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Mitt Romney on whether he trusts Biden, Trump’s ‘big lie’ and UFOs

The Utah Republican appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

(Erin Schaff | The New York Times) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, departs a meeting of a bipartisan group of senators, trying to work out an infrastructure bill that can pass the Senate in Washington on Tuesday, June 22, 2021.

After an up-and-down week, Sen. Mitt Romney said Sunday that he still trusts President Joe Biden and believes the bipartisan infrastructure bill will become law, if Democrats don’t gum up the works.

Romney appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” for an interview with Jake Tapper that touched on everything from China and the coronavirus to UFOs, but which focused heavily on the historic infrastructure bill that emerged last week.

Biden stood with Romney, R-Utah, and a bipartisan group of senators Thursday to announce a deal on $579 billion in infrastructure spending, which would be the single largest investment in roads, rails, water systems and more in the nation’s history.

And then the president almost blew it apart.

Biden said he wouldn’t sign that compromise unless Congress also passed a much larger spending bill combined with a tax hike on the wealthy that Democrats are attempting to pass on their own. The prospect of linking the two bills infuriated Republican negotiators, because it implied a vote for infrastructure was a vote for Biden’s broader agenda.

Romney said on CNN that he called the White House to complain and a White House aide also reached out to him to try to smooth things over. Then, on Saturday, Biden issued a lengthy statement walking back his threat to abandon the infrastructure compromise if what he calls the “American Families Plan” on education, child care, climate change and health care isn’t passed.

Biden said his statement “understandably upset some Republicans, who do not see the two plans as linked; they are hoping to defeat my families plan — and do not want their support for the infrastructure plan to be seen as aiding passage of the families plan. My comments also created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intent.”

Tapper asked if the president’s clarification was good enough for Romney, and the senator said, “I do take the president at his word. And over the weeks and weeks of negotiations with Democrats and with the White House on an infrastructure bill, the president’s other agenda was never linked to the infrastructure effort.”

In announcing the compromise Thursday, Biden focused heavily on politicians living up to their word. He said, “Where I come from and in my years in the Senate, the single greatest currency you have is your word. Mitt Romney has never broken his word to me.”

Romney said he is “totally confident” the president will sign the infrastructure bill and that “the waters have been calmed.”

What remains to be seen is how Democrats maneuver in the weeks to come. Biden still wants both bills passed, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she won’t bring the infrastructure bill up for a vote if the families plan isn’t also passed by the Senate. That would take all 50 senators who caucus with the Democrats, and they do not yet have agreement on how big that wider spending package should be.

Romney said it is up to Democrats to find a path forward. He urged them to vote on the infrastructure bill in July.

The ‘big lie’

Tapper asked Romney to weigh in on former President Donald Trump’s continued false accusations that the presidential election was rigged.

Romney said Trump’s lie is being used by Russia, China and others to undermine support for democracy and that people should speak out against it. At the same time, Romney suggested that many in the United States see the former president’s antics as something akin to professional wrestling.

“Here in the U.S., there’s a growing recognition that this is a bit like WWF, that it’s entertaining, but it’s not real,” Romney said. “And I know people want to say, yeah, they believe in the ‘big lie’ in some cases, but I think people recognize that it’s a lot of show and bombast, but it’s going nowhere. The election is over. It was fair.”

Romney also spelled out why he doesn’t believe Trump’s claims are credible.

“Look, the president was crying foul on election night and actually before election night. And the question is, what were his sources of information? Where did they hear that the election had been fraudulently carried out? Did he hear from the Justice Department? No. Did he hear it from the intelligence community? No. So where did he hear it from? The My Pillow guy? Rudy Giuliani? What were their sources of information? I mean, it’s pretty clear the election was fair. It wasn’t the outcome that the president wanted. But let’s move on.”

China and the coronavirus

Romney said Sunday that he didn’t know where the coronavirus originated, if it was from animals in China or from an infectious disease lab. But he did argue that China should face consequences for not being forthcoming.

The senator’s main suggestion was for world powers to limit China’s influence on international associations, such as the World Health Organization, or WHO.

“They really shouldn’t be part of WHO in any significant way. And I think it’s because they have not been open and transparent,” he said. He called it an “outrage” that China has the influence it has on that health organization.

The government’s new UFO report

The U.S. government issued a nine-page report saying it identified 143 mysterious flying options since 2004. The government didn’t rule out aliens, but also said it could be unknown technology from other countries, natural occurrences or simply garbage in the sky, such as a balloon.

Since Romney serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tapper asked him for his reaction.

“I don’t believe they’re coming from foreign adversaries, if they were, why that would suggest that they have a technology which is in a whole different sphere than anything we understand. And, frankly, China and Russia just aren’t there. And neither are we, by the way, so I’m not worried about it from a national security standpoint,” he said.

“If for some reason these came from another system, if you will, another alien society, which I frankly would find hard to believe, but I guess all things are possible. That would be fascinating. Interesting,” Romney added. “I know there are, they say, trillions of galaxies out there. So who knows what might have developed somewhere else, but that would make me more fascinated, not fearful.”

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