More Utahns back President Trump as he faces impeachment trial

Washington • As the Senate weighs Donald Trump’s presidential fate, more Utahns are backing him than ever before and do not want to see him convicted or removed from office, a new poll shows.

The president has never been popular in Utah, earning less than half the vote in 2016, but nearly 57% of Utahns now say they support him as the Senate continues the trial on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress allegations based on his dealings with Ukraine. Some 38% of respondents in the state disapprove of his job performance, according to the poll by The Salt Lake Tribune and Suffolk University.

“The impeachment is driving people to see what the Democrats have been saying about the president” isn’t justified, says Ron Fox, a Utah historian and one of Trump’s original supporters in the state. “And I think that most people, you know, candidly are trying to give him a fair shake. And I think they’re looking at him, and I think they’re deciding that he’s been doing a good job.”

Most Utah polls have shown Trump earning 50% of Utahns’ support or less since he took office, substantially lower than most Republican presidents have enjoyed in decades in the state.

Trump’s poll bump in Utah mirrors what he’s seeing nationally as the impeachment process drags on.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Friday found 44% of Americans approve of Trump while 51% give him bad marks. His approval is up from 38% in October.

The Senate will continue the impeachment trial Monday, as the president’s defense team continues countering the charges brought by the Democratic-led House that Trump leveraged hundreds of millions in U.S. aid to get Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election.

Trump has said he did nothing wrong and blames a “witch hunt” by Democrats who have wanted to overturn the election that brought him to office.

Jeff Merchant, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, says any boost in the polls Trump is seeing will evaporate.

“Ultimately what’s going to happen," Merchant says, “is that once this trial is over, things are going to just drop back down and people are going to recognize that, you know, he is who he is and that he’s really not the guy to lead the country.”

The Senate, controlled by Republicans who hold 53 of 100 seats, is expected to acquit the president on both articles of impeachment, though it’s unclear whether senators will agree to hear more witnesses as part of the trial.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has said he would like to hear from former national security adviser John Bolton and perhaps others as part of the proceedings, though Romney’s Utah GOP colleague, Sen. Mike Lee, rejects the charges against Trump and blamed a “deep state” plot to undermine the president. Romney’s position appears to be costing him with Republican voters.

The Senate could vote in the coming days on whether to allow witnesses.

Nearly half of Utahns would support additional testimony, the Tribune/Suffolk University poll shows. Some 31% oppose such a move.

Even so, Utahns don’t want Trump removed from office. Nearly 60% say the president should remain in office compared to 35% who say he should go.

Count Bette DeGiovanni of Cedar City among Trump supporters who see impeachment as a “sham” and a “witch hunt.”

“I’m embarrassed by it,” DeGiovanni says. “I don’t believe the president did one thing wrong.”

Ralph Saccomanno, of Helper, would most definitely disagree.

The small farmer says the president should “absolutely” be removed from office for many reasons, including the tariffs that he’s put in place that have hurt people like him as well as the Ukraine dealings and his attitude toward the military.

“His position is he’s smarter than our generals. Well, I don’t think so,” says Saccomanno, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. “That really bothers me.”

Suzanne Sherman has a different take: Trump should be impeached, not for his dealings with Ukraine but for other reasons, specifically for abusing his authority to ban bump stocks — devices that allow semi-automatic firearms to shoot more rapidly — and to order military actions without congressional approval.

The Coalville resident, however, sees a dangerous precedent in the impeachment charges brought against Trump because she says it could lead to future presidents facing similar charges when an opposition party doesn't like the White House occupant.

“The problem is now there is going to be no incentive for a president to stay within his constitutional authority,” Sherman says. “There’s going to be no restraint on him whatsoever. Meaning [a future president could say], ‘Well, if they’re going to impeach me anyway, I’m going to do whatever the hell I want.’”

The Tribune and Suffolk University poll was conducted Jan. 18-22 and included 500 Utah respondents. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.