“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.” — Mitt Romney, March, 2016
Now that he’s a United States senator from Utah, Mitt Romney has an enormous opportunity to put his money where his mouth is and become a national leader. The former Republican presidential candidate, elected to the Senate in 2018, is in no danger of being primaried. He also has the name recognition other senators can only envy. On top of that, he is a devout Mormon who subscribes to the Bible’s moral teachings.
On these pages, I was never a fan of Romney’s during his 2012 run against President Obama. But today, I am hoping he will step up and call on his fellow Senate Republicans to do the right thing, to demand Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell call witnesses in the upcoming Trump impeachment trial.
He has nothing to lose and everything to gain. After all, Trump treated Romney like a doormat during his campaign and, later, sandbagged him on an appointment to secretary of state.
But revenge shouldn’t be the senator’s motivation. He should do the right thing because America is in peril and he could, very likely, turn the tide. If Romney speaks up, he’ll encourage other Republicans to do the same. That’s leadership, and it might, just maybe, propel him to a 2024 run for the White House.
Public support for witnesses is there. An 538/Ipsos poll last week showed 57% of Americans believe it would be better to call more witnesses while 86% agree senators should be “impartial jurors.”
Only 51 votes are needed in the Senate to ensure witnesses with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s duplicity over his Ukraine “drug deal” are called to testify. Thus, four Republicans are needed.
The evidence of presidential wrongdoing is undeniable. Trump used his office for personal gain. E-mails released by the White House last week further implicated the president.
Under oath, does anyone believe Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney or former national security adviser John Bolton would take one for team Trump? They will protect themselves and their reputations. Certainly neither of them wants to do a stretch in a federal prison by committing perjury.
On Monday, Bolton said he was prepared to testify if the Senate subpoenaed him, and if McConnell doesn’t, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will.
So let the American public hear from them. As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted, we don’t know what they’ll say, perhaps their testimony will exonerate Trump. But I doubt it will given the president’s steadfast refusal to cooperate in any way with Congress. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is actively colluding with the White House to fix the Senate trial in Trump’s favor.
McConnell says he’s merely following the precedent set in President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial by not calling witnesses first. It’s a specious claim, one that ignores an important fact: All of the relevant witnesses in the Clinton impeachment had already testified ahead of his trial.
It’s a historic moment, one in which our democracy and the institution of the Congress as a co-equal branch are threatened if real patriots don’t step up, if real leadership isn’t exercised. It is no longer about which party holds power. It’s about whether or not our Constitution is worth the paper on which it is written.
This is where Romney can make a difference. There are other Republicans who might well follow him if he takes the lead, especially those facing tough 2020 re-election bids. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is one. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado is another. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she is “disturbed” by McConnell’s White House machinations ahead of the Senate trial.
“I hope, pray and believe there’s a decent chance that four Republicans will join us. If they do, we will have a fair trial,” Schumer said this week. “I am hopeful that our Republican colleagues will come forward. … If the president is acquitted through a sham trial, through a mock trial where there are no witnesses, where everything is covered up, that will not stand him well with the American people.”
McConnell should remember the cover-up is always worse than the crime, and a cover-up is exactly what he is participating in if key witnesses aren’t called. By extension, Republicans going along with his whitewash scheme, including Romney, are also part of the cover-up. Thus, it’s incumbent on the Utah senator to take a stand or see any “legacy” he might leave behind obliterated.
The times call for moral courage; speak now, Mitt, or forever hold your peace.