Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is bracing for "unimaginable" consequences after being the only Republican on Wednesday to vote for President Donald Trump's conviction.
Romney's vote did little to change the all-but-guaranteed end to the president's impeachment trial — Trump's acquittal — but it dramatically shifted the surrounding narrative. What Trump had called an entirely "partisan" impeachment was no longer so.
Trump told the audience at Thursday morning's National Prayer Breakfast that "I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong." His comments were a thinly veiled shot at Romney, who cited his Mormon beliefs during his speech announcing his impeachment vote.
The president had on Wednesday tweeted an ad displaying Romney as a Democratic "secret asset" and tweeted early Thursday that if the "failed presidential candidate" had "devoted the same energy and anger to defeating a faltering Barack Obama as he sanctimoniously does to me, he could have won the election."
Speaking with The New York Times podcast "The Daily," Romney said he is expecting "unimaginable" consequences for his vote, adding that he does not yet know what they will be.
"My personal and political and team affiliation made me very much not want to convict," he said. "I mean, I want to be with my colleagues in the Senate. I don't want to be the skunk at the garden party. I don't want to have the disdain of Republicans across the country."
Perhaps the strongest criticism was leveled by Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., which was amplified by his tight-knit circle of conservative allies. Trump Jr. tweeted that Romney is "forever bitter he will never be" president, calling him "too weak to beat the Democrats then so he’s joining them now."
"He’s now officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the @GOP," Trump Jr. wrote.
Romney's own niece, Ronna McDaniel, who not long after becoming chairwoman of the Republican National Committee publicly dropped "Romney" from her name, tweeted Wednesday that her uncle's vote was not the first time she "disagreed" with him and was likely not the last. The RNC then sent out an email saying Romney "turns his back on Utah."
Romney's Senate Republican colleagues expressed disappointment in his decision but did not excoriate him to the level of Trump and his eldest son. Still, they took him to task.
"I think it's always a dangerous place to be saying that God told you to do something specific," Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., told "Fox and Friends" Thursday. "Especially when you have a lot of God-fearing people who are diametrically opposed to your position."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, meanwhile, said that while he was "surprised and disappointed," Romney "on the whole has been supportive of what we’ve been trying to accomplish in the year that he’s been there."
Romney's vote to convict Trump of the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, marked the first time in U.S. history a senator voted to convict a president of his own party in an impeachment trial. Some of his Republican colleagues, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, said Trump's conduct regarding Ukraine was wrong, but none were willing to take such a stand.
"I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice," Romney said from the Senate floor Wednesday. "I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am."
Though Romney is not up for re-election until 2024, his prior clashes with Trump have caused him headaches with Republicans in Washington, D.C., and in Utah. The 2012 Republican nominee has a complicated relationship with the president dating back years. While Romney has at times been highly critical of Trump's conduct, like when he excoriated Trump along the campaign trail in 2016, Romney had also accepted Trump's endorsement in 2012, auditioned to be his secretary of state and has supported much of his agenda as president.