Utah Senator and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney became the first senator to ever vote to remove a president from his own party from office, when he cast his guilty vote in the trial of Donald Trump. “As a senator juror, I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am,” Romney said from the Senate floor.
In a later interview, Romney acknowledged he’s likely to pay a price with both President Trump and his fellow Republicans. “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,” Romney said. “It is a high crime and misdemeanor within the meaning of the Constitution. “It’s the most difficult decision I’ve ever made in my life.”
So why make it? It certainly didn’t make Republicans happy back in Mitt’s (fourth) home state of New Hampshire. (Romney, who owns a house on Lake Winnipesaukee, has also claimed Michigan, Massachusetts and Utah as “home states.”)
“Romney AKA Pierre Delecto — will always be remembered as the candidate who chocked [sic] when it mattered most. He begged for @realDonaldTrump to endorse him — now we know he will be a 1 term Senator,” tweeted Trump 2020 advisor and Granite Stater Corey Lewandowski. He was one of the few local Republicans willing to speak on the record about Romney’s vote.
Off the record, Granite State Republicans weren’t happy. “I’m so pissed at that guy I don’t want to even talk about it,” one longtime Romney GOP ally told NHJournal. “He’s just jealous because Trump gets to be president and he doesn’t.”
NHJournal asked all three candidates in the NHGOP U.S. Senate primary to comment on Romney’s vote. Neither retired Gen. Don Bolduc nor former N.H. House Speaker Bill O’Brien responded. Attorney Corky Messner told NHJournal, “I disagree with Mitt’s decision and I disagree with his legal analysis. The presumption that President Trump was looking into Ukrainian corruption for political benefit is wrong, and I don’t think the evidence proves it.
“Trump is an outsider. In D.C., what the Bidens were doing isn’t considered corrupt. But to an outsider, it looks obviously corrupt. He’s reacting the way I would,” Messner said.
Conspiracy-minded Trump supporters see Romney as a crass politician setting himself up to become a GOP leader after the Trump era. After all, Mitt’s only 72 years old — he’d be a spring chicken compared to the current Democratic presidential candidates. However, GOP consultant Jim Merrill, who worked on Romney’s presidential campaigns, dismisses these notions as ridiculous.
“He’s not running for president and, at this point in his career, he may not run for re-election to the Senate. He’s not doing this to set up another race — there isn’t one.”
Jennifer Horn, spokesperson for the Republican anti-Trump group Lincoln Project, told NHJournal: “Today Senator Romney showed what faith is. Faith to his principles, faith to his oath, and faith to the Constitution. We thank Senator Romney for his convictions and his steadfastness in the face of overwhelming pressure to ignore and abet Donald Trump’s actions.”
While pundits speculate about “Trump raining hell down on Mitt Romney” — as one Republican put it — in fact, Trump’s polls in Utah are only a few points better than Romney’s. The fact is, given Mitt’s apparent lack of ambition for higher office, there’s not much Trump can do about Romney’s vote except forget it and move on.
Being Trump, however, that seems unlikely. At Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast, Trump took direct aim:
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.”