Washington • Syndicated conservative talking head Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed to his massive audience this week that Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that enough Senate Republicans would break ranks to remove President Donald Trump from office.
Limbaugh, who has a wide following among Trump supporters, said on his Wednesday program that “yesterday and today Sen. Mitt Romney, Republican, Utah, had phone calls or meetings, whatever, with Pelosi and assured her there was Republican support to remove Trump.”
The headline on Limbaugh's website touting a transcript of his remarks declares, “Mitt Romney Cozies Up to Pelosi on Impeachment.”
Romney's office said the senator did not meet or talk with Pelosi this week. The speaker's office says the two haven't spoken recently.
In fact, in a brief interview Thursday, Romney said, “I'm not going to give advice to Speaker Pelosi or to the House. They're pursuing their own course.”
Limbaugh’s rant against Romney — the radio host called him a Never Trumper —included a charge that Romney wants to “get rid of Trump.”
“I don’t think that means that Romney has enough Republicans to actually convict,” Limbaugh added. “Romney is just staking a claim to a political position. Romney thinks it’s in his best political interests for everybody to think he hates Trump. That’s how he thinks he’s going to politically benefit, whatever his next ambitions are.”
Romney has been one of the few vocal GOP critics of Trump’s call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked that the new president work with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. At the time, the Trump administration was withholding hundreds of millions in U.S. aid earmarked for Ukraine.
Joe Biden is a leading Democratic contender to take on Trump in the 2020 election.
The White House released a rough transcript of the call this week and a whistleblower’s complaint about the discussion after pressure from Congress and news outlets. The documents show Trump wanted Zelensky to reopen an investigation into Hunter Biden’s ties to a Ukrainian oligarch. There has been no proven wrongdoing by Hunter Biden.
Romney said earlier this week that the Trump-Zelensky call was “deeply troubling” but said he hadn’t read the whistleblower’s complaint and couldn’t comment on it.
Limbaugh’s team did not respond to questions about his sourcing on the claim that Romney and Pelosi met.
After the radio host talked about Romney, the Utah senator's Twitter feed filled with Trump supporters blasting him and his Senate offices received angry calls.
“This is the textbook definition of fake news,” said Romney spokeswoman Liz Johnson.
Johnson said Romney has not met or spoken to Pelosi since a social event in February, not long after Romney took office.
Drew Hammill, deputy chief of staff, said Pelosi “has not spoken with Romney" when asked if there was a conversation between the two this week.
Former Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican and Trump critic, had told an audience at the Texas Tribune Festival that there were nearly three dozen GOP senators who would vote to remove Trump from office if the House impeached him. But only if it was a private vote.
"I heard someone say if there were a private vote there would be 30 Republican votes. That's not true," Flake said. "There would be at least 35."
Longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy, who was a senior aide in Romney’s 2012 presidential run, told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell said he was told the votes are there to remove Trump if the ballot was secret.
“One Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump,” Murphy said.
Romney’s office said he was not the source for that comment.