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SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney, one of Donald Trump's harshest critics during the election campaign, will reportedly meet with the president-elect this weekend in New York.
The two men are apparently to talk about governing moving forward and potentially a role for Romney in Trump's Cabinet, including the secretary of state position, according to various news reports.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., told reporters Thursday in New York it's good that Trump is meeting with Romney and other talented people whom he'll need good relationships with.
"I think Mr. Romney would be quite capable of doing a number of things, but he'll be one of those I'm sure that's reviewed, and Mr. Trump will make that decision," said Sessions, one of Trump's closest allies who appears headed for a Cabinet post himself.
Local political observers expressed surprise that Trump and Romney would meet.
"It really is sort of hard to believe that there may be a possibility for Mitt Romney, who maybe even kick-started the never Trump movement, could be not only invited to meet with him but have a potential place in the Cabinet," said Jason Perry, head of University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
"This is one of those elections where we have learned to never say never, but it is very surprising."
Chris Karpowitz, co-director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at BYU, said Trump meeting with Romney could be reassuring to many establishment Republicans, but could also frustrate the president-elect's supporters who want something different.
Still, he said it's smart politically to reach out a variety of people, though it's surprising that Romney would be one of them given his vocal and direct criticism of Trump.
"It would be interesting to see if they could establish a working relationship that would fit both of them, whether Mitt Romney is on board with some of the foreign policy goals a Trump administration would likely have," Karpowitz said.
During his 2012 run for president, Romney called Russia the biggest threat to the U.S. Trump has signaled he wants closer ties with Russia.
"Those two things seem to be different evaluations of the U.S. and its role in the world," Karpowitz said.
Romney and Trump traded sharp barbs during the campaign.
Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, called Trump "a phony, a fraud" during a speech at the University of Utah in March. He later said Trump would be "terribly unfit" for the office and didn't have the temperament to be president.
At a campaign rally in Salt Lake City about two weeks later, Trump said he loved Mormons but questioned whether Romney was really a member of the faith.
"I have lots of friends and by the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them," Trump said. "Are you sure he's a Mormon?"
Trump said Romney "choked like a dog" in losing to President Barack Obama in 2012. Trump endorsed Romney in the GOP primary four years ago.
Romney wished Trump the best on Twitter after the election, tweeting, "May his victory speech be his guide and preserving the Republic his aim."
Trump's meeting with Romney is the latest in a series of Trump's conversations and encounters with Republicans who did not support his candidacy in an effort to reunite the GOP following a divisive election.
Perry said Trump seems to find harmony in discord.
"For him, the fight is OK," he said. "If he is going to have this meeting with Mitt Romney, it could be a sign for the people who are not with Trump that maybe he is willing to listen to people that they do respect and have supported in the past."