Citing his religious faith and the judgment of history, Utah Senator Mitt Romney broke Wednesday with other Republican senators who have defended President Trump, and voted to convict the impeached president on Article 1, which deals with abuse of power.
In a speech on the Senate floor announcing his decision, Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, called Trump’s actions “perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of oath of office that I can imagine.”
The controversial, divisive Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for his actions in the Ukraine scandal, in which he allegedly pressured that country for help in the 2020 election. His trial in the Senate drew to a close Wednesday with Senators making statements ahead of a 4 p.m. vote. The Republican president was ultimately acquitted on both articles of impeachment in the Republican-dominated Senate.
Romney voted with fellow Republicans against convicting Trump on the obstruction of Congress charge, but stunned many observers by becoming the lone Republican vote to convict Trump on the abuse of power charge.
“The president’s purpose was personal and political. Accordingly, the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust,” Romney said.
“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.
He said he knew from the outset it would be the “most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.”
He said he supported many of Trump’s policies, but “my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and political biases aside.”
“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,” he said.
Romney said that he had received calls and letters demanding that he “stand with the team” and that he knew, “in some quarters I will be vehemently denounced,” and he expected abuse from the president and his supporters.
“Does anyone seriously believe that I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?” said Romney, who is a Mormon.
“My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate, but irrespective of these things, 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,” he said.
“I will only be one name among many, no more, no less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial," Romney said. "They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the president did was wrong. Grievously wrong.”
“We are all footnotes at best in the annals of history, but in the most powerful nation on earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that distinction is enough for any citizen,” he said.
Romney’s decision sparked an immediate and intense outcry among Trump’s supporters. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, called for Romney to be “expelled” from the GOP.
But Romney’s vote was hailed by many Democrats as an example of unflinching political courage from a Republican they have long battled.
Presidential historian Jon Meacham said Romney is an “emblem of what so many of us feared was an entirely vanished kind of moderate voice that is guided by reason and not passion. What he did was in the tradition of Dwight Eisenhower, his own father [the late Michigan governor George Romney], and George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford.”
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.
Martin finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.