As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am one of a few members of Congress who is participating in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s closed-door impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Week after week I’ve attended these hearings, on top of more than two years we spent investigating supposed Trump-Russia collusion. When I speak of this experience, I always begin by reminding people that it’s not my job to defend this or any other president. My role is to defend the truth and our institutional process. I am always mindful of that.

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Impeachment is one of, if not the most, consequential actions the House of Representatives can take. It deserves a serious process. If Speaker Pelosi is going to unravel the 2016 election results, the American people deserve to have access to all the proceedings.

Why should any of my constituents, members of the media or even other members of Congress have to rely on me to report how the proceedings are progressing? None of these hearings contain any classified information. There is no legal requirement for conducting them in a closed session. Such secrecy is absurd and unfair. The American people need to know that.

Obviously, if there was anything in the previous closed hearings that would have convinced the American people to remove this president from office, House Democrats would have held those hearings in public with great fanfare. Quite the opposite has happened.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, near the area where U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is being interviewed as part of the impeachment inquiry. | Susan Walsh, Associated Press

I have been a part of these impeachment proceedings from the very first day. I’ve heard from nearly every witness. I remain unconvinced that there is evidence of a crime, much less a high crime, as the Constitution prescribes for an impeachable offense.

Aside from the absurdity of trying to impeach any president in secret, a process which even the new rules announced this week will not rectify, my greater fear is much deeper. My real fear is that by attempting to impeach this president for what is essentially a policy difference — something which some may find objectionable but is not actually criminal — we lower the bar to such a level that no president will ever serve a four-year term again. 

When looking at past presidents’ behavior — President Obama’s comments about post-election flexibility to Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example — the list of potential impeachment investigations is very long. Today’s Democratic field has its own share of ethics allegations that, under this new Pelosi standard, could be immediately impeachable.

Do we really want to live in an America where no president can finish a term without the House calling for impeachment hearings? Where Congress relinquishes its role as a lawmaking body to pursue purely partisan aims? Where the use of impeachment becomes so routine that the process loses its power?

The threshold for an impeachable offense, as set forth in the constitution, is a subjective one, but the adjective used by the framers was “high” crimes. The impeachment process exists for extreme circumstances, not routine efforts to weaken or remove the winner of an election.

Only through a bipartisan process, in which both sides are given the opportunity to investigate, can we reach a conclusion that will be broadly accepted and factually sustained.

So far, the contrived “evidence” being cherry-picked and selectively released by Chairman Schiff has little credibility. Only through a bipartisan process, in which both sides are given the opportunity to investigate, can we reach a conclusion that will be broadly accepted and factually sustained.

I implore my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to consider a future in which the shoe is on the other foot. Reversing course from this disastrous impeachment strategy is in the interest of both Democrats and Republicans.

If we continue down this path, we open a Pandora’s box that will weaken our institutions and ultimately undermine our republic. We will also be escalating the contention, divisiveness and mistrust that has kept us from doing our most important job — legislating.

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart represents Utah’s 2nd Congressional District.