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Mitt Romney says unlike Trump, he never contacted Russians or sought their help when he ran for president. ‘That would be a frightening thing,’ he says at town hall meeting

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Mitt Romney speaks with Speaker of the House Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, during a series of meetings with state lawmakers at the Utah Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.

West Jordan • A town hall meeting participant asked Utah freshman Sen. Mitt Romney on Thursday if the nation will owe President Donald Trump an apology after the investigation into his campaign contacts with Russia is completed.

“You know how many contacts we had with Russia during my campaign?” asked Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee. “Zero.”

He added, “If a Russian contacted me or a member of my campaign, we would have reported it immediately to the FBI. We would not have met with them. We would not have sat down and said, ‘What can you give us?’ That would be a frightening thing, and he made some of those mistakes.”

Romney said because the Russians now are playing a far more active role in campaigns around the world, “We’re going to have to make sure they do not have undue influence in the decisions we reach.”

He noted the investigation by special prosecutor Robert Mueller has already resulted in several indictments, and he hopes it will be completed soon.

Romney adds that when it comes to Trump, he hopes the investigation will conclude “there is nothing here you need to worry about … and then we can move on. I sure hope that’s the case.”

Defending or attacking Trump was a recurring theme among the 60 people who attended Romney’s second open house — far fewer than the 250 that attended his first one last month when that first crowd sought mostly to protest the then-ongoing government shutdown.

When another participant on Thursday said she was disappointed that Romney is not opposing Trump more often, he explained his choices.

“Where the president proposes policy that I agree with … I’ll vote for those things,” he said. “Where he proposes something I disagree with, I’ll oppose it.”

Romney added, “If the president says something of significance that is divisive or in any way anti-immigrant or disparaging of a group of Americans, I will speak out against him — and I have in the past and will continue to do so.

“That doesn’t mean that I will respond to every tweet every day. I think that you lose effectiveness doing that. It doesn’t have any impact. People just dismiss you.”

He added that presidents’ behavior and character, not just their policies, have enormous impact on the country. “That’s a big part of the job. And if I think people in leadership are doing things that are detrimental to the American character, I will speak about them. That’s about what I can do. I haven’t changed in that regard.”

Residents also asked several questions about his stand on immigration, and whether people brought as children without documentation should stay and whether it should be easier for highly educated people to immigrate.

“We as a nation benefit from highly educated, motivated individuals who want to come here legally,” he said. “I agree with the president that part of the immigration we need is people who have skills.”

He added, “My own view is that people who get a Ph.D.” in science, technology, engineering or math, “We ought to give them a green card and just say, ‘Welcome to the USA. We want you here. We want your technology, your skills to help build our economy and a bright future.’”

Romney said that because Barack Obama issued a declaration to allow those who arrived as children without papers to remain in the country, he supports continuing that.

“When a president of the United States makes that commitment, I feel if is the responsibility of our country to follow through,” he said.

Romney addressed many other topics not only at the town hall meeting, but also earlier in the day as he met with members of the Utah Legislature in Democratic and Republican caucuses. At the Capitol, he focused on the need for more bipartisanship in the Senate, for handling medical marijuana and for addressing the national debt.

He told lawmakers he’s been surprised at the lack of formal communication between the two major parties in Washington, D.C., but also at the respect and congeniality between individual members of Congress.

“I found getting along is a pleasure on a personal basis,” Romney said, “even though we disagree from time to time, obviously.”

Romney spoke about the need for updates to federal drug laws in order to facilitate banking and other financial transactions in states, like Utah, where medical marijuana is legal. Romney said he’d like to see federal laws enforced regarding recreational marijuana, but supports changing the classification of cannabis in order to allow for research and medical trials.

“I will work for that,” Romney said. “I want to see how many other folks I can get to line up for the same thing.”

Republican lawmakers also asked Romney about the national debt, which recently topped $22 trillion, and the possibility of a convention of states to enact a balanced budget amendment. Romney did not respond directly to the issue of a constitutional convention, but blamed Republicans and Democrats for failing to tackle government spending and that it would take “leadership from somewhere” to trim the deficit.

“There are very few — very, very few — who have any interest in trying to find a way to bring down spending and balance the budget as one of their priorities,” Romney said.

Romney was also asked in the Democratic Caucus meeting to comment on his views toward climate change.

I do believe that the climate is changing,” Romney said. “I believe the planet is getting warmer. I think it’s hard to escape that fact.”

At his town hall he added, “The question is how much do humans contribute to it? I hope a lot. Because if we don’t have anything to do with it, there’s nothing we can do to slow it down. I hope there’s something we can do.”

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