Kimball Dean Parker: Chris Stewart’s troubling lack of integrity

Congressman attacks Obama and Biden while defending Trump for doing the same things.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Congressman Chris Stewart speaks at the Utah Association of Realtors office where GOP candidates gathered in Sandy, on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

When Rep. Chris Stewart first took office, he branded himself as a true conservative. But when his values were put to the test during the Trump Administration, Stewart lost his courage. He repeatedly sacrificed his principles for political expediency.

• Executive orders

One of the first cracks in Stewart’s integrity was his stance on executive orders. In July 2016, Stewart penned a scathing critique of Barack Obama for his use of executive orders to bypass Congress. Stewart stated that “the longest lasting damage of [Obama’s] presidency may not be the policies themselves but the way he pursues them – ignoring Congress and rewriting laws to fit his policy goals.”

Stewart capped his criticism with a vow: “If a future Republican president were to do the same thing, I will condemn him just as vigorously.”

A few months later, Donald Trump was elected. In his first 100 days as president, Trump issued more executive orders than any other president in modern history. President Trump issued 220 executive orders during his first and only term, nearly 50% more than Obama’s first term and over 70% more than Obama’s second.

Trump’s binge on executive orders created an early and important test of Chris Stewart’s integrity. Would Stewart hold Trump to the same standard he held Obama to? As a Republican in Stewart’s district, I hoped the answer was yes. But during Trump’s time in office, Stewart never mentioned the issue.

As soon as Joe Biden became president, however, Stewart’s zeal against executive orders returned. Stewart criticized Biden for how many executive orders he issued early in his presidency, as if Trump had not done the exact same thing.

• Federal budget

Stewart’s tendency to selectively apply his principles also enveloped his stance on the federal budget. In February 2013, Stewart criticized Obama for not balancing the budget and for creating “trillion dollar” deficits. Stewart stated that “one of the primary reasons [he] ran for Congress was to fight to reduce our debt and cut federal spending.”

When Trump took office a few years later, he increased the deficit by an average of over $2 trillion per year, nearly double the rate of Obama. Trump’s 2020 budget contained the largest deficit in US history: $4.2 trillion. As fellow Republican Sen. Ben Sasse observed, Trump spent taxpayer money “like a drunken sailor.”

Stewart, however, never criticized Trump’s spending habits. Stewart’s zeal for fiscal responsibility only returned once Joe Biden became president.

• Democracy

Even Stewart’s belief in democracy fell victim to self-interest. On Aug. 4, 2019, Chris Stewart wrote an op-ed about the importance of protecting democracy in the United States. He reflected on the 75th anniversary of D-Day and stated that “As the leader of the free world, we have a responsibility to defend democracy in our own country and around the world.”

Seventeen months later, Stewart voted against certifying the presidential election, a historically undemocratic act. As Sen. Mike Lee explained, Congress and the Senate only had the constitutional authority to “open and then count” the electoral votes, not to overturn them. Stewart, however, ignored the Constitution and sided with Trump, whose conspiracy theories about election fraud were dismissed by over 50 federal and state courts.

Stewart’s vote against certifying the election demonstrates how dangerous someone like Stewart can be when placed in power. When faced with decisions between his principles and self-interest, Stewart has abandoned his principles every time. In 2022, Utah must hold him accountable and remove him from office.

Kimball Dean Parker

Kimball Dean Parker is CEO of SixFifty at Wilson Sonsini and director of LawX at Brigham Young University Law School.

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