President Donald Trump is not taking one Republican Senator’s recent vote well — at all. Utah’s Mitt Romney was the only Republican to cross party lines and vote to convict the president on a charge of abuse of power at the recent conclusion of his Senate impeachment trial, and now, Trump and his allies have begun a de facto campaign to tie Romney himself to supposed corruption in Ukraine. Rather than admit even the slightest legitimacy to opposition to the president’s behavior, he and his allies have launched into the conspiracy theory that Romney must just be trying to cover for his own outlandishly supposed global web of corruption.
The idea is that Joseph Cofer Black, who served as both a board member of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and a national security adviser for Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, represents some kind of secret corruption that Romney wants to hide. Burisma is the same company whose board Hunter Biden served on, which has driven the conspiracy theories about the Bidens that Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate in the bribery scheme that got him impeached.
Figures like Fox News’s Laura Ingraham have touted the Romney conspiracy theory, and Trump himself retweeted a message from a seemingly completely random Twitter user that read:
‘Romney is covering up his part in corruption in Ukraine. This has nothing to do with truth or God. He is a desperate man. The truth will come out.’
Of course, the problem is that there’s no evidence that there’s actually any truth to come out in the first place. Romney has no documented personal connection to Black, and Black, in turn, has no apparent connection to any corruption that went on at Burisma. The president and his allies are resorting to nothing other than the power of suggestion in an attempt to make their case that actually, they’re completely in the right.
Matt Wolking, the Trump campaign’s deputy communications director, “did not respond when asked whether this fact provided adequate context for Romney’s vote,” POLITICO explains, in reference to Black’s service on the Utah Senator’s presidential campaign. Black did not respond either, although a Romney spokesperson has chimed in by noting:
‘There were hundreds of informal policy advisers to the Romney campaign. If you were a Republican policy expert at that time, chances are you were part of that group.’
Ironically, Trump himself has been surrounded by plenty of advisers with long-running connections to actual, documented overseas corruption. His former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is currently serving a long prison sentence in part for money laundering conducted in conjunction with his work for pro-Putin factions in Ukraine. Just this week, for a turn towards more domestic corruption, Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone got a recommendation from prosecutors for a full seven to nine years in prison for a wide-reaching obstruction of justice scheme.
Wildly enough, even the president’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow and his current national security adviser Robert O’Brien worked for Romney too. The president and his allies are apparently hoping that observers simply forget all of that heading into the presidential election season this year.