Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) on Wednesday announced that he would vote to convict and remove President Donald Trump from office for abusing his power.
His voice shaking during a speech on the Senate floor, Romney said Trump was no longer fit to lead the nation.
“The great 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. “Yes, he did.”
The President, Romney said, had corrupted the 2020 election by pressuring Ukraine to announce a politicized investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden — something the senator characterized as the most serious violation of Trump’s oath imaginable.
“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,” he said.
FULL SPEECH: Sen. Romney says he will vote in favor of the article of impeachment on abuse of power against President Trump.
"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." pic.twitter.com/m4KhVCzhBS
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) February 5, 2020
Romney’s vote will not lead to the President’s removal from office — a two-thirds vote is needed and pro-removal senators make up less than half of the Senate — but his vote is of historical significance: Romney will be the first senator in American history to vote for the removal from office of a president of his own party.
The response from the Trump administration, at least at first, was muted but foreboding. The White House canceled an Oval Office photo opportunity with the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
And White House director of legislative affairs Eric Ueland, asked what he thought of a bi-partisan vote to convict the President, said “We have a reaction that we are very gratified that today the Senate will be acquitting the President.”
Republican senators speaking to reporters after Romney’s announcement attempted to downplay the news.
“Clearly, this is an issue he grappled with, and to be honest, I couldn’t have predicted how it was going to go,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) said of Romney.
Asked if the vote might strain Romney’s relationships with fellow Republicans, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said Romney and President Trump “had a little bit of a complicated relationship to start with.”
“In the [Senate Republican] conference, he is somebody that we all know is a very independent person. Obviously, we’re going to continue to work with him,” Thune said.
In his floor speech Wednesday, Romney picked apart arguments from the President’s defense team, one by one.
The argument that only statutory crimes are impeachable, he said, “defies reason.”
Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine to announce an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden was “hard to explain, other than as a political pursuit,” he said.
The senator dismissed the Trump team arguments that the President was interested in fighting corruption in America and Ukraine.
“There is no question in my mind that were their names not Biden, the President would never have done what he did,” Romney said.
Romney had pre-recorded an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace that the network played after he announced his vote.
“I believe that the act he took, an effort to corrupt an election, is as destructive an attack on the oath of office and on our Constitution as I can imagine,” he said.
Romney told the Wallace that the decision was the most difficult of his career, but that he could bear the consequences of the President’s almost certain wrath.
“I believe he made a very serious miscalculation of judgment,” Romney said. “One that strikes at the very core of our Constitution. And in a setting like that, not to acknowledge that would place a greater burden on my conscience even than on his.”
Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.