US President Donald Trump fired back at Mitt Romney after the Republican senator-elect penned an op-ed ed saying Trump “has not risen to the mantle of the office”.
“Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not,” Trump tweeted, referring to retiring Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who has criticised the President often in the last few years.
“Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!”
Romney, who is set to take office Thursday, criticised the President’s character in a Washington Post op-ed Tuesday, saying that Trump’s “conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the President has not risen to the mantle of the office”.
“A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. … And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring,” Romney wrote.
The incoming Utah senator also said that he does not “intend to comment on every tweet or fault,” but that he will “speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”
Romney was seen as a “Never Trumper” during the 2016 election.
Now with Flake on the way out, Romney could take up the role of being an outspoken Republican critic of the President in Congress.
In his speech announcing his retirement, Flake denounced the “complicity” of his own party in what he called an “alarming and dangerous state of affairs” under Trump and blamed the President for setting the tone. Flake pointed to Romney’s op-ed on Tuesday as “thoughtful.”
Romney’s relationship with Trump has been complicated over the years. When Romney sought the presidency in 2012, Trump endorsed the former Massachusetts governor, calling him “tough” and “smart.”
But during the 2016 election, Romney delivered a scathing rebuke of Trump in a speech in which he called the Republican candidate a “phony” and a bully, and criticised his rhetoric about Muslims and Mexican immigrants.
Trump retaliated by mocking Romney’s 2012 presidential loss and claimed Romney was “begging” for his endorsement during that time.
After Trump was elected, the two men seemed to mend fences and Romney was briefly considered for the position of secretary of state.
When he announced his run for senator, Romney appeared to take a veiled swipe at the Trump administration’s immigration policies. But his criticism of Trump was far more muted and in February, Trump endorsed Romney.
Romney will be sworn in Thursday along with the rest of the incoming Senate by Vice President Mike Pence.