GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch walks back his 'irresponsible' comments downplaying claims against Trump

While speaking to CNN, the Utah lawmaker was asked about charges against the president's former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

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By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — Sen. Orrin Hatch on Friday called his comments earlier in the week "irresponsible" for seeming to brush aside accusations against President Donald Trump.

"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 retiring Utah Republican said in a statement.

While speaking to CNN, Hatch was asked about charges against the president's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, some of which involved Trump by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and special counsel Robert Mueller.

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Cohen was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for crimes that included making secret payments to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump and lying to Congress about the president's business dealings with Russia.

"OK, but I don't care; all I can say is he's doing a good job as president," Hatch said.

In an op-ed Friday in The Washington Post, George Conway, Trevor Potter and Neal Katyal blasted Hatch for his comment to CNN. Conway is a lawyer who is married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway; Potter is a former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission; and Katyal is the former acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama.

"As individuals who have devoted their lives to nonpartisan enforcement of the law, we cannot think of a more dispiriting statement. Hatch is wrong about every aspect of this statement," they wrote. "The accusations against Trump come from career prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (otherwise known as Trump's own Justice Department). But the more important point is this: We will rue the day a senator trotted out such callousness about federal felonies."

On Friday, Hatch said he regretted his comments.

"At a time when faith in so many of our institutions is at an all-time low, I regret speaking imprudently," Hatch said Friday. "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."

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and the alleged affairs.

Hatch said that he believes Mueller should be able to complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"I continue to believe that, and 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,” the Utah Republican said. "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."

Hatch, who’s retiring from Congress at the end of the year since serving in it since 1977, delivered his farewell address on the Senate floor this week.