After the U.S. Senate voted to acquit President Donald Trump, much of the press covered Mitt Romney’s decision to vote to convict.
On Feb. 5, the United States Senate voted to acquit President Donald Trump on both articles of impeachment. The votes totaled 52-48 regarding abuse of power and 53-47 on obstruction of Congress. This vote immediately follows a controversial State of the Union address that took place the night before on Feb. 4. Although this result was widely expected, it marked a notable defection as a Republican senator became the first in history to vote to remove a president from his own party.
Senator Mitt Romney grabbed headlines following an emotional speech, during which he described his deeply religious convictions and laid out his reasoning for voting to remove Trump: “The President asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival … withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so … delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders … [his] purpose was personal and political.”
Romney continued, “Accordingly, the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust. What he did was not ‘perfect’ — no, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests and our fundamental values. 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.”
The speech prompted backlash among Senate Republicans, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressing his disappointment in an interview on Fox News. Despite this disappointment, he dismissed any rumors of party-sanctioned consequences for Romney.
“Senator Romney on the whole has been supportive of what we’ve been trying to accomplish in the year that he’s been there. I think this was a mistake,” McConnell said. “I disagree with it. On the other hand, we’ve got a lot more votes to cast between now and November, and I’m going to need his support on a whole variety of things that are important to the president and to the country.”
President Trump, however, was not so forgiving. Trump proceeded to attack Romney both on Twitter and at two separate public appearances following the vote. He began by mocking Romney’s failed presidential run in 2012 through a series of tweets, and eventually decrying those that “use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.”
The latter of these attacks coming from Trump during the National Prayer Breakfast, a traditionally bipartisan event that counted both Romney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in attendance.
However, Romney was not the only subject of ridicule for the president. Speaker Pelosi drew the ire of Republicans following the State of the Union for two reasons: first, in her cold introduction of the president before his speech and in her visible tearing of Trump’s speech immediately after. The latter of which prompted particularly intense outcry, with some House Republicans seeking legal action against the Speaker for the destruction of public records.
Immediately following the Prayer Breakfast, Pelosi condemned Trump’s attacks on Romney and the Democratic Party: “This morning the president said when people use faith as an excuse to do bad things … [it] was just so completely inappropriate, especially at a prayer breakfast.”
Pelosi had also referenced her faith in matters related to the president, after a reporter questioned her motivations for impeaching Trump. These retaliatory statements from Trump exemplify the concerns of opponents, as the potential grows for actions against his perceived political opponents.