During an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Wednesday, Feb. 5, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that he was “surprised and disappointed” with Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) decision to vote to convict President Donald Trump of abuse of power, but acknowledged that he will need the GOP senator’s support on the next important votes.
“There’s always the next vote,” McConnell said. “Senator Romney on the whole has been supportive of what we’ve been trying to accomplish in the year that he’s been there.”
“I think this was a mistake,” he continued. “I disagree with it. On the other hand, we’ve got a lot more votes to cast between now and November and I’m going to need his support on a whole variety of things that are important to the president and to the country.”
The Senate on Wednesday afternoon overwhelmingly acquitted President Trump on both articles of impeachment against him: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Romney, who declared hours before the final vote that the president had engaged in as “destructive attack on the oath of office and our Constitution as I can imagine,” joined all Democrats to vote in favor of the impeachment on the first charge. He voted not guilty on the obstruction charge.
Romney earlier made clear that he wanted to hear from former National Security Adviser John Bolton in the Senate trial. He acknowledged in a Fox News interview that “it’s going to get very lonely” for him in the Republican Party afterward.
“I had to follow my conscience,” Romney said. “I understand there’s going to be an enormous consequence, and I don’t have a choice in that regard. That’s why—that’s why I haven’t been anxious to be in the position I’m in.”
“Yeah, again, I can’t let personal considerations, if you will, overwhelm my conscience and overwhelm my oath to God,” he added. “I mean, this for me is … well it’s the most difficult decision I’ve ever made in my life. There’s been nothing that compares to this.”
Romney’svote gave Democrats the ability to tout bipartisan support for impeachment and sparked a backlash from some Republicans including Donald Trump Jr. calling for the senator to be “expelled” from the party.
However, GOP senators indicated on Wednesday that they respected Romney’s decision and quickly ruled out any retribution against him.
“He made very clear on the witness vote that he could go his own way,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “He listened to everything and he just came to a different conclusion … we all know he’s a very independent person. And obviously we’re going to continue to work with him. There’s always another day and another vote.”
“The most important vote is the next one,” McConnell said, telling reporters that he was ready to move on.