- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2020

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said Thursday he believes the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump could have some lasting benefits for the nation, despite the Republican ultimately being acquitted following what Murphy called a gift-wrapped present from the Senate to the leader of the GOP.

While Murphy predicted Trump’s behavior might be chilled slightly, the Democrat told an audience at the University of Connecticut School of Law the decision by House Democrats to pursue articles of impeachment could ultimately have a more lasting effect on future U.S. presidents.

“It … creates a moral and ethical and legal line in the sand that other future administrations may eventually see, even if this one doesn’t,” he said. “So I think it as a future benefit. We didn’t just lie down and accept this because impeachment was going to be hard.”

Both Murphy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, also of Connecticut, joined their fellow Democrats in voting as a group Wednesday to convict Trump of obstructing Congress and abuse of power. Only Utah Republican U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney joined the Democrats in voting to convict Trump on the abuse of power charge.

Murphy said he considers Romney a friend and was one of a handful of senators in the chamber when the former two-time Republican presidential candidate delivered his speech, explaining his decision to break ranks with his GOP colleagues. Murphy admitted to the crowd that he was “a little choked up” by Romney’s remarks, understanding the “sizable political risk” his friend was taking.

“But I was also emotional because there was Mitt Romney, one of the great political figures of our time, recognizing that this is indeed a moment that the history books will spend pages and pages describing and analyzing and interpreting,” Murphy said. “My guess is that Mitt knows that this might be a pivotal moment in American history, the moment that we’re living in right now.”

Murphy, who criticized GOP leadership for not agreeing to allow witnesses and other evidence during the Senate trial, which he called “a show trial,” said Romney’s actions are an important lesson for everyone. He said Democrats in particular should think hard about Romney’s decision on Wednesday to break with his political party, especially if a Democratic president faces impeachment in the future.

“Would we have the courage to do what Senator Romney did, remove a Democratic president who had chosen to trade away the safety of the nation for political help,” asked Murphy. “Would we have made the same decision that my friend did yesterday afternoon?”

While Murphy said he believes he personally would have voted to convict a Democrat who did the same things as Trump, he admitted having “some doubt” that all his Democratic colleagues would do the same. Murphy noted that’s a problem for the future of the U.S. Senate, which was purposely designed to be deliberative and not put political party above the country.

Murphy said “the tough work” is to now figure out how to make sure “the health of our party never again comes before the health of our country” and that “no political figure in the future should have to endure being such an outlier as Mitt Romney will in the coming days, weeks and months.”

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