Trump was ostensibly trying to ease tensions between the two men, after a trip dominated by news reports that he was courting Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to run for reelection in order to keep Romney from seeking the seat. But the 10-minute chat only further raised suspicions within Romney’s inner circle that the president was out to stymie the former GOP presidential nominee’s political ambitions.

The president told Romney that he knew he was thinking about running. But according to one person familiar with the conversation, the details of which have not been reported before, Trump didn’t press the former Massachusetts governor about his thinking or ask why he might be interested in being a senator. Romney’s aides came away convinced the president was trying to suss out Romney’s intentions and position himself as an ally, when he’d been anything but…

While laying the groundwork for a prospective bid, Romney has made little secret that he will be unafraid of taking on the president. The 2012 GOP nominee has informed a series of Republican Party donors, senators and power brokers in recent weeks that, while he isn’t looking to pick a fight with Trump, he is more than willing to speak out against him. During the 2016 campaign, Romney derided Trump as a “phony” and “fraud” and implored the party to nominate someone else.