Washington • Utah Gov. Gary Herbert says he would not have made the same decision Sen. Mitt Romney did to vote guilty on one impeachment charge against President Donald Trump, but that “it’s hard to find fault” with someone who votes his conscience.
Herbert also disagrees with the push from some of his fellow Utah Republicans to censure Romney for his vote this week.
“I would not have voted that way, based on my information, what I know, but far be it for me to tell somebody else what they should vote with their information,” Herbert told The Salt Lake Tribune in an interview Friday in Washington.
“It’s hard to find fault with anybody who says, ‘This is my moral code, this is what I believe to be true,’ and vote according to his conscience,” Herbert said. “You know, I don’t know how you criticize that.”
Some state lawmakers are considering a censure of Romney after he voted to convict and remove the president on a charge of abuse of power, while GOP House and Senate leaders said they will sponsor a resolution “paying tribute” to Trump. The president was acquitted on both impeachment counts, with Romney casting the only Republican vote for conviction on either charge.
“Why would they censure him for being true to himself and true to his moral code, to his convictions?” Herbert said. “I think that would be just a mistake to go down that road. Every time we don’t agree with somebody’s vote or their statement they make, are we going to censure them?
“Again, I take Senator Romney at his word when he says this was a hard, hard decision for him to make,” the governor added. “And I expect it probably was. He’s not doing this flippantly. There’s no political benefit for him. In fact, you can see that it’s all downside for him.”
Romney, in explaining his vote, said that he believed the evidence put forward from the House that Trump tried to leverage U.S. military aid to get Ukraine’s leader to announce a corruption investigation into a political rival, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, and that he “swore an oath before God to apply impartial justice.”
The Utah Republican Party and Romney’s fellow members of Congress distanced themselves from his vote; Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who voted against both charges of impeachment, was lauded by Trump at a victory celebration at the White House on Thursday when the president implored Lee to apologize to Utahns for Romney.
Trump also argued that Romney’s use of his faith was a “crutch” and slammed him for using religion to explain his vote.
Herbert — who, like Romney, is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — said Friday that attacks on religion are inappropriate.
“It’s unfortunate,” Herbert said. “I mean, people have the right to have their religious faith and beliefs, whatever that may be, a little or a lot. And that shouldn’t come into question. Somebody’s faith shouldn’t come into question because they make a decision you don’t agree with.”
But it wasn’t the first time Trump has questioned Romney’s faith.
During a 2016 campaign stop in Salt Lake City, Trump said, “I do love the Mormons” but then pivoted to Romney and asked, “Are we sure he is a Mormon? Are we sure?”
Trump’s criticism came after Romney threw his support behind Republican candidate Ted Cruz and warned that “through the calculated statements of its leader, Trumpism has become associated with racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity and, most recently, threats and violence. I am repulsed by each and every one of these.”