Romney warns Republicans about Trump

In one of the most extraordinary and unprecedented opinion pieces in recent years, incoming U.S. senator and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyStatesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Georgia ready for unpredictable Senate race Impeachment can't wait MORE (R-Utah) today wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post that excoriated President Donald Trump and warned Republicans and all Americans about the dangers presented by the Trump presidency.

Romney wrote, among many other things, the following sentence:

“I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”


Romney was not referring to Democratic leaders in Congress or to previous Democratic presidents or presidential nominees. He was referring to the highest-ranking Republican in America, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE, and promising to speak out forcefully whenever the president crosses lines that American presidents should never cross.

“Divisive.” “Racist.” “Sexist.” “Anti-immigrant.” “Dishonest.” “Destructive to democratic institutions.”

Those are the words that Romney used, conveying the role he will seek to play when he may soon become the most important Republican senator.

Romney, writing about the need for American leadership of the alliance of democratic nations and the need for America to oppose dictatorships and defend human rights, also wrote this:

“In a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, 84 percent of people in Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Sweden believed the American president would ‘do the right thing in world affairs.' One year later, that number had fallen to 16 percent.”

Romney’s call to action against the wrongs he rightfully condemns follows the extraordinary resignation in protest of former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThreatening foreign states with sanctions can backfire Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Amazon to challenge Pentagon's 'war cloud' decision in federal court MORE, who directly confronted policies and practices that attack and undermine America’s democratic allies and that praise or advance the interests of America’s dictatorial adversaries and enemies.

It will be fascinating to watch Romney play the role he promises to play in the Republican Senate. While he stated in his op-ed that he looks forward to working with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties MORE (R-Ky.), his presence will dramatically increase pressure on McConnell to take principled positions opposing Trump when necessary, which he has repeatedly refused to do.

Let's consider the role Romney could play in the government shutdown, of which Trump took ownership when he publicly stated he would be glad to shut down the government unless Congress agreed to support his ultimately doomed plan to build a wall on the Mexican border.

The wall proposal was built on the lie, obvious to everyone who knows anything about Mexico, that Mexico would pay for the wall. This was not true when Trump campaigned on it. It is not true today. It will never be true.

It is an outrage that Trump, the chief officer of the executive branch of government would force a shutdown because he wants Americans to pay for the wall he falsely promised Mexicans would pay for.

There is a deal to be had. I would support Democrats agreeing to increase funding for border security above their current proposal if — and only if — Trump agrees to include a full solution that would protect the Dreamers and an end to the cruel and unusual immigration policy of family separations.

In the midterm elections, Democrats won a decisive mandate from voters on immigration. Trump spent the closing weeks of the campaign aggressively trying to provoke fear and anger on the phony issue of the so-called caravan.

Day after day, week after week, Trump railed about the caravan, an issue he stopped railing about the day Democrats won a decisive victory to regain control of the House of Representatives. This is what a mandate looks like.

While Romney, warning in his op-ed against anti-immigrant rhetoric, did so in nonpartisan terms, Senate Republicans would be well-advised to heed his warning and follow his example.


Otherwise, the likelihood is that Senate Republicans could experience in the 2020 elections what happened to House Republicans in the 2018 midterms, especially with so many Republican seats being contested then.

It is no coincidence that the prominent and respected Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills Key negotiator says deal close on surprise medical bills legislation Senate passes bipartisan bill to permanently fund historically black colleges MORE (R-Tenn.) has already announced his retirement, which is exactly what happened to House Republicans before the 2018 midterms.

In January 2018, I publicly predicted that then-Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea Duncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden MORE (R-Wis.) would not run for reelection. It is now possible that Sen. McConnell and/or Sen. John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in 'deceptive practices' | NATO researchers warn social media failing to remove fake accounts | Sanders calls for breaking up Comcast, Verizon Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick MORE (R-Texas) might similarly not seek reelection in 2020.

Romney could play a historic, invaluable role in the Senate, from immigration reform to defending special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE, among a long list of issues.

Senate Republicans would be wise to heed the warning from Romney for the good of our country and their party.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.