Mitt Romney on Sochi security: I'd bring my family to the Games

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By Eun Kyung Kim

Mitt Romney, the presidential nominee who headed the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, expressed confidence Friday in the ability of Russian officials to keep Sochi secure for athletes and spectators.

“I believe the Games will be safe,” he told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie in an exclusive interview. “That doesn’t mean there’s a 100 percent guarantee anywhere in the world today. But this is, after all, a dangerous corner of the world.”

Romney said he would feel comfortable enough sending his family to the Olympics because “the level of security preparations appears to be at unprecedented level.”

He said “hard sites” where athletes will compete and spectators will watch will be undoubtedly secure.

“It’s the soft places that you can’t be 100 percent certain will be entirely safe, but my guess is that Russians have done everything humanly possible to protect the Games,” he said.

Romney, who oversaw the Winter Games just months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, landed in hot water during the 2012 presidential campaign after being critical of London's security efforts for that year’s Summer Olympics. His comments prompted British Prime Minister David Cameron to respond: "Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic games in the middle of nowhere."

A new Quinnipiac poll released this week found that half of Americans believe a terrorist attack is at least "somewhat likely" in Sochi. But Romney said granting Russia the Olympics was the right choice, despite some of the nation's questionable political moves.

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"I don’t think you hold off particular countries based upon their politics. But there’s no question in my mind that Russia has been and continues to be a geopolitical adversary, not a military foe," he said, noting Russia's ties with the presidents of Syria and North Korea. "Their friends are some of the world's worst actors."

Attention on Romney has resurfaced because of both the Olympics, as well as the a new documentary, "Mitt," released Friday on Netflix. The 90-minute movie provides a rare, intimate peek at the former Massachusetts governor during his two presidential runs.

Although Romney provided the film’s director, Greg Whitely, extraordinary access to both his campaign and personal life, there were “some scenes I wish he wouldn’t have included,” he said.

“There are couple of scenes where we were praying,” Romney said. “I knew he was in the room, but I didn’t think he was actually filming during our prayer. But he just captured everything, and then put it together.”

The movie captured Romney and his wife praying, hugging, and talking very personally and spiritually to each other, he said.

“Gosh darn it, he captured all that and then he had the chutzpah to actually use it,” he said.

While Romney didn’t provide an overall opinion on the work, he clearly seemed please with the final product. He noted that Whiteley worked six years on the project and “put together a lot of footage and most of it is kind of fun” as he watched his children, their wives and his grandchildren support him during the campaigns.

“I don’t think anyone in the world of politics has before had cameras follow them around,” he said. “They put together a film that’s not political. It’s more personal, and family-oriented.”

Romney also addressed the political trouble facing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who he once considered as a vice presidential running mate.

“I’ve been in touch with Chris. Frankly, I think what you see is a guy who is strong leader,” he said. Romney commended him for taking responsibility of the “bridge scandal,” in which top aides allegedly exacted retribution against local officials who did not support Christie.

“He fired people that were responsible for the scandal and he has moved on as a leader,” Romney said.

Asked about his recent interview in the New York Times in which he outright rejected another run for the White House, Romney confirmed he has no such plans.

“No, this is the time for Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Mike Pence, John Kasich — a long list. Marco Rubio," he said, naming several Republican potential candidates. "There are a lot of folks that should have the chance to be our nominee and I’m going to support the one who gets the prize."

He also expressed confidence Hillary Clinton is beatable by Republicans should she be the Democratic nominee in 2016.

“I’m sure she is because I think people recognize the country is just not doing what it needs to do,” he said.