WASHINGTON — A day after Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida became the first House Republican to say he would consider voting to impeach President Donald Trump, he announced his retirement.
The two-term congressman from a reliably conservative district announced on Fox News on Saturday that he has decided not to run for re-election. His spokesman subsequently confirmed the decision but did not immediately respond to a request for an interview with the congressman.
Rooney told reporters Friday when asked about the political consequences of potentially impeaching Trump that he wanted “to get the facts and do the right thing because I’ll be looking at my children a lot longer than I’m looking to anybody in this building.”
In the same interview, Rooney said he hadn’t made up his mind yet on whether to run again. Rooney denied that he was speaking so freely because he might not run.
“Whether I run again is a totally different can of worms, OK?” Rooney said. “That has to do with family things, business, wanting to do some different things. This is kind of a frustrating job for me. I come from a world of action, decisions, putting your money down and seeing what happens. This is a world of talk.”
Before running for Congress, Rooney served as president and CEO of one of America’s largest private companies, Rooney Holdings, an investment firm with interests in real estate development, construction, energy and more.
He’s been actively involved in Republican politics, giving millions to candidates and their super PACs. He was a big supporter of the Bush family, serving as ambassador to the Holy See in Rome under President George W. Bush and giving $2 million to Jeb Bush’s super PAC to support the former Florida governor’s failed presidential bid.
“I didn’t take this job to keep it. … I took this job to do the right thing at all times,” he said Friday. “And if that means I got to go find, go back to my other job, that’s OK, too. I like building buildings and drilling oil wells.”
When asked for a comment on Rooney’s retirement, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Pack wrote back just: “R+13,” an allusion to the party’s 13-point advantage in the district.
In other words, it’s not a district the GOP is worried about losing.
A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did put out a statement, however, commending Rooney 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.”
Rooney had told reporters that he’d been thinking a lot about Watergate and how before all the facts were known, critics of the investigation called it a “witch hunt” against President Richard Nixon. He said he doesn’t think Trump’s actions are as bad, but that Congress needs to get all the facts.
Rooney acknowledged that merely suggesting that Trump could be guilty of something that would require impeaching him invites the president’s wrath. Few Republicans in Congress have come even close to saying that.
“What’s he going to do to me? I mean, he can say bad things, but it’s just what it is,” Rooney said, when asked if he was worried about Trump’s reaction. “There’s a lot of people around who are seriously concerned about being criticized by the president. Seriously. I just want to call them as I see it.”