Tribune Editorial: Romney took a risk for the Constitution

(Steve Helber | AP) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, left, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., return to the Senate chamber after a meeting in the Majority Leaders office during a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol Friday Jan 31, 2020, in Washington.

Mitt Romney did the right thing.

And there are people, powerful people, people who Romney might have thought were his friends and allies, who will seek to punish him for it. He knew that, and he did it anyway.

Utah should be proud of him.

Romney was one of only two Republican senators — the other being Susan Collins of Maine — who voted with the Democrats to include witnesses and more documentation in the current trial of the articles of impeachment of the president of the United States.

If only two more Republicans had joined them, this show trial would have at least given us a show before grinding to its inevitable anticlimax. The Senate would at least have done its constitutional duty to seriously consider the charges made by the House.

And it would have done so in a way that would have placed before the American people information that we should have when, as it will later this year, the ultimate decision falls to us. When the people render the final verdict on this president — and on the party that is shamefully complicit in his crimes — in the November election.

Two other Republican senators who might have tipped the balance — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — caved before the apparent inevitability of a vote to acquit. They admitted that there was not going to be fair trial, witnesses or no witnesses, so why bother.

Romney wanted to bother. And he had made that clear early on.

With him there was no teetering on the fence like Collins, Murkowsky and Alexander. He wanted to hear the whole of the House case before rendering judgment. The fact that it might not sway enough Republican votes — even his own — on the question of removal was no reason to keep all that information off the record.

Romney now faces a backlash from a party and an ideology that used to favor the Constitution and the rule of law but now has prostituted itself to the current occupant of the White House. There is a significant risk that anything Romney may want from the Republican leaders of the Senate — bills, appropriations, etc. — may be blocked.

Immediately after the vote, the folks who run the Conservative Political Action Conference announced that Romney was no longer welcome at their annual do. Romney should take a page from Franklin Roosevelt and welcome their hatred.

CPAC is among the groups that has been corrupted by the sitting president in the hopes of furthering such conservative policies as lower taxes and reduced regulation. Even Romney’s Utah colleague, Sen. Mike Lee, supposedly a paragon of conservative principles, has totally abandoned all of that to seek the president’s favor.

But what about other conservative principles? What about policies and beliefs that are good for the free market and the economy? Things like the Constitution, the separation of powers, the rule of law, family values, a free press and free and fair elections?

Take away those principles, and we are are brought much closer to “socialist” Venezuela than anything Bernie Sanders would ever do.

Of most immediate concern is the realization that, despite what the administration still claims, Russia did interfere in the 2016 election and is poised to do so again this year.

Romney should use whatever influence he has left to push Congress to take real steps to secure this election, and those that will come after it, with laws and money to protect our system from cyber attacks and to expose floods of false information for what they are.

If Romney makes this effort, and is again ignored and belittled by his own party, the shame will, again, be theirs, not his.