Romney: Mattis statement 'stunning and powerful'

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyQAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police MORE (R-Utah) on Thursday praised former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump insulted UK's May, called Germany's Merkel 'stupid' in calls: report Mattis urges people to wear masks in PSA about 'nasty little virus' Dozens of GOP ex-national security officials to form group to back Biden: report MORE, who, on Wednesday, offered a blistering critique of President TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE as a divisive leader.

"Gen. Mattis’s letter was stunning and powerful. Gen. Mattis is a man of extraordinary sacrifice. He's an American patriot. He's an individual whose judgment I respect, and I think the world of him," Romney told reporters.

"If I ever had to choose somebody to be in a foxhole with, it would be with a Gen. Mattis. What a wonderful, wonderful man," Romney added.

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Romney didn't talk directly about the content of Mattis's statement or say whether he agreed with the former Defense secretary, who, in a statement to The Atlantic, condemned Trump for his handling of the protests over George Floyd’s death after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest, even after he went unconscious.

“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis wrote.

Mattis said Trump is the first president in his lifetime “who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try.”

Trump's handling of nationwide protests sparked by Floyd's death has added new tension into his relationship with Senate Republicans. The president has floated sending the military into U.S. cities and urged governors to crack down on protesters.

GOP senators have urged him to tone down his rhetoric over concerns that it would only pour fuel into already raw racial tensions following Floyd's death.

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Some have also broken with him on whether he should invoke the Insurrection Act and over the White House's treatment of protesters on Monday night, when they were forcibly cleared from Lafayette Square shortly before Trump walked across the street.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators push to limit transfer of military-grade equipment to police MORE (R-Alaska), one of the caucus's most moderate members, told reporters on Thursday that she was "struggling" with if she could support Trump.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic proposal to extend 0 unemployment checks Senate Democrats offer plan to extend added jobless benefits during pandemic Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls MORE (R-Ohio) said that he thought Trump had done a "pretty good job on his prepared remarks" but "his tone and words kind of in between those more formal presentations ... have not united people."