As Utah Sen. Mitt Romney announced his decision to not run for reelection Wednesday, an excerpt of a biography about him “Romney: A Reckoning,” by The Atlantic writer McKay Coppins, reveals bombshell accounts of his last few years in the Senate, following Jan. 6, 2021.
The excerpt, published by The Atlantic, includes an exchange Romney had with Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.
King told Romney that he had been briefed by a Pentagon official, who said that extremist groups were holding a rally in Washington, D.C., to take back the 2020 presidential election.
“The president has been telling them the election was stolen; now they’re coming to steal it back. There’s talk of gun smuggling, of bombs and arson, of targeting the traitors in Congress who are responsible for this travesty,” wrote reporter McKay Coppins, the author of “Romney: A Reckoning.”
Romney hung up the phone and texted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “In case you have not heard this, I just got a call from Angus King, who said that he had spoken with a senior official at the Pentagon. ... I hope that sufficient security plans are in place, but I am concerned that the instigator — the President — is the one who commands the reinforcements the DC and Capitol police might require.”
But McConnell never responded, leaving senators, like Romney, to scramble to safety as the rioters stormed in.
McConnell stood up for Romney
Although McConnell often aligned with former President Donald Trump, he defended Romney when Trump posted a series of attacks directed at the Utah senator on social media.
Romney had called Trump’s tries at forcing Ukrainian leaders to investigate the Biden family’s business dealings “wrong and appalling.” And Trump didn’t like that. When Romney thanked McConnell for standing up for him, McConnell said, “It wasn’t for you so much as for him. He’s an idiot. He doesn’t think when he says things.”
“You’re lucky,” he added. “You can say the things that we all think. You’re in a position to say things about him that we all agree with but can’t say.”
The excerpt stated that while McConnell didn’t publicly condemn Trump, he revealed his stance in private. Romney recalled McConnell saying, “They nailed him,” during the impeachment trial in January 2020.
Romney’s distaste for J.D. Vance
The book also takes a jab at Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, who Romney became acquainted with in 2018. Romney had invited Vance, a successful author at the time, to his annual Park City summit.
But Romney told Coppins that Vance had reinvented himself as a MAGA politician to run for a Senate seat.
“I don’t know that I can disrespect someone more than J.D. Vance,” said Romney, who was uncomfortable with the thought of Vance joining the Republican Conference. “How do you sit next to him at lunch?”
Still, Romney and Vance have found a way to work together and are currently co-sponsors of a bill introduced in the Senate to raise the minimum wage to $11.
“Despite rising costs of living, the federal minimum wage has not been increased in more than a decade, which has left millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet,” Romney said in a press release emailed to the Deseret News.
The proposal, originally introduced in 2021, also seeks to require e-verification for employers to ensure that the wage increases go only to those who are authorized to work.
Romney’s plans for the future
After Jan. 6, Romney lost some faith in the political system. “A very large portion of my party,” he told Coppins, “really doesn’t believe in the Constitution.”
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Romney responded to a question about the quote: “When you had President Trump say that we should put the Constitution aside and reinstall him as the president, that’s a pretty clear indication that the leader of the party believes the Constitution is there to be followed when it’s useful. In my view it is there to be followed under all circumstances.”
He had considered running for president in 2024 but abandoned the idea because he thinks all the candidates should clear the path for one person to go up against Trump. Instead, Romney thought about creating a new political party to promote centrist policies, with the help of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
The idea wasn’t to put forward a candidate, who would be doomed between the Biden-Trump rematch, but to support the one who closely aligns with their agenda, Coppins wrote.
It’s hard to say whether Romney is still considering the idea, but what is for certain is his commitment to public service, which he said he inherited from his dad.
“Romney: A Reckoning” is set to publish Oct. 24.