WASHINGTON — Sen. Orrin Hatch, the outgoing Utah Republican and most senior GOP senator, issued a statement on Friday expressing regret for telling CNN “I don’t care” when asked about President Donald Trump being implicated in crimes by Michael Cohen.
“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 senator said in the statement.
In the interview with CNN earlier in the week, Hatch strongly dismissed the federal government’s allegations that Trump directed Cohen, his former attorney, to commit two crimes by facilitating hush money payments to silence stories about alleged affairs with Trump.
Asked if he had any concerns that Trump was implicated, Hatch told CNN: “The Democrats will do anything to hurt this President.” Informed it was alleged by the Southern District of New York, Hatch said: “OK, but I don’t care, all I can say is he’s doing a good job as President.”
Hatch suggested the allegations from Cohen were being blown out of proportion in order to attack Trump. “I don’t think he was involved in crimes but even then, you know, you can make anything a crime under the current laws if you want to, you can blow it way out of proportion, you can do a lot of things,” Hatch said.
The statement released by the senator on Friday specifically references his comments saying that “you can make anything a crime under the current laws.”
“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,” Hatch said.
However, he added, “But at a time when faith in so many of our institutions is at an all-time low, I regret speaking imprudently. I don’t believe the President broke the law, 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.”
In the statement released on Friday, the senator also said, “While I don’t believe Michael Cohen is any kind of reliable voice in this process, I have expressed confidence in Bob Mueller and his investigation countless times,” a reference to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any potential links between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
Hatch went on to say that “when we see Mueller’s full report and the complete filings from the New York U.S. Attorney’s office, we can determine the path forward. While I believe the President has succeeded in a number of important policy areas, that success is separate from the validity of these investigations, which I believe should be allowed to run their course.”