Donald Trump on Wednesday fired back at Sen.-elect Mitt Romney after the onetime GOP nominee for president wrote in an op-ed that the sitting president “has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
As he waits to be sworn in on Thursday as the junior senator from Utah, the former Massachusetts governor provoked the president Tuesday with a Washington Post opinion piece that harshly criticized Trump. And in classic counter-puncher fashion, Trump questioned in a Wednesday morning tweet whether Romney would be “a Flake,” a reference to outgoing Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, who clashed with Trump but ultimately opted to leave office after Trump’s base in his state abandoned him.
“On balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office,” Romney wrote.
“It is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided,” he added, noting much of Trump’s domestic policies and parts of his foreign policies are ones “mainstream Republicans have promoted for years.”
“With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring,” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee wrote of Trump.
Steve Bannon, Trump’s former White House chief strategist and campaign strategist, once referred to his then-boss as a “streetfighter.” And senior White House aides stress almost daily that he will always “fight back.”
True to form, he did not let Romney’s blunt critique go unanswered.
Trump used the social media blast to answer his own question about whether Romney would follow in Flake’s footsteps as one of the Republican caucus’ leading critics of his presidency and behavior.
The president wrote he would rather Romney “focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful.”
Trump could not resist, as he often does, pointing to his 2016 presidential win — and Romney’s loss four years prior — as a reason the incoming senator should fall in line with the party’s leader.
“I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans,” Trump wrote, offering this advice to Romney: “Be a TEAM player & WIN!”
Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2019
He took another shot at Romney during a cabinet meeting later in the day, saying if the former nominee had fought then-President Barack Obama as hard as he fights the sitting president, “he would have won the  election.”
Romney’s piece antagonized Trump supporters within the GOP — Missouri Rep. Billy Long tweeted that Romney should “GET OVER HIMSELF,” referring to the incoming senator by the derogatory nickname “Mittens.”
.#NeverRomney #NeverKasich #NeverKristol #MensClubForSoreLosers @MittRomney #BindersFullOfNeverTrumpers In 2012 @FLOTUS & @realDonaldTrump held a fundraiser and graciously hosted #AnnRomney in their home in #NYC GET OVER YOURSELF AND YOUR LOSS MITTENS @GeraldoRivera @FrankLuntz https://t.co/p5QWSUTKkz
In addition to retweeting others’ criticism of Romney, Long also took a shot at Romney’s niece, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who had defended the president’s record of accomplishments the night before.
I guess your Romney Brethren Mitt missed the Memo? https://t.co/wJw2yOOwVw
McDaniel later criticized her uncle — without naming him — for his “disappointing and unproductive” attack.
POTUS is attacked and obstructed by the MSM media and Democrats 24/7. For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack @realdonaldtrump as their first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive. https://t.co/ArhI7Bi7bo
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) January 2, 2019
Having been called out by the president, Flake felt compelled to respond, pointing out that “we’re on the same team.”
Ultimately, we’re on the same team. There are good people on both sides of the aisle. https://t.co/RnJ6tKqJY8
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