SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, told Utah lawmakers Tuesday that the circumstances surrounding the controversial dossier prepared during the 2016 campaign against President Donald Trump are "extraordinarily concerning."
Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told state senators the dossier was paid for by Democrats and utilized a foreign agent who "almost certainly" had contact with Russian agents, but "there is nothing in it that's true."
His comments came amid reports that U.S. House Republicans are refusing to share a secret memo with the Justice Department alleging misconduct by federal officials investigating ties between Trump's campaign and Russia including the dossier.
"When it comes to the politicization of agencies like the FBI, the Department of Justice, and frankly, in my opinion, worst of all, the CIA, where they've been turned into political operatives. … We cannot allow that to go unanswered if that is true," Stewart said.
He said there is "simply no evidence" of collusion between the GOP president's campaign and Russia, but "the far more concerning thing" is how the dossier may have been used in the collusion investigation.
The president has called the dossier politically motivated. It was put together by a former British spy and contains information seen as an attempt by the Russians to set the president up for blackmail.
Stewart, who spoke to House Republicans and Democrats separately during their noontime caucus meetings, told the House GOP members that he has become a “huge convert” to Trump.
“He has really, really got my respect and support,” he said. “I’m grateful for the things he’s trying to do, but sometimes it’s harder than it has to be.”
Stewart compared Trump to Rodney Dangerfield in the movie “Caddyshack,” whose character showed up a country club with a loud shirt and white shoes. He hits the ball with an ugly swing but it goes down the middle of the fairway 280 yards, he said.
“He’s had an incredibly effective first year,” Stewart said of the president, citing tax reform and business deregulation among his accomplishments. He said he was surprised Trump's approval rating is as low as it is.
Other issues raised during Stewart's time with state lawmakers included what will happen to those people brought to the United States illegally as children since the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program is set to expire soon.
Democrats in the U.S. Senate forced a brief government shutdown that ended Monday, attempting to extend the program known as DACA. Stewart said he expects action in Congress in the next few weeks.
"We were close anyway," the congressman said.
New legislation will also likely deal with border security and what's being called chain migration, a visa program that allows immigrants already in the United States legally to bring family members into the country, Stewart said.
He also was asked about supporting a separate congressional district for the Salt Lake area by Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, a former chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.
"We feel like we do not have a voice in Washington," Dabakis said.
Salt Lake County, seen as the most liberal part of the state, is split among three of the state's four congressional districts.
Stewart pointed out what he called the irony of calling that gerrymandering, a term used to describe drawing congressional districts to ensure a member of a particular political party will win.
"You'd have to gerrymander to create a Democratic district," he said.
Contributing: Dennis Romboy