He likely will be the only Republican to vote in favor of conviction after the Senate’s impeachment trial. The Senate will vote at 4 p.m. ET, with a likely vote to acquit.
In his speech in a nearly empty Senate chamber, Romney said that “the grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so egregious that it rises to the level of high crime and misdemeanor. Yes, he did.”
He said that he is “aware 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’m sure to hear 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 of me?”
At one point Romney paused for more than ten seconds, as he seemed ready to choke up in talking about how his faith informed his decision. “My faith is the heart of who I am,” he said.
No Republicans were in the chamber for the entirety of his speech. Roger Wicker of Mississippi walked out. Three Democrats, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, were present. About a dozen reporters were in the press gallery, and more joined as it became clear that he was defying expectations that he would vote to acquit. After he finished, some journalists shook their heads in amazement.
Before Romney took to the floor, he spoke with Chris Wallace on Fox News about his decision, and told him that he understands he will get blowback from Trump.
Romney said, “I understand it will be substantial and I have to recognize that it was one or the other. One is to say, I don’t want to face the blowback, I don’t want to — whether it not just from the president, but from my Party, from my state, from Republican voters. They’ll ascribe all sorts of motives and so forth, and those are all the consequences.
“But on the other side, there is do you do what you know is right? Do you do what your – your conscience and your heart tells you? Do you, do you abide by the oath that you swore to God? And I believe in God, and I believe I have a responsibility to put that first and to put all those other consequences well behind.”
With his vote, Romney will become the first senator to vote to remove a president of his own party from office.
Very quickly, Trump’s supporters bashed Romney’s decision. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that Romney “should be expelled from the Senate GOP conference.”
Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee and Romney’s niece, wrote, “This is not the first time I have disagreed with Mitt, and I imagine it will not be the last. The bottom line is President Trump did nothing wrong, and the Republican party is more united than ever behind him.”