As the House impeached President Donald Trump for a second time on Wednesday for inciting violence that led to a mob storming the Capitol last week, Utah’s all-Republican House delegation called it a mistake that will divide the country and denies the president due process.
Ten Republicans joined Democrats in passing the impeachment resolution 232-197.
“The articles raise serious constitutional questions that deserve a full hearing and considerable debate, a lengthy task that will delay the next administration’s ability to move forward. The constituents in my district want elected officials to get to work and look to the future,” Utah Rep. Burgess Owens tweeted.
He said that with seven days left before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, impeachment “will not only deepen the divide, it will also be rushed, purely political, and distract from the unprecedented challenges facing Utah families.”
Owens is an ardent Trump supporter who, like Utah Rep. Chris Stewart, voted last week to challenge electoral votes to try to keep Trump in office — even after rioters encouraged by Trump had stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Owens did not respond to requests for comment about those violent protests or impeachment until his tweet Wednesday. Stewart also has yet to respond to similar requests.
Freshman Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, said in his first speech to the House on Wednesday, “Without a single hearing or investigation, I simply cannot reach the high bar of impeachment.”
He added he was disappointed in the sharply partisan debate on impeachment.
“As I listen to this debate, it’s no wonder our nation is divided. We are on an absolute race to the bottom. I was hoping last week we could have hit rock bottom. I commit to doing better, and I hope we can dig in and find a way.”
After the vote, Moore also issued a statement that said in part, “To my critics — and there will be many— please know that this was the most painful decision I have ever made in my life. Other members of my party will vote to impeach, and after countless conversations with them, I know their motives are pure, and I believe we share the same desire for a more productive and unified America.”
Meanwhile, Rep. John Curtis spoke for a half-hour Wednesday morning on the C-SPAN cable network before the House began debate. While he had been publicly anguishing over what to do with impeachment, he explained why he decided to vote against it.
“I’m very troubled by the time clock. I don’t understand the rush to judgment,” he said.
“One of the bedrocks of our judicial system is a fair trial and innocent until proven guilty. And I just think we’re robbing those of us who need a little bit more time. We’re robbing the American people. We’re robbing 70 million people that voted for him [Trump] to do this so quickly.”
Curtis added that he would have voted for beginning an impeachment process that would be more in-depth.
He has joined a group of House Republicans who have introduced a resolution to censure Trump — or essentially criticize but not remove the president and had urged taking that alternate to impeachment.
“Censuring the president and making it clear that Congress does not support any level of his involvement in the riots nor any attempts to undermine an election is a critical step in holding him accountable as more facts continue to unfold,” Curtis tweeted late Tuesday.
On C-SPAN, Curtis also discounted arguments by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that impeachment is needed because every minute Trump remains in office is a danger to the country.
“It’s a hollow argument,” Curtis said. “It’s clearly laughable because everybody knows impeachment won’t be concluded by the time the inauguration rolls around. So that’s certainly not a valid argument.”
Curtis also questioned whether Trump’s speech before the storming of the Capitol actually caused it.
“The whole impeachment is based on the president inciting that group to come and riot,” he said. “What we’re starting to learn is that riot was premeditated, that people came to Washington with the equipment, and the knowledge and the plan to do the raid. If that’s true, then there’s more to it than the speech. What was the involvement of the president before the speech?”
Utah’s all-Republican House delegation — Owens, Curtis, Stewart and Moore — also voted late Tuesday against a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump as unfit. Moore said such moves would only increase division in the nation.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who is a contributor to Fox News, also told that network that Trump has done nothing that is impeachable.
“I would not vote to impeach the president. There is nothing in that resolution which I have read that they can point to where Donald Trump invoked violence,” Chaffetz said although he said the storming of the Capitol was shameful and acknowledged that he was “a little bit frustrated” with the president.
“But it’s not an impeachable offense,” he said, saying Trump did not directly invoke violence in his speech.
Chaffetz added that Impeaching Trump now sets “a dangerous precedent. I think it’s not warranted and it’s not going to fix the problem. It’s not going to solve things. It’s going to further divide the country. And I just think it is wrong.”
Impeachment will now go the Senate for a trial, however Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will not reconvene the Senate for that before Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20, so it is expected after that. It could still prevent Trump from seeking office again and could strip him of Secret Service protection and his pension. Utah GOP Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee have not yet said exactly what they think about impeachment.
Romney said on Monday, however, that “when the president incites an attack against Congress, there must be a meaningful consequence. We will be considering those options and the best course for our nation in the days ahead.”