How could Romney impact the Trump presidency?

The Lead panel discusses the future of Senator Orrin Hatch's seat.

Posted: Apr 23, 2018 8:51 AM
Updated: Apr 23, 2018 8:51 AM

Mitt Romney on Saturday called some of the disclosures made by former FBI Director James Comey in his explosive new book "unusual" and "disappointing" and said the excerpts he'd seen were not what he'd expect from a former FBI director.

"I did find it unusual and somewhat disappointing to have an FBI director go into such personal reactions — as opposed to 'nothing but the facts, ma'am; only the facts,'" Romney said in an interview with CNN at Utah's GOP convention.

The US Senate candidate, who is vying to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch, said the excerpts of "A Higher Loyalty" that he saw "read a bit too much like a novel."

"I haven't read it, but the excerpts that I've seen, it struck me -- this isn't what I would have expected for a FBI director," he said. "I would have expected this from a former Cabinet member, or a member of the White House staff, but somehow felt that the FBI director was more separate from those kinds of comments."

At the same time, Romney said Comey probably felt the need to respond after his rough treatment by the White House.

"As Marco Rubio can tell you, that's not always the best strategy," he quipped, referring to the back-and-forth between the Florida senator and Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

'Do not believe' Trump will fire Mueller

In a discussion of the challenges that would lie ahead if he were elected senator, Romney outlined his views on topics ranging from Syria to his skepticism about the pronouncements of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who recently declared that his nation did not have any further need for nuclear tests.

Romney said any further military action by the US against Syria should go before Congress for approval.

When asked about the probe of the Trump administration by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Romney said he did not see a need -- at this juncture -- for the Senate to pass legislation to protect Mueller.

"I do not believe for a moment that President Trump will remove Mueller," Romney said. "If he does remove Mueller, I believe that Congress will reappoint him, and the most effective way to keep the investigation intact is for congressional leaders to make it clear to the President that if (Mueller) were removed by the executive branch, he would be rehired by the legislative branch. I presume that communication has happened already."

"I believe it's appropriate for the rule of law to proceed to reach the conclusion of this investigation — hopefully sooner rather than later," Romney said when asked whether he still has confidence in Mueller.

Romney, who called Russia the biggest geopolitical threat facing the United States during his 2012 presidential campaign, said he was also keeping a close eye on the evidence emerging about Russian meddling in US elections but was still thinking about what remedies would best address that encroachment.

"There's no question but that Russia is attempting to delegitimize democracy here and throughout the world," he said. "Obviously Russia, and to a lesser extent China, have a great incentive to lionize authoritarian rule, and the only way we can effectively counteract that is by sanctioning them, or punishing them for taking action that interferes with a free Democratic process."

Asked whether he felt the current sanctions on Russia had gone far enough, Romney said he planned to monitor Russia's involvement in upcoming elections.

"If they are not backing off, then the sanctions -- and the punishments -- have to be more severe," Romney said.

Decision 'down the road' on Trump in 2020

In a reflection of his uneasy truce with Trump, the Utah Senate candidate said Saturday that he could not commit to supporting Trump's 2020 re-election campaign — making it clear that he intends to stake his claim as an independent voice for Utah.

"I will make that decision down the road," Romney said as he waited for his turn to speak at the convention while surrounded by advisers in a hospitality suite at the Maverik arena. "As a person of political experience, if I endorse someone, I'll want to know what's in it for Utah and what help would he provide for us on key priorities in Utah."

"I'm not a cheap date," he said with a smile.

The 2012 Republican nominee, who was a strident critic of Trump during the 2016 primary, underscored, however, that while he expects Republican candidates to challenge Trump: "I assume that President Trump will be the nominee of our party in 2020."

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