Mr Romney's move to stake out a more independent position highlights divisions within the party, since Mr Trump, a real estate developer and television reality star who had never held public office before winning the 2016 election, upended many conservatives' long-held positions on foreign policy and deficits, among others.
Her comments came less than 24 hours after Romney published the op-ed in the Washington Post criticizing the president's conduct in office.
He wrote that with such a "divided, resentful and angry" nation, the president seemingly has lacked the leadership needed to resolve it.
The timing of the article, just two days before Mr Romney is sworn in as senator for Utah, has prompted some to speculate he is positioning himself as a challenger to Mr Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. "While President Trump would win re-nomination it wouldn't come quick and it wouldn't be affordable".
America has always been looked to for leadership.
Romney, a former MA governor, had criticized Trump before - notably, in a March 2016 speech he called Trump a "phony" and a "fraud" and opposed his bid for the GOP nomination - but later he made peace with the president-elect and even expressed interest in joining his administration.
He added that Trump's actions had caused "dismay around the world" and alienated traditional allies in Europe.
"We don't normally comment on op-eds from other senators", Lee spokesman Conn Carroll said in an email. Mr Trump wrote on Twitter, appearing to reference outgoing United States senator Jeff Flake, one of the few Republican politicians who publicly spoke out against him. "And clearly, if the President were able to get a $5 billion check to build the wall, that would look like a huge win for Republicans and a big loss for Democrats".
Karpowitz said Lee appears to moving toward the camp of Republicans who are willing to work with the president, though that's not to say Romney isn't willing to do that. That's when Trump's 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tweeted a link to it, along with the head-scratching phrase, "Jealously (sic) is a drink best served warm".
In 2016, Romney did not return the favor, calling then-candidate Trump a "fraud". The president said Romney "should be happy for all Republicans" and should be "a TEAM player".
Romney doesn't take the oath of office until Thursday, but he dominated much of the conversation online and on cable news.
Trump and Romney have had an on-off relationship.
A president, Romney wrote, must also demonstrate honesty and integrity and elevate the national discourse. McDaniel wrote in a tweet Wednesday that her uncle's "attack" played into the hands of Democrats and the media.
But after Trump won the election, Romney was under consideration to join the new administration.
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