Thank You, Senator Romney
“Romney voted to convict the president. His fellow Republicans voted to convict themselves.” – Windsor Mann, The Week
Truth be told, I don’t think I could have said it any better.
My antipathy for Donald Trump is no secret. He was why I left the Republican Party in 2016. I am in no small part a Democrat because of what he has exposed about the GOP. I have called for him to be removed from office, an effort that failed today with the Senate’s acquittal — a sure-fire sign that jury nullification is alive and well in the 21st Century.
We have seen Republicans pretend that Donald Trump really does care about corruption in Ukraine — never mind that he couldn’t even name a single Ukrainian oligarch in that “perfect” call of 25 July 2019.
We have seen Republicans attempt to out the whistleblower in a desperate attempt to change the subject.
We saw the entire House Republican caucus refuse to believe fact and follow the lead of Devin Nunes — now exposed as Trump’s co-conspirator.
We saw 51 of 53 Republicans refuse to even consider witness testimony last week.
Finally, today, we saw 52 Senate Republicans vote to acquit, including several who freely admit the president did something egregious but can’t bring themselves to do anything about it. Nearly the entire Republican Party in Congress prostrated itself to Donald Trump.
That’s where Mitt Romney comes in.
The last Republican presidential nominee to win my vote — something I don’t see changing in my lifetime — Mitt Romney felt the squeeze, with his sense of honor on one side and part loyalty on the other. He laid out his thinking in an interview with McKay Coppins in The Atlantic (emphasis in original).
The gravity of the moment weighed on him, as did the pressure from members of his own party to acquit their leader. As his conscience tugged at him, he said, the exercise took on a spiritual dimension.
Romney, a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, described to me the power of taking an oath before God: “It’s something which I take very seriously.” Throughout the trial, he said, he was guided by his father’s favorite verse of Mormon scripture: Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good. “I have gone through a process of very thorough analysis and searching, and I have prayed through this process,” he told me. “But I don’t pretend that God told me what to do.”
In the end, the evidence was inescapable. “The president did in fact pressure a foreign government to corrupt our election process,” Romney said. “And really, corrupting an election process in a democratic republic is about as abusive and egregious an act against the Constitution—and one’s oath—that I can imagine. It’s what autocrats do.”
According to Romney’s interpretation of Alexander Hamilton’s treatise on impeachment in “Federalist No. 65”—which he says he’s read “multiple, multiple times”—Trump’s attempts to enlist the Ukrainian president in interfering with the 2020 election clearly rose to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
“It’s what autocrats do.”
Romney also revealed the mentality that has taken over his party — and revealed why it is no longer mine:
“I get that a lot—‘Be with the president,’ ” Romney told me, sounding slightly perplexed. “And I’ll say, ‘Regardless of his point of view? Regardless of the issue?’ And they say yes. And … it’s like, ‘Well, no, I can’t do that.’ ”
I wish I could say Mitt Romney will be the conscience of the GOP. More likely, he will find himself as ostracized as Justin Amash was before he left. Romney has more time (his term expires in 2024), but as a Senator he also has more visibility. We will see what happens. For now, though, he has validated my vote for him in 2012.
For that, even as we are now across the partisan divide, I am deeply grateful.
Cover: Mitt Romney at “Burgers With Bill Bolling,” in Richmond, Va, June 2014 (photo by Lynn R. Mitchell)