Republican Sen. Mitt Romney is warning that the consequences of actions taken by President Donald Trump during the lame duck period of his term are “potentially more severe” than those caused by the delayed presidential transition.
“The consequences of what’s happening during this lame duck period, I think, are potentially more severe than the consequences associated with a late transition process,” Romney, who represents Utah, told CNN’s David Axelrod on an episode of “The Axe Files” podcast released Thursday.
Romney cited the Trump administration’s plan to remove more troops from the Middle East as one lame duck move that could cause more damage than Trump’s refusal to formally begin the transition process, saying he’s spoken with foreigners who are “alarmed” by Trump’s plan and wonder if they can still “trust” America.
“We have some 40 coalition members that also have troops there. For us to pull our troops out obviously puts our remaining troops in some danger, as well as their troops. And they wonder, ‘how do we deal in a coalition with the United States leading it if there is a decision taken on a precipitous basis with which we may or may not have been familiar that puts our troops in jeopardy?’” he said.
The comments from Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee and a frequent critic of the President, come as Trump continues to hold up the presidential transition process as he makes baseless claims of voter fraud and launches long-shot legal challenges to the election in several states, even though they have little chance of overturning results.
The delayed transition is causing concern among both national security and public health experts, who are warning that it could leave America vulnerable to foreign threats and negatively affect the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.
President-elect Joe Biden himself criticized the Trump administration on Wednesday for not officially declaring him the winner, and warned that vaccine distribution could lag as a result of his transition team not being able to work with the administration.
National security experts, meanwhile, are also issuing similar warnings, with David Priess, a former intelligence officer for the CIA and State Department, saying the delayed transition could lead to gaps in how crucial intelligence is passed along on to the incoming administration.
“You want to know the status of issues of things around the world, like the state of play of negotiations, of discussions on free trade agreements, potential flashpoints going on, conversations with allies about how to deal with common threats, threats made by adversaries, and mechanisms behind the scenes to counter those threats,” Priess said, adding, “Having a delayed or obstructed transition gets in the way of all of that.”
CNN’s Vivian Salama, Alex Marquardt and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.