As impeachment votes were cast one by one, one Republican senator stood trembling in the background. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) had once been the shining light of the Republican Party, representing the party in 2012 as the party nominee for president. The man who almost every Republican had stood behind was about to see that support fully curb.
Romney grew increasingly unpopular in 2016 as his unwillingness to back former candidate and now President Trump on his bid for presidency sparked controversy. Now, in 2020, Romeny was about to vote, for the first time ever, against party lines in an impeachment trial. He was about to deem Trump guilty of a severe Abuse of Power.
Watch the full speech here. Timestamps used in the analysis will be based on this video.
Part 1: The Evidence against Trump
0:22- 0:28 – “As a senator-juror, I swore an oath, before God, to exercise impartial justice”
Here, Romney sets up a key principle in his speech: that of impartial justice. As a deeply faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Romney constantly put religion at the center of his life. With God as his witness, Romney felt that there was no way he could vote just based on party lines. Rather, Romney outlines here that he decided to vote based on morals and his own judgment instead. Juries are supposed to be impartial and not come into hearings with pre-existing bias, but impeachment juries have been notorious for having biased jurors (after all, the senators are all elected on party lines). Romney’s vow to exercise impartial justice is huge for the impeachment proceedings and sets a major precedent.
0:38-0:47 – A pause.
Romney pauses and seems to near breaking down just as he starts to come to terms with the decision he’s about to make public. The long, awkwardly timed pause illustrates just how much the Senator has struggled with his party’s expectations.
Mormon women recorded this video to support Mitt Romney’s vote to convict Trump.
RT if you like it when people of faith practice what they preach. pic.twitter.com/IPMHjU3LyH
— Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons (@GuthrieGF) February 9, 2020
1:38- 1:48 – “A president can indeed commit acts against the public trust that are so egregious that while they are not statutory crimes, they would demand removal from office.”
Romney clarifies that high crimes and misdemeanors (the grounds established by the US Constitution that justify impeachment) can include things outside of statutory crimes. Statutory crimes are crimes that violate a codified statement (a law passed by Congress) While Trump’s crimes don’t violate a specific statement, Romney believes that Trump’s violation of public trust made impeachment necessary.
2:29-3:01 – “With regards to Hunter Biden, taking excessive advantage of his father’s name is unsavory but also not a crime. Given that in neither the case of the father nor the son was any evidence presented by the President’s counsel that a crime had been committed, the President’s insistence that they be investigated by the Ukrainians is hard to explain other than as a political pursuit. There is no question in my mind that were their names not Biden, the President would never have done what he did.“
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2020
Romney examines the strength of Trump’s defense counsel, who claimed that the Bidens’ interference in Ukraine justified Trump’s action. When examining the evidence, Romney figured out that there was there little evidence to justify the claim that the Bidens had done anything wrong. Romney also found that taking advantage of Joe Biden’s status wasn’t really a crime. He goes on to make one of the first big claims in his speech, saying that Trump only threw the Bidens under the bus because he was politically inclined to. The evidence, as Romney saw it, wasn’t enough to justify Trump’s behavior and abuse of power.
3:11-3:20 – “While that logic is appealing to our democratic instincts, it is inconsistent with the Constitution’s requirement that the Senate, not the voters, try the president”
The founding fathers set up the system of accountability (with the electoral college and senator jurors) in order to ensure that the country had an extra level of accountability. It ensured proper education and limited the chances of an alarming amount of presidential power. Romney outlines that the Constitution specifies the need for the Senate to decide, not the people and Senators, who are more informed on the political sphere, needed to try the president.
3:45- 4:03 – “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.”
The biggest moment of Romney’s speech comes when he reveals that he believes Trump has committed an act extreme enough to justify removal from office.
You just lost
Utah and Arizona .
Mess with Romney ,
You mess with every
LDS member , everywhere .
Maybe Utah and Arizona
turn blue this cycle ?
— Vince Olson , Councilman & EMT of Big Water , Utah (@SteelToeTruth) February 9, 2020
4:20- 4:55 – “The President’s purpose was personal and political. Accordingly, the President is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust. What he did was not “perfect”— No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. 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.”
The line of the night is delivered in this segment, as Romney lists off all the evidence that backs up Trump’s personal and political motives. Trump was accused of asking foreign powers to meddle in the election. The justification his defense counsel gave in the impeachment trial simply wasn’t enough to prove his innocence and the prosecution gave enough evidence to prove Trump guilty. From the evidence Romney poured over, he arrived at the conclusion that Trump did manipulate the election for his own personal benefit, hurting the general interest of the American people.
Part 2: Romney’s Personal Reasons for Voting Guilty
5:29-5:46 – “Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.”
Romney explains why he couldn’t stick to his party lines, saying that the impeachment process and the jury process means that he needs to vote on his own accord, not for the sake of a partisan end. Romney also understands here that he will be faced with abuse, making it clear that if he didn’t strongly believe that Trump was guilty, he would have just stuck with the party. This further serves to show that Romney understood the consequences behind his voting decision, knowing that it could serve to alienate his long-time support base. By choosing to cast the vote anyway, Romney showed voters that he followed his conscience. Even though he has been a long-respected party GOP Senator, Romney willingly went against his party because of the overwhelming evidence.
Tons of respect for what #MittRomney did today. It has to be hard to stand up, alone, against your party for what you think is right. Whether you agree with him or not, you’ve got to admit he acted courageously. I, for one, am proud of him. pic.twitter.com/eLqqnNJnji
— Matt Clayton (@claytonmatt) February 6, 2020
6:18-6:36 – “I sought to hear testimony from John Bolton not only because I believed he could add context to the charges, but also because I hoped that what he said might raise reasonable doubt and thus remove from me the awful obligation to vote for impeachment.”
Here, Romney refers to the vote earlier in the week which would have allowed additional witnesses to testify against Trump. The witness Democrats were hoping to push through was former national security advisor John Bolton, who could have provided key insights into Trump’s foreign meddling. However, the close 49-51 vote in the Senate blocked witnesses from being heard, meaning that Romney was unable to hear more context. Here, Romney almost points an additional finger of blame at his own party, saying that had the witnesses been allowed to testify, there would have been a possibility that he could have acquitted Trump.
7:05-7:08 – “I acknowledge that my verdict will not remove the President from office.”
By acknowledging that he is in the minority, Romney further justifies his character. The Senator understands that the vote will not do anything for him apart from hurting him in his own party, but he goes forward still voting for the guilty option because, in his mind, Trump has done unforgivable wrong.
7:29- 7:38 – “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.”
This line shows that the senator understands his responsibility well and affirms that though it was a tough decision, Romney is proud of his vote. Proud enough to even tell his grandchildren all about it.
Mitt Romney is forever bitter that he will never be POTUS. He was too weak to beat the Democrats then so he’s joining them now.
He’s now officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the @GOP.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 5, 2020
The reaction to Romney’s speech has been powerful, but the senator has gained a lot of support from Democrats and lost support from many Republicans. The President himself (aligning with Romney’s prediction of abuse) tweeted hate towards Romney, saying in one tweet, “Mitt Romney is forever bitter that he will never be POTUS. He was too weak to beat the Democrats then so he’s joining them now. He’s now officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the @GOP.”
The Utah Republican Party posted on Twitter too, saying they fully disagreed with the vote cast by Romney. Other Republican leaders, such as Mitch McConnell, also expressed their disappointment with the Senator.
"Refreshing" – a Utah voter on Mitt Romney's decision to vote his conscience to convict Trump.
— Grant Stern (@grantstern) February 9, 2020
But none of this really matters as much as one group of people will: Utah voters. While he is not up for re-election in 2020 (Romney’s term doesn’t expire until 2024), Romney understood that his decision could make a lasting dent in his reputation within his home state. As it turns out, that might not be the case. Despite predictions, Utah citizens don’t seem to be too bothered by Romney’s decision. Although his approval ratings did take a bit of a dip, many Utah residents respected his choice and said they’d consider voting for him again. The Senator’s chances are still up in the air for now.
Featured Image via Global News @0:42