Romney: 'Putin and Kim Jong Un deserve a censure rather than flattery'

Romney: 'Putin and Kim Jong Un deserve a censure rather than flattery'
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Bolton returns to political group after exiting administration MORE (R-Utah) on Monday took an implicit shot at President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE's approach to certain world leaders, arguing that Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinTaliban travels to Moscow after Trump declares talks dead Russians tune out Vladimir Putin Democrats must engage foreign policy to preserve liberal world order MORE and North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnKim invited Trump to visit North Korea amid stalled nuclear talks: report Trump to have dinner with Otto Warmbier's parents: report Ted Lieu congratulates first Asian American cast member on 'Saturday Night Live' MORE "deserve a censure rather than flattery."

Romney made the remarks during a speech at a conservative think tank in Salt Lake City, according to The Salt Lake City Tribune. The newspaper noted that the Republican senator did not mention the president by name during his remarks.

"I think demonstrating personal character is one of the most important responsibilities of a leader of the land," Romney said, according to the Tribune.

Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, has been a more outspoken critic of Trump since joining the Senate this year, including pushing back on various policy proposals and going after the president's character.

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Trump has faced criticism from Democrats and some Republicans for his handling of Russia and North Korea, with critics saying he has failed to take a strong enough stance on the countries' human rights abuses.

The president has at times spoken in glowing terms about the potential for a relationship between the U.S. and Russia, a connection strained by Moscow's hacking during the 2016 election that the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

Trump has voiced optimism about efforts to get North Korea to denuclearize and has appeared in photos with the isolated country's leader. He held a pair of summits with Kim, though the second failed to produce any deal. 

During his speech Monday, Romney described himself as "a renegade Republican" while blasting several leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

“I am aligned with the Republican conservative philosophy and believe that our Democratic friends are taking us in a very different direction, which would be most unfortunate to our future,” he said.

He specifically knocked high-profile progressive proposals such as "Medicare for All" and the Green New Deal, which several 2020 candidates have backed.

Romney acknowledged during his speech at the Sutherland Institute that his “slice of Republican Party these days is about that big” as he spaced his hands closely together, the Tribune reported. He added that he’s not “100 percent sold on everything my current party’s establishment is doing.”

Romney most recently criticized Trump after the president suggested he would be open to receiving opposition research about his 2020 opponents from foreign governments. 

Romney said the notion is "unthinkable,” adding that it is “totally inappropriate, and it would strike at the heart of our democracy.”