Mitt Romney may be on deck to be the new face of America to the world, and some Trump loyalists don’t like it. While the rest of the country warded off tryptophan-induced paralysis over Thanksgiving weekend, Trump insiders sniped at Romney and promoted rivals.
Romney refused to support Trump during the campaign and wouldn’t say who he voted for––the kind of disloyalty that Trump claims to despise.
Despite that, the two men met earlier this week and Trump said Romney looks like he came out of “central casting” for the role, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, former Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted on Thanksgiving Day that she was “Receiving deluge of social media & private comms re: Romney.” A cadre of longtime Trump boosters joined the pile-on, including Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs. Trump insiders anonymously told The Daily Mail that they may demand an apology from Romney. Even conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones got in on it, sending Trump an impassioned message on his Thanksgiving Day broadcast:
“This is letting the vampire in,” Jones said.
“If Mitt Romney does not apologize publicly repeatedly and does not eat crow, then you can know that individual is only sharpening a twelve-inch dagger to shove it in your back as soon as you turn your back,” he added.
But on the transition team’s daily conference call with reporters, Trump spokesman Jason Miller wrote off the conflict as over-speculation and hype.
“A lot of the palace intrigue gets a little bit overblown at this stage of the process,” Miller said. “I think it’s important to note that the president-elect is meeting with a number of well-qualified potential selections for this position that share his “America first” foreign policy, some of whom have been public and others have not.”
Miller told The Daily Beast after the call that Trump will have more meetings with yet-unnamed Secretary of State contenders. So this process could take some time.
In the meantime, people in Trump’s inner circle are unlikely to tone down the #NeverRomney rhetoric. Rudy Giuliani, an early Trump supporter, made the case for himself to the Wall Street Journal yesterday. The paper noted that the former New York City mayor is in “an unusually public fight” for the gig. And he isn’t shy about it.
“I probably have traveled in the last 13 years as much as Hillary did in the years she was secretary of state,” he told the paper. “My knowledge of foreign policy is as good, or better, than anybody they’re talking to.”
“I’ve been to England eight times, Japan six times, France five times. China three times—once with Bill Clinton, by the way,” he added. “You can’t say I don’t know the world.”
And on the way, he picked up some baggage––namely, his association with Mujahedin-e al Khalq, a group the State Department designated as a terrorist organization from 1997 to 2012, as the Journal noted. Giuliani says MEK isn’t a terrorist group. Saddam Hussein once sheltered the group and gave it weapons. The Heritage Foundation criticized MEK for those ties in a 2011 paper. But the Saddam link may not bother Trump; he famously praised the dictator on the campaign trail, saying “he killed terrorists.”
For his part, Romney has stayed far away from the media fray––basically taking an approach that is the opposite of Giuliani’s. He isn’t doing cable news interviews, he isn’t tweeting, and his staffers aren’t returning reporters’ requests for comment on the foofaraw. Ryan Williams, a former campaign spokesman for Romney, said this is classic Mitt.
“Mitt is a man of great integrity and class,” Williams told The Daily Beast. “I’m not surprised to see that he is staying out of the fray and showing respect to President-elect Trump by letting him reach his own decision.”
The Trump team says they won’t announce any cabinet-level or administrative positions over the weekend, so for now, we’ll have to wait and see.