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In a Washington Post column, incoming Utah Senator Mitt Romney wrote that "the Trump presidency made a deep descent in December"

By Adam Carlson
January 02, 2019 10:02 AM
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Sen. Mitt Romney and President Donald Trump
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Hours after Mitt Romney, a onetime political ally and Republican standard-bearer who is about to join the U.S. Senate, upbraided President Donald Trump for his lack of character and leadership, Trump dismissed the criticism in a characteristic tweet:

“I won big, and he didn’t,” the president wrote Wednesday morning in response to a column Romney published Tuesday in the Washington Post.

In his op-ed, Romney, the Republicans’ 2012 nominee for president, wrote that “the Trump presidency made a deep descent in December.”

He highlighted the exits of both Jim Mattis and John F. Kelly, Trump’s defense secretary and chief of staff, as well as Trump’s “thoughtless claim that America has long been a ‘sucker’ in world affairs.”

“To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. … And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring,” Romney wrote.

And while he felt December had been a low point, there was hardly much else to recommend the administration: “On balance, his [Trump’s] conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

In reply, Trump tweeted derisively of Romney’s unsuccessful bid for the presidency and urged the incoming Utah senator to work with him.

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Trump also referenced Jeff Flake, a retiring Republican senator from Arizona, who was an oft-vocal critic (though still a reliable vote on legislation and appointments).

“Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful.”

“He should be happy for all Republicans,” Trump continued of Romney. “Be a TEAM player & WIN!”

The relationship between Romney and Trump — their party’s onetime presidential nominee and current commander-in-chief — has been turbulent through the years. While the latter endorsed the former during his 2012 run, Romney did not return the favor in 2016 and has repeatedly lambasted Trump.

However, he accepted Trump’s endorsement during his Senate campaign last year.

In his Tuesday column, Romney applauded Trump’s policy moves on taxes, trade and others as advancing Republican priorities. “But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency,” he wrote.

“The world is also watching. America has long been looked to for leadership,” Romney wrote, adding, “Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world.”

95th Annual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
President Donald Trump
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Trump has remained in Washington, D.C., amid an ongoing shutdown of the federal government prompted by his insistence on funding for a southern border wall — a central promise of his campaign.

Congressional Democrats, empowered by sweeping wins in the last midterm election, have refused.

On Twitter Trump has alternately excoriated this decision and called for a “deal.”

He has also found time to respond to his critics — not just Romney but Stanley McChrystal, a retired four-star general, who recently told ABC News he would not work for Trump.

“I think it’s important for me to work for people who I think are basically honest, who tell the truth as best they know it,” McChrystal pointedly said and confirmed that he thinks Trump is “immoral.”

On Tuesday, Trump responded even more pointedly on Twitter, referencing McChrystal’s resignation from the military over comments made by him and his staff in a Rolling Stone article.

“‘General’ McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama,” Trump wrote. “Last assignment a total bust. Known for big, dumb mouth. Hillary lover!”