Mitt Romney says everybody knows it ‘is wrong’ to ask a foreign government to probe a political rival

Sen. Mitt Romney declined to comment Thursday on whether the House’s launch of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump is appropriate or on how he might vote if an impeachment trial is ultimately convened in the Senate.

The Utah Republican and two-time presidential candidate also stated unequivocally that he would not challenge Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020, and he denied having conversations with his Senate colleagues on the topic of Trump’s potential impeachment.

“I haven’t spoken with any other Republican senator about the impeachment process, either in person or by email or text," Romney said. “I haven’t discussed that with anybody.”

Nevertheless, he said the president’s actions speak for themselves.

“I think everyone understands that asking a foreign government to investigate one’s political opponent is wrong,” Romney said. “I don’t think there’s any exception to that.”

Earlier this week, Vanity Fair reported — based on unnamed sources — that donors had reached out to Romney, urging him to mount a primary challenge against Trump next year. The Vanity Fair report stated that Romney was not interested in running for president, but viewed his role in a potential Senate trial as pivotal and had “been reaching out privately to key players in the Republican resistance, according to a person briefed on the conversations.”

Romney has been a rare, often lone, voice of dissent among congressional Republicans, initially describing Trump’s conversations with the president of Ukraine — in which the American leader urged his Ukrainian counterpart to launch an investigation into the family of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden — as “troubling in the extreme."

Later, when Trump publicly called on China to launch its own investigation into Biden, Romney tweeted that the president’s “brazen and unprecedented” actions were “wrong and appalling.”

“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process,” Romney wrote, “it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated.”

Trump responded by lashing out at Romney online, labeling the Utah Republican as a “fool” and a “pompous ass” in a series of vitriolic tweets.

On Thursday, Romney jokingly asked reporters not to repeat the president’s insults before dismissing the tweets.

“First of all, I don’t follow the president on Twitter, so I don’t see all of his tweets," Romney said. “But secondly, in my business, if you got concerned about criticism, you’d be in the wrong business. So I just don’t worry about those things.”

As of noon Thursday, the president’s @realdonaldtrump handle was among the 305 accounts followed by Romney’s official twitter.

Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Chris Stewart — two of Romney’s GOP colleagues in Utah’s federal delegation — have vocally defended Trump during the burgeoning impeachment controversy. During a September tele-town hall, Lee said he doesn’t see the now-infamous Ukraine call as a problem, and suggested the true motivation behind the impeachment inquiry was Democrats’ personal and political objections to Trump’s presidency.

Stewart has been even more directly supportive of Trump’s actions, repeatedly appearing on cable news programs to forcefully defend the president. During one such appearance, Stewart was asked about the public animosity between Romney and Trump, to which Stewart responded he was “shocked” to be asked and accused his interviewer of trying to get him to criticize fellow Republicans.

“I’m just going to say, you know what, Mitt Romney is a big boy. President Trump’s a big boy,” Stewart said. “They can settle their differences. I’m not going to weigh in on that.”

Romney said Thursday that he believes his fellow senators, by and large, are keeping an open mind. Trump made a mistake, Romney said, but whether that mistake rises to the level of removing the president from office is a question that requires consideration and analysis.

Asked if he was surprised that other Republicans are not raising the same concerns that he is, Romney said he understands why some may be choosing to stay silent and allow the process to play out.

“I do what I think is right," Romney said, “and let the others make their own decisions."