Republican Sen. Mitt Romney just voted to convict the president on one article of impeachment: abuse of power.
The Utah senator stands in stark contrast to every other person in the 53-member Republican conference, who all voted to acquit President Trump on both articles. Romney was also one of just two Republicans to vote in favor of considering more witnesses for the trial last week, alongside Sen. Susan Collins. He voted in line with his party on the second article, obstruction of Congress.
“What [the president] did was not perfect. It was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security, and our fundamental values,” Romney said on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon while explaining his decision. “Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”
You can watch his full speech here.
Despite Romney’s past critiques of Trump, the decision is a shocking one.
Collins — and fellow moderates who did not vote to call witnesses, like Lamar Alexander — argued that Trump’s alleged decision to condition military aid to Ukraine on the announcement of investigations into the Bidens was wrong but not worthy of removal. Romney’s differing conclusion made the vote to convict Trump a bipartisan one, unlike the House vote on the articles of impeachment, when not a single Republican voted in favor of them.
In his floor remarks Wednesday, Romney systematically dismantled the arguments presented by Trump’s defense and repeatedly cited his faith as central to making his final decision.
“My promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and political biases aside,” he said. “Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me, for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke.”
Romney added, too, that he was breaking with his party due to an “inescapable conviction” on the subject, even as he was lobbied by other Republicans to maintain unity and loyalty to the president.
Senate Republicans have broadly stuck by Trump’s side largely due to how popular he remains with the Republican base, 89 percent of whom approve of the job he’s doing as president, according to a recent Gallup poll. Romney won’t be up for reelection until 2024, meaning that he didn’t need to weigh the same electoral consequences of voting to convict as some of his colleagues may have.
His actions, though, are consistent with his past stances. Ever since news broke about Trump’s efforts to condition military aid to Ukraine on the announcement of political investigations, Romney has been one of the most outspoken Republican critics.
In an interview with Fox News following his Wednesday speech, Romney said that he is aware his party — and its base — may not be happy with his vote, but that he does not believe he had any other choice, placing the president’s conduct in stark terms: “I believe that the act he took, an effort to corrupt an election, is as destructive an attack on the oath of office and our Constitution as I can imagine.”
And when asked if he believes Trump should be removed from office, Romney told Fox’s Chris Wallace, “I do believe he should be removed from office.”