Despite launching his bid for the soon-to-be vacant U.S. Senate seat in Utah with a decidedly anti-Donald Trump advertisement, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney gladly accepted the president’s tweeted endorsement. Even so, to say that bad blood still exists between the two men would likely count as one of the most understated truths of a recent political climate largely devoid of anything even remotely resembling the truth. After all, as president-elect he reportedly demanded that Romney publicly apologize to him before accepting the Secretary of State nomination, an honor he then gave to Rex Tillerson instead.
There’s also the pair’s viral dinner meeting, complete with a somewhat embarrassed-looking Romney and a smirking President-elect Trump. The cataloged animosity between the two is more than enough to explain it, but according to a new profile of ex-British spy Christopher Steele in The New Yorker, there could be more to it. Per a second memo Steele composed in November 2016, “a senior Russian official” claimed to have overheard “talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs” suggesting “the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney”:
The memo said that the Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would cooperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy — and an incoming President.
As The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer puts it, Steele’s alleged second memo is quite “fantastical.” Yet as events played out during Trump’s transition, he seemingly “dangled the post before Romney until early December, then rejected him.” Soon after, he announced Tillerson, then the CEO of ExxonMobil and a businessman with strong Russian ties, as his pick for the State Secretary job.
Aside from the Romney anecdote, Mayer’s mammoth profile of Steele is chock full of fascinating detail. You can read the full piece here.
(Via The New Yorker)