×

Trump meets with Mitt Romney, one of his harshest Republican critics

Vice president-elect Mike Pence, President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney leave the clubhouse after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, November 19, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey.
Getty Images
Vice president-elect Mike Pence, President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney leave the clubhouse after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, November 19, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey.

Mitt Romney met with President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday, an unlikely conversation between the real estate mogul and one of his harshest Republican critics amid speculation about whether the former Massachusetts governor would join Trump's cabinet.

Trump and Romney were expected to discuss the secretary of state position, a source close to Trump with direct knowledge of his thinking told NBC News.

Trump told reporters their talks "went great," and Romney said he and Trump "had a far-reaching conversation with regards to the various theaters in the world."

However, neither the president-elect or the former Massachusetts governor betrayed a hint of having discussed a cabinet position when they emerged from a meeting that lasted more than an hour.

"We discussed those areas, and exchanged our views on those topics—a very thorough and in-depth discussion in the time we had. And I appreciate the chance to speak with the president-elect and I look forward to the coming administration and the things that it's going to be doing," Romney said.

Yet it wasn't clear if Romney has any interest in the job, and multiple reports suggest former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is also among Trump's top picks for the post.

Selecting Romney as the top American diplomat would lend credibility to Trump with Republicans, particularly since Trump's list for State includes party malcontent Giuliani. Romney was the GOP's 2012 standard bearer, and has experience in both government and business.

Romney was also a fierce critic of Russia during his 2012 run, a move that proved prescient in recent years as Vladimir Putin consolidated his power domestically and launched a muscular foreign policy.Many of Trump's critics have faulted his refusal to challenge Putin as a worrisome aspect of the president-elect's embryonic foreign policy.

In March, as Trump appeared set to win the Republican presidential nomination, Romney eviscerated him in a speech, saying that "there's plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake." Romney argued that Trump's policies would push the U.S. economy into recession and make the world less safe, adding that "he has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president."

Trump responded that Romney "failed badly" as a presidential candidate in 2012, claiming that Romney "was begging for my endorsement" in that election.

But the pair appeared to be trying to mend fences after Trump's stunning electoral victory, with Romney having called Trump to congratulate him on his win. However, other members of Trump's camp weren't so quick to forgive and forget.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a stalwart defender of Trump's who is also rumored to be in the running for a post in Trump's administration, said in a tweet that appointing Romney to the cabinet would represent a betrayal of Trump's voters.

Romney could just give Trump advice rather than take a position in the administration. Such a move could also further fracture the 'Never Trump' movement of GOP luminaries and thinkers that vowed to oppose the real estate mogul's candidacy during the primaries and in the general election.

Romney is a moderate Republican and is considered well-respected. Already, Trump has picked multiple controversial conservatives — including Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Ret. Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn and former Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon — for key positions.

--Reuters contributed to this article.