SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch says he regrets speaking "imprudently" and that his comments earlier this week about allegations against President Donald Trump were "irresponsible."
The Utah Republican responded Friday to criticism over his seeming lack of concern about allegations that Trump directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to pay hush money to two women with whom Trump allegedly had affairs.
"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," Hatch said in a statement.
On Monday, Hatch told CNN that he didn't think Trump was involved in any crimes and blamed Democrats for making it an issue.
"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.
When told the federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York were making the allegations, Hatch said, “OK but I don’t care; all I can say is he’s doing a good job as president.”
Joy Behar, co-host of "The View," took Hatch to task Thursday, saying, “Why does he say, ‘Even if he commits a crime, it’s OK?’ Maybe he needs to go to jail, too.”
In his statement, the retiring seven-term senator reiterated that he doesn't think Trump committed a crime.
"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," he said.
Hatch said while he doesn't believe Cohen is a reliable voice, he has confidence in Robert Mueller's investigation and that the special counsel must be allowed to finish it.
"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," Hatch 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."50 comments on this story
Regarding his comment that "you can make anything a crime under the current laws," Hatch said he has long believed the criminal code is too long and that he has pushed legislation to simplify it and reduce overcriminalization.
"But at a time when faith in so many of our institutions is at an all-time low, I regret speaking imprudently," he said.
Hatch, who leaves office next month after 42 years, has been a staunch ally of Trump throughout his presidency. He gave his final Senate speech Wednesday, lamenting political discord and calling for greater civility.