Senators cast votes on Wednesday ultimately exonerating President Donald Trump on two impeachment charges, and one Republican voted against party lines to convict Trump of one charge.
While Sen. Mitt Romney did vote with fellow Republicans to acquit Trump on the second charge for “obstruction of congress,” he was the sole Republican to cross party lines in support of voting to convict on the initial charge of “abuse of power.”
On Wednesday, Romney delivered a letter to the individual mailboxes of each of his fellow Republicans, explaining his decision ahead of the vote. Axios obtained and reported on a copy of that letter.
The full text of Romney’s letter reads:
As a Senator-juror, I swore an oath, before God, to exercise “impartial justice.” I am a profoundly religious person. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the President, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.
Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and disruptive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.
I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters, I will be vehemently denounced. I am sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?
As it is with each senator, my vote is an act of conviction. We have come to different conclusions, fellow senators, but I trust we have all followed the dictates of our conscience.
Romney did vote to convict Trump on a charge of “abuse of power.” The impeachment charge stems from allegations Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate claims former Vice President Joe Biden withheld a billion dollars in foreign aid unless Ukraine fired a prosecutor who was investigating his son’s oil company.
Romney indicated he agreed with the Democrats’ case that Trump was wrong and amounted to “corrupting an election.” Trump’s lawyers during the impeachment trial noted, by contrast, that Ukrainian government officials never felt pressured to investigate Biden and that no link between aid and an investigation of Biden was ever officially communicated to the Ukrainian government.
In his letter, Romney appears to acknowledge the backlash he expected for crossing party lines to vote in favor of Trump’s conviction. He indicated he felt the need to convict as a matter of religious conviction.
Trump and Romney have had some history of mutual criticism. During the 2016 Republican primaries, Romney gave a speech in which he called Trump a “fraud” and urged Republicans not to select him as the presidential nominee. Following Trump’s election in 2016, Romney appeared to regain favor with Trump, and was under consideration to become his Secretary of State; though Trump eventually chose someone else for the job.
While the vote fell far short of the super-majority 67 votes required to remove an impeached president, Romney’s decision has received praise from Democratic politicians who in turn described their vote to remove Trump as a bipartisan effort.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested in March that impeachment should be a bipartisan effort. She had indicated apprehension towards following the impeachment process for several months before agreeing to begin the process in September.
“Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country,” Pelosi said of impeachment at the time.
Opposition to impeachment was also bipartisan in the House of Representatives, though no Senate Democrats voted to acquit Trump in their votes on Wednesday.