SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney said Friday he was "sickened" by the conduct of President Donald Trump detailed in the Mueller report, which the one-time presidential candidate described as "a sobering revelation."
Romney, R-Utah, joined at least two other GOP senators publicly criticizing Trump in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The trio broke ranks with the White House and other Republican lawmakers who have limited their remarks to expressing vindication and relief that the report didn't find criminal evidence against Trump.
The first-term senator did say that he, too, was "glad" Attorney General William Barr found "insufficient evidence to charge the president of the United States with having conspired with a foreign adversary or with having obstructed justice.
"The alternative would have taken us through a wrenching process with the potential for constitutional crisis. The business of government can move on."
But Romney, as he has been wont to do since Trump became the frontrunner in 2016, didn't spare the president a harsh assessment of conduct by Trump and his campaign that was detailed in the 488-page redacted report released Thursday.
"I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the president," the statement said. "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."
Mueller's report examined 10 episodes of potential obstruction by Trump, who pressured aides to fire and replace Mueller, lie to the news media and otherwise derail the investigation.
“The president’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” the report said.
Mueller also found Trump's campaign was eager to obtain "the dirt" Russians claimed to have had on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, although the report found no conclusive evidence of the Trump campaign conspiring with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders,” Romney's statement concluded.
GOP Sens. Rob Portman, of Ohio, and Susan Collins, of Maine, were more cautious in their condemnations of Trump's conduct detailed in the report.
"Portman characterized some of the actions of the president and those around the president as inappropriate but not criminal. Even on obstruction of justice, Portman worded his statement carefully, noting others had concluded there was not "sufficient evidence" for charges — not that Trump was cleared," the Cincinnati Inquirer reported.
Collins called the report's details of Trump trying to get Mueller fired "disturbing" and "an unflattering portrayal of the president,” according to Maine Public Radio.
Other Republicans have avoided observations on the details of the Mueller report and instead pointed out that no evidence was found to charge the president with a crime. Any criticisms have been leveled by Democrats who see the Mueller report as an invitation to continue investigating.
Romney's harsher rebuke of Trump is consistent with past statements when the 2012 GOP presidential nominee called then-candidate Trump a "phony" and a "fraud" in a failed attempt to encourage fellow Republicans to find another nominee.177 comments on this story
During his Senate campaign, Romney called out Trump's temperament and character. And before he was sworn in as senator, Romney penned an op-ed in The Washington Post blasting Trump for not rising "to the mantle of the office."
While that could create problems for senators up for reelection in states where Trump has a strong base of support, polls have shown that Utahns want Romney to call out Trump.
According to an Associated Press poll in late 2018, most Utah voters — 64 percent — would like to see Romney confront the president. And a more recent poll found if Romney ran again for president, he would easily beat Trump in Utah.