Mitt Romney on Thursday decried the “great human tragedy” that has resulted from Donald Trump’s lack of leadership during the coronavirus pandemic and criticized fellow Republicans for politicizing mask-wearing.
“The extraordinary loss of life is heartbreaking,” the Utah senator told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday evening. “And in some cases unnecessary. ... We’ve relaxed our standards as individuals, some states haven’t had mask mandates, and from Washington we have not had a constant, consistent plan and plea for people to wear masks, to social distance, to take all the measures that would reduce the spread of this disease.”
When asked about Republican governors dragging their feet on instituting mask mandates or social distancing measures, Romney said they needed to take the pandemic “very seriously and communicate that this is not a political matter; this is not a matter of liberty. This is a matter of safety and public health.”
Touching on the monthslong struggle within the Senate to approve a COVID-19 relief bill, Romney said he was “quite confident” that a package of some sort would be passed before the end of the year.
On Tuesday, the senator backed a bipartisan $908 billion proposal as a compromise between the $500 billion package supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the $2.2 trillion one pushed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). McConnell reportedly shot down the compromise proposal, but Romney still said he was still optimistic that portions of it would be utilized.
“We’ll see what [McConnell] incorporates in the final proposal,” Romney said. “We have a $900 billion bill; whether it becomes 800 or 700 or what the final number is uncertain. ... But I do believe that key provisions extending unemployment insurance, extending support for small businesses, vaccine distribution funds ― these elements are going to be included.”
Before the interview ended, Romney ― who was the sole Republican senator who voted to convict Trump for abuse of power in February ― added that the president’s unproven claim of widespread election fraud “strikes at the very foundation of democracy here and around the world.”
“People watch America,” Romney said. “If we can’t have a free and fair election, how can they have it in other nations of the world? This is critical for the whole cause of democracy. Russia and China have to be just laughing, smiling from ear to ear.”
Watch Romney’s full interview with Blitzer below: