Romney, who narrowly lost to Obama in his 2012 bid for the US presidency but has since become a US senator for Utah, joined the chorus of criticisms of Trump for a July phone call with Zelenskyy.
“If the President asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out,” Romney wrote on Twitter Sunday.
If the President asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) September 22, 2019
It wasn’t the only time he criticized the president for the debacle. "Understanding exactly what he said would be very helpful I think to determine whether the allegations, which are quite serious, are allegations that will have consequence," Romney told reporters on Monday, noting he believes Trump should release a transcript of his conversation with Zelenskyy.
He also said “it'd be very helpful to get to the bottom of the facts” about a hushed-up August whistleblower report, which the Washington Post recently revealed to have also been about the July phone call.
Democratic lawmakers have promised to subpoena the transcripts if the Trump administration doesn’t voluntarily release them. However, Tuesday afternoon, Trump announced an unredacted release on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Trump decided to take a swipe back at Romney, posting a video on Twitter mocking his 2012 loss to Obama.
“That was a race, I have to say folks, that should have been won,” Trump is seen telling a crowd of fans at a March 3, 2016, political rally in Portland, Maine. The 39-second-long video shows scenes in the media from the night of the 2012 presidential election, including Republicans’ dejected reaction to Romney’s eventual concession speech to Obama, the incumbent president who won re-election on the Democratic ticket. In the second half of the video are scenes of Trump winning the 2016 presidential election.
At the March 2016 rally, Trump had more to say about Romney, who was once governor of Massachusetts. “Mitt is a failed candidate. He failed. He failed horribly,” Mother Jones reported him saying at the time. “He disappeared, and I wasn’t happy about it, to be honest, because I am not a fan of Barack Obama.”
The Utah senator fired back at Trump’s video Tuesday, telling the Washington Examiner, “My initial comment was pointing out something which I think is quite evident, which is what was being alleged in the media was very serious nature. It should be considered seriously and, therefore, unusual steps should be taken including releasing the transcript and learning from the whistleblower what prompted his or her communication.”
In the July 25 phone call in question, Trump reportedly asked Zelenskyy to open an investigation into former US Vice President Joe Biden as to whether or not as VP he tried to protect his son, Hunter, by pressuring Kiev to fire its prosecutor general in 2016, ending a corruption probe of a gas company doing business in Ukraine on whose board Hunter Biden sat. Joe Biden is now seeking the Democratic nomination for presidential candidate in 2020 and could become Trump’s challenger.
Romney and Trump’s relationship has been a checkered with zigs and zags. While Trump claims Romney “was begging for my endorsement” in 2012, Romney hasn’t hesitated to attack Trump in-depth. On the 2016 campaign trail, Romney declined to endorse Trump, calling him "a phony, a fraud,” and reportedly writing in his wife’s name on the ballot rather than vote for Trump or his competitor, Hillary Clinton, that November.
However, soon after the election, when it became known that Romney was on the short list for Trump’s secretary of state, Romney’s tune changed, and he praised Trump as “the man who can lead us to the better future," Sputnik reported at the time. The former Massachusetts governor didn’t get the job, though, which instead went to Texas oil tycoon Rex Tillerson.
By 2019, though, Romney’s opinion again changed. On January 1, he penned an op-ed in the Washington Post ruthlessly attacking the president, saying the administration “made a deep descent” in December 2018 when several Cabinet members were forced out.
“I hoped he would rise to the occasion,” Romney continued, “but, on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
In June, Romney once again declined to endorse the president, this time for his 2020 re-election bid, saying that such endorsements are only "worth a thimble of spit" and that he probably wouldn’t back a candidate.