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Trump Meets Former Foe Romney, Tries to Fill Key Posts

President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney shake hands as Romney leaves Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster, N.J., Nov. 19, 2016.

Mitt Romney, who was one of Donald Trump’s harshest Republican critics during early stages of the U.S. political campaign, was one of a parade of officials meeting with Donald Trump Saturday as the president-elect works to fill key positions in his administration.

Others traveling to Trump’s New Jersey golf course for meetings included education activists Michelle Rhee and Betsy DeVos, as well as retired Gen. James Mattis, who is among those being considered to lead the Pentagon.

Trump gave reporters outside the Trump National Golf Club a thumbs-up gesture and said, “Went great,” as he and Romney exited.

President-elect Donald Trump gives the thumbs-up as Mitt Romney leaves Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster, N.J., Nov. 19, 2016.
President-elect Donald Trump gives the thumbs-up as Mitt Romney leaves Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster, N.J., Nov. 19, 2016.

Romney, who had called candidate Trump a “phony” and a “con man,” told reporters he and Trump had “a very thorough and in-depth discussion” about world affairs.

Romney, the losing Republican candidate against President Barack Obama in 2012, has been mentioned recently as Trump’s possible choice for secretary of state. No indication about who will fill that job emerged from the Trump-Romney talks Saturday in Bedminster.

“We had a far reaching conversation with regards to the various theatres of the world where there are interests of the United States of real significance,” Romney said after the meeting. “We discussed those areas and exchanged our views on those topics.”

More meetings Sunday

On Sunday, Trump’s schedule includes meetings with Wilbur Ross, a potential commerce secretary who made billions by investing in bankrupt companies and distressed assets, and business executive David McCormick, head of investment firm Bridgewater Associates, as well as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was recently demoted in his role on Trump’s transition team, according to media reports.

On Saturday, however, in what appeared to be a public gesture of reconciliation with mainstream Republican leaders, Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence warmly greeted Romney with handshakes as the former Massachusetts governor arrived for their talks.

Former foes now reconciled

Trump and Romney have had a contentious relationship in the past, but Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general-designate and vice chairman of his transition team, has urged the president-elect to consider Romney for a position in the incoming administration.

In a speech last March that gained wide attention, Romney blasted Trump as a “con man” and a “fraud.” Trump responded that Romney had “choked like a dog” in his own election bid four years earlier, and he repeatedly branded the multimillionaire businessman a “loser.”

Their relationship only began to thaw this month, after Romney called Trump to congratulate him on his surprising presidential victory.

Trump reputedly is considering a number of people for the nation’s top diplomatic post, but the president-elect himself has said that he alone knows who will be among the finalists for the job.

Secretary of state candidates

Those whose names have been floated for secretary of state include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Senator Bob Corker and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also had been considered a candidate for the top diplomatic post, but withdrew his name from consideration Thursday for any federal appointment, saying he would instead support and assist Trump as an outside adviser.

Trump’s and Romney’s positions on U.S. relations with Russia have differed noticeably. Romney said in 2012 that Russia was America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe,” but President-elect Trump has spoken warmly about the possibility of close cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a campaign to destroy the Islamic State group.

After speaking by telephone with Putin earlier this week, Trump said he anticipates a “strong and enduring relationship with Russia.”