WASHINGTON — Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, on Sunday assailed Mitt Romney, a leading contender for secretary of state in the Trump Cabinet, accusing him of having gone “out of his way to hurt” the president-elect during the Republican primaries.
Conway’s criticism of Romney, on ABC’s “This Week” program, came as Trump is weighing whether to choose Romney, Rudy Giuliani or perhaps another candidate for the State Department post.
Asked about her comments on Twitter last week that she had received a “deluge” of concern about Romney, Conway said she had discussed the issue privately with Trump and would respect his decision. But she made clear that she personally opposed choosing Romney as secretary of state.
“There was the Never Trump movement, and then there was Gov. Mitt Romney,” she said on ABC, adding later: “I only wish Governor Romney had been as critical of Hillary Clinton” during the general election. During the primaries, Romney called Trump a “fraud” and a “phony.”
Conway said it was important for Trump to seek to unify the Republican Party by making gestures to those who opposed his candidacy. But, she added, “I don’t think the cost of party unity has to be the secretary of state position.”
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) November 27, 2016
Moments after appearing on the show, Conway, who is under consideration to be Trump’s press secretary, wrote in a message on Twitter that she had told Trump her opinion privately, “and I’ll respect his decision.”
“Point is the volume & intensity of grassroots resistance to Romney is breathtaking,” she wrote.
I did tell him privately. And I'll respect his decision. Point is the volume & intensity of grassroots resistance to Romney is breathtaking https://t.co/bknmfGZ13a
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) November 27, 2016
And on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Conway said people felt “betrayed” by the idea that Romney could get a top job in the Cabinet. “I’m not campaigning against anyone,” she said. “I’m just a concerned citizen.”
“We don’t even know if he voted for Donald Trump,” she added.
Her comments came as advisers to Trump inside the transition effort and outside it are feuding over which direction to go in making one of the most critical appointments to the president-elect’s national security team. Those private differences spilled into public view last week.
A dinner guest who attended Trump’s Thanksgiving festivities at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida said that the president-elect had spent some of the dinner soliciting advice about his choice for secretary of state. A close aide to Romney said on Sunday that Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, had given little indication of his thinking on the matter.
Trump and his aides also continued on Sunday to harshly criticize a recount effort being undertaken by Jill Stein, who was the Green Party candidate for president. In a series of Twitter posts starting early Sunday, Trump condemned Clinton, whose top lawyer for her presidential bid said over the weekend that the campaign would participate in a recount in Wisconsin and potentially in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
In an initial message at 7:19, Trump wrote that “Hillary Clinton conceded the election when she called me just prior to the victory speech and after the results were in. Nothing will change.”
He then went on to quote a comment by Clinton during one of their debates, in which she said she was horrified by Trump’s refusal to say that he would accept the outcome of the election. And he noted that in her concession speech, she urged people to respect the vote results.
“’We have to accept the results and look to the future, Donald Trump is going to be our President,’” Trump wrote on Twitter, quoting Clinton. “’We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.’ So much time and money will be spent — same result! Sad.”
Marc Elias, who served as Clinton’s campaign lawyer, wrote in a post on the self-publishing platform Medium on Saturday that campaign officials had found no “actionable evidence” of hacking or attempts to tamper with the vote. But he said the campaign would “participate” in the recount effort begun by Stein.
“We do so fully aware that the number of votes separating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the closest of these states — Michigan — well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount,” Elias wrote, adding that it was important to have the campaign represented during any legal proceedings related to the election.
Advisers to Trump also responded on Sunday to the death of Fidel Castro, insisting that Trump would take a hard look at President Barack Obama’s diplomatic opening to Cuba.
“He is open to any number of possibilities,” Conway said on ABC, noting that the president-elect was “open to researching and in fact resetting relations with Cuba.” But she added that Trump would also look at the possibility of reimposing trade and travel restrictions if that would help get political prisoners in Cuba released.
Reince Priebus, who will be Trump’s White House chief of staff, said on “Fox News Sunday” that the president-elect would demand concessions from Cuba in exchange for continued improvements in relations.
“Repression, open markets, freedom of religion, political prisoners — these things need to change in order to have open and free relationships,” Priebus said. “There’s going to have to be some movement from Cuba in order to have a relationship with the United States.”