A top Donald Trump adviser warned Sunday that the president-elect's supporters would feel "betrayed" if he tapped former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as secretary of state, a move that would put a once-fierce Trump critic in a powerful Cabinet post.
The comments from Kellyanne Conway deepened a highly unusual push by some Trump allies to stop the president-elect from nominating Romney. The extraordinary public nature of the effort has also stirred speculation that it could be a Trump-approved attempt to humiliate a prominent Republican who staunchly opposed him throughout the presidential campaign.
Conway, who served as Trump's campaign manager and is part of his transition team, said her opposition to Romney reflected what she's been hearing from Trump voters.
"People feel betrayed to think that Gov. Romney, who went out of his way to question the character and the intellect and the integrity of Donald Trump, now our president-elect, would be given the most significant cabinet post of all," Conway said in one of several television interviews Sunday. She said Romney was "nothing but awful" to Trump for a year.
Conway's opposition to Romney is also said to be supported by Steve Bannon, the controversial conservative media executive who will serve as Trump's White House senior adviser.
Trump is an avid consumer of television news and his advisers and allies often use their appearances to send messages to Trump or the Republican establishment. Still, it's rare for Conway and other close aides who speak frequently with Trump in private to be so explicit about their personal opinions in public.
Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, vigorously challenged Trump's fitness for the presidency, including his foreign policy credentials. In a wide-ranging condemnation of Trump in March, Romney said the businessman's bombast was "alarming the allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies."
Trump responded by mocking Romney, calling him a "choker" and saying he "walks like a penguin."
The freeze between two men appeared to thaw after they spoke by phone following the election. Romney then traveled to Trump's New Jersey golf club for a private meeting to discuss the possibility of joining the administration.
After the meeting, Trump was said to be taken by the way Romney "looks the part" of a globe-trotting diplomat, according to people close to the transition process.
In nominating Romney, Trump would be signaling his willingness to heal campaign wounds and reach out to traditional Republicans who were deeply skeptical of his experience and temperament. Romney is well-liked by GOP lawmakers and was supported by numerous Republican national security experts during his failed White House bid.
But Conway suggested those weren't reasons enough to nominate Romney as the nation's top diplomat.