Senator Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, described former President Donald Trump’s actions surrounding the January 6 insurrection against the U.S. Capitol as “impeachable offenses,” while asserting that the pending Senate trial is “constitutional.”
A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on January 6 in a violent attempt to prevent the certification of President Joe Biden’s win in the Electoral College. Five people died in the riot, which temporarily delayed the certification process. Ahead of the insurrection, Trump urged his supporters at a nearby rally to “fight like hell” to keep him in office, instructing them to march to the legislative building. The former president misled many of his supporters to believe that the election was stolen through widespread fraud, a baseless claim that has been thoroughly debunked and discredited.
The House of Representatives voted on January 13 to impeach Trump a second time for helping to incite the insurrection. Ten Republican lawmakers joined their Democratic colleagues in voting to impeach the president. Now the Senate will begin an impeachment trial in February to determine whether Trump should be convicted and potentially barred from elected office in the future.
Romney discussed the impeachment process and the president’s actions during Sunday interviews with CNN’s State of the Union and Fox News Sunday.
He went on to point out that Trump’s actions ahead of the insurrection were part of a pattern of attempting to “corrupt the election.”
Romney pushed back against concerns raised by some conservatives that holding an impeachment trial after a president has left office is unconstitutional.
“I’ve read a number of law review articles, and I think if you put aside the partisan columns if you will that are written in various publications and look at those that are written by academics, you’ll find that the preponderance of the legal opinion is that an impeachment trial after someone has left office is constitutional,” he said. “I believe that’s the case,” he added, but noted that he will listen to what lawyers on both sides have to say during the trial.
“I think it’s pretty clear that over the last year or so there has been an effort to corrupt the election of the United States and it was not by President Biden, it was by President Trump,” he said. However, Romney would not commit to voting to convict Trump, saying he plans to listen to the arguments presented during the trial before making his decision.
Newsweek reached out to Romney’s press secretary for further comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
The Utah Republican already voted to convict Trump last February after the then-president was impeached by the House of Representatives for pressuring Ukraine to announce an investigation into Biden while withholding military aid to the country. Romney was the lone Republican to vote alongside Democrats, who alleged Trump’s actions amounted to a corrupt effort to solicit a foreign government to interfere in a U.S. election.
While some Republicans have criticized the former president and condemned his actions ahead of the January 6 riot, it’s unclear whether there is enough GOP support in the Senate to convict Trump. The upper chamber of Congress is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, with both caucuses holding 50 seats each. In order for Trump to be convicted, a two-thirds majority of senators must back the decision. If all senators are present for the vote, that would mean 17 Republicans would need to vote against Trump.
Several other Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have been highly critical of Trump and blamed him directly for the January 6 insurrection. However, a number of others have voiced opposition to the impeachment trial.
“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said last Tuesday during a Senate floor speech. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”
Senator Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, told NBC News’ Meet the Press on Sunday that he did not believe the Constitution allowed for the Senate to convict a president that has left office. He described whether or not Trump committed impeachable offenses as “a moot point,” arguing that the legislative body should be working on other priorities.
A number of other Republican lawmakers and some legal scholars have argued that a president cannot be convicted once she or he has left office. But most constitutional experts believe that it is acceptable for the trial to move forward.
“The clear weight of history, original understanding and congressional practice bolsters the case for concluding that the end of Donald Trump’s presidency would not end his Senate trial,” Laurence Tribe, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School wrote in a recent opinion article for The Washington Post.