Mitt Romney, the former presidential nominee, who as a Utah senator was the only Republican to vote to convict Donald Trump in both his impeachment trials, criticized the Manhattan district attorney’s office for its handling of the hush money case in which the former president pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.
“I believe President Trump’s character and conduct make him unfit for office,” Romney said in a statement, as Trump was arraigned.
“Even so, I believe the New York prosecutor has stretched to reach felony criminal charges in order to fit a political agenda
“No one is above the law, not even former presidents, but everyone is entitled to equal treatment under the law. The prosecutor’s overreach sets a dangerous precedent for criminalizing political opponents and damages the public’s faith in our justice system.”
Trump faces 34 felony counts arising from hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels; a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal; and a former Trump Tower doorman who prosecutors said tried “to sell information regarding a child that the defendant [Trump] had allegedly fathered out of wedlock” which turned out not to be true.
In court in New York on Tuesday, Trump pleaded not guilty.
The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, argued his office was obligated to pursue the case because investigators collected evidence indicating illegal activity.
“We today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law,” Bragg told reporters. “No amount of money, no amount of power changes that enduring American principle.”
Romney was endorsed by Trump in his own presidential run, in 2012, but disowned Trump in 2016. He nonetheless flirted with working for the ex-president, perhaps as secretary of state, before gaining election to the Senate and emerging as a prominent critic.
In 2020, Romney was the only Republican to vote to convict Trump in his first impeachment trial, over approaches to Ukraine for dirt on political opponents including Joe Biden.
In voting to convict on one of two counts (abuse of power, the other being obstruction of Congress), Romney became the first senator ever to vote to remove a president of his own party.
Trump was impeached for a second time for inciting the deadly 6 January 2021 attack on Congress, in an attempt to overturn his election defeat by Biden.
Romney was joined in voting to convict by six other Republicans, by far the most bipartisan impeachment in history but short of the required majority for conviction.
The other senators who voted to convict were Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Burr and Toomey have since retired.
On Tuesday, Collins told WABI, an ABC affiliate in Maine “the people of our country, whether they are supporters or opponents of President Trump, [should] react peacefully when the indictment is unsealed”.
Cassidy has described the New York indictment as “less about the crime and more about the target”, telling Fox News Sunday “this particular problem is it’s going to lead to all kinds of political theater”.
Last week, Murkowski told the Anchorage Daily News: “The reality is that no one is above the law, whether you are a sitting president or a former president, no one is above the law.”
She also said: “I do feel that this will be made into more of a political issue, pitting Americans one against another.”
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