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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

Updated 30 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.