Curtis votes against impeachment inquiry

Rep. proposed rule change to make classified inquiry transcripts public

U.S. Rep. John Curtis and Grand County Council Chair Evan Clapper have a moment before a public meeting in the Grand Center on Friday, Oct. 25. In an interview after the meeting, Curtis criticized the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Photo by Carter Pape

Note: This story has been edited to add comments from Rep. Curtis about his vote.

U.S. Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, recently joined his Republican counterparts in the U.S. Congress in voting against an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. He had recently called the inquiry undertaken by Democrats a “terrible” process and asserting that transcripts of the classified portion of the inquiry ought to be available to all members of the House of Representatives.

Curtis cast his vote against a resolution that laid out the rules for the public portion of an impeachment inquiry into President Trump on Thursday, Oct. 31, falling in line with fellow Republicans, none of whom voted for the resolution.

“I believe we could all support a careful and balanced look at wrongdoing,” Curtis said about his vote. “Unfortunately, the vote we took today does not do that.”

Curtis said that the classified portion of the inquiry undertaken over the past month “is out of harmony with normal justice and impeachment precedents.” He went on to criticize particular rules contained within the resolution and said that the impeachment process was “in motion on the day after the election.”

“I will support a process that leads to more transparency, without the influence of politics, but today’s vote does the opposite,” Curtis said.

The rules ultimately passed, with two Democrats—Collin C. Peterson, D-Minnesota, and Jeff Van Drew, D-New Jersey—voting against the measure. The House’s lone Independent Justin Amash, I-Michigan, voted in favor.

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In response to a question Oct. 25, prior to the House vote, from The T-I on whether he believed the impeachment process was “going forward in a good way,” Curtis said it was “a terrible way.”

“I’m on one of the committees that gets to attend,” Curtis said, referring to the classified impeachment hearings. “I see no reason to make these secretive. The public should hear what is going on.”

Curtis went on to lament what he said was the loss of “something that can never be regained,” namely footage of the testimony, such as “body language” and tone. He also said that it was regrettable that he and other Republicans could not “call witnesses,” although the Senate may allow both parties to call witnesses if the impeachment process reaches the trial stage, as it did in the trial of former President Bill Clinton.

Curtis said the classified nature of the hearings, preventing him from discussing their contents with his colleagues, put him “at a disadvantage,” and that he was trying to go into the process “with an open mind…The whole process is also pushing us toward even more of a partisan split,” Curtis said. “It was partisan to begin with, and unfortunately, the process is further increasing that partisan split. If we had public hearings, if Republicans could call witnesses, I think those things alone would change that trajectory of partisan split and start to bring it back to what’s best for America.”

When asked whether it was appropriate that the impeachment inquiry was underway in the first place, Curtis said it was his “personal belief” that the House was “not in an impeachment inquiry.”

“We never voted on an impeachment inquiry,” Curtis said. “That takes away from me a vote to decide whether we should go into an inquiry.”

Opening up the process

Curtis on Tuesday, Oct. 29, announced a resolution that would allow all members of the House to access transcripts of the classified hearings, briefings and depositions relating to the impeachment of President Trump.

He said in a press release on the matter that “without access to all the information from an oversight investigation,” it was “impossible” for representatives to represent their constituents “with all available information.”

“That is why I am proud to introduce this resolution to require that all members—instead of just a select few—have access to transcripts of classified hearings at the same time, including those relating to impeaching the president,” Curtis said in the press release.

The day before, Curtis sent a letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, after media reports suggested that an impeachment inquiry vote would be held later that week, on Thursday, Oct. 31.

“Despite this seemingly rushed process, I learned through media reports, not official channels, that we will be voting on the House Floor this Thursday to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Trump,” Curtis said in the letter. “In order to make the best decision on my vote on behalf of Utah’s Third Congressional District, I believe I will need to review the transcripts of each testimony.”