Grappling with governing: Turbulent relationship comes to a halt as Sen. Mitt Romney condemns Trump


Editor’s note: Daily Universe reporters examined how Utah’s congressional delegation responded not only to the Capitol breach on Jan. 6 but the shift in the Republican Party over the last four years in a series of stories.

After violent protesters loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol today, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, joins other senators as they return to the House chamber to continue the joint session of the House and Senate and count the Electoral College votes cast in November’s election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney spoke to the Senate floor on why he believed President Donald Trump was to blame for the violent “insurrection” that occurred on Jan. 6.

“We gather today due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning,” Romney said.

Romney tweeted many of his same remarks from the speech saying those who support this “dangerous gambit” and object to the results of this election “will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.”

Romney’s continual opposition to Trump over the years has caused a rise of disapproval for him among many Utah Republicans. He has been called a “disgusting shame,” a “traitor” and a “RINO” by some of his conservative detractors.

The following is a timeline of Romney’s interactions and statements regarding Trump and his presidency from late 2012 to the present.

November 2012 – “Good man”

The complicated relationship between Trump and Romney started off friendly. Trump originally endorsed Romney during his presidential campaign in 2012 and said Romney would make “real change” and a “strong America.”

When Romney lost, however, Trump said in a now removed Tweet that Romney “is a good man but he just never connected with the people.”

Over the years, Trump would continually mention Romney’s “choke” at winning in 2012 and used it to slam Romney in 2015 when both were thinking of running for president in the next election. “The Republicans cannot be so stupid as to give him a second crack,” Trump said.

March 2016 – “Phony”

While Trump was running for President, Romney insulted him and his ability to be president. In a speech at the University of Utah, Romney claimed Trump is reckless, lacks the temperament to be president and is a “phony” in the business world.

“If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished,” he said.

November 2016 – “Better future”

Trump and Romney were found dining together and discussing the potential Romney had at becoming Trump’s Secretary of State in November 2016. Shortly after the dinner, Romney had flipped his public opinion. Romney said after discussions with Trump, he believed Trump has the ability to “lead us to that better future.”

Although Romney did not become Secretary of State, their relationship appeared to be on the positive side for the first few months of Trump’s administration.

President Donald Trump and Senator Mitt Romney have a fluctuating relationship that is mainly negative but becomes positive during government races. (Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

August 2017 – “Act now”

Romney urged Trump to apologize for the way he responded to the August 2017 violence in Charlottesville, North Carolina after Trump said there was “blame on both sides” for the unrest.

In response, Romney wrote a strongly worded Facebook post calling out the president for the insensitivity of his words during “a moment that will define America.”

“Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn,” he said.

Romney said there were “severe” consequences that could occur and concluded his post “Mr. President, act now for the good of the country.”

February 2018 – “Great Senator”

Less than a year later, Trump endorsed Romney in his campaign for the Senate, saying he “will make a great Senator and worthy successor to Orrin Hatch.” Romney replied cordially, thanking the president for the endorsement in a tweet.

January 2019 – Voting in Congress

Romney voted the same as Trump approximately 78.6% of the time since Jan 2019. Differences in votes mainly occurred in regards to spending and funding bills proposed in Congress; specifically funding for the border wall, appropriations for the Departments of Commerce, Justice and Defense, and other spending bills which Romney opposed.

Romney also opposed a bill Trump supported that disapproved the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and Syria.

February 2020 – “Flagrant assault”

When Trump’s impeachment trial occurred Feb. 2020, Romney made history by being the first senator in history to vote for the removal of a president from his own party. He gave a speech explaining his decision to vote to impeach Trump on the abuse of power charge.

“I support a great deal of what the president has done. But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside,” he said.

Romney said Trump’s actions were “a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”

November 2020 – “Undemocratic action”

Throughout the controversy of election fraud, Romney has consistently said he does not support Trump’s attempt to overturn the election.

Romney said Trump failed to make a case for election fraud and is trying to “subvert the will of the people.”

“It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President,” he said in a Tweet.

December 2020 – “Different course”

In December 2020, Romney criticized the Republican party for changing its course from their core beliefs.

“As I look at the 2024 (GOP presidential) contenders, most of them are trying to become as much like Donald Trump as they can be,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Romney said the Republican party normally is a party concerned about balancing the budget, free trade and placing importance on the character of party leaders. But since Trump he came to power, he said “we’ve strayed from that.”

“Hopefully, people will recognize we need to take a different course than the one we are on right now,” he said.

January 2021 – “Egregious ploy”

Romney issued a statement on Jan. 3 regarding why he would certify the presidential election results in favor of Joe Biden.

“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic,” he said.

While he was traveling to Washington, D.C. two days later, multiple hecklers approached Romney in the Salt Lake Airport asking why he would not support Trump. One woman at the airport called him a “disgusting shame” and claimed he did not understand the Constitution.

Another video revealed passengers on Romney’s flight chanting “traitor” and calling for him to resign.

Trump referred to Romney’s experience on the plane during his rally speech Jan. 6 shortly before the Capitol was breached. “I wonder if he enjoyed his flight in last night,” the president said.

Trump then mocked Romney for congratulating President-elect Joe Biden and not looking at the “facts” when he was beat in his 2012 Presidential run. Trump said “but we look at the facts” and again called the 2020 election corrupt just a few hours before rioters stormed the Capitol.

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