ST. GEORGE — During a visit to Southern Utah Monday afternoon, Republican Congressman Chris Stewart spoke with St. George News about the presidential impeachment issue currently miring Congress.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, last month initiated impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. She accused him of abusing presidential powers by seeking help from a foreign government to undermine a political rival. The move followed a complaint by a whistleblower in the CIA.
“I think the president should not have said what he said in this conversation with the Ukrainian president, but is doesn’t in any way reach the threshold of impeachment,” Stewart said.
The whistleblower made Congress aware of a July phone call the president had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump is said to have pressed for an investigation of Democratic rival Joe Biden and his family.
In response to the accusations, the White House released a transcript of the call between Trump and the Zelensky.
“As soon as this became public, the president released the entire transcript of the call and the whistleblower complaint,” Stewart said. “Anyone can read the transcript. The White House has been very open and transparent.”
In the transcript, Trump makes reference to the United States doing “a lot for Ukraine” and then asks for Zelensky to “do us a favor.”
Stewart said the favor had to do with the president inquiring about foreign intervention in the 2016 presidential election. The president wasn’t talking about investigating the Bidens, he said.
Then Trump moved to “the other thing,” Stewart said in reference to the Biden investigation. “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that.”
In an interview on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Stewart said Trump only wanted to investigate issues of corruption.
According to The Associated Press, Trump has sought to implicate Biden and his son in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.
Attorney Mark Zaid told The Associated Press Sunday that a second whistleblower, who also works in intelligence, has spoken to the intelligence community’s internal watchdog. This person hasn’t filed a complaint but does have “firsthand knowledge that supported” the original whistleblower.
Stewart says he isn’t very concerned about the presence of a second whistleblower, who he said only confirmed the call.
“There’s nothing new this whistleblower can tell us,” Stewart said.
Congressional Democrats have said Trump threatened to withhold military aid if Ukraine didn’t launch the investigation he wanted.
“The Democrats are lying about their case because it doesn’t reach the level of impeachment,” he said. “They say (Trump) threatened (Ukraine); that’s not true. … If you read this transcript, you’ll see there is no linkage. He didn’t threaten the Ukrainians. He didn’t say, ‘Hey, go investigate the Bidens or I’m going withhold military aid.’ It’s very clear when he was talking about a favor, he wasn’t talking about investigating the Bidens, he was taking about what happened in the 2016 elections.”
While Congressional Republicans have largely stood by the president, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney has stepped forward in opposition, saying the following:
When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated. By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.
This prompted a response from the president, who blasted Romney on Twitter over the weekend.
“Mitt Romney never knew how to win,” Trump tweeted out Saturday. “He is a pompous ‘ass’ who has been fighting me from the beginning, except when he begged me for my endorsement for his Senate run (I gave it to him), and when he begged me to be Secretary of State (I didn’t give it to him). He is so bad for R’s!”
Stewart said multiple media outlets have sought his take on Romney’s comments, as he is part of Utah’s congressional delegation. Thus far, he’s declined to comment.
“Both of them are friends of mine, and we’ll let them settle their differences,” Stewart said.
Stewart said people in his district in Utah are affected by the impeachment squabble because it’s preventing Congress from getting anything meaningful done.
“Washington, D.C., is so dysfunctional right now,” he said.
There was bipartisan legislation on the table that made progress between Republicans and Democrats that has now hit a wall due the impeachment issue, Stewart said.
“We’ve had Democrats come and say, ‘I can’t work with you any longer because I can’t work with you during impeachment.’”
The Democrats have been trying to get rid of Trump for three years now and little else, Stewart said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.