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Mitt Romney receives Profile in Courage Award for 2020 impeachment vote

Romney is the first senator in U.S. history to vote to convict a president of the same party in an impeachment trial.
/ Source: TODAY

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah is receiving the Profile in Courage Award for being the only Republican to vote to convict former President Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial in 2020.

With that decision, Romney became the first senator in U.S. history to vote to convict a president in his same party, earning him the award created by the family of former President John F. Kennedy and bestowed upon public figures who risk their careers by embracing unpopular positions for the greater good.

Mitt Romney
"I sleep well because I know that I did what my conscience told me was the right thing to do," Sen. Romney told NBC's Peter Alexander of his vote to convict Trump during his first impeachment trial in 2020.Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images

"I'm very appreciative of the honor, but also humbled by it," the senator, 74, told NBC News chief White House correspondent Peter Alexander in an exclusive TODAY interview Friday.

Following the 2020 impeachment trial, brought about from Trump's dealings with Ukraine, Romney was widely criticized by the former president's supporters and others within his own party.

"Well, no question, there are a few people that are not happy with me," he said. "I understand that that's the nature of the job that I've got."

Asked whether his vote was worth it, Romney answered, "Absolutely. I mean, I sleep well because I know that I did what my conscience told me was the right thing to do."

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JFK's daughter, former Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, told Alexander that Romney was chosen because his actions were reminiscent of the lawmakers highlighted in her father's book, "Profiles in Courage."

"He was willing to risk his career and his popularity within his own party to do what's right for our country and to follow his conscience and Constitution and his impeachment votes," she said. "I think his courage is an example for all of us."

Romney said he ultimately decided to vote to convict Trump because of the oath he and his congressional colleagues swore at the start of the impeachment trial, which ended in acquittal.

"We swore, under God, that we would apply impartial justice. I took that very, very seriously," he told Alexander. "I listened to the various testimonies that were provided ... and I felt that that was a severe enough violation of his oath of office to require a guilty verdict."

Caroline Kennedy, 63, remarked that it was another act of bravery for the senator even to accept the award.

"Not everybody has the courage to accept this award, but we're grateful to the senator, and we feel as a committee, we have to be courageous to call it like we see it," she explained. "Certainly Sen. Romney's example stood out."

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Her son, Jack Schlossberg, 28, added that he believes Romney's actions show "that courage and faith and integrity are not outdated and that politics can still be a noble profession."

"That's why we honor profiles in courage and celebrate them, because they inspire us all to be better," he added.

Romney also noted that there was "some irony" in his receiving the award, not because of his own "personal failings from time to time," he said, but because he previously ran for office against a Kennedy, JFK's younger brother Ted.

"We became very good friends as time went on and actually collaborated together on a piece of legislation to provide health care to all the citizens of our state," Romney said, referring to the health-care reform law he enacted in 2006 as governor of Massachusetts.

This kind of bipartisanship is what Romney believes the country needs right now, he added.

"I think common ground is the best way to unify the country. I'm afraid if the president of either party instead just follows the demands of the most aggressive wing in his party, you may have that wing satisfied, but the nation has become more divided. You've got to find common ground and work with people in both parties and get answers to issues that are bipartisan."