Apparently there was one sticking point that kept Mitt Romney from becoming Donald Trump’s Secretary of State: Romney would not accede to the Trump team’s demand that he apologize.
CNN reports that Trump was willing to appoint Romney after incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus convinced Trump to let bygones be bygones, while Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon argued that Romney’s attacks on Trump couldn’t be forgiven. Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Priebus allegedly wanted Romney to apologize.
According to CNN sources, Trump himself had suggested Romney apologize, to say he was “wrong” about Trump.
Romney wanted no part of an apology, though he praised Trump, especially Trump’s election night speech. Romney’s own book was titled No Apology.
The discussion between Trump and Romney commenced with Romney calling Trump to offer his congratulations, but Trump did not get the call. Pence called Romney, followed by Trump calling him, suggesting Romney speak with him about a position in the Cabinet. Romney stated he was only interested in the Secretary of State job.
One source asserted that Romney “never felt he was being played,” only wanting to serve the nation again, and believing he was under “serious” consideration from Trump.
Dan Senor, a 2012 Romney adviser, said, “I have a hard time believing that Trump expended all this energy and time to simply tweak Mitt, and that Pence, Reince and others in the President-elect’s inner circle would play along. The press was distracted by the theater of the public process, but behind the scenes there were substantive conversations and meetings, which reflected a serious hands-on process by the President-elect and his team; it was impressive.”
One source told CNN that Trump was “pleasantly surprised at how well the two men got along; was willing to let bygones be bygones.” Another source said, “Mitt made it hard on him because when they talked he really liked him,” adding that Trump thought Romney was smart and “looked the part” of the secretary of state.
But then Conway slammed Romney on television. Following that, the Trump team spoke of Romney apologizing. Some sources contended that Trump wanted the apology not for himself, but to ameliorate bitterness among Trump supporters over Romney.
The two men differed on Russia and NATO, Romney thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot be trusted and thought he could offer some insight to Trump. One source told CNN, “Mitt hoped he could balance Trump out on these issues. In the end he knew it would be Trump’s decision, but he thought he could be an important voice on the team to weigh in and balance him out on these particular issues.”
One source pointed out Trump may have been concerned about Romney’s own power base, which could have allowed him to leave Trump’s team if he was dissatisfied and still maintain his independence. The source stated, “He didn’t owe Trump.”
He does not regret it at all. Romney has had his differences with Trump, but now Trump is going to be president. And Mitt genuinely believes that if he could help the president and serve the country, then he has an obligation to do so. Every decision that Mitt has made during this process has been public-spirited. The political culture can at times leave us all evaluating the motives of politicians through a very cynical lens. But Romney was prepared to subject himself to this process because of the country he loves and that he wants to serve. It’s really that simple.