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Romney returns to Utah as lawmakers seem to worry about Trump seeking revenge

Sen. Mitt Romney weighs in President Trump's clearing of peaceful protesters for 'photo op'
Mitt Romney leaves meeting with Senate leaders
Posted at 1:15 PM, Feb 06, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — Hours after his vote to convict President Trump in the impeachment trial, Senator Mitt Romney was on Utah's Capitol Hill to meet with Republican legislative leadership.

Sen. Romney met behind closed doors on Thursday morning with Republican Senate and House leadership. As he walked through a private hallway between the House and Senate, he declined to comment to FOX 13 about his vote.

People who attended those closed-door meetings described them as sometimes "tense," but also said the senator was diplomatic as he explained his vote.

But some lawmakers do appear to be concerned about the potential for President Trump, who is known for holding grudges, to take out his anger with Sen. Romney on the state of Utah.

Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, introduced a resolution in the Utah State Legislature to censure Sen. Romney for his vote.

"I feel like Utah has a president in the White House and I don’t want that relationship for Utah’s sake to be damaged by the actions of Sen. Romney," Rep. Lyman said.

Rep. Lyman told reporters he wanted to reaffirm his support for President Trump.

"We’re not censuring him for voting his conscience," he said of Sen. Romney. "We’re censuring him for the positions he’s taken throughout this process and again to send a message that we want to have good relations with the White House, we want to have good relations with President Trump and we don’t want this to be a detriment."

Asked if he was worried about retribution, Rep. Lyman told FOX 13: "We don’t want it to be a detriment. As I said, I’m worried about relationships."

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said a resolution will be introduced in the Utah State Legislature re-affirming their support for President Trump. He said the president has done many good things for Utah and the rest of the country.

Asked about what was discussed, Speaker Wilson said it was a very frank conversation.

"He conveyed he is comfortable with the decision he made," Speaker Wilson told reporters. "We expressed we would have maybe come to some different conclusions."

Another bill that is gathering steam in the Utah State Legislature would allow for a recall of a U.S. Senator. Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, said he did not run it in response to Sen. Romney's vote. However, since then, he has gotten a lot of support for it.

"I think support has grown. Whether or not that’s support to pass the House or not, I don’t know," he told FOX 13.

Both Rep. Lyman and Rep. Quinn met briefly with Sen. Romney.

"I told him I respected the fact that he voted his conscience," Rep. Quinn said. "I thought he was wrong."

But Utah State Senate Republican leaders poured a lot of cold water on the House's resolutions and bills, warning that they may be unconstitutional and questioning if they are necessary.

"He voted his conscience and that's all I'll say," Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said of Sen. Romney.

Asked if he feared retribution from President Trump, Sen. Adams (who has been a longtime Trump supporter) replied: " Time will tell. I just don’t think so. I think there’s enough positive between the state and President Trump that we’ll work through this."

Senate GOP leadership indicated a desire to simply "move on."

"You hope people can vote their conscience, people can vote their district and not have it held against them," Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, told reporters. "I would want to think there’s a place in the Republican party for someone to vote their conscience and to respect that."

Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, told reporters they supported the president, but it was time to "move on" and focus on local issues.

"I, for one, wouldn’t want to be judged, to be censured for one vote that I make," Sen. Ipson said. "When he makes 80% of his votes to support the president. Not everyone would say his vote doing was wrong."

Those who are happy with Sen. Romney's vote are Democrats on Utah's Capitol Hill. In an interview with FOX 13, House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, called it a "profile in courage." He said the minority caucus would oppose Rep. Lyman's censure resolution and the one by GOP leaders praising President Trump.

"Today’s best friends may be yesterday’s worst enemy in terms of political issues," the House Minority Leader said of the situation.

Asked if Sen. Romney was worried about his support in Utah, Speaker Wilson replied: "I wouldn't characterize it that way."

He said he expected Sen. Romney would be representing Utah for a number of years, but added: "My instincts tell me there's a lot of people unhappy with the senator."