WASHINGTON – As House Democrats continue to investigate impeachment against President Trump, Republicans have largely rushed to defend Mr. Trump, or at least stifled criticism to avoid his violent repression.
Despite a handful of exceptions, though, there was no one stronger or more prominent than Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, a figure who had once embodied the substance of the Republican Party before Mr. Trump commanded it, and now it's in its lone category.
First reports a week ago that Mr Trump called on President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., triggered the still-evolving furore in the capital, Mr Romney is repeatedly the Republican legislator , who raised concerns about the president's behavior.
Mr. Romney's public statements reflect what many of his party believe privately, but almost do not want to say that they are facing horrific revelations about the president, which are difficult to explain and are not sure if there is more harmful material. What is more – they are fighting a leader whose appetite for political retribution for real or imagined views is insatiable and who responds to the crisis with angry new threats and accusations that will only increase the pressure on them to choose a country.  This presents an unenviable dilemma for the Republicans at a later moment for the party. Any internal breakdowns next year could undermine both Mr Trump's re-election and Republican hopes of keeping their Senate majority and returning the House.
To Mr Romney, who represents a country in which he is loved and unlikely to aspire. another office, he is the moment when he believes the country should go to a party.
"Everyone has to search for their own heart and do what they think is right – that's exactly what I do," he said.
Mr. Romney's willingness to measure measured criticism of Mr Trump annoys liberal activists who see his comments as terribly inadequate at the moment. It also angered the president's most loyal allies, who regard the Utah senator as an angry enemy. And yet, that may prove most important for the third constituency: its fellow MPs.
As Senate Republicans begin to tackle the unattractive prospect of serving as jurors in the impeachment process of their own party president, Mr. Romney emerges as a decisive figure.
"He is a different place from many politicians who still feel their place in the party and hope to someday be president," said Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, a Democrat who favors Mr. Romney from theirs service together in the Committee on Foreign Relations. "He is a loyal Republican, but this is not his first priority – he is a bit of a rejection."
For Mr. Romney and Mr. Trump, this is the latest, and perhaps last, contribution of the imperfect and never – really about the relationship between two men who share little more than the same political ambition. It began when Mr. Romney, as the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, sought Mr. Trump's approval, and continued in 2016, when the former Massachusetts governor began the year as a fierce critic of Mr. Trump, but ended up as a supplicant, sharing a dinner with an elected president hoping to become his secretary of state.
However, Mr Romney took a decisive position in power. He could be part of an effort to eventually remove Mr Trump from office and is already in the ear – and perhaps conscience – of other Republicans. uprising against the president.
"I spoke because I believe it is a matter of importance and personal principle," he said. "Nothing more, nothing less."
But reprimanding Mr. Trump, he offers Democrats the opportunity to counter claims that the investigation is a purely partisan and politically-fueled witch hunt, as the president has repeatedly called it. And Mr Romney provides cover and puts pressure on his Republicans, who are alarmingly calibrating what to say about a scandal that only deepened on Thursday when Mr Trump's audio appeared to suggest government officials voiced Concerns about his relations with Ukraine deserve to be severely punished.
Leading presidential advisers acknowledge the threat posed by such a high-ranking figure as Mr. Romney, perhaps Washington's second most famous elected Republican, and seek to isolate him. Following his critical remarks about the Ukraine affair, Mr Trump slammed into the senator, posting a video on Twitter showing a gloomy Mr Romney presently on election night in 2012, who learned he had lost a presidential election. race.
"Mitt Romney is still disappointed that he was never elected President of the United States, and Donald Trump is," said Corey Korivan Lewandowski, a former campaigner for Mr. Trump and a prospect of leading the President's defense in public relations against impeachment.
n. Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., went further, saying that Mr. Romney "knows that while Donald Trump is running the GOP, he doesn't matter."
He said that Mr. Romney was " desperate to be loved by the left and the media "and was" forever upset that my father succeeded where he so uncomfortably failed. "
However, since Mr. Romney first appeared publicly with his alarm on Sunday – he said Mr. Trump's alleged behavior was" disturbing extreme "- other Republicans are gradually beginning to sound notes of concern.
On Wednesday, after examining the secret complaint of a scout who raised concerns about Mr Trump's behavior, Senator Ben Sass of Nebraska received Mr. Romney's wording, calling the report "alarming" and saying that Republicans "should not just go around the wagons." Mr Sas was once an outspoken critic of Mr Trump, but garnered his comments well ahead of the 2020 re-election race and received presidential approval earlier this year.
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said Thursday that he was concerned by the statement in the report that White House officials are seeking to restrict access to Mr Trump's call to Mr. . Zelensky. Representative Michael Turner, an Ohio Republican and member of the Intelligence Committee, said during the hearing that Mr Trump's conversation was "wrong."
Romney said he was not trying to run a party that he believed was largely in Mr Trump's hands. But as the 70-year-old contemplates what he admits is likely to be his last period of public service, his friends say he is appalled by what he sees as the immorality of the president's profit at all costs and his party's willingness to remain a mother in the face of such abuse.
He is also deeply concerned about the behavior of Rudolf Giuliani, the personal lawyer of the President and Mr. Romney's contender in the 2008 Republican Presidential Championship.
said Mr Romney to Mr Giuliani. (In response, the former mayor of New York said, "Where's Mars? I acted on behalf of Donald Trump.")
And even while insisting that he try not to push other Republicans, it was impossible for him to miss his outrage.
"I cannot imagine being in the Senate or in another responsible position and looking around to see who is with you," Mr. Romney said. "You stand for what you believe in."
His challenge in the impeachment debate will be how to balance his outrage and make use of his platform without sounding more sacred than righteous.
Appearing in a forum sponsored by The Atlantic Magazine this week, he clearly separated himself from other politicians, whom he assumed were more susceptible to political considerations.
"It is simply in human nature to see things in a way that is consistent with your own worldview and your sense of being necessary to maintain your position of authority," said Mr. Romney. "I do not know why I am not affected as much as others may be in this regard; maybe it's because I'm old and have done other things. "
Some of his colleagues from Trump are already annoyed with Mr. Romney, who, in their view, overdoes the revelations about the president's deal with Ukraine. " in that, "said Senator David Perdue of Georgia, echoing Mr. Romney's words. According to him, the Utah senator has a" grind ax. "
Some of Mr. Romney's associates believe that his sense of indignation may shame at least those senators who, as the Republican Article says Atego Mike Murphy, "have a moral compass.
But Mr. Murphy, a longtime friend of Romney and an anti-Trump Republican, says, "It will take some time, though the news cycle wants it in an hour."