One lone Republican has come forward to vote for Donald Trump's removal in the Senate impeachment trial. Utah senator and sometime Trump critic Mitt Romney announced Wednesday that he's convinced that Trump should be removed by the Senate.
In a public statement Wednesday afternoon, Romney said, "The president asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival. The president withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so. The president delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders. The president’s purpose was personal and political. Accordingly, the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust."
Speaking to McKay Coppins at the Atlantic Romney summed up his reasoning: "The president did in fact pressure a foreign government to corrupt our election process. And really, corrupting an election process in a democratic republic is about as abusive and egregious an act against the Constitution—and one's oath—that I can imagine. It's what autocrats do."
The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump late last year for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine in an attempt to pressure Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing an investigation against former vice president and current presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Trump and congressional Republicans have said that he can't be impeached because, among other specious arguments, because he was trying to fight corruption.
Romney told Coppins that argument wasn't convincing: "No crime was alleged by the defense, and yet the president went to an extreme level to investigate these two people … and for what purpose?" Without a legitimate legal concern, Romney made the fairly obvious conclusion that Trump must have been acting in his political self-interest.
Of course, a single Republican vote isn't enough to get Trump removed from office. But with Trump's domination of the GOP, it's big news when a single senator with a non-consequential vote goes against the party's dear leader. Even when Republicans admit that Trump engaged in wrongdoing, they brush it aside. Take Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who said that he would vote against calling new witnesses in the trial using incredibly tortured logic: He believed that impeachment had to have bipartisan support, and since no Republicans were so far supporting it, he would not make it a bipartisan effort by giving it his support. (In other news, Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia called Romney's statement "very powerful" but still won't commit to siding with fellow Democrats in the vote.)
There's also Susan Collins, the mythical moderate Republican, who said on Tuesday that she wouldn't vote to remove Trump, not because what he did isn't impeachable, but because he "has learned from this case." Speaking to CBS News, Collins claimed that Trump "will be much more cautious in the future." When reporters asked him if he thought he made any mistakes regrading Ukraine, he said he didn't, adding, again, "It was a perfect call."
Romney, Alexander, and Collins, are all aware that Trump abused his office and tried to extort a foreign leader to help him win an election. But Alexander and Collins, like many Republicans, are grasping for any barely-believable excuse to justify not holding Trump accountable. Romney isn't. It's an incredibly low bar, but so far he's the sole Republican who's managed to clear it.
It’s doubtful that Collins is simply naive and easily duped after serving in the Senate for more than two decades.
Originally Appeared on GQ