Francis Rooney, G.O.P. Lawmaker Who Won’t Rule Out Impeachment, Is to Retire
WASHINGTON — Representative Francis Rooney, Republican of Florida, who has refused to rule out voting to impeach President Trump, said on Saturday that he would not be seeking re-election.
Mr. Rooney, who first won his district in southwest Florida in 2016, said on Fox News that he believed he had accomplished what he wanted to do in Congress and had grown frustrated with aspects of legislative service.
Asked if he was interested in a third term, Mr. Rooney said, “I don’t really think I do, and I don’t really think I want one.”
“I’ve done what I came to do,” he added, noting that he also wanted to set a model in the House for adhering to term limits.
A day earlier, Mr. Rooney became the first House Republican to indicate that he was willing to consider supporting articles of impeachment over the president’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, but he said on Saturday that his decision to retire was unrelated. (He emphasized to reporters that the allegations did not rise to the level of the Watergate scandal.)
“I’m going to do at all stages what I think is right to do,” Mr. Rooney told reporters on Friday when asked if he was more outspoken because he was considering retirement. “You’ve got to do the right thing at every stage. Whether I run again is a totally different can of worms, that has to do with family things, business, wanting to do some different things.”
“This is kind of a frustrating job for me,” he added. “I come from a world of actions, decisions, putting your money down and seeing what happens. This is a world of talk.”
As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Rooney has had access to the closed-door interviews conducted during the open impeachment inquiry, which has brought a parade of career diplomats and senior officials to the Capitol to give hourslong testimony. A former ambassador to the Holy See, he defended the career diplomats who have testified, telling reporters on Friday that “it’s painful to me to see this kind of amateur diplomacy, riding roughshod over our State Department apparatus.”
He also offered some of the bluntest criticism of a top White House official’s efforts to walk back earlier statements saying that Mr. Trump had sought a quid pro quo in withholding American aid from Ukraine.
“I couldn’t believe it — I was very surprised that he said that,” he said, referring to the president’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.
“It’s not an Etch a Sketch,” he added, miming the gesture that erases the toy board.
He acknowledged that some of his Republican colleagues had concerns about incurring Mr. Trump’s wrath, as the president continues to lash out at outspoken conservative critics like Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah.
But Mr. Rooney said he had no such reservations, noting, “I didn’t take this job to keep it.”
“What’s he going to do to me?” Mr. Rooney said of the president. “I mean, he could say bad things, but it just is what it is. Let’s just let the facts speak.”
“I want to get the facts and do the right thing,” he added, “because I’ll be looking at my children a lot longer than I’m looking to anybody in this building.”
Mr. Rooney, a businessman and one of the wealthiest members in Congress, has long been a part of the Republican establishment.
One of the subsidiaries of Rooney Holdings, the company Mr. Rooney and his family started in 1984, has been responsible for the construction of the presidential libraries for Presidents George and George W. Bush in Texas, football stadiums for the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, and the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research outside the capital.
But he has also cultivated a reputation as one of the few elected Republicans who acknowledges the science of climate change and has pressed for a tax on carbon dioxide pollution to address the problem.
In September, the House passed a bill he wrote that would ban offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico — something he said on Saturday he had not been able to achieve when Republicans controlled the House.
Mr. Trump won Mr. Rooney’s affluent district, which includes Fort Myers, Naples and Marco Island, by more than 20 points in 2016.
Asked in an interview on Friday with The New York Times about reaction from constituents over his criticism of the administration, Mr. Rooney said, “They don’t understand how anyone could say anything remotely at variance with President Trump.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I’m just going to call ‘em like I see ‘em.”
Lisa Friedman contributed reporting.
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