SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams, declined again Thursday to directly answer a question about whether he supports the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump now underway in the U.S. House over allegations he sought dirt on a political rival from a foreign leader.
“My position remains the same,” McAdams told reporters after speaking at a news conference called to announce the expansion of the city’s GREENbike program, directing them to his spokeswoman, Alyson Heyrend. “She’ll get you a time for me to elaborate.”
Heyrend said McAdams will address the issue at the start of an event Friday at the Midvale Senior Citizens Center. Billed as a “health and wellness forum” to discuss aging adult and senior issues, the event is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. and last an hour, concluding with a question-and-answer session.
“There’s nothing earth-shattering. He’s going to say what he’s been saying all along,” she said of what McAdams plans to say about the impeachment inquiry Friday. “It’s nothing new.”
McAdams is one of 10 House Democrats who have not endorsed the inquiry into Trump’s efforts to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate the Democratic front-runner in the 2020 presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, according to a New York Times compilation.
The newspaper reported that as of Thursday, a total of 226 House members are backing what would be the first step toward impeachment — 225 Democrats and one independent, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who left the Republican Party in July.
McAdams has avoided saying directly whether he supports the impeachment inquiry in written statements on the issue. That included a written statement McAdams issued later Thursday in which he says he wants to remain impartial and not prejudge the outcome.
“There are questions about whether President Trump abused his power and harmed our national security for his personal gain. These are serious allegations that deserve a deliberative process. I want all the facts and I will carefully review all the evidence,” he said in the statement.
“I have consistently supported understanding all the facts and Congress receiving the documents it needs to fulfill its constitutional role. However, I will not prejudge the outcome. I see my role like a juror in a court proceeding, and it is important for me to remain impartial until the process is concluded,” the statement continued.
“I want all the facts and I will carefully review all the evidence. While this process is underway, I don’t intend to react to every news headline or the story of the moment. I remain focused on doing the work Utahns sent me to do — including reducing health care costs and improving air quality.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee sent out a statement Thursday saying McAdams will “try his Boy Scout best to avoid giving a straight answer on whether he supports impeachment” at the Friday event, and urging “constituents upset with Democrats’ inability to address or accomplish the issues important” to them to attend.
McAdams, who represents Utah’s 4th Congressional District that includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties, is seen as one of the nation’s most vulnerable House Democrats in the 2020 elections after winning the seat last year from a two-term congresswoman, Mia Love, by less than 700 votes.
He is already facing several Republican opponents, including Utah Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, former KSL Newsradio host Jay Mcfarland, and Kathleen Anderson, a former Utah GOP communication director.
Last Friday, the Associated Press reported that McAdams was one of just six House Democrats who either don’t support or are undecided about the impeachment inquiry, all hailing from congressional districts that Trump won easily in 2016.
All Republicans, including Utah’s three other House members, Reps. Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and John Curtis, are opposed to the inquiry.
Chris Karpowitz, co-director of the BYU Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, said McAdams does have to exercise caution talking about the impeachment inquiry, given his political prospects in a state that hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since 1964.
But he said that shouldn’t stop McAdams from being clear about where he stands on the impeach inquiry.
“There are some dangers here. It’s good to be thoughtful and deliberative when we’re talking about weighty constitutional issues. On the other hand, it’s possible to dither so much that both sides are made frustrated and angry by a lack of decision,” Karpowitz said.
The political science professor said now that the impeachment inquiry has been launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it’s the only avenue to gather more facts about the president’s actions. Supporting the inquiry, he said, doesn’t mean supporting impeachment.
“Events move forward. In some sense, it seems like it’s a little late to be noncommittal on the inquiry that is occurring,” Karpowitz said, adding that it’s also “a little curious that (McAdams) can’t say, ‘Well, I support this process, but I haven’t made a decision about impeachment itself.’ That’s a very reasonable position to have.”
Elected officials, he said, have a responsibility to offer their constituents guidance about what’s happening.
In this case, that means “helping citizens to understand both what is normal political behavior from a president and what is highly unusual,” Karpowitz said. “Simply being silent about it on either side is in one sense, missing a very important opportunity to reinforce important norms of political behavior.”