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SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney sat down with KSL's Doug Wright for Sunday Edition after his "history-making moment" that made him the topic of conversation across the country.
Romney voted to convict President Donald Trump on Article 1 of impeachment, abuse of power, on Wednesday.
"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," Romney said to the media before casting his vote. "Yes, he did."
Utahns reacted strongly to the vote, with angry declarations on Facebook claiming embarrassment over his actions. Other Utahns supported the senator's decision to break away from the Republican Party for the vote. With cheers of “Thank you, Mitt,” about 50 demonstrators braved snowy weather to gather in downtown Salt Lake City at the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building in praise of Romney’s vote.
"Well, I took my responsibility exactly as the Constitution defines it and as the oath I took requires it," Romney said. "Which is what I was sworn before God to apply impartial justice as a Senate juror."
Romney said he "thoroughly studied" the evidence given by both parties, including the almost 200-page briefing from Trump's defense team, and recognized that Trump had actually acted against the constitution and democracy.
"I agonized over the responsibility that ultimately would come my way," Romney said. "I hoped beyond hope that I would not have to find him guilty of what had been alleged."
Romney said he likes and supports the president but felt obligated to his responsibility of processing the information given without bias. He had hoped to hear more information from witnesses like John Bolton or Mick Mulvaney to provide testimony to bring reasonable doubt so he would not have to vote to convict.
"They didn't want to provide any information for those of us who were having a responsibility to provide impartial justice," Romney said.
The decision Romney inevitably made was an emotional and difficult one, he said, adding his faith is at the heart of who he is and it was his oath before God that led him to think impartially.
Trump responded at the annual prayer breakfast by saying, "I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong."
Romney said that he anticipated the consequences of his actions from the president, Republican leadership and people living in Utah; however, he felt he had no choice.
While Romney said he and Trump have a "collegiate" bond and are on the same "team," taking that oath under God moved commonalities to the side and forced him to objectively look at the facts and information he had been given.
"I mean, you don't want juries to say 'Gosh, this person that's a defendant there, he's a member of my religion so I'm going to vote with him no matter what, or he's a member of my race, or she's my gender,’" Romney said. "I mean, we expect jurors who swear an oath to fulfill that oath regardless of the 'team' that might be on trial."
I did believe that I was doing exactly what I swore I would do.
–Mitt Romney, R-Utah
He added that while he is a Republican, conservative and votes with the president 80% of the time, he cannot think of a more "destructive, abusive" attack on constitutional democracy than attempting to corrupt an election to maintain power.
Fellow Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee did not believe Trump did anything wrong, much less anything impeachable. Romney said he understands different people interpret the information differently and vote based on their conscience, whether the president did or did not do anything wrong or if his wrongdoings reached the point of impeachment.
"I hope (Trump) will recognize that there are lines that some people feel he crossed," Romney said. "I am one of those."
Besides his faith, in the moments leading up to the counting of his vote, Romney said his family was at the top of his mind. He had the support of his family to give him confidence and the image of his father to bring motivation.
"My dad was a person who stood by his word and did exactly what he thought was right regardless of the consequence," he said. "And that is a family tradition which I hold dear."
Romney said he would be afraid of casting a vote that went against his conscience and what he holds "most dear." He said he hopes that whether or not people agree or disagree with his decisions they can recognize that he did what he genuinely thought was right. When asked if history would view him kindly, he said he didn't know, but he knows his family will.
"I did believe that I was doing exactly what I swore I would do."