Day 1,112: Mitt Romney’s vote to convict Trump on impeachment charges took courage; Doug Jones’ took far more

Feb 6 · 3 min read

Donald Trump was predictably acquitted of impeachment charges by the Senate Wednesday, in a trial that was rigged from day one.

The trial made history in that it was the Senate’s first ever impeachment trial to not call a single witness after Republicans blocked the ability to subpoena witnesses or documents. Wednesday, the trial made history again, though not the kind Trump was hoping for. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) became the first senator to vote to remove a president of his own party from office. Romney noted Trump’s “flagrant assault” on the U.S.’s “fundamental values” by extorting a foreign nation to investigate his political rival and withholding funds from an ally at war for personal and political gain.

Romney readily admitted the backlash for his vote would be significant from conservatives, but noted his oath of office and pledge to uphold the Constitution compelled to vote to convict on the abuse of power charges. He also noted the White House’s total and complete lack of defense to the charges presented.

Romney easily could have remained silent, done nothing and followed 52 cowardly Republican senators’ steps where they largely admitted Trump’s actions were wrong and even impeachable — as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said — but vote to acquit anyway. There was real honor in doing the right thing and he deserves plenty of praise for doing something that he knew would make him something of a pariah.

But Romney isn’t up for reelection for four more years. He represents a state that isn’t particularly fond of Trump. His net worth runs into the nine figures and he can easily self-fund a campaign or retire or do whatever else he wants in life. He’s been governor of a pretty blue state in Massachusetts, been the Republican nominee for president in 2012 and is unlikely to have a political stop after his current one.

Juxtapose Romney with Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL). Elected in 2017 via special election by the skin of his teeth in deep red Alabama, Jones capitalized off Republicans nominating Roy Moore, a man whose sexual misconduct allegations, including those against minors, have earned their own Wikipedia page.

Jones is the only Democratic senator running in a state Trump won in 2016. He is far and away the most vulnerable Democrat and his seat is the most likely of all Senate seats to flip in 2020.

Jeff Sessions is almost certain to be Jones’ opponent. It was Sessions’ seat that Jones took after Trump tapped Sessions for a brief and ill-fated tenure as attorney general. Jones could have tried to capitalize off Trump’s rocky relationship with Sessions, where any Trump endorsement will be tempered. Jones could have tried to play the part of right-leaning Democrat in an effort to eke out another election.

After all, Jones doesn’t have $100 million in the bank. His political prospects outside a Senate seat in Alabama are slim. His presumed opponent has name recognition and Trump is well-liked in Alabama.

But Jones voted to convict Trump on both counts anyway, destroying Trump’s dream scenario of a “bipartisan acquittal.” (Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) also voted to convict, but, like Romney, he isn’t up for reelection until 2024 and there have been persistent rumors that he is unlikely to seek another term after his current one end.) Jones followed his campaign promise to look at every vote on its merits.

For Trump, bipartisanship went against him, with members of both parties voting to convict Trump.

1,112 days in, 350 to go

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