Sen. Mitt Romney breaks from GOP, votes to convict Trump in impeachment trial

Sen. Mitt Romney breaks from GOP, votes to convict Trump in impeachment trial

(Senate Television, via AP)



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SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, voted Wednesday to convict President Donald Trump of abuse of power, but to acquit the president of obstruction of Congress, in the impeachment trial.

Romney announced his voting intentions earlier Wednesday in an emotional speech from the Senate floor in which he invoked his faith and his duty to exercise impartial justice. He delivered the remarks in a deliberate, somber tone, and at one point paused for an extended period of time, becoming emotional.

The Senate acquitted Trump on both counts along party lines, save for Romney's vote on Article I. Senators acquitted Trump by a vote of 52-48 on Article I, abuse of power, and by a vote of 53-47 on Article II, obstruction of Congress.

Romney said taking an oath before God to carry out that duty was "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," he said. "I was not wrong."

Romney said the impeachment trial convinced him that a president could commit actions so egregious that they would demand removal from office, even if they do not represent a statutory crime.

Romney added that he believes then-Vice President Joe Biden had a conflict of interest from the effort to remove former Ukraine prosecutor general Viktor Shokin.

"If (Joe Biden) knew of the exorbitant compensation his son was receiving from a company actually under investigation, the vice president should have recused himself," Romney said. "While ignoring a conflict of interest is not a crime, it is surely very wrong."

Romney described Hunter Biden's actions regarding Ukraine as "unsavory," but said they also didn't constitute a crime.

Trump's lawyers didn't present evidence suggesting Joe or Hunter Biden had committed a crime in the instances brought up during the impeachment trial, Romney said. So Trump's insistence that the Ukrainians investigate the pair is "hard to explain other than as a political pursuit," the senator said.

"There's no question in my mind that were their names not Biden, the president would never have done what he did," Romney said.

The senator, who is serving his first term representing Utah, acknowledged that Trump's lawyers have said Congress should leave the issue of whether or not to remove the president from office up to American voters.

That is "appealing to our democratic instincts," Romney said. But it's not consistent with the Senate's constitutional duty to try the president, he added.

"The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor. Yes, he did," 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 public trust."

"What he did was not perfect," Romney continued. "No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one's oath of office that I can imagine."

Romney said he had received numerous messages asking him to "stand with the team," and he considered that strongly. He pointed out that he has voted with Trump 80% of the time and supports much of what the president has done.

His oath to God required that he set aside his personal feelings and personal biases, though, Romney said.

"Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history's rebuke and the censure of my own conscience," he said.

Romney said that he pushed to hear testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton not only to bring further context to the impeachment trial, but also because he hoped what Bolton might say would raise some reasonable doubt and allow him to vote for Trump's acquittal.

Romney added that he expects his decision to be heavily denounced by Trump, his GOP colleagues and others.

"We've come to different conclusions, fellow senators, but I trust we've all followed the dictates of our conscience," he said.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, voted to acquit Trump on both articles of impeachment Wednesday afternoon.

"I was surprised, I'm very disappointed," Lee told KSL NewsRadio's Lee Lonsberry on Wednesday afternoon. "I like (Romney), I consider him a friend, I strongly disagree with this decision."

Trump has not yet responded to Romney's announcement.

Contributing: Lee Lonsberry, KSL NewsRadio

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