Sep 25, 2019

Senate's new maverick Republican: Mitt Romney and the whistleblower complaint

Mitt Romney. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Image

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is standing as a maverick in his party, coming out as one of few Republicans to openly question President Trump's disputed conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Driving the news: Romney tweeted last Sunday: "If the President asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme." He also told NBC on Monday that Trump should make the whistleblower complaint available to Congress because it would be "very helpful to get [to] the bottom of the facts."

  • A summary of the call released by the Trump administration on Wednesday shows that the president asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
"There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me."
— President Trump

Shortly after the transcript's release, Romney spoke at The Atlantic Festival about why he's pushing back against the president, stating:

"I think it’s very natural for people to look at circumstances and see them in the light that’s most amenable to their maintaining power, and doing things to preserve that power."

Context: Trump and Romney have a rocky history. In 2016, Romney called Trump "a fraud" and attempted to rally voters behind one of Trump's primary competitors. But shortly after Trump's election, the 2 seemingly rekindled their relationship, as Trump met with Romney while mulling over Cabinet nominees and later endorsed him in Romney's 2018 Senate bid.

Between the lines:

  • Wednesday's transcript release and subsequent fallout comes after the announcement that the House will launch a formal impeachment inquiry against the president.
  • Articles of impeachment would ultimately be decided by a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate. For now, it seems unlikely the Senate will enter a judgment to convict.

Go deeper: How an impeachment inquiry works

Go deeper

Massive demonstrations put police response to unrest in the spotlight

Washington State Police use tear gas to disperse a crowd in Seattle during a demonstration protesting the death of George Floyd. Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

The response of some officers during demonstrations against police brutality in the U.S. has been criticized for being excessive by some officials and Black Lives Matter leaders.

Why it matters: The situation is tense across the U.S., with reports of protesters looting and burning buildings. While some police have responded with restraint and by monitoring the protests, others have used batons, tear gas and other chemicals and devices to disperse protesters and, in some cases, journalists.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. cities crack down on protesters

The scene near the 5th police precinct during a demonstration calling for justice for George Floyd in Minneapolis on Saturday. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Major U.S. cities have implemented curfews and called on National Guard to mobilize as thousands of demonstrators gather across the nation to continue protesting the death of George Floyd.

The state of play: Hundreds have already been arrested as tensions continue to rise between protesters and local governments. Protesters are setting police cars on fire as freeways remain blocked and windows are shattered, per the Washington Post. Law enforcement officials are using tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse crowds and send protesters home.

Journalists get caught in the crosshairs as protests unfold

A man waves a Black Lives Matter flag atop the CNN logo during a protest in response to the police killing of George Floyd outside the CNN Center on May 29. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

Dozens of journalists across the country tweeted videos Saturday night of themselves and their crews getting arrested, being shot at by police with rubber bullets, targeted with tear gas by authorities or assaulted by protestors.

Why it matters: The incidents show how easy it can be for the media to entangled in the stories they cover, especially during a time of civil unrest.