Trump may discuss secretary of state position with critic Mitt Romney

Donald Trump (left) greets Mitt Romney at the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas.
Donald Trump (left) greets Mitt Romney at the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - US President-elect Donald Trump planned a Saturday (Nov 19) meeting with Mr Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and fierce Trump critic, and may discuss whether he should be a candidate for secretary of state, a source familiar with the meeting said.

Mr Trump already has a lengthy list of potential candidates for the post of top US diplomat, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, US Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who met Trump on Thursday.

Mr Trump, a former reality TV star, has shown a flair for the dramatic in his deliberations over his Cabinet, saying only he knows who "the finalists" are.

Mr Corker told CNN on Wednesday he was "in the mix" for the position but that Mr Trump might pick someone who was closer to him during the presidential campaign. He met on Thursday in Washington with Vice-President-elect Mike Pence.

Mr Trump's expected meeting with Mr Romney amounts to an olive branch of sorts to one of his sharpest critics. Mr Romney, who in a speech in Marchm, called Mr Trump "a phony, a fraud," urged Republicans to vote for anyone but the New York real estate magnate while the party was picking its presidential nominee.

Mr Trump, in turn, used harsh rhetoric at times during his campaign to dismiss Mr Romney as a failure who blew a chance in 2012 to defeat Democratic President Barack Obama, whom Mr Trump felt was a weak opponent.

The source told Reuters that a broad discussion was expected during the meeting and that discussion about the secretary of state position was possible. The source had said earlier his understanding was that the meeting would occur on Sunday.

Asked about the meeting, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway suggested it was still being arranged. "We're working on it," she said.

'TRUMP WILL MAKE DECISION'

"I think it's good that the president-elect is meeting with people like Mr Romney," US Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, one of Mr Trump's closest confidants and a potential nominee for defense secretary, told reporters at Manhattan's Trump Tower.

Mr Sessions sounded far from certain Mr Romney would be offered a job. "There are a lot of talented people that he (Trump) needs good relationships with. And I think Mr Romney would be quite capable of doing a number of things. But he will be one of those, I am sure, that's reviewed. Donald Trump will make that decision," Mr Sessions said.

When Mr Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, opted out of running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, people close to him suggested that serving as secretary of state might be appealing to him if a Republican won the presidency.

A steady stream of potential Trump administration hires made their way through the lobby of Trump Tower to meet with either Trump or officials close to him.

All indicated a willingness to serve, such as Mr Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican who is chairman of the US House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. He is a potential treasury secretary in the Trump administration.

"I stand ready to help the president in any capacity possible. I've got a great position in public policy today, if he wants to talk to me obviously, about serving somewhere else, we'll look at serving somewhere else," he told reporters.