, of course not.”
Curtis parroted the GOP line that Democrats have been looking to remove Trump from office from his first day in office.
Bishop, who in his ninth term is the longest serving of Utah’s House members, said Democrats should be focusing on a United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal, lowering drug prices, securing the borders and fixing a backlog in national park maintenance instead of going down the impeachment path.
“These issues are ready to be solved, but Pelosi wants to continue the circus,” Bishop said, citing Founding Father Alexander Hamilton who wrote in Federalist Papers 65: “The greatest danger (is) that the decision [on impeachment] will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”