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Mitt Romney to Republicans: Stop perpetuating ‘big lie’ that Biden stole election from Trump

Utah GOP senator says his party is inflaming anger, divisiveness over impeachment trial

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, walks inside the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

Former President Donald Trump will never admit that he lost a fair election, but every elected Republican ought to be telling voters that as a step toward bringing the country together, Sen. Mitt Romney said Tuesday.

In addition to social media perpetuating the “big lie” that Trump is somehow still president and President Joe Biden stole the election, GOP officials, too, are contributing to that notion, the Utah Republican said.

“You have many of the Trump supporters in elected office, senators, congresspeople, governors, continuing to say the same thing, that the election was stolen,” Romney said.

But, he said, what they should tell people is that the Trump campaign “had a chance to take their message to the courts, the courts laughed them out of court. I’ve seen no evidence that suggests that there was widespread voter fraud.”

Romney said elected Republicans need to go on Fox News and say, “You know what, I was a big Trump supporter, I was really pulling for Donald Trump, but he lost fair and square.”

Romney made the comments to the Economic Club of Chicago during an online forum with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., titled “Governing from the Middle.” David Axelrod, a former Obama campaign political strategist and director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, moderated the conversation.

Earlier Tuesday, Romney was among five Republicans who joined Senate Democrats in rejecting an effort by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to declare the pending impeachment trial unconstitutional. The vote sent a strong signal Tuesday that there are not nearly enough votes to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, voted with the 45 Republicans who supported Paul’s resolution.

“If the Senate were to adopt a broad interpretation of the impeachment power — one allowing federal officials to be convicted on impeachment charges even after leaving office— the result would not only be problematic, but also contrary to the text, structure and historical understanding of the Constitution,” Lee said in a statement.

Trump, the only president to be impeached twice, will be the first president to go on trial after leaving office. The Senate previously held an impeachment trial for a Cabinet official who had left office.

Romney said over the weekend that the impeachment trial is necessary to hold Trump accountable for his alleged conduct after the election and the deadly incursion at the U.S. Capitol.

“Five people died with the attack on the Capitol. Five human beings died. There’s no question but that the president incited the insurrection that occurred,” he said Tuesday. “How culpable is he? That’s something we will evaluate.”

Romney, the only Republican who voted to convict Trump in the Senate trial last year, said to simply move on without holding the former president accountable would be inconsistent with the history of justice in the United States.

“I believe that it’s an element of unity, which I look forward to having resolved so that we can move on,” he said.

Romney took issue with Republicans who say a Senate trial would further inflame passions in an already divided country.

“I say, first of all, have you gone out publicly and said that there was not widespread voter fraud and that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States? If you said that, then I’m happy to listen to you talk about other things that might inflame anger and divisiveness,” he said.

“But if you haven’t said that, that’s really what’s at the source of the anger right now.”

Nearly three-fourths of Republicans believe that democracy has been stolen, he said.

A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll released last week found that 65% of Utah Republicans believe there was widespread voter fraud and 56% believe Trump legitimately won the election.

“You’ve got to have that get into the rear-view mirror before you talk about the next stage,” Romney said.