Republican Sen. Mitt Romney broke with President Donald Trump and the rest of his party Tuesday to oppose the confirmation of a federal judge who had referred to former president Barack Obama as an “un-American impostor.”
Romney, of Utah, was the only voting senator to break ranks on a party-line vote to seat Michael Truncale on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
In a brief interview after the vote, Romney mentioned 2011 comments Truncale made to a women’s group in Beaumont, Texas, in which he spoke about Obama.
“There were some things that he said about President Obama that were disparaging, and as a Republican presidential nominee, I felt I just couldn’t go along with that for a judge,” Romney said Tuesday.
Romney ran against Obama as the GOP presidential nominee in 2012.
The Senate approved Truncale on a 49-to-46 vote, making him the 113th Trump-nominated judge to win confirmation.
Liberal groups such as the Alliance for Justice and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights raised sharp concerns about Truncale’s nomination, citing past public statements he had made on a wide range of issues.
In written responses to questions from Judiciary Committee senators submitted last year, Truncale explained the “impostor” comments by saying that it was “possible . . . that I was merely expressing frustration by what I perceived as a lack of overt patriotism on behalf of President Obama.”
He also made a broader effort to excuse his past statements by saying he had been speaking “in my capacities as a candidate for the United States Congress or as a political commentator.”
“As a judicial nominee, it would be inappropriate for me to offer comments on any political matters,” Truncale told the panel. “I can commit to you and the committee, however, that as a United States District Court judge, I would put all of my personal political views aside and fulfill my duty to ‘administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties incumbent upon me.'”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke briefly on behalf of Truncale’s confirmation Monday, saying he has a “distinguished reputation in law” and noting that an American Bar Association review panel found him well qualified for the bench.