Some Utah GOP leaders demand Mitt Romney’s loyalty to Trump and his agenda

(Anna Moneymaker | The New York Times) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, heads to the Senate chamber after a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Romney announced on Wednesday, Feb. 5, that he would vote to convict the president of abuse of power, making him the first Republican to support removing Trump for his bid to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

Some conservative leaders of the Utah GOP have readied a resolution censuring Sen. Mitt Romney for voting to remove President Donald Trump from office and urging him to “vigorously support” Trump’s agenda or vacate his seat.

The draft resolution submitted Friday is expected to come up for discussion and a possible vote during the Feb. 29 Republican Party state central committee meeting.

Orem Republican Brandon Beckham, who submitted the resolution, said he “thought it was pretty obvious” that Trump was innocent of the charges leveled against him in the impeachment trial. Rather than sticking up for the president, Beckham argues, Romney sided with the Democrats.

"A lot of us feel that it's sort of an embarrassment to our party," Beckham said.

The resolution, co-sponsored by nine other state central committee members, notes that Trump endorsed Romney in his 2018 Senate race. It also notes that Romney used a covert Twitter account — under the alias “Pierre Delecto” — to like critical tweets about the president and alleges that this activity displayed a “pre-impeachment bias.”

Furthermore, Beckham contends, Romney’s decisions were at odds with the position of the Utah GOP, which in December passed a resolution that expressed full support of the president and called on congressional Republicans to stand by him.

“On February 5, 2020, despite zero evidence of a federal crime committed or any wrongdoing that rises to the level of removal of office, Senator Romney voted with Democrats to remove President Trump from office and as a direct result received praise and applause from Democrats on nationally televised interviews and the Democrat presidential debate,” Beckham’s resolution states.

While nine of the 187 central committee members have co-sponsored the resolution, Beckham said he expects most to vote in favor of the measure, given the president’s popularity.

A Utah lawmaker has also introduced a resolution on Capitol Hill to censure Romney last week, announcing that he wanted to send a message of support to Trump. However, legislative leaders appear reluctant to advance a measure with such potential to divide and have instead put forward a resolution “paying tribute” to Trump for his work in Utah.

Gov. Gary Herbert opposes the legislative censure resolution being pushed by Blanding Republican Rep. Phil Lyman, saying it doesn’t make sense to criticize someone who is following his conscience in voting to remove Trump from office.

Romney, who made a quick trip to Utah on Friday to meet with state legislative leaders and some members, has declined to comment on the resolutions in the Legislature or coming before the state central committee. Utah’s junior senator last week said he was aware of the backlash he would face for voting against Trump but was compelled by greater considerations.

“No question the consequence will be enormous,” Romney said. “The consequence of violating my conscience and my oath of office to God would be even greater.”

But Chris Null, a GOP central committee member who signed on to Beckham’s resolution, chalks up Romney’s vote to pettiness rather than strength of character.

“I see it as him being angry that he didn’t win the presidency," the Riverton Republican said, “and I think it’s very inappropriate what he’s doing.”

One former Republican supporter of Romney, Layton attorney and 1st Congressional District candidate Doug Durbano, wrote a letter to the senator — shared with The Salt Lake Tribune — that alleged he had “brought shame” on members of the GOP and of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and “betrayed” the state, the country and the Constitution. He asked for the return of his $5,000 in donations to Romney’s 2018 election.

Derek Brown, chairman of the Utah GOP, did not respond to a request for comment on the resolution. Last week, the party issued a statement backing Trump while expressing appreciation for the “service rendered” by Utah’s two senators.

But, the statement continued, “as a party, we strongly disagree with the vote cast today by Senator Romney."