West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a good friend of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, announced on Friday morning he would not run for president. The same day, Romney was surprised to hear the news during a press conference at a passport fair in Salt Lake City.

“Did he say that?” Romney asked, before joking that Manchin might change his mind. Earlier in the week, Manchin floated the idea of Romney as his pick for vice president. But the following day, Romney said he is “not going to run for president” in 2024, and especially not as Manchin’s vice president, as the Deseret News previously reported.

When the Deseret News asked Romney who his ideal third-party candidate would be to run against likely 2024 presidential candidates President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, he said, “Any Republican other than President Trump would be a great candidate for me.”

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“There are a number of people who ran for president in the Republican primary. I would have voted for all of them, other than perhaps Vivek Ramaswamy, and would have been happy to see them lead our party,” the Utah senator said. He said he feels the same about several Republican governors and senators.

“I just think that in the role of president, you want someone of judgment and capacity, but also someone of character, because the character of the individual who leads the country will help shape the character of the entire country,” Romney said. “President Trump, apart from the lawsuits that have concluded, and from what we already know about him, has a deficit of character that has a significant impact on our kids and on the national psyche.”

A New York judge Friday ordered Trump and his company to pay $355 million in damages. This ruling, which also barred Trump from serving on the board of any New York company, comes after a three-month-long civil fraud trial over allegations that his company’s financial statements were exaggerated and fraudulent.

Trump hit with record $355 million penalty in NYC civil fraud case

Trump has been indicted four times and faces other criminal charges related to hush-money payments, withholding classified documents after leaving office and attempting to overturn the 2020 election result.

“The legal challenges that former President Trump has will work themselves out in the courts,” Romney said, adding, “I’m sure he will appeal at great length.”

Romney reiterated his position: “Some might call me old-fashioned, but for me, I draw the line at sexual assault when I think about who I want to have as president of the United States,” he said, related to a civil case against Trump brought by writer E. Jean Carroll, in which a jury found Trump liable for defaming and sexually abusing her.

He added that while he does not support Trump, he agrees with him on many policies.

“I voted with him frequently when he was president and I was serving in the Senate, actually more frequently than many, many others,” Romney said. “But on a matter of character, in my view, he is not the kind of individual who you want to have as the representative of the greatest nation on Earth.”

Romney said he didn’t know who he was going to vote for in the presidential election this year. Previously, he voted for his wife, Ann, he said, mostly because they lived in Utah, a deeply red state. “Were we in “Georgia or Michigan or whatever, I don’t know quite what I’d do.”

Romney on the death of Alexei Navalny

During the press conference, Romney was asked for his reaction to news of the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in prison on Friday.

Navalny had been a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“This is another day where we underscore the fact that Vladimir Putin is not a good guy, that he’s an evil guy,” said Romney. “Not only did he brutally attack a sovereign nation, Ukraine, and try going into its capital and take over the country, but he also brutally murders people within his own country.”

Romney remarked on how many of Putin’s opponents have met with an early death, including Navalny.

“It’s an outrage that the world does not recognize that Vladimir Putin is a very bad person. And I’m proud to be in a nation where we have disagreements, but where we respect one another, respect the rule of law, and don’t allow the kind of brutality that you’re seeing at the hands of Vladimir Putin.”