Romney: Republicans don't criticize Trump because they fear it will help Warren

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — PennEast drops pipeline plans despite Supreme Court victory Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase MORE (R-Utah) said Republicans tend not to publicly criticize President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE because they fear doing so will help Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn defense of share buybacks Democrats urge Biden to go all in with agenda in limbo In Washington, the road almost never taken MORE's (D-Mass.) presidential bid.

"They don't want to do something which makes it more likely for Elizabeth Warren to become president or for us to lose the Senate. So they don't want to go out and criticize the leader of our party because they feel that might have the consequence of hurting our country longer term," Romney told "Axios on HBO."

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"People ... genuinely believe, as I do, that conservative principles are better for our country and for the working people of our country than liberal principles and that if Elizabeth Warren were to become president, for instance, or if we were to lose the Senate, that it would not be good for the American people," Romney added.

Warren, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, has surged in the polls in recent months and has overtaken former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE in some early primary state polling.

Romney, a freshman senator from Utah who was elected last year, has emerged as one of Trump's strongest critics on the GOP side of Congress amid the Democrats' ongoing impeachment inquiry and the president's decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria.

Trump, meanwhile, has regularly attacked Romney via his Twitter feed and earlier this month suggested that the Utah Republican should be "impeached," though there is no mechanism to do so.

"I’m hearing that the Great People of Utah are considering their vote for their Pompous Senator, Mitt Romney, to be a big mistake. I agree! He is a fool who is playing right into the hands of the Do Nothing Democrats! #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY," Trump tweeted.