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Rep. Chris Stewart reads whistleblower complaint, has no new concerns

Sen. Mitt Romney finds Trump phone call transcript ‘deeply troubling’

President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in New York
Evan Vucci, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Chris Stewart said he’s uncomfortable with President Donald Trump asking the leader of Ukraine to investigate a political rival, calling it an “awkward” thing for him to do.

“But are you going to convince the American people that that’s an impeachable offense when he asks for nothing in return, he extends nothing in return?” the Utah Republican said on KSL Newsradio’s “Dave and Dujanovic” show Wednesday.

The transcript of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy doesn’t reveal even the inference of a quid pro quo, Stewart said.

“It’s the key to the whole thing,” he said.

Meantime, as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Stewart had access Wednesday to the whistleblower report that ignited the firestorm. Because it remains classified, he said he couldn’t talk about it.

Chris Stewart
Rep. Chris Stewart

But he said in a statement, “After reading the whistleblower complaint, I have no additional concerns.”

Late Wednesday, Stewart tweeted that the complaint had been declassified. “I encourage you all to read it,” he wrote.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he hasn’t focused on the alleged quid pro quo as others have. The question of whether the president asked or pressed a foreign leader to carry out a political investigation is troubling, he said.

“My reaction was the same as I had a few days ago, which is this remains deeply troubling and we’ll see where it leads,” Romney told The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins during a panel discussion in Washington.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., launched a formal impeachment inquiry Tuesday that she said would focus on whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from Ukraine to undermine Democratic rival Joe Biden and help his own reelection. Pelosi said such action would be a “betrayal of his oath of office.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks as she participates in a question-and-answer session with Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor in chief of The Atlantic, as part of the Atlantic Festival, on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, in Washington.
Alex Brandon, Associated Press

“How could she possibly know that?” Stewart said. “She convicted him before she even held the first hearing on this issue.”

Sen. Mike Lee said on a Facebook live town hall Wednesday night that the transcript wasn’t at all as billed and that he doesn’t see it creating a problem for the president. He said Trump didn’t ask Zelensky to help dig up dirt on a political rival.

“It certainly doesn’t serve as the basis for impeaching and removing President Trump,” he said.

If House Democrats are “foolish” enough to impeach the president, it will backfire on them, Lee said. Instead of hurting Trump, it would ultimately help him, he said.

Lee also said the whistleblower might have leaked classified information for a partisan political purpose and might have committed a crime in doing so.

“I want to find out who that was and why he did it,” he said.

Rep. Ben McAdams, Utah’s lone Democrat in Congress, supported a House resolution calling on the Trump administration to release the whistleblower complaint. The resolution passed unanimously after House leaders changed it to match the one the Senate passed Tuesday.

McAdams said the phone call summary made public Wednesday suggests the president was improperly using his influence with a foreign power to damage a political opponent.

“On this and other matters we need to get all the facts on the table before deciding how to proceed,” he said. McAdams has not said whether he supports the impeachment inquiry.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, attends the HELP Hearing: Implementing the 21st Century Cures Act on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 26, 2019.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer, for the Deseret News

In the days before the call, Trump ordered a freeze on nearly $400 million in military aid for Ukraine, fueling speculation that he was holding out the money as leverage on Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who was involved with a Ukrainian company. Trump acknowledged blocking the funds but later released them.

Stewart said discussions between the administration and members of Congress about withholding the aid predated the phone call by months. He said Trump’s threat of withholding the money was to get European nations on board, specifically Germany, to help Ukraine as they had promised.

“He was frustrated by that,” Stewart said.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the Oval Office on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington.
Evan Vucci, Associated Press

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said from what he has read of the transcript, there’s nothing that rises to “high crimes and misdemeanors” or gross malfeasance in office.

“Maybe something will come out but I don’t see anything that fits that standard yet,” he said on KSL Newsradio’s “Inside Sources.”

Stewart said people shouldn’t rush to impeach Trump without hearing all the evidence. It’s unfair to say the president betrayed the country before knowing what happened, he said.

“My goal isn’t to protect the president or anyone. My goal is just to find out the truth,” Stewart said.

“If President Trump or anyone that’s in the administration did something that was illegal and impeachable, I would vote to impeach on that,” he said. “I’m just saying let’s wait and see the evidence.”

While the Trump administration released a transcript of the Trump-Zelensky phone call, it has withheld other details of the whistleblower’s complaint from Congress.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, introduced a resolution Wednesday matching the one the Senate passed that called for the whistleblower report to be sent to the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Curtis’ resolution differs from the “politicized” Democrat version in that it makes clear that he takes whistleblower complaints seriously and is committed to getting the facts in an “apolitical” manner before speculating, according to his office.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, speaks during a town hall meeting in Cottonwood Heights on Saturday, June 23, 2018.
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

“Impeachment inquiries are deeply serious matters and should not be entered into lightly,” Curtis said in a statement.