U.S. President Donald Trump‘s most ardent supporters are calling for Sen. Mitt Romney, himself a former Republican presidential candidate, to be booted from the party after voting to impeach the POTUS for election interference.
The senator from Utah became the first lawmaker ever to vote in favour of impeaching a president from his own party on Wednesday when he sided with Democrats on one of their two charges. Romney voted to impeach Trump for election interference but not for obstruction of Congress. Trump was ultimately acquitted on both charges in a vote that otherwise broke down along party lines in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Romney, who is a devout Mormon, explained before the vote that his decision was based on all senators’ impeachment oath to render “impartial justice” before God.
“I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am,” Romney said in a televised statement before pausing amid a swell of emotion.
“The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme, so egregious, that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanour,” Romney said. “Yes, he did.”
Romney’s stunning break from the otherwise Trump-controlled Republican Party triggered a flood of partisan reaction from both sides.
One of the president’s adult sons, Donald Trump Jr., painted Romney as a member of the anti-Trump “resistance” and called for him to be expelled from the Republican Party.
Others compared Romney to infamous traitor Benedict Arnold and accused him of breaking with the party to seize a moment of glory.
Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, Romney’s niece, declared her explicit support for Trump over her uncle in a tweet on Wednesday.
Romney won resounding praise from many Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff, who led the team that presented the House’s case for impeaching the president.
“Having proven Trump guilty, I asked if there was just one Republican Senator who would say ‘enough,'” Schiff tweeted. “And there is.”
Several late-night hosts hailed Romney for taking a stand against Trump, even in the face of the expected backlash.
“Hearing Mitt Romney take his oath to God seriously was like finding water in the desert,” Stephen Colbert said during his monologue on The Late Show.
“The Republicans privately are horrified by Donald Trump and want something, someone to do something to stop him. But they don’t have the balls to say that out loud when it matters. That’s why an oath is important.”
Many who supported Romney’s decision hailed him for standing up to Trump.
Romney could pay for his split from Trump when he comes up for re-election in Utah, but that won’t happen until 2024.
Nevertheless, Trump and his team have already started attacking Romney in an effort to punish him for his supposed disloyalty.
Trump tweeted a conspiracy theory-laden attack ad about Romney on Wednesday, which alleged that he “posed as a Republican” while being a “Democrat secret asset.” The ad did not provide any evidence of its claim.
Google data shows many U.S. users were searching for Romney’s email address in the wake of his speech. Several popular search terms also appeared to show Romney being roped into the latest far-right conspiracy theories around Burisma. (The Ukrainian energy company was at the centre of Trump’s alleged effort to get dirt on Joe Biden, and the impeachment process that followed.)
The president appeared to unleash on Romney at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, without specifically mentioning his name.
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” Trump said.
Trump continued his attacks on Romney in a celebratory address in front of his Republican allies on Thursday. Trump suggested that Romney “used religion as a crutch,” without specifically naming him.
“It’s a failed presidential candidate,” Trump said. “So, things can happen when you fail so badly running for president.”
Romney told Fox News on Wednesday that he doesn’t “dislike” Trump, and that he agrees with him about 80 percent of the time. He’s also prepared to handle the wrath of Trump and his allies over something he believes was “grievously wrong.”
“I’ve got broad enough shoulders to be able to weather personal changes in my career, political or otherwise, but what I don’t have is the capacity to ignore my conscience.”