Herbert, a Republican, said he wouldn’t have voted to convict Trump on abuse of power, but said “it’s hard to find fault” with Romney, saying he votes his conscience.
“I would not have voted that way, based on my information, what I know, but far be it for me to tell somebody else what they should vote with their information,” Herbert, 72, told the Salt Lake Tribune.
“It’s hard to find fault with anybody who says, ‘This is my moral code, this is what I believe to be true,’ and vote according to his conscience. You know, I don’t know how you criticize that.”
Romney, 72, in his first term as a U.S. senator representing Utah, broke with Republicans last week to vote in favor of one of the two articles of impeachment.
“The president asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival,” Romney said on the Senate floor in Washington on Feb. 5 before the vote. “The president’s purpose was personal and political. Accordingly, the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.”
Romney cited his Mormon faith while explaining his decision.
Trump, 73, was acquitted by the Senate on both articles of impeachment. Romney’s sole GOP vote against the president provoked widespread ire, including among Utah lawmakers. Republican state Rep. Phil Lyman filed a resolution to censure Romney, claiming Romney’s judgment was questionable.
“We’re not censuring him for voting his conscience. We’re censuring him for the positions that he’s taken through this whole process,” Lyman told the Tribune. “And to send a message that we want to have good relationships with the White House, we want to have good relationships with President Trump.”
Herbert told the Tribune that he didn’t agree with the push to censure Romney.
“Why would they censure him for being true to himself and true to his moral code, to his convictions?” Herbert said. “I think that would be just a mistake to go down that road. Every time we don’t agree with somebody’s vote or their statement they make, are we going to censure them?”
Romney met with some state lawmakers Feb. 6 in a meeting that House Speaker Brad Wilson, a Republican, described as “tense.” Wilson and Senate President Stuart Adams, another Republican, later filed a resolution announcing support for Trump that didn’t include a censure of Romney.
CPAC’s Schlapp: Concerns for Romney’s Safety
Following Romney’s vote, Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Chairman Matt Schlapp said the senator wouldn’t be welcome at this year’s conference.
Schlapp explained during an appearance on the CW’s “Full Court Press” that the decision stemmed from concerns for Romney’s safety but said the senator could come as “a non-conservative.”
“We won’t credential him as a conservative. I suppose if he wants to come as a non-conservative and debate an issue with us, maybe in the future we would have him come,” Schlapp said.
“This year, I’d actually be afraid for his physical safety, people are so mad at him.”
Schlapp said the issue conservatives have with Romney is that he appears to support certain causes and politicians at times that are convenient, but later reverses course.
“When he needed a conservative like Donald Trump to endorse him in his Senate primary last time, he wanted him in,” Schlapp said.
“But then, when he gets the Senate job, he wants to distance himself from Trump. He’s a use ’em and lose ’em kind of guy.”