Some Utah Republicans are hoping to censure Sen. Mitt Romney for voting to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial.
The motion, being circulated on social media, says Romney failed to “represent the average conservative Utah Republican voter” and “misrepresented himself as a Republican,” when he ran for office.
The Utah Republican Party’s top leaders are not behind this effort. Instead, the party issued a statement Monday noting that both Romney and Sen. Mike Lee, who voted to acquit Trump, have faced criticism for their impeachment votes. “The differences between our own Utah Republicans showcase a diversity of thought, in contrast to the danger of a party fixated on ‘unanimity of thought.’ There is power in our differences as a political party, and we look forward to each senator explaining their votes to the people of Utah.”
The draft censure of Romney includes a list of criticisms. It says Romney “embarrassed the State of Utah” when he was the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump during his first impeachment trial. Romney had voted to remove Trump for abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation into then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The censure, pushed by party insiders, then attacks Romney for opposing the effort to declare Trump’s second impeachment trial unconstitutional since Trump was no longer in office, and for voting in favor of calling witnesses. It further excoriates Romney for joining six other Republicans to convict Trump on Saturday. It takes two-thirds of senators to remove a president, so Trump was acquitted.
The censure motion concludes Romney used his “senatorial power and influence to undermine” Trump and claims “Romney appears to be an agent for the Establishment Deep State.”
Evan McMullin, a former Republican who ran for president as an independent in 2016, said he was dumbfounded by the backlash against Romney from members of his own party.
“Mitt has done more to defend the Constitution than any congressional Republican in modern history. He is serving the country and doing more to defend liberty than anyone else,” said McMullin. “We need to stand with him.”
McMullin, a frequent critic of Trump during his time in office, said Romney’s courage should be celebrated, not condemned.
“There is a tremendous need and opportunity for Utah to lead on this. There are plenty of good Republicans in Utah who are committed to the founding principles of our country, the very same kind of leadership Mitt is offering right now,” McMullin said. “This isn’t about Republicans, Democrats or independents. It’s about putting the country and Constitution first.”
Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown says he’s aware of the censure motion but has not seen it yet.
“I’ve been saying the best censure occurs at the ballot box,” says Brown, a reference to 2024, when Romney would face reelection.
In 2020, Romney was the first U.S. senator in history to vote to remove a president of his own party from office during Trump’s first impeachment trial. Following that vote, the Utah Republican Party Central Committee considered several proposals to punish Romney. Instead, the group passed a watered-down resolution praising Trump.
“There wasn’t enough support to censure Sen. Romney a year ago,” Brown said. “The impact of these kinds of resolutions has been minimal.”
The Utah GOP Central Committee is not scheduled to meet again until June and Brown says he’s got more important issues to tackle as party chair.
“My focus is retaining the people who joined the Utah Republican Party this past year and reaching out to those who have left the party in order to bring them back,” he said.
The backlash against Romney’s vote from some element within the Utah GOP is not confined to censure. Some pushed an online petition calling for Romney to resign following the first impeachment trial last year and it bubbled up again over the weekend.
Longtime GOP activist Janalee Tobias pushed out the old petition Sunday where it quickly gained traction in some social media corners.
“This is the second time he (Romney) has betrayed the people of Utah,” said Tobias in a phone interview Monday. “We assumed since he was a Republican presidential candidate, he would be a loyal supporter of President Trump.”
According to FiveThirtyEight analysis, Romney voted with Trump’s agenda nearly 80% of the time. Despite that level of support, the 20% apostasy from Romney is too much for Tobias.
“Utah is a red state. We elected Mitt Romney to be a part of the red team,” she said. “Trump is the quarterback of the red team. Romney has decided to play for the blue team, and he should resign.”
Seven Republican senators joined all 50 Democrats on Saturday in voting to convict Trump for inciting the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempted insurrection. Two of those Republicans have been formally reprimanded. Louisiana’s GOP censured Sen. Bill Cassidy on Saturday and several county Republican parties in Pennsylvania have rebuked Sen. Patrick Toomey. North Carolina’s Richard Burr is facing a censure vote Monday from his state party.