Do hope many of my readers caught Sen. Mitt Romney’s speech on the Senate floor last week explaining why he would vote to convict Donald J. Trump of “high crimes and misdemeanors” in our nation’s third presidential impeachment trial. It’s available online via Google. Well worth viewing and listening to.
Choked up on camera before he could pull himself together and begin speaking, Romney came across as burdened by the hard message he was about to deliver, but genuine and conscience-bound.
He cited three reasons his fellow Republicans were giving for voting to exonerate Trump of the charges of abuse of power in withholding almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine until that country’s president tarnished Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden by announcing a corruption probe of Biden’s son, Hunter.
The latter had landed a cushy $50,000-a-month board seat on a Ukranian national gas company, Burisma, ostensibly because his dad was the U.S. vice president. Trump ended up being “caught in the act,” the military hardware was released, and the corruption announcement was never made.
GOP Reason No. 1 for exoneration: Trump had not committed “a statutory crime.”
Romney said such was not necessary and not included in the understanding of the phrase in constitutional history.
GOP Reason No. 2: Hunter Biden was guilty of corruption and deserved to be investigated.
Maybe so, Romney averred, but still the younger Biden had “committed no crime.”
GOP Reason No. 3: The Senate should leave judgment of Trump to the voters in the 2020 elections next November.
The senator from Utah quoted the Constitution as saying, “The House shall impeach and the Senate shall try,” adding, “It does not say if the president does something terribly wrong, leave it to the voters.”
Thus Romney, who was the party’s candidate for president in 2012 against Barack Obama, became the first person ever to vote to convict a president of his own party.
Solemn-faced, Romney told the few senators in their places but also millions of Americans watching on television: “The president’s purpose was personal and political. He is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust. 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.”
Ignoring the evidence against Trump presented by the House managers during the Senate trial, Romney said, “would expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.”
Personally, I found Romney’s message a breath of fresh air amid the stench of complicity in Trump’s villainy. I fell to clapping vigorously as Romney ended his speech.
“What Romney did will ring through the ages,” said longtime Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher on a cable TV news panel. And Jon Meacham, who teaches history at Vanderbilt, declared:
“There’s really no doubt how historians will view this. They will view Romney as right and all of his Senate Republican colleagues as wrong.”
Not a single Democratic senator voted to acquit Trump, though pundits had thought perhaps Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Doug Jones, D-Ala., might be leaning that way because of their constituents’ adulation of Trump. Romney’s stirring speech may well have stiffened the backbones of both Manchin and Jones, for all anyone knew. And that speech will echo through the campaigns right up to November.