After the final verdict from the Senate floor, President Donald Trump was officially acquitted, bringing 134 days of the impeachment trial to an end. Senate votes on both clauses of impeachment – Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress – fell far short of the 67 votes needed for the President’s removal.
In the end, Trump’s impeachment trial wasn’t much of a spectacle. Trump getting acquitted? Expected, considering Republican majority in the Senate. Senate votes dividing sharply along party lines? Also expected, especially when two Republican senators known as ‘moderates’ – Senator Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – openly rallied behind Trump. Even President Trump lashing out triumphant tweets after his acquittal was within expectations. The only thing not quite expected was Republican Senator Mitt Romney’s stand against Trump.
Romney stepped onto the Senate floor with less than two hours to vote and delivered a speech his fellow Republicans described as ‘surprising’ and ‘disappointing.’ Branding Trump’s actions as “wrong, grievously wrong,” he openly announced his vote to remove Trump. First he referred to the oath he had sworn, which states he will give ‘impartial justice according to the constitution’ as a senator-juror. He demonstrates how he took his duties and obligations seriously, describing the oath as “enormously consequential” concerning his religiousness and frequently referring to his faith. Then, he explained his process of deliberation by covering three key arguments posed by Trump’s defence team in detail. Scrutinising each argument, he finally faced the constitutional task: to convict or to vindicate.
Conviction was his answer. Romney concluded that Trump is “guilty of an appalling abuse of political trust,” describing his actions as a “flagrant assault on electoral rights, national security and fundamental values.” With this, Romney became the first senator in U.S. history to vote against his own party in an impeachment trial.
Rising against his own party evoked immediate returning fire. On Twitter. Donald Trump Jr. demanded Romney be expelled from the Republican Party, whilst President Trump joined mockery by recalling Romney’s loss against Barack Obama in 2012 election. Doubts and questions about the true intentions of Romney’s actions were also raised, as well as his bad blood with Trump. In the 2016 Republican presidential nomination process, Romney lambasted Trump, describing him as “the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics” and calling him a “fraud.” Whilst Romney pursued the role of Secretary of State after Trump’s election in 2016, he was disregarded after rounds of consideration by the president-elect.
Views among senators clashed throughout the impeachment trial. Blaming the House of Representatives and declaring its decisions as hasty and unsubstantiated, most Republican senators perceived due process as an arbitrary manipulation of the impeachment clause and a means of posing a political attack to thwart President Trump. They thus were urged to present a united front and make the due process swift and concise, without admitting additional witnesses and documents.
One blunt example was Republican Leader Mitch McConnell openly discarding impartiality which was stated in the oath he had sworn in. Senator McConnell said his role was not to be an “impartial juror” because “impeachment is a political decision.” Adamant about his view toward impeachment, he also added that, “there is no chance Trump would be removed from office.”
By contrast, Romney seemed to focus on historic values of the trial. Trump’s impeachment was itself an historical moment, being only the third time in American history that a president has faced impeachment. Romney was clearly aware that his decision would be a part of history, to be judged and referred to as a precedent for future generations. “The people will judge us for how well and faithfully we fulfil our duty,” said Romney, continuing, “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.”
Fulfilling his duty became a priority, to give ‘impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.’ This explains why he excessively emphasised the oath and supported it with great value. Consequently, he underscored his open-mindedness towards the proceedings, insisting that the Senate “put political biases aside, and make good faith efforts to listen to arguments from both sides and thoroughly review facts and evidences” in an email to people of Utah midst of the impeachment trial.
Knowing that his vote would be marginalised – and that he was unable to change the outcome of Trump’s acquittal – Romney still stayed devoted to his constitutional duty. At face value, he pursued impartiality and reserved judgements, while at the same time publicly communicating his reasoning. Even though the huge political win was Trump’s, Romney clearly made his mark in the impeachment process by juxtaposing and differentiating his approach, in contrast with the large majority of his Republican colleagues.
Image: Mario Tama / Politico