Mitt Romney explains why he waited until now to attack Donald Trump

Mitt Romney interviewed on Fox Business Network earlier this Month.
Mitt Romney interviewed on Fox Business Network earlier this Month. –Richard Drew / AP

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Mitt Romney says he wanted to speak out months ago about the “threat’’ Donald Trump presents to Republicans and to the country as a whole. The former Massachusetts governor told The Boston Globe he found it “astonishing’’ that none of the other Republican candidates would aggressively attack Trump.

But, according to a transcript of the Globe’s wide-ranging interview, Romney said his close advisors begged him not to get into it with Trump.

“‘The return fire is going to be overwhelming,’’’ Romney said he was told. “‘It will hurt you, and it will accomplish very little. Don’t do it.’ I literally had one of my advisers say, ‘I’m begging you not to do that.’’’

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Eventually, the Republican front-runner’s rhetoric hit a breaking point — from his calls to ban Muslim immigration to the United States to Trump’s refusal to immediately disavow David Duke.

“My son Tagg came running up the stairs,’’ Romney told the Globe, remembering the day of Trump’s CNN interview, in which he blamed a faulty earpiece for his inability to reject the support of the former Ku Klux Klan leader.

“[Tagg] was white in the face,’’ Romney said. “He said can you believe what Donald Trump has said? And I was shocked as well. I contacted my colleagues, my advisers, and counselors and said: ‘I’m giving a speech. I’m going to give it as soon as I can.’’’

On March 3, the 2012 Republican nominee gave his anti-Trump speech, thoroughly attacking the 2016 GOP front-runner from every angle: his policy proposals, his character, and even his record of success.

“But the hesitancy was overcome by the outrage, over KKK and Muslims and other things,’’ he said.

Romney also stood by his decision to go on Fox News and suggest Trump’s currently-undisclosed tax returns contain a “bombshell.’’

“I don’t know what makes them worth hiding so aggressively as he does,’’ he told the Globe. “But anybody who hides something with such vehemence is clearly hiding something significant.’’

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Romney said he was among many who didn’t predict “the current political scene.’’ As far back as January 2015, he said he thought it was “extremely unlikely’’ the primaries where destined for anything other than a Hillary Clinton-versus-Jeb Bush general election.

The reason I didn’t think [Trump] would get in and if he did he would quickly evaporate was that he was characterized, if you will, by the birther movement in the 2012 contest and a relatively, I’ll call it theatrical personal style, which included showing off and bragging and stretching the truth — and overstating his assets, and the like. And so I thought he would not last long on the political stage.

“How wrong was I,’’ he added.

Asked if Republicans hold some responsibility for Trump’s rise — as President Barack Obama has suggested — Romney said he wouldn’t specifically point fingers, but acknowledged there was “understandable anger’’ about economic insecurity.

“Mr. Trump has always been what he is,’’ Romney said.

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