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SALT LAKE CITY — Former President Donald Trump's "big lie" brought the United States to a "dark and dangerous" place and poisoned the nation's politics and public discourse, Sen. Mitt Romney said.
"Like you, I hear many calls for unity. It is apparent that calling for unity while at the same time appeasing the big lie of a stolen election is a fraud. It is the lie that caused the division. It is in the service of that lie that a mob invaded the Capitol on January 6th," according to the Utah Republican.
Romney released a lengthy statement Thursday about the Senate impeachment trial for the Congressional Record, the official record of the proceedings and debates in Congress.
The Senate acquitted Trump on a charge of inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress counted electoral votes. Romney was among seven Republicans who joined all 50 Democrats to convict him — falling short the 67 guilty votes needed in an impeachment trial.
"The president's conduct represented an unprecedented violation of his oath of office and of the public trust," Romney said.
Now that the impeachment trial is over, he said, it falls to everyone, including members of Congress, to affirm that President Joe Biden won the election through the legitimate vote of the American people.
"The division in America will only begin to heal in the light of this truth, a truth which must now be affirmed by each of us in this chamber," he said.
National unity does not require unanimity of opinion but civic unity calls for truth, Romney said.
"There is one untruth that divides the nation today like none other: it is that the election was stolen, that there was a massive conspiracy, more secret and widespread than any in human history, so brilliant in execution that no evidence can be found of it and no observer among the tens of thousands in our intelligence agencies will speak of it," he wrote.
"That lie brought our nation to a dark and dangerous place," he said. "Invented and disseminated by the president, it poisoned our politics and our public discourse."
Romney painted a gloomy picture of a divided country, saying no one suggests that it will lead to a better future.
Some envision an economy buffeted by policies drafted by the extreme wings of the political parties. Others claim that authoritarianism will replace democracy. Some anticipate social unrest and violence. A few even predict civil war. Still others fear that a weakened America will become vulnerable to an opportunistic foreign foe, he wrote.
"Academics and pundits may promote cures, but in our hearts, we know that their bromides won't heal the rift: People aren't going to return to mainstream media, churches aren't going to experience a resurgence, and income inequality will remain a persistent feature of the global digital economy," Romney said.
Great leaders are the only thing that have been able to unite a divided country, he said, citing Churchill, Lincoln and Reagan. The failure of leaders to unite, to speak truth, to place duty above self, is "as dangerous as we have ever known," he said.
"With the country as divided as it assuredly is, a person in a position of leadership who inflames passions with the purpose of perpetuating untruth commits a singularly dangerous sin against the republic," Romney said.
The first-term senator, who voted to remove Trump from office after his first impeachment trial last year, said he never expected to serve a second time as a juror in an impeachment trial.
In the statement he further explained why he believes that trial was constitutional and why he found Trump guilty.
Trump's attempt to pressure Georgia's secretary of state to falsify the electoral results was itself a "heinous" act that merited impeachment, he said. Trump summoned his supporters to Washington on Jan. 6 knowing that many had committed violence in the past and who had violent intent, he said. Trump, he said, also failed to defend Vice President Mike Pence and others in the Capitol who were in mortal danger.
With the country as divided as it assuredly is, a person in a position of leadership who inflames passions with the purpose of perpetuating untruth commits a singularly dangerous sin against the republic.
–Sen. Mitt Romney
Romney said the conclusion he reached on the verdict will not surprise anyone who read his reasoning in the first impeachment trial.
"I consider an attempt to corrupt an election to keep oneself in power one of the most reprehensible acts that can be taken by a sitting president. The second impeachment resulted from the president's continued effort to do just that," he said.
Romney said a free and fair election and the peaceful transfer of power are the thin line that separates a democratic republic from an autocracy.
"President Trump attempted to breach that line, again. What he attempted is what was most feared by the Founders. It is the reason they invested Congress with the power to impeach," Romney wrote. "Accordingly, I voted to convict President Trump."