It was all going so well for Donald Trump. Then came Mitt Romney. The Utah Republican stole the show. In announcing that he would vote to find Trump guilty of abuse of power, he blew up Trump’s plan to claim that impeachment was simply a partisan affair. The president, he said, was guilty of an ‘appalling abuse of public trust’.
One person Trump never trusted was Romney, whom he humiliated during the 2016 transition period when he forced him to eat frog legs at Jean-Georges restaurant in the Trump Tower and cursorily dangled the post of secretary of state before him. All along Romney, who denounced Trump during the campaign, has been a thorn in Trump’s side. He finally got his chance to ventilate his frustration with Trump on the last day of the impeachment trial. Had former national security John Bolton only been allowed to testify, he lamented, his vote might have ended up differently. Perhaps Bolton could have exculpated Trump, or at least presented his motives about the Ukraine caper in a kindlier light.
Fat chance of that. The latest report is that Trump had almost arrived at deal with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to disseminate dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden. Poroshenko apparently met with Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas in late February 2019. He was supposed to make an announcement of an investigation in March, then bailed at the last moment. More information about the hijinks of Trump’s entourage are sure to emerge in coming weeks, particularly if Bolton’s memoir appears (though the White House appears to be doing its level best to quash it).
Trump himself wants to use the end of the ‘impeachment hoax’, as he likes to put it, as a political bludgeon to bash his adversaries into cowering submission. He plans to ventilate his views tomorrow in a press conference at the White House. There he is sure to wax wroth about the perfidy of Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the crew that tried to expel him from the Oval Office. With his approval rating reaching 49 percent in a Gallup poll and 94 percent of Republicans backing him, Trump can pretty much do as he wishes.
Meanwhile, Romney, once the butt of liberal ridicule, is now being presented as a profile in courage. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer declared, ‘The pressure on every Republican was enormous. Every Republican knows that this president is vindictive, vengeful, vicious sometimes.’ He has a point. Donald Trump, Jr, in a tweet, called for Romney’s expulsion from the Republican: ‘Mitt Romney is forever bitter that he will never be POTUS. He was too weak to beat the Democrats then so he’s joining them now. He’s now officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the @GOP.’
With Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema voting to convict Trump, Romney emerged as the only real maverick. The reward for his pains won’t be ostracism in the Senate, where his colleagues will be loath to expel him because they need his vote. Anyway, expulsion would only make Romney even more of a martyr. For now, he is the last monument of a vanished GOP that has prostrated itself before a new idol.