Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney offered harsh criticism of the Trump administration after reading the recently released redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian involvement in the 2016 election, saying he was “sickened” by the “dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land including the President” in a statement on Twitter Friday.
The 448-page report released Thursday outlined multiple attempts by the Trump administration to interfere with Mueller’s investigation, describing 10 incidents in which the administration may have committed obstruction of justice.
The report also outlined instances in which members of the Trump administration had contact with Russian nationals. Vox’s Zach Beauchamp summarized the key contacts:
We learned that two Trump campaign officials, campaign manager Paul Manafort and Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates, were regularly providing polling information to a Russian national whom Gates believed to be a “spy.”
We learned that, after Trump publicly called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s emails, he privately ordered future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to find them. Flynn reached out to a man named Peter Smith who (apparently falsely) told a number of people that he was in contact with Russian agents.
We learned that Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos attempted to arrange meetings between Trump and Putin, and that Trump personally approved Papadopoulos’s work on this front.
“I am also appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia — including information that had been illegally obtained; that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement; and that the campaign chairman was actively promoting Russian interests in Ukraine,” Romney said in response to these findings.
Romney, a former Republican presidential candidate, is one of the few members of his party to publicly criticize the president following the release of the Mueller report. Trump has claimed the report proves he did nothing wrong, and as Vox’s Tara Golshan reported, most Republicans in Congress now say it it time to move on from questions of collusion and Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the report proved “no Americans conspired with Russia,” while providing a “mountain of facts supporting the principal conclusions the attorney general and deputy attorney general shared last month: no collusion, no obstruction.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, “It is time to move on. Americans deserve better than this partisan quest to vilify a political opponent, and I urge our Democratic colleagues in the House to put their emotions and opinions aside, and instead use that passion to come to the table and work on real solutions for all Americans.”
Although most Republicans have echoed McCarthy and Collins, Romney isn’t the only high profile Republican senator speaking out against the president.
Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins called the report “an unflattering portrayal” of Trump on Friday. She also said the Mueller report was a “very thorough undertaking” that showed “the Russians were determined to try to influence public opinion and interfere in our elections,” calling the Russian interference “a serious threat to our democratic institution.”
Unlike Romney, Susan Collins did not comment on the specifics of Mueller’s findings with regards to potential obstruction of justice or Trump campaign officials’ contacts with Russian actors.
This isn’t the first time Romney has been critical of Trump. He made many of his issues with the president known during the 2016 election.
Back in 2016, before Trump received the Republican nomination, Romney criticized the then-Republican frontrunner’s personality, business dealings, and lack of policy understanding. Romney even said during the election, “Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, at the same time he has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good.”
Once Trump was elected, though, Romney took a more measured approach, meeting with Trump about becoming secretary of state. Later, Romney accepted an endorsement from the president for his senatorial run.
The conciliatory approach Romney has taken toward Trump was on display in his Mueller statement, despite his rebuke of the president and his close associates. The senator did maintain his party’s line as he urged the country to move forward now that the report has been made public.
“It is good news that there was insufficient evidence to charge the President of the United States with having conspired with a foreign adversary or with having obstructed justice,” Romney said. “The alternative would have taken us through a wrenching process with the potential for constitutional crisis. The business of government can move on.”
Democrats, though, have not moved on. Friday, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, issued a subpoena asking for the full, unredacted report by May 1. A number of Democrats, in the wake of the findings, also have urged Congress to continue to investigate the president, and some, like 2020 candidate Elizabeth Warren have called for Trump’s impeachment.