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Are white supremacy, domestic terrorism the nation’s biggest threats? Utah Republican says that’s ‘nonsense’

Utah Congressman Chris Stewart speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council breakfast session via Zoom as the group gathers in Salt Lake City on Friday.
Utah Congressman Chris Stewart speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council breakfast session via Zoom as the group gathers at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Friday.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

A Utah congressman says one of the most troubling things he has seen in recent years is the federal government reaching into Americans’ lives in an “abusive manner.”

“And this administration is doing that on steroids,” Republican Rep. Chris Stewart told conservative legislators from around the country at the American Legislative Exchange Council conferences in Salt Lake City.

Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the conversation about privacy has shifted since President Joe Biden took office. He said the Biden administration is allowing organizations in the intelligence community such as the CIA, NSA and others to cross over into domestic law enforcement issues “because by their estimation, white supremacy and domestic terrorism is the greatest threat facing our nation.”

“I think that’s nonsense. Clearly, there’s greater threats facing our nation,” he said in a pre-recorded message for the conference.

Intelligence agencies should “never, ever” turn their powers on Americans, he said, drawing applause from the crowd.

Stewart was among several current and former Utah congressional leaders who spoke on Friday along with former GOP Texas Gov. Rick Perry as the three-day conference promoting limited government and federalism ended.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who appeared via Zoom, urged the state lawmakers to help dispel the “absurd notion” that if an issue is important, it needs to go through the federal government.

“The opposite is true,” he said.

Lee cited the Democrats’ election reform bill, the “deceptively named” For the People Act, as an example of the federal government trying to consolidate power.

The sweeping plan would require states to offer same-day voter registration, at least 15 days of early voting and expand access to mail-in voting for federal races. It also includes campaign finance and ethics reforms.

Lee said it would overturn effective voting laws in the states and replace them with federal mandates.

“This is something that we know doesn’t belong in the federal government,” he said, adding the Constitution preserves that role for states.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) breakfast session via Zoom as the group gathers at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 30, 2021.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) breakfast session via Zoom as the group gathers at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 30, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

In his speech, Perry said ALEC is standing up for the foundational beliefs that the United States is based on Judeo-Christian values.

“We cannot step away from those,” said Perry, who served as secretary of the Department of Energy in the Trump administration.

“The idea that we’re having this discussion about critical race theory, and that somehow that’s good for America, that that’s in the end tearing down the Judeo-Christian values to basically say Marxism is better,” he said.

“I hope that all of us can stand up and push back on that in a powerful way.”

Former Texas Gov. and presidential candidate Rick Perry speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) breakfast session at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 30, 2021.
Former Texas Gov. and presidential candidate Rick Perry speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) breakfast session at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 30, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Former Republican Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, now a Fox News contributor, told the lawmakers to reflect on the reasons they do what they do and why they believe what they believe.

Like many political pundits, he enjoys the back and forth on social media.

“But you know what? At the end of the day, the way we’re all collectively really effective is when we talk from our hearts and we explain to people why we believe what we believe. We get lost in this clutter that’s constantly out there,” he said.

Former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz speaks during the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 30, 2021.
Former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz speaks during the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 30, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Chaffetz said everyone has personal or family issues in their lives and lawmakers need to truly listen to what they have to say.

“I guess I’m sort of tired of being pegged as a group of people who don’t care, that somehow we see the compassion card with somebody else because we take a particular policy position,” he said.

If government leaders, he said, share from their hearts and show compassion, they and the country will be better off.

“We’ll just be better people,” Chaffetz said.