Orrin Hatch says he regrets dismissing criminal allegations implicating Donald Trump
Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, expressed regret Friday over recently dismissing the possibility of President Trump facing criminal charges related to his former lawyer Michael Cohen’s admitted campaign finance law violations.
“Earlier this week in an unplanned hallway interview with CNN, I made comments about allegations against the President that were irresponsible and a poor reflection on my lengthy record of dedication to the rule of law,” the outgoing senator said in a statement.
“I’ve long believed our criminal code is simply too large. I’ve proposed legislation to reduce overcriminalization, simplify our criminal code and reinvigorate criminal intent requirements,” Mr. Hatch continued. “But at a time when faith in so many of our institutions is at an all-time low, I regret speaking imprudently.”
The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, Mr. Hath faced criticism earlier in the week over his reaction to Mr. Cohen pleading guilty to felony charges implicating the president.
“I don’t care, all I can say is he’s doing a good job as President,” Mr. Hatch told CNN on Monday.
Mr. Cohen, 52, was sentenced to three years behind bars this week after pleading guilty to crimes related to conduct that included paying hush money during the 2016 U.S. presidential race to women who claim to have had sexual relationships with Mr. Trump.
The president’s former lawyer and self-described fixed, Mr. Cohen told prosecutors that Mr. Trump directed him to make the payments.
“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” Mr. Trump responded this week, calling the payments a “simple private transaction.”
Prior to walking back his remarks Friday, Mr. Hatch came under fire from critics who accused him of ignoring possible criminal activity on the part of the president.
“Where have we come when a senator from Utah is saying, ‘I don’t care if he committed a crime?’” television personality Joe Behar asked during Thursday’s episode of “The View.”
“He is going out of office. He has nothing to lose by speaking, against, truth to power about Trump,” Ms. Behar added. “Why does he say, ‘Even if he commits a crime, it’s OK?’ Maybe he needs to go to jail, too.”
Mr. Hatch, 84, has served in the U.S. Senate since 1977. He did not run for re-election this year, and his seat was won by another Republican, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
“I don’t believe the President broke the law,” Mr. Hatch said Friday, “but one of the core principles of our country is that no one is above the law. That means anyone who does break the law should face appropriate consequences.”