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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Senator Mitt Romney was one of several Senate Republicans who pushed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt new rules for impeachment on Tuesday, which he abruptly did.
McConnell's original rules sparked controversy among both Democrats and Republicans, with its inclusion of two condensed, 12-hour days and pushes to delay voting for witnesses later into the trial. The extent to which existing evidence would be permitted in the trial, and the difficulty of getting evidence approved under McConnell's rules, were hotly contested topics.
Romney sent a letter to his constituents explaining his approach to the impeachment proceedings on Monday night. He also posted the letter on his website.
"As we approach the impeachment trial of the President, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to the Constitution, to the people of Utah and to the nation. I want to share my thoughts directly with Utahns — the people I was elected to serve in the Senate — about how I plan to approach this process," Romney said.
He added that he believes impeachment to possibly be "the most solemn matter that can ever come before the United States Senate" and affirmed his commitment to an open mind and fulfilling his oath to "do impartial justice" amid serious criminal allegations leveled against the president.
"I have made clear to my colleagues and the public that the Senate should have the opportunity to decide on witnesses following the opening arguments, as occurred in the Clinton trial. The organizing resolution released tonight includes this step, and overall, it aligns closely with the rules package approved 100-0 during the Clinton trial," Romney said. "If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts."
My statement on the start of the impeachment trial→ https://t.co/6WZXI8sfyV— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) January 21, 2020
Romney concluded his letter by noting that impeachment is "not a situation anyone would wish upon our country," saying that it furthers partisanship and division, and claimed he will spend "many hours in careful deliberation about what this process and its potential outcomes could mean for our country."
Romney ranked among multiple Republicans, including Maine's Susan Collins, who raised concerns with McConnell's rules. Some red-state senators voiced their disagreement at a private GOP lunch.
If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts.
Democrats immediately rejected the rules, with Rep. Adam Schiff, one of Speaker Pelosi's appointed prosecutors for the process, told the Associated Press "this is not a process for a fair trial, this is the process for a rigged trial."
Following the critiques, McConnell suddenly amended his proposed rules , and added a third day for opening statements and promised a "fair, even-handed" trial.
Romney was pleased with the new rules, according to the Associated Press, and hopes to hear from John Bolton, the former national security advisor who witnessed Trump's actions.
Contributing: Mary Richards, KSL NewsRadio