Days away from joining the Senate’s Republican majority, senator-elect Mitt Romney broadly criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies and character and argued that the president “has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
“With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable,” the Utah Republican and 2012 presidential nominee wrote in a Washington Post op-ed posted online Tuesday night. “And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”
Romney’s biting public assessment came as Trump and Senate Republicans faced a new governing dynamic. Republicans on Thursday will cede control of the House to Democrats, who were prepared to oppose Trump on a number of policies and promised a slew of investigations into his actions and those of his aides and campaign officials, particularly with regard to Russia’s election meddling.
Trump responded to the criticism in a tweet early Wednesday.
Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2019
Trump’s warning shot referred to retiring Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has been Trump’s most consistent critic among Senate Republicans. As he and other critics leave Congress, it is an open question who — if anyone — will take up the role of publicly criticizing a president who remains popular with Republican voters.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, had criticized Trump before — notably, in a March 2016 speech he called Trump a “fraud” and opposed his bid for the Republican nomination — but later he made peace with the president-elect and even expressed interest in joining his administration.
He has also accepted Trump’s endorsements twice — during his unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign, and during his Senate race last year.