Politico reports: Top advisers to President-elect Donald Trump escalated their attacks on Mitt Romney on Sunday, catapulting their long-simmering frustrations on to TV news in an extraordinary public airing of grievances.
In a series of interviews on the Sunday political talk shows, Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump aide, argued firmly against tapping Romney for secretary of state, echoing internal skepticism among some in Trump’s inner circle.
“I’m all for party unity, but I’m not sure that we have to pay for that with the secretary of state position,” Conway said in an interview with CNN. “We don’t even know if Mitt Romney voted for Donald Trump.”
Conway said her comments reflected conservatives’ opposition to Romney, who was a frequent Trump critic during the presidential campaign. “It’s just breathtaking in scope and intensity,” Conway said of the opposition to Romney among Trump supporters, characterizing their reaction as “betrayal.”
The public Romney-bashing comes amid a behind-the-scenes battle for influence among Trump’s top aides, with Conway and incoming White House senior strategist Steve Bannon arguing that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump loyalist, is the best pick for secretary of state. Meanwhile, Vice President-elect Mike Pence is said to be advocating for Romney, arguing that the former presidential candidate can be a bridge to centrist Republicans.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said transition was going smoothly despite the large shockwave rippling through Washington about Trump’s lobbying restrictions.
But some Republicans wondered aloud whether Conway’s comments might be orchestrated by Trump himself as part of a campaign to embarrass Romney, noting Trump’s penchant for headline-stealing public fights. Romney had called Trump “a con man, phony and fraud” during the campaign.
By dangling the possibility of secretary of state in front of Romney and getting him to bite, Trump was able to show that outspoken critics can be turned in his favor when suitably enticed.
And if Trump is indeed now stoking the internal opposition to Romney, it is, as Navarro suggests, most likely an exercise in public humiliation.
Trump on the one hand gets to posture as magnanimous and pragmatic and at the very same time, exacts revenge.