18th GOP House member announces retirement a day after saying he may back impeachment

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Rep. Francis Rooney said last week that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's Ukraine quid pro quo admission shocked him.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) on Saturday became the 18th Republican House member to announce their retirement this cycle. The announcement comes a few years after Rooney spent $4 million of his own money to win the seat in 2016 and just one day after he told reporters he might support Donald Trump's impeachment.

During an interview with Fox News on Saturday, Rooney ⁠— a former ambassador to the Vatican under President George W. Bush, Roll Call notes ⁠— was asked whether he needed a third term.

"I don't really think I do, and I don't really think I want one," Rooney said.

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Host Leland Vittert then asked if that meant Rooney would not be running for reelection. Rooney answered yes.

"I've done what I came to do," he said, adding that he wanted to model what it meant to have effective term limits.

"People need to realize ... this is public service, not public life," he said.

Ronney told reporters on Friday last week that he was not ruling out voting to impeach Trump over his requests to Ukraine to investigate 2020 political rival Joe Biden. One day earlier, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had stood before reporters and admitted Trump had ordered aid funds withheld from Ukraine in order to secure such an investigation, something Mulvaney claimed was commonplace inside the Trump department.

Mulvaney has since attempted to walk back those statements.

Ronney on Friday said he was shocked by Mulvaney's comments, noting that if true, the admission was bad news for Trump.

"I've been real mindful of the fact that during Watergate, all the people I knew said, 'Oh, they're just abusing Nixon, and it’s a witch hunt,'" he said. "Turns out it wasn't a witch hunt. It was really bad."

Rooney said that Trump's actions didn't necessarily rise to the level of Watergate, according to the Washington Post, though he said it was important to "get all the facts on the table."

Speaking about Mulvaney's later reversal, Rooney added, "The only thing I could assume is he meant what he had to say, that there was a quid pro quo on this stuff. ... It’s not an Etch A Sketch."

As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rooney has been a part of closed-door interviews with State Department officials describing what they know about Trump pressuring the Ukrainian government.

The House opened an impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower alerted Congress to a July 25 phone call where Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation into former Vice President Biden, as well as a conspiracy theory about a DNC server from 2016. National security experts called this an "unconscionable abuse of power" and a prominent Fox News legal analyst said Trump's actions were both "criminal" and "impeachable."

Rooney's announcement has since sparked praise from some Democrats who see his comments and retirement as an example of putting country over party.

"Rooney should be commended for speaking the truth about President Trump's abuse of power and separating himself from the rest of the Republican caucus who are unwilling to put country over party and uphold the rule of law," Avery Jaffe, a DCCC spokesperson, said in a Saturday statement about Rooney's retirement announcement.

Rooney represents a solidly Republican district, winning his 2018 reelection by a 24-point margin, 62% to 38%. Trump carried the district by a healthy margin in 2016, meaning Republicans will likely retain control of the seat after the 2020 election.

Rooney is the 18th Republican to announce his retirement this cycle, compared to only six Democrats in the House who announced they will not run again in 2020, according to a tally from Daily Kos Elections.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.