Editorial: Stewart and Owens Should Resign


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On Jan. 6, pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop the electoral vote count that certified Joe Biden as president-elect. At the rally earlier that day, President Trump and members of his inner circle incited the violence with fraudulent, inflammatory rhetoric. The president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said, “Let’s have trial by combat.” Addressing Republican members of Congress who did not back Trump’s election fraud conspiracy, Donald Trump, Jr. said, “We’re coming for you.” In his own speech, President Trump told his extremist supporters, “You will never take back our country with weakness.”

Within minutes of the president’s rally, a violent mob — participants in which had plans to murder members of Congress — invaded and looted the Capitol Building while shouting, “Hang Mike Pence,” and wielding zip ties to seemingly restrain members of Congress. Five people died as a result of this domestic terrorist attack.

After Capitol Police finally regained control of the building, 147 Republicans — led by Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz — still voted against certifying the results of our presidential election, further perpetuating the lies that have fueled Trump’s war on American democracy for years and that culminated in the violence at the Capitol. Sadly, two members of Utah’s congressional delegation, Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens, were among those who voted to overturn the election on the basis of pro-Trump election conspiracy theories.

Importantly, though, not all of Utah’s federal representatives sided with Trump in the wake of the Capitol attack, despite their common membership in the Republican Party. The division between Trump loyalists and principled conservatives within the GOP has widened over the last four years and that tension came to a head during the Congressional vote to confirm December’s electoral vote.

This party split was especially clear in the Utah delegation last week. Sen. Mitt Romney has been critical of Trump since 2016, and often endures harassment from Trump loyalists for standing up against the president’s wrongdoings. As anticipated, Romney voted to confirm Biden’s electoral college win. So did Sen. Mike Lee, who led the Utah arm of Trump’s 2020 campaign. Both senators also condemned the fatal riot at the Capitol. Conversely, Stewart and Owens aided the sedition effort to keep Trump in the White House despite his loss of both the popular vote and the electoral college. Their divisive votes were based on fallacy and fraud and put the United States near the brink of falling victim to an authoritarian ruler. 

National reporting on last week’s events has, understandably, focused on Trump’s role in inciting the insurrectionist attack on Congress — but we cannot allow Stewart and Owens to fly under the radar as we identify participants in this attempted coup and mete out consequences. Everyone who contributed to this act of domestic terrorism must be held accountable.

So far, Trump has been suspended from Twitter, cut off from a host of business relationships and impeached by the House of Representatives for his actions. For Stewart and Owens’s part, they must resign immediately, not least because they chose to ignore Utahns’ values when they voted to overturn the results of a presidential election. While their resignations cannot make up for the damage they have already done, it would signal that Utah expects total integrity from our members of Congress and make way for principled leaders who will put country before party.

Stewart and Owens did not destroy federal property or fly Confederate flags at the Capitol last week, but they outwardly confirmed the lies that led Trump loyalists to attack our most important governmental body, our leaders and our democracy. To assert that the election was fraudulent is to implicitly verify the Jan. 6 attack as justified. As such, these two representatives have broken Utahns’ trust in favor of an unconditionally loyal brand of Trumpism

American politics have become increasingly partisan and divisive since Trump’s election in 2016. We need unity in this country, but seditionist members of Congress deserve to be held accountable for the damage their words and actions have inflicted on our democracy. We can only find unity after delivering accountability. Seditionists like Stewart and Owens do not represent us and we do not want them representing our state in Congress.


The Daily Utah Chronicle Editorial Board is a group of senior opinion journalists who rely on research and debate to write staff editorials. Editorials represent the majority view of the editorial board and are written separate from the newsroom.