Some of Donald Trump’s allies are steering him away from tapping one of his fiercest critics to lead his State Department.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Wednesday morning both cast 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney as a detractor who’s unlikely to be loyal to Trump.
Huckabee warned that appointments of disloyal Republicans could prove to be a distraction in a president’s administration, arguing that such a person could be a problem because he or she doesn’t have a sense of commitment to or compatibility with the president-elect.
“It’s not about that I don’t care for Mitt personally, but I’m still very unhappy that Mitt did everything he could to derail Donald Trump,” Huckabee told Fox News. “He didn’t just go after him from a standpoint of saying I disagree with his policy on immigration or I disagree with his policy on taxes. He attacked him on a personal level about his character, integrity, his honor.”
The president-elect is looking at both Romney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani for secretary of state, but the search for that post could still broaden. It does not appear that a final decision is imminent, even though Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller said on Wednesday that Trump is spending “significant time” on the deliberations.
Romney delivered a blistering speech in March in Salt Lake City in which he called Trump a “phony” and a “fraud.” He also tried to pick a convention floor fight, boldly calling on voters to cast their primary ballot for whatever Republican had a chance to beat Trump in their state.
He also used his speech to warn of the dangers of a Trump administration, mocking his business acumen — “A business genius he is not,” Romney said — and blasting his “flimsy at best” policies. He also described his foreign policy chops as “very, very not smart,” and said that “dishonesty” was the hallmark of his campaign.
Trump, who had repeatedly dismissed Romney as a failed candidate, immediately returned fire, saying Romney was a “choke artist” who begged for his endorsement and would have “dropped to his knees” had he asked him to.
On Wednesday, Huckabee accused Romney of not only “savaging” the man Republicans overwhelmingly elected as their nominee with his rhetoric during the campaign but also “savaging the voters.”
“It would be a real insult to all those Donald Trump voters who worked really hard. That’s what I think he has to stop and consider,” Huckabee said.
The only way Romney “could even be considered for a post like that,” he continued, is if “he goes to a microphone in a very public place and repudiates everything he said in that famous Salt Lake City speech and everything he said after that, where he said Donald Trump wasn’t fit, that he lacked character. I mean on and on. That’s beyond just the normal political infighting that we all experience.”
Gingrich characterized Romney as Trump’s “most vicious and most explicit opponent all through the campaign on the Republican side” and suggested his loyalty would be to himself, citing his presidential aspirations.
“You have to list out all the things he said and think, ‘Is this guy really gonna be loyal?’ But also, you know, Governor Romney wanted to be president, not secretary of state, and you have to ask the question: When he goes overseas, is he gonna be the secretary of state for President Trump or is he gonna be Mitt Romney’s own secretary state?” Gingrich asked. “I will support whoever President-elect Trump picks because he has the right, I think as the new president, to build the team he wants to build, but I would suggest there are a lot of other people who are more qualified than Romney in foreign policy and who are also have not been as actively hostile as he’s been.”
For his part, Romney tweeted congratulations to Trump on the day after the election, writing, “Best wishes for our duly elected president: May his victory speech be his guide and preserving the Republic his aim.”
It was a drastic turnaround from the message he conveyed in that March speech, in which he also said that Trump’s “promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University” and added that the real estate mogul was conning American voters for “a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.”
As it turns out, though, the former Massachusetts governor may get the chance to help “make America great again” from inside Trump’s Cabinet.
After Romney met with Trump in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Saturday, the transition team provided a readout, saying, “It was an extremely positive and productive conversation.”
In a brief statement to the media, Romney called their discussion “far-reaching” in regard “to the various theaters in the world where there are interests of the United States of real significance.”
“We discussed those areas, and exchanged our views on those topics — a very thorough and in-depth discussion in the time we had,” he said. “And I appreciate the chance to speak with the president-elect and I look forward to the coming administration and the things that it’s going to be doing.”
Alex Isenstadt contributed to this report.
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