Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, says he will vote to convict President Trump in the Senate's impeachment trial on abuse of power, the first GOP defection ahead of Trump’s expected acquittal.

Citing his deep faith and oath to God, Romney said he asked whether Trump’s actions to pressure Ukraine amounted to a high crime and misdemeanor.

“Yes, they did,” Romney said in a speech on the Senate floor.

“The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust,” he said.


An emotional Romney got choked up announcing his decision and took a long pause to regain his composure.

“What he did was not perfect. No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values," Romney 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.”

Romney will vote ‘yes’ the first article of impeachment on abuse of power, but ‘no’ on the second article of obstruction of Congress, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Romney and Trump have a long and complicated history of being allies and foes.

Trump endorsed Romney for president in 2012 at a showy press conference in Las Vegas.

“Mitt is tough, he’s sharp, he’s smart,” Trump said at the time.

Romney didn’t return the favor and instead delivered a remarkable speech in 2016 on how Trump shouldn’t become president, calling him a “fraud” and a “phony.”

Romney later said he voted for his wife, Ann, for president in 2016.

Trump routinely took hits at the former GOP nominee saying he “choked” in 2012 and chiding him as a loser who couldn’t beat President Obama.

Romney’s niece, Ronna Romney, got high praise from Trump for helping deliver Michigan to him in 2016 when she was the state’s GOP party chairwoman. But when Trump wanted her to become chairwoman of the national party, Ronna stopped using her maiden name and went by Ronna McDaniel.

She tweeted Wednesday that she disagrees with her uncle's impeachment decision and stands with Trump.

During the transition period, Trump seemed to toy with Mitt Romney and courted him at Trump Tower. The two were photographed at a private dinner in Manhattan as Trump dangled the secretary of state position for Romney, who seemed all too willing to serve his country.

Trump ultimately didn’t tap Romney for any spot.

Utah’s longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch, meanwhile, was a top ally of Trump and lavished praise on the commander-in-chief as being among the best presidents.

When Romney ran to succeed the retiring Hatch, however, he made clear that he wanted to be an independent voice. During his Senate bid, Romney softened his rhetoric on Trump and even earned Trump’s endorsement again.

Utahans have respected Romney as the first Mormon major-party presidential nominee and for saving the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Voters handily elected Romney to the Senate in 2018 even though he made clear he wasn’t going to be Trump’s yes man. Romney pledged to speak up in the face of what he deemed uncivil behavior, dishonesty and destruction of democratic institutions.

During his first year in office he’s worked with Trump, but at times been critical.

His disagreements with Trump boiled over during impeachment. Romney was one of two GOP defections to vote in favor of calling witnesses to the trial like former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the other – two short of the necessary majority to extend the trial.

Collins already said she’d vote to acquit arguing Trump has learned from impeachment.


Despite being the third president in history impeached, Trump’s overall approval rating has shot up to 49 percent, according to Gallup.

But Trumpism had been slow to catch on in Utah. Trump won just 45 percent of the vote in 2016 and independent Utah resident Evan McMullin, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, netted 21 percent in an anti-Trump vote, while Hillary Clinton got 27 percent.

But new polling shows that Trump’s popularity in Utah is at an all-time high just as impeachment heated up.

Nearly 57 percent of Utahns supported him as the impeachment trial launched in the Senate, according to a poll by The Salt Lake Tribune and Suffolk University out last month.


In Utah, Trump’s even faring better than Romney, whose job approval tanked to 48 percent, according to Morning Consult poll in January. He lost a chunk of support from Republicans as he raised the alarm bells about Trump’s phone call to new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, calling it “troubling in the extreme."

Romney acknowledged he's felt the pressure in recent weeks by texts and phone calls to "stand with the team" and he expects a heavy political fallout from the president and his supporters.

"Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?" Romney said.