Rep. Chris Stewart: Trump’s Chief Apologist

Chris Stewart has had quite the record when it comes to Trump. My goal today is to simply lay out that record and then have you answer the question: when it comes to holding the president accountable, is Rep. Stewart properly representing Utahns?

Earlier this week, Chris Stewart took the stage of the Eccles Fine Arts Center at Dixie State University for a debate against his Democratic challenger in the 2018 general election, Shireen Ghorbani. While there are many issues I personally had with the answers from my representative (84102!), I’d like to focus on one response in particular — Stewart’s latest defense of Donald Trump regarding the ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling and obstruction of justice. 

Chris Stewart has had quite the record when it comes to Trump. My goal today is to simply lay out that record and then have you answer the question: when it comes to holding the president accountable, is Rep. Stewart properly representing Utahns?

March 10, 2016:

Utah’s Rep. Chris Stewart calls Trump ‘our Mussolini’, KUTV 2 News

March 14, 2016:

“Utah congressman explains Trump-Mussolini comparison,” Fox 13 News

October 7, 2016:

Following the release of the “Access Hollywood” recording, Chris Stewart released this statement saying “I am willing to hold Mr. Trump accountable” and asking for him to step aside. 

October 26, 2016:

“I’ve actually struggled with that, like a lot of Utahns, because some of the things Mr. Trump said, I have such a real problem with,” Stewart told St. George News. “But at the end of the day, our choice is Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. These other candidates are just not going to win. There really is a binary choice, and given that choice, it’s very clear to me what is better for our country.”

“It’s very clear that Donald Trump is a better choice than Hillary Clinton,” he said. “At the end of the day, I will be voting for Donald Trump.”

“After denouncing Trump, Rep. Stewart says he will vote for Republican nominee,” St. George News

November 2, 2017

While acknowledging that Russian ads on Facebook could be considered “cyberwarfare,” Rep. Stewart began a long line of denials that the ads were geared toward helping Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election:

“They weren’t trying to help one candidate,” he said. “They were just trying to help us be angry at each other.”

“Utah Rep. Chris Stewart says it’s fair to call Russian Facebook ads cyberwarfare,” Deseret News

December 8, 2017:

Although he initially supported the independent investigation led by Special Counsel Mueller, Stewart led conservatives in attempting to discredit Mueller and his investigation:

“I was the first guy on our committee who said we should call for a special counsel,” Stewart told The Hill. “But I have to tell you, I have growing concerns about the special counsel. I think [Mueller’s] relationships, not just with the Comey there, but with others on the special counsel, are becoming more and more troublesome, and I think he’s expanding it beyond what our intentions were.”

“Conservatives ramp up attacks on Mueller,” The Hill

January 5, 2018:

After recusal, “Rep. Chris Stewart calls for Sessions to ‘step aside,” KUTV 2 News

January 23, 2018:

Continuing his attack on everything other than the investigation into Donald Trump by Special Counsel Mueller, Rep. Stewart says the real scandal lies with the FBI and CIA: 

“We are unraveling or peeling back an onion there that is extraordinarily concerning to me,” Stewart, Utah’s only member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday on the Utah Senate floor. “When it comes to the politicalization of agencies like the FBI, the Department of Justice and frankly, in my opinion, worst of all, the CIA, where they’ve been turned into political operatives.

“Obviously, there are dedicated public servants that work there,” he added. “But a few individuals in very senior positions. We cannot allow that to go unanswered if that is true.”

No one talks about collusion by the Donald Trump campaign anymore, Stewart said.

“You don’t hear [collusion] anymore from either side of the aisle because the reality is there just simply isn’t evidence on it,” he said.

“Utah Rep. Chris Stewart: The real scandal isn’t possible Russian meddling in election, it’s taint of politics in CIA and FBI,” The Salt Lake Tribune

In this same speech on the Senate floor, Rep. Stewart also expressed surprise at Trump’s poor approval ratings, and offered the president his support: 

Stewart — who during the 2016 campaign called Trump “our Mussolini” — told the House Republican Caucus he now has become a “huge convert” to the president.

“He has really won my respect,” he added. “He has had an incredibly effective first year” despite “all the distractions, and all the diversions and all the media polls.”

He added, “It’s surprising to me that he has a 44 or 46 percent approval rating” while in the news media, “90 percent of the coverage is negative” that offers a “continuous beat-down.”

“Utah Rep. Chris Stewart: The real scandal isn’t possible Russian meddling in election, it’s taint of politics in CIA and FBI,” The Salt Lake Tribune

January 30, 2018:

While being interviewed by MSNBC host Katy Tur regarding Trump’s potential obstruction of justice, Chris Stewart claims they just “see the world differently,” being a case of where “men are from Mars and women are from Venus.”

March 12, 2018:

May 3, 2018:

Rep. Stewart said Democrats are only focusing on the Russia investigation because they believe it would help them in the midterm elections:

“I have heard the same question asked 15 different ways and at the end of the day, we have been looking at this for more than a year and I don’t know any reasonable Democrat who is still claiming there is evidence of collusion,” Mr. Stewart said.

“House Intel member: ‘Reasonable’ Democrats know there was no collusion,” The Washington Times

May 17, 2018:

“When asked about the Senate Intelligence Committee breaking with the House Intelligence Committee about Russian interference in the 2016 election, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) said there is no way to know for sure if Russia interfered to help President Trump win.”

“GOP lawmaker defends discrepancy between reports,” CNN

July 16, 2018:

For a brief second following the Helsinki meeting, Rep. Stewart joined in the chorus condemning Russia and its involvement in the 2016 election:

“Trump is wrong. Russia meddled in the 2016 elections. Russia is led by a former KGB thug who only understands lies and manipulation,” Rep. Chris Stewart said in a statement.

“President Trump denying their involvement in the obvious is a mistake,” he said, adding Russia must be held accountable for its actions.

“Some Utah politicos blast Trump after meeting with Putin, others more restrained,” Deseret News

July 17, 2018:

However, only a day later, he was back to defending Trump, saying the President isn’t a “Russian stooge,” even if he was having difficulties cleaning up his Helsinki mess:

“GOP Rep: Trump needs ‘big broom’ to clean up Helsinki mess,” CNN

July 22, 2018:

Disagreeing with the entire U.S. intelligence community and Putin himself, Stewart says there is no evidence that Russia was attempting to help Trump win the 2016 election: 

“For someone to answer that question definitively, they’d have to crawl inside Mr. Putin’s head,” the Utah Republican said in an interview Thursday, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “It’s impossible to know. I’ve spent days, not just hours, but days, actually looking at intelligence.”

Stewart’s position contradicts that of U.S. intelligence agencies that have concluded Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and created fake social media accounts with the aim to boost Donald Trump and hurt Clinton. It also clashes with what Putin’s admission last week that he favored Trump in the election.

But Stewart’s take is consistent with that of one person: the president.

“Utah’s Chris Stewart says there’s no evidence Russia wanted to help Trump. He disputes U.S. intelligence findings and Putin’s own admission.,” The Salt Lake Tribune

July 31, 2018:

Despite nearly universal concern from Utah businesses and local officials, Rep. Stewart says he is “willing to wait and see whether Trump is right on tariffs” in light of escalating trade war. 

“Stewart to St. George workers: Wait and see on Trump’s trade gambit,” The Spectrum

August 22, 2018:

Without directly naming the president, Michael Cohen labeled Trump as a co-conspirator in breaking a series of campaign finance laws. However, Rep. Stewart said it was too early to know whether Trump broke campaign finance laws:

It’s too early to say whether President Donald Trump committed a crime as his former lawyer and fixer asserted while pleading guilty to breaking campaign finance laws and other charges in court, Rep. Chris Stewart said Wednesday.

The Utah Republican said there might be some implications for Trump regarding Federal Election Commission violations, but it’s not clear to him what those would be.

“I don’t know that we know that yet. I think we should let the process play out, by the way. Let them go through what any other candidate or elected official would go through. That is, if there was a potential violation, let the FEC investigate that,” Stewart said.

“Utah Rep. Chris Stewart says it’s too early to know if Trump broke campaign finance laws,” Deseret News

September 17, 2018:

During the only CD-2 debate before the 2018 midterm elections, Rep. Stewart broke from his usual views on Russian interference and now blames the CIA for a rushed analysis:

When the discussion shifted to Russian interference in U.S. elections, Stewart took an entirely new position on the topic that he has not stated publicly before. Stewart has long said the Russians did interfere in the election, but he has publicly doubted that the intent was to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. Stewart clung to that doubt, even though the intelligence community issued a report in 2017 stating Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible.” Stewart’s brand new position on Russian interference is the CIA “rushed their analysis” about Russian interference and “didn’t comply with normal tradecrafts.” It was a jarring reversal from his previous position.

“Stewart, Ghorbani deliver a mostly solid debate performance despite a few stumbles,” Utah Policy

So, I ask again:

When it comes to holding the president accountable, is Rep. Stewart properly representing Utahns?

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