By Associated Press
Senate Television via AP
WASHINGTON — Republican Mitt Romney, establishment to the core, took the Senate’s most brazenly rebellious stance Wednesday in voting to force President Donald Trump from office, a move highlighting how rare it is for Republicans to cross swords with this president.
By voting to convict Trump for abusing presidential powers, the Utah lawmaker became the only Republican to cross party lines in the Senate impeachment trial’s climactic votes acquitting the president. All Democrats voted to convict Trump on both counts against him.
In a remarkable spectacle, Romney’s decision meant the GOP’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential nominee had voted to oust a Republican president who seldom hides his contempt for the well-mannered party elders that the patrician Romney symbolizes.
As Trump plunges into his reelection effort, Romney’s move denied Trump a campaign talking point of asserting he had been unanimously acquitted by Republicans in a strictly partisan drive to remove him. In fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., used Romney’s vote to tout the Senate’s “bipartisan vote to convict him.”
It also stood as the most noteworthy vote of defiance against Trump by a congressional Republican since 2017. At that time, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., aimed his thumb downward in a post-midnight roll call that derailed Trump’s signature effort to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care law.
In an early hint of the wrath that may be coming Romney’s way, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham released a statement saying “only the President’s political opponents — all Democrats, and one failed Republican presidential candidate — voted for the manufactured impeachment articles.”
Romney’s vote drew praise from a quarter that won’t help him regain any affection at the White House: Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who led the House impeachment investigation of Trump.
“I have great respect for the moral courage that he showed,” Schiff told The Associated Press.
“He showed you can stand up to this president,” Schiff added. “And you can put truth and right and decency first, and I think that the ripple effect of that we may not be able to see for some time, but it will affect all of us.”
The abuse of power count that Romney backed was based on allegations that Trump delayed U.S. military aid to Ukraine for its war with Russian-backed fighters until the embattled country’s new leaders agreed to investigate Joe Biden, a Trump political rival.
Romney joined all other Republicans in opposing the second impeachment article, which accused Trump of obstructing Congress’ investigation of his actions toward Ukraine.
In an interview on Fox News, Romney said he believed the Democratic-run House should have exhausted all legal remedies for hearing witnesses and receiving documents, which Trump blocked, before impeaching him for obstruction.
Romney announced his decision during an eight-minute speech on the Senate floor two hours before the GOP-dominated chamber voted to absolve Trump. Romney cited the significance of the impeachment oath to render “impartial justice” sworn to by all senators.
“I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am,” Romney, a Mormon, said before pausing for about 11 seconds, seemingly struggling with his emotions.