Tribune Editorial: On impeachment, Chris Stewart should be careful what he asks for

(Pat Bagley | The Salt Lake Tribune) This cartoon, titled "Stewart’s Complaint," appears in The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019.

Chris Stewart should be careful what he asks for.

The undeserved — and unrequited — loyalty he and many other Republican members of Congress are offering to their beleaguered president does not merely undermine any confidence the American people might have in them as individuals.

There is also a very real danger that, once the current chief executive is gone — however he goes — the Republican Party as a whole will be so discredited that its potential as either a governing party or a useful opposition will be destroyed. And the time that will elapse before another, credible, center-right party rises to take its place will not be good for the nation.

The Republican congressman from Utah’s 2nd District is among those who say that the current process of House committees gathering information that might lead to articles of impeachment against the sitting president should be more open.

He says that the stunt pulled the other day by other Republican House members, charging into a secure hearing room and disrupting subpoenaed testimony from executive branch officials, is likely to happen again if members of his party aren’t allowed to be more a part of the process.

Stewart was able to say all of that with a straight face, even though he is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and thus one of dozens of Republicans who were, and remain, fully entitled to attend those hearings, hear all the classified information and ask questions of the witnesses.

The congressman described himself as an accidental participant in Wednesday’s clown show. He explained to the Deseret News that he was on his way into the secure meeting room — where, as members of key committees, he and many other Republicans had every right to be — when the flash mob of other Republicans — who were not welcome by House rules created when the Republicans were in control — stormed in behind him.

It seems clear that, in their protests accusing the Democrats of operating a top-secret, deep-state plot against the president, Republicans in the House and the Senate are trying to distract the public from the increasing flow of damning testimony from career civil servants. Testimony that places the president at the center of a global conspiracy to misuse the power, not just of the presidency, but of the whole of America’s military and security establishment, for personal and political gain.

The GOP argument that the president is being denied his due due process is a lie.

The current process is well within the rules and in keeping with tradition, using long-followed practices of sorting through classified and sensitive information in private before going public with hearings, debates and, should it go that far, public votes on articles of impeachment.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is reportedly planning to bring the whole process into the public eye with public hearings, as soon as next month. There will be no secrets then. There will be every opportunity for defenders of the president to weigh in, ask questions, challenge assumptions, raise objections and question motives.

And, should the matter move as far as a trial in the Senate, it will all be played out on live global television, with both sides having every opportunity to make their case.

When that happens, Chris Stewart may be one of a great many Republicans who will be scurrying for a different door.