Utah Sen. Mitt Romney became the lone Republican to cross party lines in his vote to convict President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial, becoming the only Republican to break from the party.
The vote also reportedly makes Romney the first senator in history to vote to remove a President of his or her own party.
The Senate voted 52-48 Wednesday to acquit the president of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Utah Sen. Mike Lee voted to acquit the president.
In remarks before the vote, Romney said he considered the evidence in the president’s impeachment trial and concluded that Trump should be removed from office for asking the president of Ukraine to investigate a political rival and for withholding military aid to the country.
“The president’s purpose was personal and political,” Romney said. “Accordingly, the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.”
The freshman senator and former Republican presidential nominee said he is certain his vote will “be in the minority” and will likely draw criticism and “abuse” from Trump and other Republicans.
“Irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me,” he said.
The Republican senator became emotional as he described how his Latter-day Saint faith and belief in God played a significant role in his decision, which he called “the most difficult decision” he has ever faced.
“As a Senator-juror, I swore an oath, before God, to exercise ‘impartial justice.’ … I take an oath before God as enormously consequential,” he said.
The backlash was swift. GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel — Romney’s niece — tweeted that it wasn’t the first time she disagreed with her uncle, but that Trump “did nothing wrong, and the Republican Party is more united than ever behind him.”
This is not the first time I have disagreed with Mitt, and I imagine it will not be the last.
The bottom line is President Trump did nothing wrong, and the Republican Party is more united than ever behind him.
I, along with the @GOP, stand with President Trump.
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) February 5, 2020
Utah Congressman Chris Stewart, who has emerged as an ardent Trump supporter, also said he disagreed with Romney’s decision.
“I know Mitt well and have great respect for him. He has been a leader in the Republican party for decades and has accomplished many great things. But he was wrong to vote to convict the President,” Stewart tweeted.
As a member of the House Intel Committee, I sat through hundreds of hours of hearings, listened to dozens of witnesses, & have reviewed thousands of pages of documents. There’s no way @POTUS deserves a vote of conviction. I think Senator Romney has reached the wrong conclusion.
— Rep. Chris Stewart (@RepChrisStewart) February 5, 2020
Romney said he expected backlash from other Republicans, but he invoked the words of a Latter-day Saint hymn: “Do what is right, let the consequence follow.”
“I take that very much at heart,” he said. “I will accept whatever consequence is sent my way and recognize that’s part of the job. People don’t expect me to be a shrinking violet and they certainly don’t expect me to abandon my oath.”
A Utah lawmaker representing conservative eastern Utah has proposed a bill to allow for recalling a U.S. senator. Romney said he doesn’t know “what might happen in the Utah Legislature,” but reiterated that he followed his conscience in voting to remove Trump.
“My responsibility is to honor my oath,” he said.
Trump had previously called for Romney’s removal during an October feud, tweeting the hashtag #IMPEACHMITT. Romney has hada complicated relationship with Trump and has often clashed with the President on moral and foreign policy decisions.
On a call with reporters after his remarks, Romney said he made up his mind last Thursday, at the end of the portion of the trial where senators were able to submit questions. But he didn’t point to any specific argument or piece of evidence during the trial that helped him reach his decision, saying only that he “looked at all the testimony and written documents.”
Romney said he did discuss his thinking or decision with any other Republican senators.
“Each senator, I think, taking seriously the responsibility as a senate juror, kept their own counsel in that regard,” he said.
Romney noted that he “very much” wanted to hear from other witnesses, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton. “I hoped that witness would be able to introduce reasonable doubt — in my mind, at least.”
My thoughts on today’s impeachment vote → https://t.co/Tk1OJWnEdc
— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) February 5, 2020