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Mitt Romney on Donald Trump claiming election win: He has ‘relaxed relationship with the truth’

Utah Republican cautions that world is watching and words should be chosen carefully

FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks in Lexington, Va. Glenn Beck has been explaining his LDS faith while reaching out to evangelicals on behalf of fellow Mormon Mitt Romne Charles Dharapak, File, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — When asked Sunday about President Donald Trump claiming he won the election, Sen. Mitt Romney said the president has a “relaxed relationship with the truth.”

“You’re not going to change the nature of President Trump in these last days apparently of his presidency. He is who he is,” the Utah Republican said. “He has a relatively relaxed relationship with the truth. He’s going to keep on fighting until the very end.”

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, Romney said he expects Trump to accept the results of the election once he has exhausted any remedies to contest the “inevitable” outcome.

“But don’t expect him to go quietly in the night,” he said. “That’s not how he operates.”

Romney also appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd and “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace.

Multiple national news outlets called the presidential election for Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday. Trump has refused to concede and vowed to continue to seek recounts and mount legal challenges in what he has called a stolen election.

“I would prefer to see a more graceful departure, but that’s just not in the nature of the man,” Romney said on CNN.

According to the Associated Press election tally Sunday morning, Biden received 75.2 million votes to Trump’s 70.8 million, with a projected Electoral College tally of 290 for Biden and 214 for Trump. A candidate needs 270 Electoral College votes to win the election.

Trump, who has been relatively quiet on Twitter, tweeted Sunday: “Since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be? We have all learned a lot in the last two weeks!”

Reminded on CNN about his gracious concession speech after losing to President Barack Obama in 2012, Romney said people can’t expect Trump to react in the same way that presidential candidates have in the past.

“He’s a very different person than presidential candidates in the past. He has his own manner and he’s responding in a way which is entirely consistent with everything we’ve seen during his campaigns and, of course, during his presidency,” he said.

Romney, a frequent critic of the president, said he has not seen any evidence of widespread voter fraud. No one has alleged fraud on a scale large enough to change the outcome but states will be conducting recounts because of the thin margin between Trump and Biden, he said, adding there is potential for a reversal.

“I understand why the president wants to keep on fighting. I do believe, however, that it’s destructive to the cause of democracy to suggest widespread fraud or corruption. There’s just no evidence of that at this stage,” he said on CNN.

Romney acknowledged on Fox News that he and his lawyers looked at vote totals and talked about irregularities in 2012 before he called Obama to concede. He said he didn’t see a realistic possibility of overturning the result that had been called by the television networks on election night.

He said he recognized there was something more important than whether he won or lost an election, and that is the cause of democracy and freedom.

“At some point truth, freedom and democracy have to ascend, and you step aside,” Romney said.

On “Meet the Press,” Romney said it’s fine for Trump to pursue every legal avenue available to challenge the results, but he’s more concerned about the president’s choice of words.

“I think when you say the election was corrupt or stolen or rigged that that’s unfortunately rhetoric that gets picked up by authoritarians around the world, and I think it also discourages confidence in our democratic process here at home,” he said.

On Fox News, Romney said everyone needs to “hold our breath a bit, to calm down a bit” and not use language that’s “so inflammatory that it will make people angry and people that are not watching carefully feel somehow something has been rigged.”

Romney said it’s important to recognize what the world and history will see regarding the 2020 election.

“Every nation in the world is watching what the president of the United State says, and there’s a battle going on around the world between authoritarianism and freedom,” he said. “It’s important for the cause of the democracy and freedom that we don’t allege fraud and theft and so forth unless there’s very clear evidence of that.”

Romney refused to reveal Sunday for whom he voted, saying that is in the rear-view mirror. He did not vote for Trump in 2016. He said he has not talked to Biden, but expects that he will.

There are a number of areas where Republicans can work with the new president, including health care, bringing down drug prices, help for families through expanding child tax credits and entitlement reform, he said.

Romney said he would not put aside his conservative principles and would continue to fight against the Green New Deal, Medicare for all and raising taxes on American enterprise.