Mitt Romney, who pointedly called Donald Trump a “fraud” and a “phony” during the campaign, is now creating new headaches for the President-elect.
The former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican Presidential candidate is reportedly still in the running for Secretary of State, competing against more familiar Trump allies, like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Last week, sources close to the Trump transition tell Heat Street, Trump was prepared to offer Romney the job, as long as Romney was willing to apologize for openly opposing Trump’s campaign for President. Romney even went so far as to look for a third-party challenger to the Republican nominee. On Monday morning, the transition team announced that Romney will take a second meeting with the President-elect on Tuesday.
The meeting is being described by insiders as a “final interview” for the Secretary of State job. And Trump’s inner circle of advisers, reportedly, likes Romney’s chances.
But it’s clear not everyone is as happy with the “team of rivals”-style selection as Trump. Close allies, including some senior advisors to the President-elect, have been publicly taking aim at Romney in an effort to torpedo any potential appointment—using the media to convince Trump that his choice is incorrect.
Trump’s House leadership committee co-chair Rep. Chris Collins took a swipe at Romney on CNN, calling Romney a “lone wolf,” and noting that his lack of allegiance to the President-elect could mean he won’t follow White House orders when sent to negotiate diplomatic deals overseas.
— New Day (@NewDay) November 28, 2016
Fearing that Trump’s close circle of advisers won’t let him know that key staff and supporters are very critical of—and even feel betrayed by—the Romney pick, Giuliani, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and Trump top aide Kellyanne Conway have taken to the airwaves to complain about the Republican insider who Trump, himself, called a “con-man” and a “fraud” during the campaign.
“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 told CNN. “We don’t even know if Mitt Romney voted for Donald Trump.”
The media was not impressed.
Giuliani and Conway are trying to intimidate the President Elect.
How weak do they think he is?
Their lack of discretion is embarrassing.
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) November 27, 2016
And, it seems, neither was Trump.
BREAKING – Sources: Trump 'furious' over Conway comments about Romney https://t.co/Sd4kogEPGz
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) November 28, 2016
And, according to sources, neither was senior advisor Steve Bannon, who is “growing frustrated over Conway’s failure to become a team player.” He reportedly is convinced that she is pursuing her own agenda inside the administration. Reports seem to indicate that Bannon and incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus have joined forces to make sure Conway stays in line.
Reince, at least, is staying calm. “It isn’t a matter of warfare,” he told Fox News.
Since Bannon and Reince are Trump’s top aides, that may leave Conway with few choices but to use the media to get to Trump’s supporters, in the hope that they can convince the President-elect to dump the Romney idea.
The rift over Romney seems to be exposing deeper cracks in Trump’s transition operation. With just a few short weeks to go, Trump will need to make sure that he can command the senior advisory team or risk appearing weak before ever entering office.