WATCH: Donald Trump Meets With Mitt Romney and Others at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey


President-elect Donald J. Trump on Saturday moved to mend fences with political rivals after a divisive campaign, meeting with Mitt Romney, who had scathingly criticized him during the race as “a phony” and “a fraud,” to discuss naming him as secretary of state.

The outreach signaled a change in tone one day after Mr. Trump moved to elevate hard-liners to pivotal national security positions. It was not clear whether Mr. Trump had offered the State Department post to Mr. Romney, or whether Mr. Romney, who has broken sharply with him on Russia, free trade and other issues, would accept if he did.

But some strategists argued that merely by reaching out to Mr. Romney, Mr. Trump was demonstrating an openness to new people and ideas, even from the unlikeliest of sources. It may also have been intended to inject the sort of unpredictability and spectacle into the transition process that the president-elect thrives on.

During a weekend of transition talks at Trump National Golf Club here in Bedminster, Mr. Trump was scheduled to hold a series of discussions with what his aides described as a diverse array of potential advisers. The conversations were aimed at showing that the president-elect was willing to look beyond his loyal inner circle to fill his administration.

Mr. Trump met with Mr. Romney for about an hour and a half. Afterward, both men exited the clubhouse and shook hands for the cameras. “Went great,” Mr. Trump said, cupping his hands at his mouth to project his voice. Mr. Romney then briefly addressed reporters, declining to say whether he was interested in a cabinet position.

“We had a far-reaching conversation with regard to the various theaters of the world with interest to the United States of real significance,” Mr. Romney said. “We discussed those areas and exchanged our views on those topics. A very thorough and in-depth discussion over the time we had. I appreciate the chance to speak with the president-elect and look forward to the coming administration.”

Mr. Romney did not answer reporters’ questions about whether he had apologized to Mr. Trump for his criticism of him during the campaign.

Among the others who sat down with Mr. Trump were Michelle A. Rhee, a Democrat who served as the chancellor of public schools in the District of Columbia from 2007 to 2010, and Robert L. Woodson, an African-American conservative who works on community-based anti-poverty programs.

Mr. Trump also met with James N. Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general who headed United States Central Command and is being considered for the post of defense secretary.

The president-elect strongly praised General Mattis, who was an assertive presence on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, after talking with him for about an hour. “All I can say is he is the real deal — the real deal,” Mr. Trump said.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Michael J. Schmidt and Julie Hirschfeld Davis