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At Town Hall, Stewart Heckled Over Border Wall, Russia Investigation

Julia Ritchey, KUER
Attendees of Rep. Chris Stewart's town hall hold up signs as he speaks. About 1,100 packed the auditorium at West High School on March 31 for Stewart's first in-person forum since his re-election.

Republican Rep. Chris Stewart defended his record to a packed town hall Friday night at West High School, where he took questions on health care, public lands and investigating President Trump.

Stewart started by thanking the crowd of about 1,100 people for attending what he said was his 51st town hall since he took office in 2013.

But it was his first in-person forum since Trump’s election. The crowd was filled with displeased, sign-waving residents of the 2nd Congressional District — including members of newly formed groups like Salt lake Indivisible and Utahns Speak Out.

Credit Julia Ritchey, KUER
Rep. Stewart listens to a question during his town hall at West High School in Salt Lake City on March 31, 2017.

Stewart fielded questions for about an hour. He was booed for his opposition to the Bears Ears National Monument, as well as his support for repealing Obamacare and building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Do I support the wall? Of course I do,” said Stewart to jeers.

The forum was only slightly less rowdy than one in February with Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah's 3rd District. Republicans across the country have faced heat from voters back home over Trump’s and the GOP’s agenda.

The event came just a week after the GOP pulled its plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, which Stewart had supported.


“What are you going to do to work with the Democratic party to fix health care and not throw the baby out with the bath water?” asked Miles Merrell, a self-described gay Mormon.

"I have actually tried to work across the aisle on a number of issues," said Stewart, though he didn't know if Trump would try to do the same.


He was also asked about his role on the House Select Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating possible connections between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.

“I have said from the beginning, if there’s evidence that someone has done criminal wrongdoing, we will turn that information over to the FBI and they will have to pursue it," he said.


Stewart promised he would continue to investigate Trump's ties with Russia before thanking the crowd and quickly exiting the stage.


Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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