President Donald Trump on Sunday said that he didn’t pick Sen. Mitt Romney to join his new bipartisan task force focused on reopening the country amid the coronavirus pandemic because of lingering animosity against the Utah Republican who voted in favor of Trump’s impeachment.
Asked at the White House if skipping over Romney shows he still has a grudge against him, Trump told reporters pointedly, “Yeah, it does.”
“I’m not a fan of Mitt Romney,” the President said at a White House briefing Sunday evening. “I don’t really want his advice.”
Trump’s admitted grudge comes during a worldwide crisis when traditionally leaders would work to unite the country. The President’s response to the pandemic to this point has included repeated attacks on US governors and local leaders, a series of false claims and a frequent deflection of blame.
Nearly 100 lawmakers from both parties – including all of Romney’s Senate Republican colleagues – were tapped to join “the Opening Up America Again Congressional Group,” according to a list released by the White House.
The President reviewed the list of which lawmakers would be on the task force before it was finalized, an official previously told CNN. Romney was not included and was not asked to be on the call with other senators, another official confirmed.
The President’s comments about Romney on Sunday mark just the latest slight in their contentious relationship – one that grew increasingly tense during the Senate’s impeachment trial of Trump after Romney broke ranks with the Republican Party to vote to convict the President on the charge of abuse of power.
The President responded by attacking Romney as a “failed presidential candidate.”
The formation of the congressional task force comes as Trump pushes ahead with attempts to revive the economy even as business leaders, lawmakers and governors warn that persistent testing shortfalls could hamper any effort to relax social distancing measures.
While White House medical experts have told Trump that the country is on track to be prepared for a phased reopening, those experts and the President are not in sync on the timing of the relaxation, including whether his May 1 target date for opening certain parts of the country can be met.