After Sen. Mitt Romney last week slammed President Donald Trump’s foreign policy as helping China and Russia but hurting U.S. allies, on Tuesday he also raised questions about Trump’s actions with dictator-led Venezuela.
In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing about that country, Romney raised concerns about an interview in June where Trump expressed second thoughts about recognizing Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader after dictator Nicolás Maduro refused to leave after losing an election, and Trump said he may be open to meeting with Maduro.
Romney quoted Trump saying about Guaidó‘s election, “I don’t think it was very meaningful one way or the other.”
“I think that was a surprise,” Romney said. “The policy of our nation had been pretty consistently saying that we recognized Mr. Guaidó as the president of the country and someone who we’ve firmly supported.”
But even if Congress and the State Department support Guaidó, Romney said “to the world and to the people of Venezuela, it’s the president who speaks for the nation.”
So Romney asked Elliot Abrams, the State Department’s special representative for Venezuela, what the official U.S. policy about Guaidó is, and “will that ever be communicated to the world unless the president expresses it himself?”
Abrams said the United States has recognized Guaidó as interim president since Jan. 5, 2019, will continue to do so even after what he says are upcoming “corrupt parliamentary elections,” and “we will try to say that in many different ways every day.”
Romney again asked, “Until the president says that, will it ever break through?”
Abrams said the president has said it, and even pointed out Guaidó as a guest during a State of the Union speech.
In questions from Romney, Abrams said he did not believe Maduro could remain in power without continuing support from Cuba, Russia and China — and said Russian leader Vladimir Putin sees continuing support there as “kind of a freebie” not costing much politically while it gives his country a foothold in Latin America.
Abrams said the United States has yet to find “anything attractive” to offer to get Russia to withdraw support. To that Romney said, “It’s in our interests to make sure it’s not a freebie for Russia.”
Later Tuesday, Romney also said in a tweet, “Maduro is being propped up by Russia, China, and Cuba — using Venezuela as a playground for nefarious activities. We must get serious about dissuading these bad actors from pursing their current course, starting with an unequivocal recognition of Guaidó as the legitimate President.”
Last week in another hearing, Romney attacked Trump for his “fawning praise” of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and for announcing he will pull out thousands of U.S. troops from Germany — which he said offends German leaders and is praised only by Russia.
(Another member of the Utah congressional delegation, Rep. Chris Stewart, supported Trump’s move on U.S. troops in Germany.)
Romney — the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, who once was interviewed by Trump as a potential nominee to be his secretary of state — was the only GOP senator to vote to impeach Trump. Since then, he has often been the target of attack tweets from the president.