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WEST JORDAN — During meetings with small groups of her constituents Wednesday at her 4th Congressional District office, Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, expressed frustration over President Donald Trump's trade policies targeting China.
Love said she is planning on being part of a delegation from the House Financial Services Committee headed shortly to Beijing and Hong Kong "and actually get information instead of getting it secondhand."
She said after meeting with the president's economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, and his top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, it's not clear what the administration will accomplish by imposing tariffs on products from China as well as other countries.
"From what I see, I disagree with it. The problem is I can't get a strategy out of the administration," Love said. "The only answer I got from them is, 'Hang in there. Stick with us. We'll wait and see.' I can't live with that."
Love described herself as a free trader and said there's widespread agreement that China "is a bad actor on the global market when it comes to trade. They have not been fair in their practices."
But she questioned actions taken by the administration that affect other countries.
"We should just target China," Love said. "We should try to get them to become good actors, and then everybody else. You try to deal with the biggest bully on the block. So I guess I don't understand the tactic of going after everybody else."
Trump-imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports that largely come from Canada and the European Union have also been opposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other GOP leaders.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, warned that if Americans "find ourselves mired in a full-fledged global trade war with no end in sight, all of the economic gains that (Trump) has helped bring us may well be lost."
Love, who faces a tough re-election battle against Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, did offer some support for the Republican president but said she's not afraid to be critical.
"There have been some strides in foreign policy. I will give some credit where credit is due," she said, citing Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as helping move toward denuclearizing the regime.
"You can see that I publicly mention when I disagree, all the time. I do that quite often at the dismay of the administration," she told a constituent quizzing her about the impact of Trump's foreign policy.
Later, Love had a similar response to another constituent urging her to choose "country over party" and hold the administration accountable.
"I'll be completely frank with you. My job is not to follow a person because of the letter behind their name. As a matter of fact, I've taken on my own leadership, especially on the immigration issue," she said, as well as Trump over trade.
There was brief applause from the constituents gathered in a conference room when Love said she corrects colleagues when they tell her she needs to stand by the president, telling them, "It's not our job to do that. His job is to stand by us."
What Love's office called "open office hours," similar to an event held a year ago, drew some complaints from members of the progressive Democratic CD4 Coalition who want the congresswoman to hold a town hall meeting.
"It's very difficult to have a dialog at a big town hall," Love said, adding that "a lot of people like and appreciate this process because they feel like it's less intimidating. They feel like they can come and actually have one on one."
Sitting down with a half-dozen or so constituents at a time is "an environment that I think is respectful. It's safe," she said. "We've gotten more out of that. I believe this has made me more effective."
In addition, Love said she conducts "all sorts of different town halls," including meetings in workplaces and private homes as well as tele-town halls over the telephone, usually in the evenings.
A member of the coalition, Susan Bowlden of South Salt Lake, brought in a plastic bag full of letters, some with 2 cents taped to them, that she said were from constituents unable to connect with their congresswoman.
"We can't get to you. We've tried," Bowlden said, calling for a town hall-style meeting where she and others could hear Love's answers to questions from many constituents.
"That's fair," Love said, before asking Bowlden to admit that by opening up the district office for several hours of constituent meetings, "we're actually getting people to talk to us."