Time to mend fences: Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, once bitter rivals, smile and shake hands
During the campaign, Romney attacked Trump as a “con man” and Trump labelled him a “loser”
Setting a rancorous year aside, President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney put on a smiling show of goodwill at the billionaire’s New Jersey golf club.
The 2012 Republican nominee was one of a parade of officials Trump is welcoming through doors of his white-pillared clubhouse throughout the weekend. But Trump did not reveal any new appointments on Saturday – or indicate whether Romney could be in line for a role in the new administration.
“You’ll hear some things tomorrow,” Trump said late in the afternoon. “We’re seeing tremendous talent. People that, like I say, we will ‘Make America Great Again.’”
Both Romney and Trump were positive about their sit-down, a marked shift in tone after a year in which Romney attacked Trump as a “con man” and Trump labelled him a “loser”. But the two have started to mend fences since the Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Before turning to his visitors, Trump took to Twitter, where he rushed to the defence of Mike Pence on Saturday after Hamilton actor Brandon Victor Dixon challenged the incoming vice-president from the Broadway stage after the show Friday night. “Apologise!” Trump tweeted to the actor. “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theatre by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”
Dixon tweeted back: “Conversation is not harassment sir. And I appreciate @Mike_Pence for stopping to listen.”
Trump posted a similar tweet on Saturday evening, only to later delete it. Staffers did not immediately respond to an email asking why.
Trump also bragged on Twitter about agreeing to settle a trio of lawsuits against Trump University, claiming: “The ONLY bad thing about winning the presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!”
It was announced Friday that Trump had agreed to a US$25 million settlement to resolve three lawsuits over Trump University, his former school for real estate investors. The lawsuits alleged the school misled students and failed to deliver on its promises in programmes that cost up to US$35,000. Trump has denied the allegations and had said repeatedly he would not settle.
Trump started filling key administration positions on Friday, picking Alabama Senator. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo to head the CIA, signalling a sharp rightward shift in US security policy as he begins to form his Cabinet. Trump also named retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.
Trump’s initial decisions suggest a more aggressive military involvement in counterterror strategy and a greater emphasis on Islam’s role in stoking extremism. Sessions, who is best known for his hard line immigration views, has questioned whether terrorist suspects should benefit from the rights available in US courts. Pompeo has said Muslim leaders are “potentially complicit” in attacks if they do not denounce violence carried out in the name of Islam.
Pompeo’s nomination to lead the CIA also opens the prospect of the US resuming torture of detainees. Trump has backed harsh interrogation techniques that President Barack Obama and Congress have banned, saying the US “should go tougher than waterboarding,” which simulates drowning. In 2014, Pompeo criticised Obama for “ending our interrogation programme” and said intelligence officials “are not torturers, they are patriots”.
Sessions and Pompeo would both require Senate confirmation; Flynn would not.