ALL NEWS

Romney wants to call witnesses, impeachment gives him a chance to assert Senate clout

Jan 29, 2020, 6:21 AM
Romney...
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, arrives as defense arguments by the Republicans resume in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s Mitt Romney’s big moment, again.

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee has for a year been a freshman senator from Utah. He’s sitting in judgment of the president he has called unfit for office. And he’s defying President Donald Trump by calling for one witness in particular, former national security adviser John Bolton, as the Senate weighs the impeachment allegations against the nation’s 45th president.

The trial is a chance for Romney to wield influence in the Senate as an independent GOP voice — or become one of the Republicans standing by the president when it’s time to be counted. For now, the Utah senator has been clear about wanting more than the manuscript of Bolton’s book, which alleges that Trump directly linked the release of military aid to Ukraine’s willingness to investigate Democrats.

“I’d rather hear from Mr. Bolton,” Romney, 72, told reporters Tuesday.

He may yet get the chance. On Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Republicans in a closed session that they lacked the 51 votes to block the 100-member Senate from calling any witnesses. A motion to call them would pass if Romney and at least three other Republicans voted with all Democrats.

It’s far from clear whether Bolton or other witnesses end up testifying before the Senate, or whether Romney, in the end, votes with other Republicans to acquit Trump. Right now, Romney is focused on witnesses, not party, said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

“I don’t believe that he believes he has broken ranks with the party,” Perry said. “I believe he thinks he is helping the party, because he believes he is fulfilling the constitutional role of being an unbiased juror.”

The vote math is one of the factors that makes impeachment a rich opportunity for Romney to elevate his status as a rare independent voice in the Trump-dominated Republican Party. Another is the fact that Romney is as safe as a Republican can be under the payback-loving president. He isn’t up for reelection for nearly five years.

Utah is polarized over Trump, but not between Republicans and Democrats. Even as “Never Trumpers” have faded nationally, a strong current of discomfort with the president remains in polite, immigrant-welcoming Utah.

Also, Romney has survived Trump’s attacks, some profane, before. Trump used crude terms to describe Romney’s appeal for an endorsement in 2012. In the heat of the 2016 GOP presidential primary, Romney delivered a speech in which he said Trump “lacks the temperament to be president,” is a “fraud” and, on an assortment of issues, “very, very not smart.”

Trump never forgot it. Victory in hand over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump said he was considering nominating Romney for secretary of state. Romney met him for an awkward dinner that produced awkward photographs. Later, Trump said he never really considered Romney for the post.

“Mitt Romney never knew how to win. He is a pompous ‘ass’ who has been fighting me from the beginning,” Trump tweeted last year.

Asked last week whether he can really be unbiased after that last crack, Romney dismissed it as irrelevant.

Going against Trump is “a risk for any Republican. Mitt Romney is familiar with that. He can handle it,” said Sarah Longwell, executive director of Republicans for the Rule of Law. She said the group is spending more than $1 million on ads this week calling for witnesses.

But in contrast to the ads in places like Colorado, where Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is in a tight reelection race, the ads running in Utah aren’t focused on just Romney, Longwell said. One goal, she said, is to “educate his constituents” on why he wants witnesses to testify.

“This is Ambassador John Bolton,” intones the narrator over a photo of Bolton with his mouth taped shut. “Are Senate Republicans willing to do their duty to listen?”

There’s been a bit of blowback.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., tweeted Monday that Romney “wants to appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander” the president.

Inside the Senate, Romney is part of the whip, or vote-counting, team. But there’s scant evidence that he’s giving, or getting, any lobbying about witnesses. After the defense rested on Tuesday, Senate Republican whip John Thune ambled over to Romney’s seat in the back row, two chairs from the corner, just before the big meeting in McConnell’s office. The two chatted for a few seconds.

The president’s defense team has showed little if any interest in pressing Romney on the Senate floor. And an official close to the senator said there is no lobbying effort afoot on Romney’s part.

Romney’s conduct in the chamber would seem to support that. He’s mostly sat, or stood by his chair, taking notes and occasionally chatting with seatmates Mike Braun of Indiana and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.

Romney is famously a sticker for rules. Technically, only water and milk are allowed on the Senate floor. On Tuesday, Romney was seen with a bottle of chocolate milk, from the Brigham Young University creamery. But a bottle is against the rules. He was later seen with what looked like chocolate milk in a glass.

___

Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

___

Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman

Today’s Top Stories

All News

avalanche in Utah is pictured...
Mark Jones

Avalanche warning issued in Utah through Saturday morning

On Thursday afternoon, an Avalanche Warning was issued by the Utah Avalanche Center through Saturday morning at 6 a.m.
20 hours ago
shops along 2100 S...
Hugo Rikard-Bell

Sugar House locals worry 2100 South poses threat to safety and business

As Salt Lake City prepares to rebuild 2100 South, local businesses in Sugar House are asking that safety for foot traffic be a top priority.
20 hours ago
UTA confrontation...
Mark Jones

Confrontation with bicyclist sends UTA bus driver to hospital

UTA officials say a confrontation between a bicyclist and a UTA bus driver resulted in the bus driver suffering a broken hip and being hospitalized.
20 hours ago
FILE - In a May 19, 2015 file photo, R. Scott Turner, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Me...
Curt Gresseth

Who are SuperAgers and are you one?

The public policy director with the Utah Alzheimer's Association describes the characteristics of so-called SuperAgers and what everyone can do now to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
20 hours ago
Weber State University will offer TheDream.US scholarships to Utah immigrant youth who want to atte...
Simone Seikaly

Utah immigrant youth to benefit from new Weber State scholarship

The scholarships for Utah immigrant youth are offered through TheDream.US, which helps DREAMers get into college.
20 hours ago
U of U police captain Brian Lohrke is pictured talking about the hidden cameras found at the U...
Adam Small

U of U community reacts to discovery of hidden cameras in campus bathrooms

U of U students are reeling after learning about the hidden cameras found in two bathrooms at the school's Student Life Center.
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Romney wants to call witnesses, impeachment gives him a chance to assert Senate clout