WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump and conservative pundits are unleashing a stream of vitriol against Republican Sen. Mitt Romney for his vote to convict the president of abusing the presidency, even as the Senate rejected impeachment charges against Trump.
Romney, who lost the 2012 presidential election to former President Barack Obama, said Wednesday he knew he would be vilified. He said he could not live up to his deep Christian faith and ignore what he saw as Trump's wrongdoing when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy last July to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter's work for a Ukrainian natural gas company.
On Twitter early Thursday, Trump said, "Had failed presidential candidate @MittRomney devoted the same energy and anger to defeating a faltering Barack Obama as he sanctimoniously does to me, he could have won the election. Read the Transcripts!"
Had failed presidential candidate @MittRomney devoted the same energy and anger to defeating a faltering Barack Obama as he sanctimoniously does to me, he could have won the election. Read the Transcripts!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2020
Later, at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Trump singled out Romney for more derision, although not by name.
"I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong," Trump said, after waving a newspaper that proclaimed his acquittal.
Romney, the only Republican to break ranks to vote for Trump's conviction and removal from office, contended that Trump's call for the Biden investigations constituted "an appalling abuse of the public trust" and "a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values."
The blowback against Romney was almost immediate.
Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., said Romney should be expelled from the Republican Party and described him with a vulgar epithet.
Trump's 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale called Romney an "irrelevant relic."
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who worked for Romney's 2012 campaign, declared that "only the president’s political opponents — all Democrats, and one failed Republican presidential candidate — voted for the manufactured impeachment articles.”
Conservative pundits heaped more scorn on Romney.
“Utah’s junior senator reminded us of why he couldn’t connect with most regular, working-class people,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham said. “They don’t like politicians who claim to be holier than thou when they’re really just sticking a shiv in your back. He’s the ultimate selfish, preening, self-centered politician."
Breitbart News, a right-wing media outlet, claimed, “Anyone who has followed Mitt’s career could have seen this betrayal coming. This isn’t the first time he’s behaved like a bitter sanctimonious weasel when it comes to Donald Trump.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson refused to identify Romney by name, saying, "That senator shall go unnamed on this show on the grounds that silly moral preening should not be rewarded with the publicity that it’s designed to garner."
Conservative pundit Sean Hannity, a staunch Trump supporter, called Romney "a diminished figure. Clearly, losing a presidential election ruins people."
"His career is done," former White House aide Sebastian Gorka claimed on his radio show.