It’s not just CNN that’s reporting this, actually. WaPo is too. (Team Trump denies it, of course.) In the end, forced to choose between a cabinet job and the truth, Romney chose the truth. Like a champion.
Then again, what choice did a guy who wrote a book called “No Apology” really have?
The most interesting thing about this is that it sounds like Trump was less interested in the apology for his own sake than because he thought it might mend fences with implacable Romney foes within the inner circle like Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon. If they were going to work together harmoniously with Romney (or at least as harmoniously as a Trump team can co-exist), an admission of wrongdoing would go a long way. All Romney had to do to become the most powerful diplomat in the world was kneel before Zod.
CNN has learned that Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Priebus also wanted Romney to apologize as a way to smooth over the tension.
After Conway and others attacked Romney publicly — lobbying against his selection in television interviews — and more than a week after the two had begun talking, Trump raised the possibility of a public apology with Romney as a way of mollifying those critics, the sources said. He asked Romney to say publicly he was “wrong” about Trump.
Trump personally saw it in business deal terms: He would get the mea culpa he sought from Romney; Romney would get the job he covets.
But Romney — who titled his own book “No Apology” — declined.
He offered forward-looking praise for Trump — starting with the President-elect’s election-night speech. But he wouldn’t go backward and retract his words from the campaign.
That wasn’t the only sticking point. Another was the fact that, as one of CNN’s sources put it, Romney didn’t owe Trump anything. He had his own establishment circle within the party to return to if he joined the administration and things ended up not working out. There was nothing Trump could do to buy to his silence or to sideline him from his niche within the GOP if their relationship turned icy again. More substantively — and ominously — apparently he and Romney couldn’t reach an understanding on Russia in their discussions on foreign policy. “Mitt hoped he could balance Trump out on these issues,” one source told CNN, with “these issues” meaning Putin’s trustworthiness and the importance of NATO. Evidently Mitt was wrong. That goes back to my point yesterday that the worrisome thing for Russia hawks about Rex Tillerson isn’t so much that Tillerson himself is on good terms with Putin as that Trump clearly thinks that’s a key credential, if not the key credential, in choosing him. Rapprochement with Russia isn’t one of several items on Trump’s foreign policy to-do list. It might be the top item, to the point where Trump may have been willing to sacrifice his top pick for Secretary of State because that pick didn’t see eye-to-eye with him about that one issue. Senate Republicans might find the few votes needed to block Tillerson (although I doubt it), but there’s no reason to think the replacement pick will be any harder on Russia — or, if he is, that he’ll succeed in “balancing” Trump on the subject. Trump seems pretty intent on making his Putin bromance work.
Incidentally, every source quoted in the piece (most of whom came from Romney’s circle) confirmed that Trump’s interest in him for the position seemed completely sincere and not part of some inane revenge plot, as Trumpers like to fantasize. That jibes with everything else written about this selection process. Evidently, for all of the hype about him being thin-skinned and vindictive, Trump was more willing to put aside personal slights and give Romney a second look on the merits than a lot of people in his orbit were. Good for him. Exit question one: Was apologizing ever really an option for Romney? NeverTrumpers are celebrating this afternoon that at least one Trump critic stood firm in his beliefs while people like Carly Fiorina are now busy admiring Trump’s sneaker collection in hopes of landing a job, but Romney would have destroyed his credibility utterly if he had groveled. Apologizing to get the State position would have been far more humiliating than being denied the job was. Exit question two: In the end, who stood more strongly on principle in resisting Trump, Mitt “RINO” Romney or Ted “True Conservative” Cruz?