Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s senior adviser and former campaign manager, publicly criticized the possibility of Mitt Romney becoming secretary of state on the morning political-show circuit Sunday.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Conway told host Martha Raddatz that Romney had taken special steps to question Trump’s character and intellect – in her eyes a major detriment because the primary quality of a secretary of state should be loyalty to the president, she said.
“There was the ‘Never Trump’ movement and then there was Gov. Mitt Romney,” Conway said. “He went out of his way to hurt Donald Trump.”
She added that it was unclear whether Romney had even voted for Trump.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential candidate, was a fierce and vocal critic of Trump throughout his campaign. In a memorable speech from March, Romney said Trump was “playing the members of the American public for suckers.”
Still, the two met last Saturday for more than an hour at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where they had what Romney called a “far-reaching conversation.”
“It went great,” Trump said of the same meeting.
Since the Nov. 20 encounter, Romney’s name has been floated as a potential secretary of state.
The day after that meeting, Conway simply described both men as accomplished job creators. However, several days later, on Thanksgiving, Conway took to Twitter to say she was receiving a “deluge” of social media and private communications warning against picking Romney as secretary of state.
On ABC “This Week” Sunday, Raddatz asked why Conway, one of Trump’s closest advisers, was motivated to publicly tweet about opposition to Romney when she had the president-elect’s ear: Was it a reflection of Conway’s opinion or had she been told by Trump to do so?
“I won’t discuss that,” Conway said, adding that Trump was the only person with final say in his cabinet picks. “Whatever he decides will have my full support and respect, and he knows that.”
However, Conway went out of her way to point out that Trump had won states that Republicans – including Romney in 2012 – had not won in years, such as Iowa and Pennsylvania.
“This is Trump’s party now and he won states that Mitt Romney lost,” she said. “… I don’t think a cost of admission for party unity has to be the secretary of state position.”
Conway repeated the same sentiments on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying the volume of messages she has received from Trump royalists concerned about Romney was “breathtaking.”
“It’s just the backlash from the grass roots,” Conway said. “People are saying they’ll feel betrayed if Romney was chosen. We don’t even know if Romney voted for Donald Trump. I think there are concerns … You want a secretary of state who’s loyal.”
“State of the Union” host Dana Bash asked Conway whether she thought Romney would be loyal to Trump if selected.
“I would hope so,” she said. “If President-elect Trump chooses Mitt Romney, that will have the full support and backing of all of us.”
Conway’s comments on Sunday’s television shows bewildered some who wondered why Conway seemed to be so publicly campaigning against Romney.
Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and political commentator who also was one of Trump’s harshest critics during the campaign, tweeted that she was astounded by Conway’s comments, especially since Conway “has the ability to tell Trump privately.”
Conway responded to Navarro by saying that she had told Trump privately as well.
On Sunday, Conway also derided plans by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to participate in an election recount effort in Wisconsin initiated by Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
On “State of the Union,” Conway said Trump was not focused on prosecuting Clinton, but wouldn’t rule it out – something that indicated Trump was being “incredibly gracious and magnanimous” to Clinton, she added.
Though the two are neither related nor causal, Conway on “This Week” linked Trump’s latest public comments about not pursuing a prosecution of Clinton to the Clinton campaign’s decision to join the recount effort.
“But this is how the president-elect feels at this moment about Hillary Clinton,” Conway told Raddatz. “I would say, in response that, I guess her attitude toward that is to have her counsel, Mark Elias, go and join this ridiculously fantastical recount that Jill Stein is engaging in Wisconsin and perhaps elsewhere. So you’ve got the President-elect Donald Trump, being quite magnanimous to Hillary Clinton and you’ve got her responding with joining into this recount.”
Conway told Raddatz that she was confident the recount would not change the election results in Wisconsin, where Stein received 33,000 votes.
“33,000 votes is like the number of people who tailgate at a Packers game,” Conway said. “It is not a serious effort to change the election results.”
On “Fox News Sunday,” chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus also criticized the recount effort in Wisconsin as “a total waste of everybody’s time.”
“This is a fundraising, notoriety-driven fraud by someone who won 33,000 votes in Wisconsin to President-elect Trump who won 1.4 million,” Priebus said. “So, here, we have a person perpetrating a fundraising scheme that has lost over 1.35 million votes in Wisconsin attempting to undo a 28,000-vote lead. It’s never going to happen. It’s a total waste of everybody’s time.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Amy B Wang, Kristine Guerra