Trump tells Utah governor about Romney: 'You keep him. We don't want him.'

The president has repeatedly criticized the GOP senator for voting to convict at the president's Senate impeachment trial.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Dareh Gregorian

President Donald Trump continued his verbal barrage on Sen. Mitt Romney on Monday, telling Utah's governor, "You keep him."

Trump, who's repeatedly criticized his fellow Republican since Romney voted last week to convict the president for abuse of power at his Senate impeachment trial, still had the Utah senator on his mind when Gov. Gary Herbert tried to ask him a question at a White House event.

"How's Mitt Romney? You keep him. We don't want him," Trump told Herbert, also a Republican.

Herbert, who was at the White House for an event with the nation's governors, didn't respond to the dig, and asked Trump a question about reducing the deficit.

Romney was asked about Trump's comments on his way into the Capitol later Monday. “The president is certainly entitled to say what he believes, I wouldn’t begin to try and tell him what to say or not to say,” he said.

He was also asked about Trump's decision to fire two impeachment witnesses, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council.

“I think the president is entitled to have the people around him that he wants and I admire both Col. Vindman and Ambassador Sondland for responding to the subpoenas that they received,” Romney said.

When Romney announced how he'd vote in the impeachment trial on the Senate floor last week, he noted that he had taken "an oath before God" when he was sworn in at the trial and said the evidence showed Trump's dealings with Ukraine were "grievously wrong."

"I am sure to hear abuse from the president and his supporters," Romney said. "Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?"

That explanation didn't sit well with the president, who said the next day at the National Prayer Breakfast, "I don't like people who use their faith as a justification for doing what they know is wrong."

Many Utah Republican voters told NBC News over the weekend that they respected Romney's decision.

"I have kind of come to terms that even though he hasn't voted in a way that people say represents his party, the fact that he voted true to his conscience and over his party is a great thing," one voter, Kelsey Malin, 28, said.