Former GOP Senator Rick Santorum said that Senator Mitt Romney’s decision to break with his political party and vote with Democrats to convict President Donald Trump would make “vulnerable Republicans more vulnerable.”
On Wednesday, Romney, a Utah Republican, became the first senator in U.S. history to vote to remove a president who was from the lawmaker’s own party. He was the sole Republican to cross party lines with his vote on the abuse of power charge. The impeachment removal did not succeed, as the GOP-controlled chamber easily acquitted the president on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“Most of his colleagues are not going to be particularly happy with him,” Santorum, who represented Pennsylvania in the Senate, told CNN on Thursday. “As [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell said yesterday, this was not as much to go out and get Donald Trump but was to get control of the Senate and try to defeat a handful of Republicans who are up for re-election,” the former lawmaker said.
“I think Mitt Romney voting with the Democrats on this really makes these vulnerable Republicans more vulnerable,” Santorum continued. “I think that’s where the pushback inside the caucus is going to be a lot harder on him.”
Romney’s decision quickly drew criticism from President Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr.
“Mitt Romney is forever bitter that he will never be POTUS. He was too weak to beat the Democrats then so he’s joining them now,” Trump Jr. tweeted. “He’s now officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the @GOP.”
The president then tweeted out a bizarre conspiratorial video accusing Romney, who was the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, of somehow being a “Democrat secret asset.”
“Had failed presidential candidate @MittRomney devoted the same energy and anger to defeating a faltering Barack Obama as he sanctimoniously does to me, he could have won the election,” Trump added in a later post.
In his remarks ahead of the Senate vote, Romney argued that the president was “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.”
“What he did was not perfect. No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values,” the senator said. “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.”
Trump faced impeachment after it was revealed that he wanted Ukraine to announce investigations that the president allegedly believed would be damaging to presidential candidate Joe Biden and other Democrats. The Democrats argued that this amounted to having a foreign government interfere in a U.S. election, and Romney agreed that this was an abuse of power and warranted Trump’s removal.
Democrats had hoped that several Republicans facing difficult re-elections would join them in voting against the president. In the end, all the GOP lawmakers voted to acquit except for Romney, who does not face re-election until 2024.