You know he knows. You know Mitt Romney knows that the guy sitting next to him in the photo above is unfit to serve as president of the United States of America. There’s no question that, in the brain that sits beneath the coif of hair that is far more presidential than Trump’s, Romney knows.
And while we’ve long known that The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote is unfit to serve, the newest information revealed by the ongoing impeachment inquiry has made it even more clear that his actions as president have gone beyond the point where anyone looking at the matter objectively could deny that he must be removed from office. And yet, he may well not be. Sen. Romney knows this as well. The real question is: What will he do about it?
Yes, Romney has offered some words of criticism regarding Trump and Ukraine. Hell, that’s more than most Republicans on Capitol Hill have done. On the other hand, that’s really not saying very much. But he gets some credit for doing that. And Romney did go after Trump on the immoral, credibility-destroying, and—to paraphrase Tom Cruise’s character from A Few Good Men—“galactically stupid” decision to abandon our Kurdish allies in Syria.
It’s unthinkable that Turkey would not suffer consequences for malevolent behavior which was contrary to the interests of the United States and our friends.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) October 23, 2019
On the floor of the Senate, Romney went even further: “What we have done to the Kurds will stand as a blood stain in the annals of American history.”
So you can’t say that Romney has done absolutely nothing. And hey, he did give birth to Pierre Delecto.
But I’m sorry, the American people are going to need a little more from Utah’s junior senator—a guy who got over one full percentage point more in the popular vote in 2012 (47.2%) than the current occupant of the White House got in 2016 (46.1%). With all due respect to Joe Walsh and Bill Weld—and it’s great that they are challenging Trump for the 2020 Republican nomination—they haven’t exactly gained what you might call traction in that race.
And, just for the record: Pierre Delecto? Really? The name is bad enough—it sounds like a French porn star from the François Mitterand era—but what exactly is the purpose of having a sock puppet Twitter account in which one does little more than, as one pundit put it, “stick up for yourself and like your own tweets”?
Let’s return to the substance of impeachment. What we heard from Ambassador Bill Taylor this week, namely well-documented testimony from a career public servant who has worked under presidents of both parties, about the clear quid pro quo the White House demanded from Ukraine has to be the last straw for anyone with principles. Of course, whether Romney or any other Republican not only has such principles but is also willing to act on them is the matter at hand.
Either way, it appears that America will get even more corroboration of the quid pro quo next week, when National Security Council official Tim Morrison—who has been subpoenaed by the House—is expected to testify. Morrison has already confirmed that he will defy any attempt by Trump to stop him from appearing. Who is Morrison exactly?:
Morrison was also a crucial figure identified Tuesday by Trump’s ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, as a witness to Trump’s effort to withhold military aid from Ukraine in order to bend Zelensky to his will.
Taylor testified that on Sept. 1, Morrison told him about a conversation he witnessed between Trump’s E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland and a senior Ukrainian government official. In that conversation, Taylor said Morrison told him, Sondland informed the official that hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Ukraine were dependent on the opening of political investigations.
Taylor also said Morrison spoke to him on Sept. 7 about another conversation with Sondland. In that conversation, per Taylor’s recounting, Sondland revealed he had spoken directly with Trump about Ukraine and that Trump insisted that Zelensky should publicly declare the political investigations himself, rather than leaving it to subordinates. According to Taylor, Morrison said he then relayed details of the call to then-national security adviser John Bolton as well as NSC lawyers.
Trump did it. He asked a foreign government to help him win re-election, and made clear he’d punish them if they didn’t. Romney himself, a few days ago, said that Trump’s effort to get Ukraine to start an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter was “shocking … and a mistake … I can’t imagine coming to a different point of view.”
Okay, so are you going to rely on the principles of your Senate GOP colleagues to go along with impeachment and removal? I don’t know that even he thinks that has a chance of working. Romney admitted that the reason many Republicans are standing with Trump is that “people want to hang onto their job.” Clearly, he doesn’t think much of their principles.
On a related note, what better demonstration do you need of the general lack of principles congressional Republicans possess than a stunt in which a few dozen of them made a huge show of demanding access to an impeachment-related proceeding that—wait for it—half of the people in the protest, along with a number of other members of their party, already had access to? And, to put some pepperoni on that pizza, they deliberately and, almost with glee in some cases, compromised national security during said stunt by bringing electronic devices into a secure room.
I’ve called out Romney before, asking him to step up his criticisms of Trump. And yes, he has said he’s open to voting for removal. One can understand why he wouldn’t commit to that yet, until there’s an actual vote to impeach or at least we’ve had the public hearings that are, despite what the idiots who pulled the aforementioned stunt are bleating about, coming soon enough in the House of Representatives.
After the American people watch those hearings, Donald Trump is going to be impeached. When he goes on trial in the Senate, Romney will have the opportunity to vote to remove him. He’ll also have the opportunity to persuade his fellow Republicans to do the same. But he has the opportunity—no, the duty—to do something arguably more powerful.
Sen. Romney can stand up right now and say that there is no way this man is fit to be our president. He can say that Trump’s unfitness is manifest, and that he is a danger to our constitutional democracy. He can say that Americans should put country first (yes, he should consciously echo John McCain’s campaign slogan).
But Romney should also say that the Republican Party’s future is at stake here, and it will be even further stained if Republicans re-nominate this president. He should say that the time has come for those Republicans who see the truth, and who love our country, to join together and fight Donald Trump for control of their party. Mitt Romney should say that he’s running for president.
Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)