An apparent split over who will be the next secretary of state apparently has erupted among President-elect Donald Trump’s advisers in the wake of the real estate mogul’s meeting last week with 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said appointing Romney as the nation’s top diplomat would be an “enormous” disappointment to Trump supporters while Kellyanne Conway said the opposition to Romney is “breathtaking.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been publicly lobbying for the job and trash-talking Romney. Politico reported all the infighting might open the way for a dark horse candidate, possibly retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former CIA chief forced to resign because he gave classified documents to the biographer with whom he was having an affair.
The Wall Street Journal quoted “people familiar with the deliberations” as saying Trump is leaning toward Romney despite the former Massachusetts governor having called Trump a “conman” and a “fraud” during the campaign.
“His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill,” Romney said in a March speech.
Supporters of Romney as the choice, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus, see him as having a calming effect on U.S. allies, showing Trump can be pragmatic.
Gingrich told Fox News Romney can’t say anything “that doesn’t sound phony and, frankly, pathetic.”
"He called Trump vicious and vile things ... and the idea that now that Trump has won that Mitt Romney would suddenly decide to issue a mea culpa and say, 'Oh, gee, all the vicious things I said about you when you were running I didn't really mean,' " Gingrich said, adding, "He sure did mean them, and he sure did try to defeat Donald Trump."
He said last week he can think of 20 people “more naturally compatible with the Trump vision of foreign policy.”
Conway made the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows, saying Romney went out of his way during the campaign to hurt Trump’s candidacy, calling his behavior unforgiveable.
“There was the Never Trump movement, and there was Gov. Mitt Romney,” Ms. Conway told ABC’s “This Week.”
Conway began her anti-Romney campaign on Twitter last week but refused to say whether her attack was sanctioned by Trump.
“I won’t discuss that,” she said.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” she said her office has been inundated by email from supporters who oppose Romney, calling it “just breathtaking in scope and intensity.” She also questioned Romney’s foreign policy credentials, saying she was unaware of any steps he has taken to help calm tense situations around the world.
“We’re all for party unity,” Conway said. “I don’t think a cost of admission for party unity has to be the secretary of state position.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, said to be in the running for ambassador to Israel, has said appointing Romney would be “an insult” to supporters.