President-elect Donald Trump and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney continued their awkward reconciliation on Tuesday, dining together as Trump weighs whether to pick one of his onetime fiercest critics to lead the State Department.
As Romney lobbies for the job, he made his starkest remarks yet unequivocally praising the incoming president as someone who “can lead us to that better future” — a complete 180-degree turn from blasting Trump as a “phony” and “fraud” just months ago.
After leaving the dinner at the Jean-Georges restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in New York City, Romney told reporters they had a “wonderful evening” and that he’s been impressed with Trump’s transition so far and many of his Cabinet picks.
“We had another discussion about affairs throughout the world, and these discussions I’ve had with him have been enlightening, and interesting, and engaging,” Romney said.
“He won the general election and he continues with a message of inclusion and bringing people together and his vision is something which obviously connected with the American people in a very powerful way,” he continued.
“And what I’ve seen through these discussions I’ve had with President-elect Trump, as well as what we’ve seen in his speech the night of his victory, as well as the people he’s selected as part of his transition, all of those things combined give me increasing hope that President-elect Trump is the very man who can lead us to that better future,” Romney concluded.
Some of the photos from the dinner, though, showed Romney looking uncomfortable at times. The two were joined by Trump’s incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, the current Republican National Committee chairman.
Romney’s words of praise are vastly different from the ones that the former Massachusetts governor had for his party’s new standard-bearer earlier this year.
Last March, Romney spent nearly 20 minutes ripping into the controversial real estate magnate, saying he was “playing the American public for suckers.”
However, since Trump’s upset victory, Romney has emerged as an unlikely pick to be the country’s chief diplomat. The two met just over a week ago to begin to mend fences, and both emerged signaling it had gone well.
But picking Romney over several other loyalists — such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani or former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton — has exposed discord within the Trump camp. Other possible secretary of state candidates include retired Gen. David Petraeus and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, now a senior adviser to his transition, made the rounds of the Sunday news shows and excoriated Romney.
“People feel betrayed to think that Gov. Romney, who went out of his way to question the character and the intellect and the integrity of Donald Trump, now our president-elect, would be given the most significant Cabinet post of all, secretary of state,” she said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
CNN reported that Trump was “irritated” over Conway’s very public airing of grievances against Romney; Conway denied the president-elect was upset.