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Utah’s McAdams faces ‘two really bad options’ in likely impeachment vote

The comments from Utah’s lone Democratic representative come after House leaders move ahead on drafting articles of impeachment, with a vote likely before Christmas

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President Donald Trump attends a luncheon with members of the United Nations Security Council in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019.

Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Congressman Ben McAdams said Thursday he has “two really bad options” in a potential vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

And the deadline to make his decision is looming as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced earlier in the day that articles of impeachment will be drafted, setting the stage for a historic vote likely before Christmas.

The freshman Democrat representing Utah’s 4th District told the Deseret News he was heading into a morning committee meeting when he learned about the announcement.

“I’m not surprised that’s the direction that the House is heading,” he said.

Before a backdrop of six American flags, Pelosi stood at a lectern outside her speaker’s office in the Capitol — the same place where she solemnly launched the inquiry in September into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine — to say the president’s actions warrant impeachment.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters at her weekly news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

“Our democracy is what is at stake,” she said. “The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections.”

McAdams has been poring over transcripts and lengthy reports by both Democrats and Republicans of the House committees investigating the president. And, he wants to read the articles of impeachment once they have been drawn up by the House Judiciary Committee, which will hold a hearing Monday, before making his final decision.

“I was telling my wife just this morning, I think what I’ve got are two really bad options,” the lone Democrat in Utah’s congressional delegation told KSL’s Doug Wright. “One option is to do nothing, and I think the president’s behavior is wrong and we need to make that statement for the record and for history and for future presidents.

“I’ve got another option that I think further divides the country, stokes these flames of partisanship and divisiveness, all for something that will never really see the light of day in the Senate,” McAdams said.

He said neither option is “good for the country to moving forward.”

If the House votes to impeach, the Senate will hold a trial to decide whether to remove the president, which will likely not happen in the Republican controlled chamber. Two presidents have been impeached and no president has ever been removed from office.

Other members of Utah’s delegation had no comment on Pelosi’s announcement.

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Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams answers questions during a press conference at his campaign headquarters in Millcreek, where he declared victory over GOP Rep. Mia Love in the 4th Congressional District on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

McAdams is among more than 30 moderate House Democrats representing conservative districts that supported Trump in 2016 whose seats are targeted by Republicans hoping to win them back in next year’s election.

Anti-impeachment television ads have been airing in his district for a couple of weeks and the Trump campaign sent out a statement shortly after Pelosi’s announcement blasting Democrats for a “blatant disregard of voters.”

“Utahns are sick of this side show and want their representatives to get back to the issues that matter,” said Samantha Zager, spokeswoman for Trump Victory, a political action committee that raises funds for the president’s reelection.

McAdams is aware of the campaign and said he is working on other issues and doesn’t sit on any of the committees involved in the impeachment proceedings.

“I continue to keep working on the things people sent me here to do and I’ve never stopped working on those things,” he said as he headed into an evening meeting. He passed a first bill on financial fraud regulation last month.

But McAdams hasn’t been completely ignoring impeachment proceedings. He is among several moderate Democrats who have urged his party to steer clear of findings by special counsel Robert Mueller and limit the impeachment articles to the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Pelosi had supported the moderate wing of her caucus in resisting impeachment, which the more progressive Democrats had been pushing since Trump took office. But the party became more unified after a whistleblower complaint was filed about the infamous phone call.

In their conversation, Trump asked Zelenskiy for “a favor” — to open investigations into a theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election and into political rival Joe Biden, whose son served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company when Biden was vice president.

After two-months of hearings centered on the call, a 300-page report was released this week by the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees that accuses Trump of soliciting a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election to his benefit and obstructing Congress’ efforts to investigate.

“The president engaged in this course of conduct for the benefit of his own presidential reelection, to harm the election prospects of a political rival, and to influence our nation’s upcoming presidential election to his advantage,” the report stated. “In doing so, the president placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security.”

But McAdams said voters can consider the consequences of 2016 election interference, as detailed in the Mueller report, while Congress should take action to ensure Americans the upcoming 2020 elections are safe and secure.

“I am concerned about allegations that the president was inviting foreign interference into the 2020 election that could jeopardize the security of our elections,” he said. “We need to go into the 2020 election with the confidence that whatever happens in that election is the will of the people.”

In her somber announcement, Pelosi invoked the Declaration of Independence, comparing Trump’s conduct with Ukraine to the rule of a king the Founding Fathers wanted to escape and avoid in the new country they wanted to form.

“When crafting the Constitution, the founders feared the return of a monarchy in America and having just fought a war of independence, they specifically feared the prospect of a king president corrupted by foreign influence,” she said. “They, therefore, created a constitutional remedy to protect against a dangerous or corrupt leader: impeachment.”

She said “the facts are uncontested” that Trump tried to get a foreign country to investigate his political rival.

“The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our own national security by withholding military aid and crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival.”

While McAdams said the allegations against the president are serious, he blamed people on both sides of the aisle for turning the impeachment investigation into political spectacle.

“I think some of my colleagues have been gleeful about this process since the day the president was elected,” he said. “On the other side, there are those where there’s not a thing he can do that they will hold him accountable for.”

Pelosi said the decision to draft articles of impeachment is done “sadly, but with confidence and humility.” She described Democrats as “prayerful” and said “we will proceed in a manner worthy of our oath of office.”

For his part, Trump urged the “crazy” House Democrats in a series of tweets to get on with impeachment, in anticipation that he would get a “fair trial” in the Senate.

He later tweeted that his impeachment would not bode well for future presidents.

“This will mean that the beyond important and seldom used act of Impeachment will be used routinely to attack future Presidents,” Trump said. “That is not what our Founders had in mind. The good thing is that the Republicans have NEVER been more united. We will win!”

Correction: In an earlier version, a headline quoted Rep. Ben McAdams as saying he has “two really bad choices.” McAdams said he has “two really bad options.”