SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz has a new book coming out this fall, this one about what he's describing as a power grab by Democrats that targeted his last town hall meeting before he left office.
"I think it was a concerted effort to suppress and intimidate and make a national spectacle to create an illusion that wasn't there," Chaffetz said of the February 2017 meeting when an angry crowd chanted, "Do your job."
Chaffetz, then chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was asked again and again whether he would hold the newly elected president, Donald Trump, accountable.
Cable news crews were on hand for the event held in the Brighton High School auditorium, Chaffetz said, because "they had been told there was going to be a fire and a riot. Like, they were going to torch the place."
He said there was no other explanation for why MSNBC and CNN would show up for a town hall held by a Republican who'd won reelection by a wide margin in a Republican-dominated state that had voted for Trump.
The first chapter in the book makes the case that a largely out-of-state crowd tried to falsely portray that Utahns "didn't like what I was doing and how I was doing it" despite his winning more than 70 percent of the vote in 2016, Chaffetz said.
"We got copies of their manuals on how to do this," he said of what he termed a resistance movement.
American Fork nurse Courtney Marden, founder of Utah Indivisible, one of the groups that organized participation at Chaffetz's town hall meeting, said there was never any talk of setting fires or other violence.
"We don't want to threaten our representatives," she said. "In the discussion I had with my group and all the other groups, there was no mention of violence or any physical harm."
Marden said people were urged to ask questions from a prepared list.
"We didn't want people to show up and scream. Sure, we felt like he wasn't doing his responsiblity. We were there to call him on the carpet. But we were doing it in an educated way," she said.
"When I was there, I did not see anything get out of control. I saw a group of people that were very passionate. Everything was peaceful," Marden said. "What Jason Chaffetz describes, I absolutely do not recognize."
Chaffetz said the town hall shows "how the tools and levers in government are being weaponized to create a story," the theme of "Power Grab: The Liberal Scheme to Undermine Trump, the GOP, and Our Republic," due out in September.
The cover of the book, which can be preordered but is not yet available for review, features an angry-looking, red-toned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., shaking her fist.
Chaffetz said that in the book he accuses Democrats of subverting democracy, although he said he doesn't "flat out say they committed a crime, but I think much of what they do is nefarious and potentially illegal."
That includes his claims that the Sierra Club, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood and other nonprofit groups are "being used for political purposes" by the left.
He did not provide details other than saying it involves not just money, but also donor lists and other resources, but said he expects that to attract the most attention.
"I think people will be surprised by the gravity," Chaffetz said. "It really shines a light on how hollow the progressive agenda really is. … The very things that they're so worried about Donald Trump (doing) are the very things they're doing themselves."
Republicans, he said, "generally play by the rules." Even Trump, who "is unconventional. I think he's also shown a great deal of restraint. … He should be winning awards for his openness and transparency."
This is the second book for Chaffetz, who became a Fox News contributor after stepping down two years ago from the 3rd Congressional District seat in Utah he was first elected to in 2008.
He also wrote "The Deep State: How an Army of Bureaucrats Protected Barack Obama and Is Working to Destroy the Trump Agenda," which hit the New York Times bestseller list after being published in September 2018.
"I think Jason Chaffetz has found his own voice," said Jason Perry, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. "I think that he's maybe more promoting his own opinion and focus than he is the president's or anyone else's."
Perry said there is an audience for Chaffetz's work, in Utah and the rest of the country.
"There is a significant 'deep state' mentality in some parts of our country," he said. "There are a lot of people who subscribe to those theories. I think Utah has its pockets of that as well. I don't know we hear about it as much."