Utah Sen. Mitt Romney — the onetime Republican nominee for president — on Wednesday made what may be the only surprising choice in the Senate as it prepares to acquit President Donald Trump over his Ukraine scandal.
Speaking from the floor of the Senate, Romney broke ranks with his conservative colleagues and announced he would vote to convict Trump on the impeachment charges and remove the president from office.
Not long after, he officially began casting his votes of guilty.
“I believe that attempting to corrupt an election to maintain power is about as egregious an assault on the Constitution as can be made and for that reason, it is a high crime and misdemeanor,” Romney said in his speech explaining his choice. “I have no choice under the oath that I took but to express that conclusion.”
He also connected his decision to his deep faith, saying, “As a Senator-juror, I swore an oath, before God, to exercise ‘impartial justice.’ I am a profoundly religious person. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the president, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.”
Romney is the first senator in American history to vote to remove a president from his own party. In December, Trump became the third president to ever be impeached and stands accused of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (He has denied wrongdoing, despite the case against him and testimony from his own government officials.)
Democrats say investigators found the president had withheld about $400 million in military aid in order to pressure Ukraine’s government into digging up dirt on Trump’s political rival Joe Biden.
The formal votes on both impeachment charges began Wednesday afternoon, following days of arguments from both House lawmakers and Trump’s defense.
Despite Romney’s choice, Trump is expected to be acquitted as a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate would be needed to convict. Republicans have mounted shifting defense of Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine but, all along, have signaled a reluctance to engage in what they consider a revenge scheme by liberals.
Still, Romney’s vote with Democrats will undercut any argument that impeachment was purely partisan — another key Trump argument against his removal.
His decision is more remarkable in the context of his history: In 2012, Romney was the Republican nominee in the presidential election (but lost to Barack Obama).
Romney has been a regular Trump critic, and the president has criticized him in turn, alternately dismissing him as “unloyal” and a “lousy politician.”
In his speech announcing his choice, Romney acknowledged he would likely face backlash from his own party, from voters and from Trump himself for voting for impeachment.
“But irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me,” Romney said. “I will only be one name among many, no more or less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the president did was wrong, grievously wrong.”
“The president’s purpose was personal and political,” Romney said. “Accordingly, the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.”
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, excoriated Romney’s vote on Wednesday, tweeting that he should be removed from the Republican Party.
“Mitt Romney is forever bitter that he will never be POTUS,” Don Jr. wrote. “He was too weak to beat the Democrats then so he’s joining them now. He’s now officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the @GOP.”
WATCH: Sen. Mitt Romney announces that he will vote to convict President Trump.— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) February 5, 2020
"The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust," the Utah Republican said in his floor speech.
More: https://t.co/yBfIEJW4T3 #ImpeachmentPBS pic.twitter.com/b3yIt8kKFf
Regardless of your politics, you must admit that this vote by Senator @MittRomney is a profile in courage.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 5, 2020
Pleased to see Mitt Romney honor our Constitution, the rule of law, and the truth. https://t.co/pwmUOSwZME
Although the president’s impeachment trial comes to a close Wednesday afternoon, some Democrats have hinted they won’t be done looking into Trump and Ukraine.
Rep. Jerry Nadler told reporters Wednesday morning that after the Senate trial concludes he would “likely” subpoena former National Security Advisor John Bolton, who said he was willing to testify against Trump in the Senate trial.
Bolton reportedly wrote in an upcoming book that Trump had, indeed, said Ukraine could not have its military aid until it agreed to investigate the Bidens.
“When you have a lawless president, you have to bring that to the fore and you have to spotlight that,” Nadler said. “You have to protect the Constitution despite the political consequences.”