“Unimaginable”: Romney describes what comes next
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah never became president, but he earned a new distinction Wednesday: He will be remembered as the first senator in American history to vote to remove a president of his own party from office. Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president, said he expected swift and extreme recrimination from his party for his solitary act of defiance. He was not incorrect.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son, tweeted that Romney “is forever bitter” about losing the presidency and called for him to be “expelled” from the Republican Party. Ronna McDaniel, Romney’s niece and chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said that the president had done nothing wrong, the party was “more united than ever behind him” — and this was not the first time she had disagreed with “Mitt.” And President Donald Trump tweeted a video attacking Romney as a “Democrat secret asset.”
Shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, Romney voted to convict Trump of abuse of power for his pressure campaign on Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Attempting to corrupt an election to maintain power is about as egregious an assault on the Constitution as can be made,” Romney said in an interview in his Senate office Wednesday morning, ahead of the vote and an afternoon floor speech in which he choked up as he explained his decision.
He declared Trump “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.”
Romney did vote with his party against the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, arguing that House Democrats had failed to exhaust their legal options for securing testimony and other evidence they had sought.
Although the final result of the Senate vote had never been in question, the defection of Romney was a rare cliffhanger in the impeachment proceedings and also a kind of moral sideshow.
His vote cast into relief the rapid evolution of the Republican Party into an entity that has wholly succumbed to the vise grip of Trump. It deprives the president of the monolithic Republican support he had craved at the end of an impeachment case that he has been eager to dismiss as a partisan “hoax” perpetrated by Democrats.
On the Senate floor Wednesday, Romney placed his decision in the context of his faith, his family and how history would remember it.
“I will only be one name among many, no more, no less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial,” Romney said. “They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the president did was wrong, grievously wrong.”
In the interview earlier, Romney, who has been critical of Trump at various points since 2016, said he was acutely aware that he would suffer serious political ramifications for his decision, particularly in light of the strict loyalty the president had come to expect from elected officials of his own party. No House Republican voted to impeach Trump in December. (Rep. Justin Amash, an independent from Michigan, fled the Republican Party last year over his differences with Trump and voted in favor of both articles.)
“I recognize there is going to be enormous consequences for having reached this conclusion,” Romney said. “Unimaginable” is how he described what might be in store for him.
Romney had served as governor of Massachusetts before his unsuccessful run against President Barack Obama in 2012. He then moved to Utah and eventually ran for the Senate. He said he had come under enormous pressure in recent weeks from rank-and-file members of a party whose support for Trump has become nearly unanimous.