WASHINGTON — Sen. Mitt Romney said Wednesday he will vote to remove President Donald Trump from office on the House’s charge of abuse of power, making the Utah Republican the first senator in US history to vote to convict a president from the same party in an impeachment trial.
Romney said on the Senate floor that Trump was “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust” when he pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden while withholding US security aid.
“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.’ Yes, he did,” Romney said. “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.”
Romney will vote to find the President guilty of the House’s first article, abuse of power, and not guilty on the second charge, obstruction of Congress, when the Senate votes on the impeachment trial verdict at 4 p.m. ET. The outcome is a foregone conclusion: Senate Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the chamber, and a two-thirds majority is required for conviction.
But Romney’s vote is a significant jolt to the President’s dismissal of the impeachment trial as a hoax. Trump and his allies have seized on the fact that no Republicans voted for impeachment in the House, but with Romney’s vote, that will not be the case in the Senate trial.
Romney choked up as he delivered his speech and talked about the importance of his faith and the oath he made at the start of the Senate trial. “I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the President, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong,” he said.
So far, no Senate Democrats have said they will vote to acquit the President. Sen. Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat facing an uphill reelection battle in 2020, said Wednesday morning he will vote to convict Trump. Two others Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have not said how they will vote.
“After many sleepless nights, I have reluctantly concluded that the evidence is sufficient to convict the President for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress,” Jones said.
The acquittal vote will mark the end of historic and whirlwind nearly five-month impeachment proceedings that began in September with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing the inquiry into the President amid allegations he had withheld US security aid while pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. The House made Trump the third President to be impeached in December by passing the two articles of impeachment without Republican votes.
The final Senate vote on the impeachment verdict comes after a bitter fight over the trial, which began two weeks ago. Senate Democrats and the House impeachment managers pushed for the Senate to hear from witnesses in the trial, including former national security adviser John Bolton, whose draft book manuscript alleged that the President had told him he conditioned the US aid to Ukraine on investigations into Democrats.
But Senate Republicans rejected the need for witnesses, defeating a motion to call witnesses 49-51. They argued that the House should have called the witnesses it wanted before impeaching the President and that voting for witnesses could have sparked executive privilege concerns that extended the trial indefinitely. Many Republicans, including Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a key swing vote, said the House had proved its case that the President had tied the US aid to investigations. But Alexander and other Republicans argued that the conduct wasn’t impeachable.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, Trump did not mention impeachment. But the raw anger on both sides over the process was on full display, starting with Trump not shaking the speaker’s hand and ending with Pelosi ripping up Trump’s speech after he concluded.
In his closing argument Monday, lead House impeachment manager Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California urged Republicans to consider their place in history with their votes.
“If you find that the House has proved its case and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel and for all of history,” Schiff said. “But if you find the courage to stand up to him, to speak the awful truth to his rank falsehood, your place will be among the Davids who took on Goliath. If only you will say enough.”
Schiff praised Romney in a tweet Wednesday minutes after his speech, saying “there is” a Republican “who would say enough.”
The President’s lawyers responded that the House had failed to charge the President with a crime and rushed the impeachment process.
“They have cheapened the awesome power of impeachment and, unfortunately, of course, the country is not better for that,” the President’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow said Monday. “We urge this body to dispense with these partisan articles of impeachment for the sake of the nation, for the sake of the Constitution.”
Manchin would not say Wednesday morning which way he would vote, adding that he’s making the decision on his own. “It’s been very difficult for me,” Manchin said.