Rand Paul defends Trump against Romney op-ed: He 'wants to signal how virtuous he is'

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulJohnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens Senate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges McConnell discounts quick dismissal of Trump impeachment articles: 'We'll have to have a trial' MORE (R-Ky.) took aim at his incoming Senate colleague Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOcasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field Jon Huntsman expected to run for governor in Utah Trump Jr's 'Triggered' debuts at No. 1 on NY Times bestseller list MORE on Wednesday after the Utah senator-elect targeted President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE in an op-ed criticizing the president's character.

In a tweet, the Kentucky senator accused Romney of attempting to display "how virtuous he is in comparison to the President," while calling him a "big government Republican" opposed to former President Reagan's ideals of limited federal power.

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"Like other Big Government Republicans who never liked Reagan, Mitt Romney wants to signal how virtuous he is in comparison to the President," Paul wrote in a tweet.

"Well, I’m most concerned and pleased with the actual conservative reform agenda @realDonaldTrump has achieved," the senator added.

Paul's tweet came in response to a Washington Post column penned by Romney on Tuesday ahead of his Thursday swearing-in as Utah's junior senator in which Romney attacked Trump for a "shortfall" of leadership and good character.

Romney will replace retiring Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals Trump to award Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese MORE (R) in the Senate.

"On balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office," Romney, who ran as the GOP nominee for president in 2012, wrote in the Post.

"To reassume our leadership in world politics, we must repair failings in our politics at home. That project begins, of course, with the highest office once again acting to inspire and unite us," Romney added in the piece.

The president himself responded to the op-ed Wednesday morning, calling on the Utah senator to focus on the White House's efforts to secure funding for border security and other policy issues.

"Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not," Trump wrote on Twitter.

"Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!" he added.