Steve Griffin, KSL

Organizations call on Utah senators to ensure fair impeachment trial

By Sahalie Donaldson, KSL | Updated - Jan. 16, 2020 at 10:07 p.m. | Posted - Jan. 16, 2020 at 5:28 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — About 70 people gathered outside the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building rallying for Utah senators to fight for a “full and fair” impeachment trial Thursday evening.

Some waved signs while lining the street and unfurled American flags against the darkening sky. One man stood on top of a trash can as he shook a canvas sign at cars driving past.

It was the end of a series of events throughout the day, as Utahns joined members of national organizations for a prayer breakfast and news conference as part of an awareness campaign in more than a half-dozen states coinciding with the Senate’s opening of the impeachment trial for President Donald Trump. House managers read the charges against Trump Thursday morning before the Senate. As the day unfolded, Utah Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney took a vow to “render impartial justice” throughout the impeachment trial.

Demonstrators in downtown Salt Lake City urged the senators to ensure that trial is undertaken fairly and fully.

“We really want the two senators here, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, to get up today and realize that there is noise being made in their state and when they turn on the TV it’s everyone from their community,” said MoveOn organizer Mikael Huffman. “All of their constituents from every walk of life are asking them and telling them that this is important to them. That it’s important for them to stand up at this very moment to show us that our values have not been forgotten.”

MoveOn is the organization responsible for putting the event together in Utah as well as other rallies taking place Thursday in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, South Carolina and Kentucky.

Huffman said MoveOn recognized that Utah is unique and made up of various faiths. Organization members asked residents to help them seek out community members whose voices are particularly impactful and have something to say centered around the importance of a full and fair trial. They connected with Mormon Women for Ethical Government and also looped in Vote Common Good, a bipartisan Christian organization currently making its way across the country advocating for increased love in politics.

“We talked about having people speak from different faiths so that we could give a picture that it does not matter what your faith is, whether it’s driven by God or whether it is driven by the universe,” Huffman said, gesturing to a room brimming with people prior to the press conference. “If you look in that room there’s someone from every walk of life in there. I think it’s really showing that this issue is not just political — it’s social. This is a democracy issue and the people deserve to be heard.”

Attendees clutched glossy black signs reading “Don’t let Trump off the hook #FairTrial,” as they stood behind the microphone during the press conference.

An orange bus lined one end of the plaza emblazoned with organization Vote Common Good’s slogan “Faith, hope and love for change on Election Day.”

Vote Common Good kicked off its journey across the U.S. outside of the White House on Jan. 2. Members plan to visit every state before April 3 and arrived by bus last night, said executive director Doug Pagitt. He said the group is striving to hold politicians to a commitment of love and calling voters to stand “deep into their faith” and put an end to the Trump administration on Election Day.

Samir Selmanovic, with Vote Common Good, second from right, and others rally at the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, for a full and fair impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. (Photo: Steve Griffin, KSL)

“In the tradition of democracy in the United States, truth and justice is bedrock. So whether you call for truth from your faith tradition or call for truth from your commitment to this country, the truth needs to be pursued. We believe that the truth can only be pursued in a full and fair trial,” Pagitt said.

Catherine Eslinger, co-lead of the Utah chapter of Mormon Women for Ethical Government, said the group wants a full and fair impeachment trial because it believes the only way to heal the nation is through truth.

She emphasized the nonpartisan nature of this desire and pointed to two other members of the organization who accompanied her: a registered Republican and a registered Democrat. Stressing that this is social issue and not a political one, Eslinger said she is a member of the United Utah Party.

Neca Allgood, one of the members who accompanied Eslinger, said the organization has hand-delivered over a 1,000 letters throughout the past week to members of Congress. These letters, she said, have come from individuals in 42 states and are personal, imploring senators to do their “sworn duty” to hold an impartial trial.

LGBTQ and gun violence activist Ermiya Fanaeian echoed the desire for the Utah senators to push for this.

“The House and Senate has a responsibility to the people of the United States. The House has completed its duty to the American people by impeaching President Trump. But now it is time for the Senate to continue with the impeachment trial,” Fanaeian said.

Donned in a long white dress and a sash, Mormon Women for Ethical Government senior director Lisa Halverson wore a women’s suffragist outfit to symbolize her belief that Americans’ votes matter and as such, nobody should interfere with elections.

“Here we are 100 years later having to defend our vote again, having to say ‘No, a foreign government cannot interfere in our elections,’ and especially should not be invited by our leaders who have taken oaths to uphold the Constitution and protect us,” Halverson said.

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Sahalie Donaldson

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