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Former GOP Nominee Mitt Romney Sharply Criticizes Donald Trump


The man who won the Republican nomination four years ago is going after the candidate who is the party's current frontrunner. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney gave a speech today urging Republicans to do everything in their power to stop Donald Trump. And then Trump hit back. Here's NPR's Sarah McCammon.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Mitt Romney didn't speak for long this morning at the University of Utah, but he made his feelings about Donald Trump quite clear.


MITT ROMNEY: Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes.

MCCAMMON: He went on to call Trump out on recent controversial statements he's made.


ROMNEY: He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.

MCCAMMON: Romney said he's not entering the race but urged Republicans to vote for whichever GOP candidate has the best chance in their state of taking delegates away from Trump. He called Trump a phony and a fraud who will lead the economy into recession.


ROMNEY: He inherited his business. He didn't create it. And whatever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there's Trump magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks and Trump Mortgage. A business genius he is not.

MCCAMMON: Romney called Trump vulgar and dishonest and recited a long list of people Trump has insulted, including women, a disabled reporter and Senator John McCain.


ROMNEY: He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11 - wrong. He saw no such thing. He imagined it. He's not of the temperament of the kind of stable, thoughtful person we need as leader. His imagination must not be married to real power.

MCCAMMON: Strong words from the Republican party's 2012 nominee who got Trump's endorsement four years ago.


ROMNEY: There are some things that you just can't imagine happening in your life. This is one of them.


ROMNEY: Being in Donald Trump's magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. I'm so honored and pleased to have his endorsement.

MCCAMMON: Romney remains close with party leaders, including his former running mate, House Speaker Paul Ryan. The Party's 2008 nominee, John McCain, released a statement saying he shares Romney's concerns, although he said earlier this week he will back the party's nominee. And Trump hit back later in the day during a campaign stop in Maine.


DONALD TRUMP: Now, I heard, and I saw just a little bit of it. But I heard that Mitt Romney made a fairly long speech.


MCCAMMON: Trump used the moment to remind supporters that he and Romney had stood together just four years ago.


TRUMP: You can see how loyal he is. He was begging for my endorsement. I could have said, Mitt, drop to your knees. He would've dropped to his knees.


TRUMP: He was begging.

MCCAMMON: He called Romney irrelevant and someone who'd let down the Republican Party by losing to Barack Obama.


TRUMP: Mitt is a failed candidate. He failed.

MCCAMMON: But it's not just Romney who's going after the current GOP frontrunner. As Trump has racked up wins this nominating season, several groups that back Republican candidates have released ads attacking him. Like Romney, Trump's rivals have been mocking Trump University, a real estate seminar that's now the subject of multiple fraud lawsuits, and calling on Trump to release his tax returns, lines you're likely to hear repeated in tonight's GOP debate in Detroit. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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