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GOP Town Halls Get Raucous As Constituents Address Representatives


Republicans in Congress have been getting an earful all week, especially those who ventured back to their districts. Protesters have been overwhelming town hall meetings of several prominent House Republicans, as NPR's Cory Turner reports.

CORY TURNER, BYLINE: One of those Republicans is Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. His town hall meetings are usually modest in size and civil, but his latest event Thursday night was neither.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Vote him out. Vote him out. Vote him out.

TURNER: The town hall filled a Salt Lake City high school auditorium meant to hold a thousand people with several hundred more reportedly left outside. Among the protesters' chief concerns were President Trump's tangled business interests and the ethical questions they raise. But Chaffetz told the crowd...


JASON CHAFFETZ: The president, under the law, is exempt from the conflict of interest laws. He's exempt.


TURNER: But the president is not exempt from congressional oversight. Chaffetz, who is chair of the House Oversight Committee, has so far refused to look into those potential conflicts of interest. At one point, the crowd chanted...


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Do your job. Do your job. Do your job.

TURNER: Ahead of the town hall, several large liberal activist groups had mobilized online, encouraging protesters to show up in force and ask pointed questions. It was a similar story at Republican town hall meetings in Tennessee, Michigan and Illinois. Last weekend, Republican Tom McClintock was escorted by police out of an event in Northern California.

Overwhelming town hall meetings was used against Democrats, too, a prime tactic of Tea Party protesters in the first years following President Obama's election. Some Republican voters, though, also appear frustrated, especially over mixed messages around the future of the Affordable Care Act. Last month, Trump talked of repealing Obamacare, quote, "very quickly." But in an interview Sunday with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, very quickly became this.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think that, yes, I would like to say by the end of the year - at least the rudiments - but we should have something within the year and the following year.

TURNER: Republicans in Congress appear to be bracing for more disruptions. Politico reported that on Tuesday, lawmakers received a town hall safety briefing, including how to coordinate with local police and plan an escape route in case of violence. Cory Turner, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cory Turner reports and edits for the NPR Ed team. He's helped lead several of the team's signature reporting projects, including "The Truth About America's Graduation Rate" (2015), the groundbreaking "School Money" series (2016), "Raising Kings: A Year Of Love And Struggle At Ron Brown College Prep" (2017), and the NPR Life Kit parenting podcast with Sesame Workshop (2019). His year-long investigation with NPR's Chris Arnold, "The Trouble With TEACH Grants" (2018), led the U.S. Department of Education to change the rules of a troubled federal grant program that had unfairly hurt thousands of teachers.