FEBRUARY 5, 2020
Washington, D.C. – Sen. Mitt Romney will vote Wednesday to convict President Donald Trump of abuse of power, arguing the president violated the trust of the American people and the authority of his office for his own personal and political benefit.
The Utah senator is expected to be the only Republican to vote guilty on the first article of impeachment, and Romney says he knows the “enormous” repercussions he’ll face from the president, members of his own party and Trump supporters.
Romney insists he had no choice.
“I swore an oath before God to apply impartial justice. And, as you know, I’m a very religious person. I take that very seriously,” Romney, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told The Salt Lake Tribune ahead of his vote. “And so I looked at the evidence in a very unbiased manner and concluded that that the president had done as was alleged — that he did ask a foreign government to interfere in the election, that he did pressure that government by withholding aid.
“That’s as egregious an assault on the Constitution of our country,” he added, “as I can imagine that a president might make.”
Romney said he will vote to acquit the president on the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, because he doesn’t believe the House took all the steps it needed to test the president’s assertion of executive privilege covering witness testimony and documents sought in the inquiry.
No matter Romney’s vote, Trump will be cleared of both charges later Wednesday, when the Senate takes up the impeachment articles after a trial of barely two weeks. With a 53-seat GOP majority, it was evident there aren’t the 67 votes required to remove Trump from office.
Romney said he is probably ill-prepared for the fallout that his vote will spark. Still, he seemed at ease during a short interview Wednesday morning when he ticked off the reasons he found the White House’s defense weak against a strong case for impeachment on the abuse-of-power charge.
“Given the oath I swore,” he said, “I simply have no choice but to honor my conscience and do what I believe is right.”
House Democrats impeached Trump on the two articles for what they charge was leveraging hundreds of millions in military and State Department aid to Ukraine while simultaneously asking that country’s leader to investigate his political rivals and then barring testimony by White House officials and prohibiting the release of thousands of documents.
Trump had wanted Ukraine to announce probes of former Vice President Joe Biden, now a Democratic contender for that party’s presidential nomination, and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. He also urged an investigation of a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.
The president has said he is the victim of a witch hunt, though several Republican senators have stated that while they won’t vote to convict Trump, they believe his actions were inappropriate or wrong — or both.
Romney said he dreaded being thrust into the role of judging a president, and it was the “hardest decision I’ve ever made.”
“No question the consequence will be enormous,” Romney said. “The consequence of violating my conscience and my oath of office to God would be even greater.”
Trump scolded Romney last fall as a “pompous ass” when the Utah senator said that the president’s call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was “troubling in the extreme.”
Romney, who is not endorsing Trump nor anyone in the presidential election this year but believes Trump will be reelected, dismissed criticism that his vote could be construed as spite against the president. Romney and Trump have sparred publicly on occasion even as they have appeared friendly at times as well.
“I don’t hate the president,” Romney said, noting independent groups that show him voting with the president’s position some 80% of the time. “I agree with him on a policy front. And we’ve been cordial for years.”
Romney, who noted he’s already been called a traitor at a grocery store for supporting witnesses in the Senate trial, says he knows the wrath he’ll encounter from the president.
“So he shoots a tweet at me now and then. Really? You think I would endure the consequence of the vote I’m going to take for, you know, trying to get even with a tweet?” Romney said. “I mean, is there anybody that petty?”
Romney, the GOP 2012 presidential nominee, quickly dismissed a suggestion that he might be angling for his own path to the presidency — “I can give you a 100% commitment that 72-year-old Mitt Romney is never, ever going to run for president,” Romney said. “I did that twice. I’m not doing it again.”
Romney has already taken fire from the right and kudos from the left for breaking with his party to support allowing witnesses in the Senate trial, specifically testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton.
Bolton has said he would testify and in a manuscript for a forthcoming book, alleged the president did leverage U.S. aid for the announcement of the Biden investigations.
Romney said Wednesday that the main reason he wanted Bolton to testify was to see if the former White House official could give him a good explanation that didn’t fall in line with the evidence showing Trump abused his power.
“I hoped [Bolton] could provide exculpatory evidence and raise reasonable doubt so I wouldn’t have to vote to impeach,” Romney said. “That’s what I hoped he could do.”
The Senate voted against allowing further witnesses, with only Romney and Maine Sen. Susan Collins breaking GOP ranks and voting with Democrats. The trial then moved to closing arguments and Wednesday’s vote.
Courtesy/Source: Salt Lake Tribune