President Donald Trump spoke to many of the nation's governors at the White House on Sunday night and again on Monday

By Adam Carlson
February 11, 2020 09:41 AM

President Donald Trump shared some of his many opinions while speaking with many of the nation’s governors on Sunday night and again on Monday.

Of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential nominee who broke with his party to vote to convict Trump of abuse of power at his impeachment trial, the president threw a mild jab. “How’s Mitt Romney?” he told Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. “You keep him. We don’t want him.” Herbert did not respond.

Trump, 73, spoke briefly about the coronavirus but said that he believed the U.S. was not in a vulnerable position as the medical community works to address the virus’ spread.

On NATO, the key European-North American military alliance of which Trump has been deeply skeptical, he sounded actually sunny, saying, “I think my biggest fan in the world is [NATO leader] Secretary General Stoltenber.”

The president spoke similarly — unusually — warmly about reporters in attendance at Sunday’s Governors’ Ball, an annual gathering of state leaders at the White House.

“To the media, thank you very much for attending. I appreciate it,” Trump told the press, who has often viciously assailed as “the enemy of the people.”

President Donald Trump speaks during the Governors' Ball in the East Room of the White House on Sunday
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty

In addition to hosting Sunday’s dinner at the White House, which was attended by some two-thirds of the nations’ governors, President Trump also addressed them on Monday at a business session.

A major theme of both remarks was what Trump saw as his own success. He touted the nation’s economy and federal criminal justice reform — so far a rare spot of bipartisanship from an administration that has pursued more divisive goals such as restricting immigration and reversing Barack Obama‘s signature health care law — and he praised the assembled governors. That included Louisiana Democrat John Bel Edwards, whom Trump had campaigned against.

With his characteristic bravado, the president said at Monday’s business session: “We’re in the midst of a great American comeback. We’re creating the most prosperous economy and most inclusive society ever to exist, actually.”

Trump also spoke about his “opportunity zones” initiative to encourage investment in low-income areas, which some of his allies and advisers sees as a key outreach to black voters ahead of November’s election.

(Since before taking office, Trump has grappled, sometimes clumsily and often indignantly, with criticism over his inflammatory rhetoric about race and arguments that he gives cover to white nationalists. He faced widespread backlash last year for racist tweets telling a group of female lawmakers of color to “go back” to their countries despite all being American.)

From left: President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at the Governors' Ball on Sunday at the White House
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty

Addressing the governors at Sunday’s dinner, Trump said, “I know just about all of you, and we argue a little bit, but 90 percent of the time we get along. And I just said, ‘Call the White House, call me anytime you have difficulty, because we’re all in this together.’ “

Trump also singled out the work of First Lady Melania Trump in hosting the night.

I want to thank the first lady for having done such a beautiful job with the settings and all of the things. She works very hard on these things, so I want to thank her very much,” he said.

“You’ve done a tremendous job,” Trump told attendees. “It’s not easy being governor.”

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