Nov. 24, 2016 1:26 p.m. ET
The fight over the Trump administration’s secretary of state appointment has spilled into the open, with some prominent Republicans close to President-elect Donald Trump arguing for a loyal supporter to fill the post rather than longtime critic Mitt Romney, currently a front-runner for the job.
Trump adviser and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway issued a series of pointed tweets Thursday morning in which she appeared to question the former Massachusetts governor’s suitability for a role working alongside Mr. Trump.
Ms. Conway tweeted that she had received a “deluge” of social media and private communications about Mr. Romney. In the same post, she linked to a Politico article with the headline: “Some Trump loyalists warn against Romney as secretary of state.” In a second tweet she added that previous secretaries of state such as Henry Kissinger and George Shultz “flew around the world less, counseled POTUS close to home more. And were loyal. Good checklist.”
Mr. Trump’s decision over whom to appoint to the State Department post has been marked by an internal tug of war between supporters of Mr. Romney, those favoring former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani—a longtime Trump ally—and a third group pressing the president-elect to keep searching for candidates.
Two people in Mr. Trump’s camp earlier this week said he was leaning toward Mr. Romney, but Ms. Conway’s Thanksgiving Day tweets suggest that the issue hasn’t been settled. Representatives for Mr. Trump didn’t immediately return requests for comment, nor did Mr. Romney’s representative.
Ms. Conway’s comments followed a public offensive this week by prominent Trump loyalists Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who both aired their concerns about a Romney appointment on Fox News.
Mr. Gingrich said that Mr. Romney was Mr. Trump’s “most vicious and most explicit opponent all through the campaign on the Republican side,” and that he also may not be able to be trusted because he ran for president himself in 2008 and 2012.
“Gov. Romney wanted to be president, not secretary of state, and you have to ask the question: When he goes overseas, is he gonna be the secretary of state for President Trump or is he gonna be Mitt Romney’s own secretary of state?” Mr. Gingrich said.
Mr. Giuliani, the other secretary of state front-runner, ran for president in 2008, but actively supported Mr. Trump’s campaign.
Mr. Huckabee said that the only way Mr. Romney “could even be considered” for the secretary of state post is if he publicly takes back all his criticisms of Mr. Trump. “He didn’t just go after him from a standpoint of saying I disagree with his policy on immigration, I disagree with his policy on taxes. He attacked him on a personal level about his character, integrity, his honor,” said Mr. Huckabee.
During the campaign Mr. Romney stood out as one of the most forceful critics of Mr. Trump, saying he posed a fundamental threat to American democracy. “If we, Republicans, choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished,” Mr. Romney said in a March speech at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” Mr. Romney said there. “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.”
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