Mitt Romney Is Democrats' Last Hope for a Bipartisan Vote to Convict Trump in Impeachment

On Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced that she would vote against convicting President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial. She became the third of four centrist Republicans who could be expected to defect from the party and support the impeachment of the president. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) have announced that they will vote to acquit Trump. That leaves Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) as the only hope for Democrats to get a bipartisan vote to convict.

Collins announced her vote on the Senate floor and in a pre-recorded interview for CBS News.

On the floor of the Senate, she argued that "it was wrong for President Trump to mention former Vice President Biden on that phone call and it was wrong for him to ask a foreign country to investigate a political rival." Yet she announced that she would not support either of the Democrats' two articles of impeachment for abuse of power or obstruction of Congress.

"Article one ... does not even attempt to assert that the president committed a crime," Collins said. "While I do not believe that the conviction of a president requires a criminal act, the high bar for removal from office is perhaps even higher when the impeachment is for a difficult-to-define non-criminal act."

"In any event, the House did little to support its assertion in article one that the president will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office," the senator explained. "As I concluded in the impeachment trial of President Clinton, I do not believe that the House has met its burden of showing that the president’s conduct, however flawed, warrants the extreme step of immediate removal from office. Nor does the record support the assertion by the House managers that the president must not remain if office one moment longer."

"The fact that the house delayed transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate for 33 days undercuts this argument. For all of the reasons I have discussed, I will vote to acquit on article one," she added.

As for the second article of impeachment, Collins faulted House Democrats for refusing to go to court over subpoenas the Trump administration signaled it would challenge. Rather than deal with routine matters of executive privilege in court, House Democrats added the second article of impeachment.

"At a minimum, the House should have pursued the full extent of its own remedies before bringing impeachment charges, including by seeking the assistance of a neutral third party, the judicial branch. In making these choices, the House substituted its own political preference for speed over finality," the senator said.

"Therefore, I will vote to acquit on article two," Collins concluded.

After Pelosi insisted she would not support a grossly partisan impeachment, Democrats passed the articles of impeachment without a single Republican vote. It seems likely the Senate will acquit Trump without a single Republican voting to convict him.

Mitt Romney has a momentous decision before him. The former Massachusetts governor and former Republican presidential candidate has often criticized Trump, but it seems he will likely vote to acquit the president. Even if he votes to convict Trump, the vote will not only fall short of the 67 senators required to remove Trump but also short of the majority of senators.

Tyler O'Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.