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 RomneyThe Senate should host the State of the Union Dem leaders avert censure vote against Steve King GOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering 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 TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ 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 MattisMacron: US 'retreat from Syria' won't change mission to eradicate ISIS Poll: Most Americans want US troops in Syria Fox's Griffin: Was told by diplomat that Syria attack was 'direct result' of US pullout decision 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 McConnellSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Senate to take up Trump's border-immigration plan next week Trump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback 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 AlexanderMcConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks GOP senators propose bill to pay 'excepted' workers during shutdown 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 RyanAEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE (R-Wis.) would not run for reelection. It is now possible that Sen. McConnell and/or Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test 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 Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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.