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Photo: Axios on HBO

Sen. Mitt Romney, in an interview with “Axios on HBO," outlined a broad indictment of President Trump, criticizing his rhetoric, his abandonment of the Kurds, his plea to Ukraine and China to undermine a political opponent, his character and past personal life.

Why it matters: Romney, who has emerged as the party's most prominent Trump critic, is getting overtures to run against the president (he won’t) or lead the charge to get senators to convict Trump if the House impeaches him.

Romney, who wrote in his wife, Ann, when he voted in 2016, has only soured on Trump since then:

  • On race: "The places where I would be most critical of the president would be in matters that were divisive, that appeared to be appealing to racism or misogyny. And those are the kinds of things I think that have been most, most harmful long term to the foundation of America's virtuous character."
  • On Trump’s personal life: "He has elements, I'm sure, of honor in his life. And there's things that I think are not honorable. And I mention that because of the payment to a porn star for sexual relations outside of marriage. Look, I'm one of those who believes that we have a responsibility to be honorable and faithful to our wives."
  • On calling on China to probe Joe Biden: "We certainly can't have presidents asking foreign countries to provide something of political value. That is, after all, against the law."
  • On abandoning the Kurds: “A very dark spot in America's history. We should never abandon our friends.”
  • Comparing Trump’s actions to Barack Obama’s ignoring the red line he drew in Syria: "This is worse than that, because it says ... America will walk away from his friends and from its allies."
  • On character: "People will recognize that character really is important in our leaders and that it's important for our leaders to do things that unify us, that welcome people who come here legally as immigrants, that in no way signal to anybody in America that they're less of an American because of where they came from or their sexual orientation or their race or their religion."

Talking to me at his home outside Salt Lake City, Romney made it clear that he's open to voting to remove Trump.

  • Romney — a former Massachusetts governor, and his party's presidential candidate in 2012 — wants to be seen as a fair juror, and would have a high bar: He pointed out that presidents have done things that were wrong or perhaps even illegal, and not been removed from office.
  • But Romney, who has called Trump's pleas for China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens "wrong and appalling," went even further with me: "It was shocking, in my opinion, for the president to do so — and a mistake for him to do. I can't imagine coming to a different point of view."

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Go deeper

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3 mins ago - Health

The end of the Omicron wave is in sight

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Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

The Omicron wave is likely beginning to recede in the U.S., experts say.

Why it matters: Omicron is still wreaking havoc in parts of the country, but infectious disease experts are optimistic that relief is around the corner.

NASA estimates Tonga volcano exploded with force of 5-6 megatons

A satellite image of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Dec. 24, before the eruption. Photo: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

NASA scientists estimate the power of Tonga's volcanic eruption over the weekend to have been 5-6 Megatons of TNT equivalent.

Threat level: Saturday's eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Haʻapai volcano and subsequent tsunami killed at least three people. Scientists warn an "ash-seawater cocktail" poses a potentially toxic health threat, and drinking water could be contaminated.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

New York AG alleges "significant evidence" of Trump Organization fraud

Combination images of former President Trump and New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Scott Heins/Getty Images

New York's attorney general filed a motion Tuesday seeking to compel former President Trump and his two elder children to appear for sworn testimony in her office's civil investigation into the Trump Organization's financial dealings.

Why it matters: Attorney General Letitia James revealed new details in the court filing and a statement on her office's investigation into the Trump Organization's business practices, including a preliminary finding alleging the company used "fraudulent and misleading asset valuations to obtain economic benefits."