Donald Trump has filled much of his cabinet, but the key post of secretary of state remains open. There have been about a dozen candidates who’ve crawled on bended knee to meet with Trump in the hopes that he would pick them for the job, including Mitt Romney, who Trump had no intention of hiring. The entire purpose of his interviewing Romney was, I’m told, to make him grovel for the position and then publicly reject him.
Trump’s animosity towards Romney dates to the primary season, when Mitt, who was not even running in the GOP primaries, savaged Trump in a series of speeches and public statements. Romney called Trump a “fraud,” a “con man” and a “fake,” predicted he would be a total failure at both foreign and domestic policy, and said he lacked the proper temperament for the job.
Romney appeared on Fox News and demanded Trump release his taxes saying, “Either he’s not anywhere near as wealthy as he says he is, or he hasn’t been paying the kind of taxes we would expect him to pay.” Romney even pushed fellow Utah Mormon Evan McMullin to run as an independent for president, in an effort to block Trump from winning the state’s Electoral College vote.
So it was somewhat unexpected when Romney’s name surfaced as a potential secretary of state nominee. Mittens promptly trekked off to Trump Tower to meet with Trump and joined him at a dinner, which led to one of the most uncomfortable political photo-ops of recent memory.
From what I’m told, by a well-placed source, Trump never had any intention of picking Romney for the position. His only goal was to force poor Mittens to grovel before him and to publicly humiliate him.
During their meetings, Trump told Romney he was considering him for the job but in order to get it he had a non-negotiable demand: Mitt needed to make a public speech in which he issued an abject public apology for his critical remarks about Trump during the campaign.
Mitt has always been known as something of a political weathervane and panderer, someone willing to say or do anything that might help him obtain elected or appointed office. But in this case he flatly refused, saying that doing so would destroy his value to Trump, namely being an independent who had previously criticized him. “This man is mentally ill,” Romney, I’m told, remarked to a senior campaign advisor after the dinner.
The whole pointless exercise was undertaken merely to get revenge on Romney for his criticism of Trump during the campaign, to make him grovel for the job, and then to embarrass him by not choosing him anyway. From Trump’s point of view, he would have preferred, for maximum debasement value, that Romney issue the public apology before Trump withdrew his name from consideration, but Mitt cheated him out of that by refusing to play along.
But Trump still hasn’t finished twisting the knife into Romney. Now his campaign has announced that billionaire Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. is in consideration for secretary of state. It’s doubtful he’ll be picked — he’s close to a Romney clone — but he’s Mitt’s arch rival in Utah Mormon GOP politics and floating his name is further embarrassment for Romney.
“Trump is a narcissist, revengeful and obsessed with validation and affection,” says one source. If Romney had given Trump what he wanted with a complete apology, Trump still would have fucked him in the end. The whole thing was designed to humiliate him.”
A number of other names are still being floated for secretary of state. I’ve heard that John Bolton, the loopy, neocon beloved former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, is still in the running but probably won’t get picked because confirmation would be a problem. (Senator Rand Paul is dead set against Bolton and has called him “unhinged.”)
But another candidate, Congressman Dana Rohrbacher, a mixed bag politically (he’s an isolationist, which is a plus), has reportedly said that if he gets the job he might make Bolton his deputy secretary of state. So we’ll see. The choices aren’t great but at least some of the more alarming names, such as Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich, appear to be out of the running. But with Trump making the final decisions, in his own inimitable fashion, it’s impossible to know who’s the genuine frontrunner or if there is even one.