On Sunday, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) appeared on CNN’s "State of the Union" with host Jake Tapper.
At the beginning of the segment, Tapper quoted a series of tweets from Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) in which the congressman claims that President Trump "has engaged in impeachable conduct."
Amash is the first Republican to stake out such a position. Check out The Daily Wire’s coverage of Amash’s comments here.
Tapper first asked Romney why only he and Amash have spoken negatively of the president’s alleged conduct since the debut of the redacted Mueller report:
TAPPER: This is the first time you have appeared on a Sunday show since the Mueller report was released, and you said at the time in a statement: "I'm sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the president. I am also appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia."
You and Congressman Amash are the only two elected Republicans, I think, to express any misgivings about the behavior of the president or his campaign team based on the Mueller report. First of all, are you surprised that you two are the only ones that have really said anything condemning of the president's behavior as laid out?
ROMNEY: Well, I think every individual has to make their own judgment.
Romney then spoke about having read the document himself, and expressed hope that other lawmakers would do the same. He added that he believes "there are a lot of people that want to reserve judgment until this has all played out."
The senator continued:
My own view is that Justin Amash has reached a different conclusion than I have. I respect him. I think it's a courageous statement. But I believe that to make a case for obstruction of justice, you just don't have the elements that are evidenced in this document. And I also believe that an impeachment call is not only something that relates to the law, but also considers practicality and politics.
And the American people just aren't there. And I think those that are considering impeachment have to look also at the jury, which would be the Senate. The Senate is certainly not there either.
Tapper then asked Romney about the case for obstruction of justice.
The senator offered a measured reply, stating that while he is indeed troubled by parts of the report, he simply doesn’t believe obstruction is a viable route:
I just don't think that there is the full element that you need to prove an obstruction of justice case. I don't think a prosecutor would actually look at this and say, "Okay, we have here all the elements that would get this to a conviction."
So, everyone reaches their own conclusion. As I read the report, I was troubled by it. It was very disappointing, for a number of reasons. But it did not suggest to me that this was time to call for impeachment.
Moving forward, Tapper pressed Romney on President Trump’s character:
TAPPER: Do you think it's evidence that the president has disgraced the office of the presidency.
ROMNEY: Well, I think a number of the things that were done were really, really troubling and unfortunate and distressing. Clearly, the number of times that there were items of dishonesty, misleading the American public and the media, those are things that really you would not want to see from the highest office in the land.
When asked about possible "abuse of power," Romney again noted that he doesn’t think impeachment is the correct path. He then spoke about the difficulty of assembling an obstruction case without an underlying crime, which makes the search for intent rather punishing.
Tapper continued to seek the senator’s opinion on Trump’s character, or lack thereof:
TAPPER: You personally are somebody who has conducted himself according to a certain set of religious and ethical and moral principles throughout your life. I know you think about this and you talk about this. You have written about it. Do you think that the president has failed, based on what's in the Mueller report, as a moral leader? If not engaging in criminal conduct, is there a moral lacking there?
Sen. Romney offered an indirect yet fairly clear answer:
Well, I have – through op-eds and through the things I have said, I have made it very, very clear that I will support the president on policies where we agree. I will disagree with him openly if there's something that I think is wrong for the country or for my state.
But I think he could substantially improve his game when it comes to helping shape the character of the country. I think young people, as well as people around the world, look at the president of the United States and say, "Does he exhibit the kind of qualities that we would want to emulate?" And those are qualities of humility, of honesty, integrity. And those are things where I think there's been some call where the president has distanced himself from some of the best qualities of the human character.
Romney has long been an outspoken critic of the president when it comes to his character.
In a now-infamous March 3, 2016 speech, Romney blasted Trump as an amoral and thoughtless candidate.
Below are select quotes from that speech:
...if we make improvident choices, the bright horizon I’ve described will not materialize. And let me put it very plainly. If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.
...Dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark.
...Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities. The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics. You know, we have long referred to him as “The Donald.” He’s the only person in the entire country to whom we have added an article before his name, and it was not because he had attributes we admired.
...Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.
Romney briefly flirted with the position of Secretary of State once Trump was elected, but according to CNN, "sources close to Romney" claim that the former presidential candidate wouldn’t offer a public apology for his past criticism of Trump, and was therefore jettisoned.
Romney has since softened the way in which he critiques the president, but has continued to call him out on occasion, like in Sunday’s interview with Tapper.