Donald Trump met with Mitt Romney, once a fierce critic of the president-elect who is now being floated as a potential pick for secretary of state, on Saturday afternoon, setting aside the friction between the two men and signaling a willingness by Trump to entertain different points of view on foreign policy.
Romney appeared to warmly shake hands with Trump, each man gripping the arm of the other, as Romney arrived at Trump's New Jersey golf course. The two exchanged pleasantries, with Trump placing his hand on Romney's back, and disappeared behind a large brown door with Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
After the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, Romney said the men had had a "very thorough and in-depth discussion" regarding "the various theaters in the world where there are interests of the United States of real significance." Romney said that he and Trump exchanged views and that he looks forward to the new administration.
Trump said of the meeting: "It went great."
Romney and Trump differ on U.S. relations with Russia. Romney has called the country the "number one geopolitical foe" of the United States. According to the Kremlin, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke Monday, agreeing that U.S.-Russian relations are "unsatisfactory" and vowing to work to improve them. Trump's office said in a statement that the president-elect told Putin he was looking forward to "having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the People of Russia."
The cordiality that Romney and Trump displayed publicly was a marked change from the way the men spoke about each other during the campaign.
Romney told CNN in June that a Trump presidency could bring "trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny" to the nation. In a speech, Romney called the real estate developer a "con man" and a "fake." Trump said Romney "blew it" and "choked like a dog" in his failed bid to unseat President Obama in 2012, and he called the former Massachusetts governor "one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics."
Trump and Pence are spending the weekend at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, in a nearly constant stream of meetings with potential administration hires and others looking to dispense advice.
They met Saturday with retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a potential pick for secretary of defense who could be seen as a rebuke to President Barack Obama. Mattis oversaw U.S. forces in the Middle East from 2010 to 2013. He was said to have consistently pushed for the military to punish Iran and its allies, including calling for more covert actions to capture and kill Iranian operatives, and for interdictions of Iranian warships.
Former defense officials said Mattis' views on Iran caused him to fall out of favor with the Obama administration, which was negotiating the Iranian nuclear deal at the time. Mattis, who also clashed with the administration over its response to the Arab Spring and on how many troops to keep in Iraq, was forced to retire earlier than expected to clear room for his replacement at the U.S. Central Command. Mattis, now a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, has publicly criticized Obama's defense and national security policies.
When asked whether he would choose Mattis to be defense secretary, Trump said: "We'll see." He called the retired general "the real deal" and a "brilliant, wonderful man."
Michelle Rhee, a former District of Columbia schools chief who is being floated as a possible education secretary, and her husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, also met with Trump and Pence. Rhee served three contentious years as chancellor of the District's schools, where she oversaw a rise in test scores but closed schools, laid off nearly 700 teachers for poor performance, and filled more than 91 principal openings that were created via firings, resignations and retirements. Rhee has been a supporter of the Common Core State Standards initiative, which Trump opposes.
Trump also met with donor Betsy DeVos, who also is reportedly being considered for education secretary. DeVos is a proponent of charter schools and school vouchers.
Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire oncologist who advised Vice President Joe Biden's efforts to combat cancer, also met with Trump and Pence on Saturday afternoon, as did conservative community-development leader Robert Woodson Sr., who told The Washington Post that he is under consideration to be secretary of housing and urban development.
The president-elect and vice president-elect also planned to huddle this weekend with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an immigration hard-liner who is on Trump's transition team, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was ousted as chairman of the transition team.
"These meetings that the president-elect and vice president-elect are having really show . . . the depth to which we're going to pull in diverse ideas and different perspectives as we form this administration," Trump spokesman Jason Miller said Saturday.
Some visitors, he said, are "potential administration hires," while others are coming only to offer advice. "The president-elect is bringing together folks who have been on the opposite side of him politically," Miller said.
Questions about Trump's ability to bring Americans together arose onstage Friday night on Broadway.
In a morning tweetstorm - a communication method that Trump often used as a candidate but that is unprecedented for a president-elect - Trump claimed that Pence was "harassed" Friday night at a New York theater where he had gone to see "Hamilton," a musical about Alexander Hamilton that features a diverse cast.
"Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!" Trump tweeted.
As Pence entered the theater on Friday, he was met with a chorus of cheers and boos. At the curtain call, the cast stood onstage as actor Brandon Victor Dixon addressed Pence, who apparently was walking out of the theater. Some in the crowd started to boo, and Dixon told his audience that there is "nothing to boo here" and urged Pence to hear him out.
Later, Trump took to Twitter, saying the cast should apologize.
"The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!"
Dixon tweeted back to Trump: "@realDonaldTrump conversation is not harassment sir. And I appreciate @mike_pence for stopping to listen."
Trump also used Twitter to address a $25 million settlement to end the fraud cases pending against Trump University, a defunct real estate seminar program. Trump, who had repeatedly claimed that he never settled lawsuits, despite doing so for years, is unlikely now to face the prospect of testifying in court during his presidential transition.
"I settled the Trump University lawsuit for a small fraction of the potential award because as President I have to focus on our country," Trump tweeted.
He added: "The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!"
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Friday that the settlement includes a $1 million penalty paid to the state because the program was presented as a "university" even though it did not offer degrees, violating New York education law.
Emma Brown, Greg Jaffe, Missy Ryan and Amy B Wang contributed to this report.