Washington • Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, had said he was keeping an “open mind” when it came to the House impeachment inquiry and weighing the evidence accordingly.
As House Democratic leaders unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — Curtis says he’s no longer on the fence.
“I’ve tried throughout this process to keep an open mind, but the articles of impeachment before me have made this vote a rather easy decision," Curtis said. “I will be voting against these two charges.”
The Utah congressman said his decision shouldn’t be interpreted “to mean that I’m happy with all the president’s actions” but that the charges brought by Democrats against Trump just don’t prove that he committed high crimes and misdemeanors, the threshold in the Constitution to impeach a sitting president.
Throughout the investigation, Curtis has issued cautious statements, far more so than Utah’s other Republican House members, Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart, who have stridently defended Trump.
Even in announcing his opposition to the articles of impeachment, Curtis didn’t absolve Trump of any wrongdoing, rather he said it comes down to the severity of the president’s conduct.
“I’m being asked to help remove a duly elected president," Curtis said, “and I do not feel that his actions have met that high standard.”
Rep. Ben McAdams, Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, meanwhile, says he’s still as undecided as he was when the process started.
More than two months since the House launched its inquiry into whether Trump abused his power by withholding military and State Department aid to Ukraine while simultaneously asking the country’s new president to investigate a political rival, Utah’s members are largely where they were expected to be.
Curtis, a Republican, is sticking with his party. McAdams, a moderate Democrat, is still looking at the facts in the case. Bishop hasn’t budged.
And Stewart, who has defended Trump throughout the inquiry so far and is the president’s campaign co-chairman for Utah, isn’t expected to switch sides.
House Democratic leaders, who control the chamber’s agenda, say there is enough evidence showing a strong case that Trump leveraged U.S. aid to get a foreign power to dig up dirt on a rival to help his 2020 reelection. Those leaders say Trump subsequently tried to cover up his actions by stonewalling Congress.
“I wish it were not necessary,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told a Politico event Tuesday. “I wish the president’s actions did not make it necessary.”
McAdams, who won his seat by a slim margin in a district Trump carried by 7 percentage points, was careful in how he responded to the articles of impeachment.
“I take seriously my constitutional duty and will take the necessary time to review all the evidence and documents in advance of the final articles being referred to the full House,” McAdams said in a statement. “For now, I’m working on pressing issues such as the cost of prescription drugs and implementation of the trade agreement that is so important to Utah’s small businesses — those priories continue to be my focus."
The House is likely to take up the trade agreement McAdams referenced — one among the United States, Mexico and Canada — as soon as a new deal was struck that could garner overwhelming passage.
Meanwhile Tuesday, McAdams met with other centrist Democrats to try to push for another option rather than impeachment: censure. McAdams and other members from districts Trump won are hoping to persuade enough Democrats to swing their way to avoid an on-the-record impeachment vote and settle for censure, which admonishes the president but has no legal impact, Politico reported.
Stewart, who as a House Intelligence Committee member criticized the Democrats’ impeachment process and castigated what he referenced as a “coup,” didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Now that Democrats have unveiled the articles of impeachment, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on them by week’s end. Then they would come before the full House with an impeachment vote possible before Christmas. If the House impeaches the president, the Republican-led Senate would start a trial in January.