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Romney reacts to report that Kremlin blocked Secretary of State post

SALT LAKE CITY — Did Russia block Mitt Romney from becoming secretary of state? That’s the new claim surfacing Monday from The New Yorker.

The magazine says a memo from former British spy Christopher Steele notes that the Russian government blocked Mitt Romney as a choice for secretary of state.

Steele’s dossier on President Donald Trump and Russia has become a central piece in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Following Trump’s election, Romney was widely reported to be in the running for secretary of state, but Rex Tillerson was ultimately chosen for the position.

The memo, released separately from the rest of the dossier, relied on a “senior Russian official,” who “said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” according to the New Yorker. The official reportedly said the Kremlin asked Trump to appoint a secretary who would be ready to lift Ukraine-related sanctions.

KSL asked Romney about the claim Monday at a campaign event at Dixie State University.

“I don’t know what the president’s process was in determining his secretary of state, or why he chose to ask me to come in, or decided not to have me as his secretary of state. So, I really can’t comment on the Steele dossier in that regard,” Romney said.

“I do believe it’s pretty clear that I’m not a fan of Vladimir Putin’s,” he continued, “and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not a fan of mine either.”

Romney, who is in the running for Sen. Orrin Hatch’s U.S. Senate seat, took a tough stance on Russia during his own 2012 presidential campaign.

The sanctions over the Ukraine crisis are still in place.