Senator Mitt Romney reportedly believes he could be the key to taking down Donald Trump by corralling other Republicans into supporting the president's impeachment in the US Senate, rather than launching a 2020 primary bid.
The Republican’s advisers reportedly told Vanity Fair he “believes he has more potential power as a senator who will decide Trump’s fate in an impeachment trial” instead of competing against the incumbent president in a contentious election that began with more than two dozen Democratic hopefuls.
“He could have tremendous influence in the impeachment process as the lone voice of conscience in the Republican caucus,” one of Mr Romney’s advisers told the publication.
They said he would likely be able to convince other moderate Republicans to join Democrats in supporting Mr Trump’s removal from office — a process that would ultimately require support from two-thirds of the Republican-controlled Senate.
“Romney is the one guy who could bring along Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Ben Sasse,” the adviser said. “Romney is the pressure point in the impeachment process. That’s why the things he’s saying are freaking Republicans out.”
The comments came amid an increasingly hostile impeachment battle, in which Democrats have accused the president of abusing his power by urging Ukraine - and later China - to launch an investigation into one of his 2020 political rivals, Joe Biden.
Still, Republican strategists told The Independent that Mr Romney would not be able to turn the tides of impeachment against Mr Trump alone.
“At this point, it looks exceedingly unlikely that the Senate will back impeachment,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and the former communications director for Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign.
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He added: “There would have to be additional evidence against Trump and a seismic shift in the political landscape.”
Mr Romney, one of the rare, elected Republican critics of the president currently serving in the Senate, has increasingly ramped up his public disapproval of Mr Trump’s policies and behaviour amid the impeachment battle on Capitol Hill.
He described the president’s decision this week to pull US troops out of Syria as a “betrayal”, adding: “It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster.”
The President’s decision to abandon our Kurd allies in the face of an assault by Turkey is a betrayal. It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster. https://t.co/Tu8ARa8Pmp— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney)October 7, 2019
He’s also expressed somewhat timid support for Democrats launching an impeachment inquiry into the president’s alleged abuse of power, stopping short of announcing his support for the probe but writing in a tweet: “When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China's investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated.”
Mr Trump has fired back at the one-time presidential candidate in his own characteristic way, calling Mr Romney a “pompous ‘ass’” while defending his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Somebody please wake up Mitt Romney and tell him that my conversation with the Ukrainian President was a congenial and very appropriate one, and my statement on China pertained to corruption, not politics. If Mitt worked this hard on Obama, he could have won. Sadly, he choked!" Mr Trump wrote.
In a follow up tweet, the president added: “Mitt Romney never knew how to win. He is a pompous 'ass' who has been fighting me from the beginning, except when he begged me for my endorsement for his Senate run (I gave it to him), and when he begged me to be Secretary of State (I didn't give it to him). He is so bad for R's!"
House Democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump, citing a whistleblower complaint that alleged he withheld military financial aid to the country before his 25 July phone call with the Ukrainian president.
The money was reportedly withheld just days before he spoke to the president on a call in which he asked Mr Zelensky to investigate unfounded claims of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and Joe and Hunter Biden over claims of “corruption”. There has been no evidence to support such claims against Mr Biden, who has led in most national polls of the 2020 Democrats.