Mitt Romney breaks ranks, will vote to convict Donald Trump

Then Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at the Wisconsin Products Pavilion at State Fair Park on Nov. 2, 2012 in West Allis, Wis. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Then Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at the Wisconsin Products Pavilion at State Fair Park on Nov. 2, 2012 in West Allis, Wis.

Sen. Mitt Romney's (R-Utah) relationship with Donald Trump has been ... complicated. In 2012, when Trump's political persona was defined by his support for a racist conspiracy theory, Romney welcomed and accepted his support for Romney's presidential campaign. A few years later, when Trump was leading his own bid for national office, Romney spearheaded Republican opposition to the New Yorker's candidacy.

After the 2016 campaign, Romney nevertheless met with Trump about a leading cabinet post, which the president-elect dangled for a while, before ultimately leaving Romney empty-handed.

The peaks and valleys have continued during Trump's tenure in the White House, and as recently as October, the president called for Romney's "impeachment." (In our system of government, there is no such thing as impeaching a senator, though the president doesn't know that.)

It's probably safe to say their relationship is about to reach the point of no return.

Sen. Mitt Romney announced Wednesday he would vote to remove President Donald Trump from office -- making the former GOP president nominee the only Republican to say he will vote to convict the president ahead of the day's historic vote on two articles of impeachment.Romney, R-Utah, said in a speech on the Senate floor that he would vote to convict the president for abuse of power and to acquit on the obstruction of Congress charge."I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice," he said. "I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am," adding that he believed Trump was "guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust."

"The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor," Romney declared. "Yes, he did."

The GOP senator added, "Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history's rebuke, and the censure of my own conscience."

The Utah Republican will be the first senator in American history to ever vote to convict a president of his own party in an impeachment trial.

In the process, Romney has brought a degree of embarrassment to his GOP colleagues -- who apparently remain unconcerned about exposing their character to history's rebuke and the censure of their own consciences.

This took no small amount of courage. The pressures being applied to Senate Republicans have been ferocious, and for Romney to stand alone, indifferent to the consequences, will help etch his name into historical stone.

As a practical matter, the Utahan's vote will not change the outcome in any material way. It takes 67 votes in the Senate to convict a president and remove him or her from office, and in Trump's case, that meant at least 20 GOP senators would've had to take the evidence of the president's guilt seriously. That was never a likelihood.

But the White House made it painfully clear to Republicans everywhere that Trump expected unflinching loyalty, regardless of the practical consequences. The president didn't just want an acquittal, he wanted a talking point: Trump hoped to spend the rest of his life publishing tweets about unanimous Republican opposition to his impeachment. He wanted a dynamic in which the entire effort could be permanently branded as a "partisan," one-party exercise.

And now, a lone red-state senator, unable to look past the truth, has taken that away.

Trump will not be kind to Mitt Romney, but history will be.