Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), “the longest-serving Senate Republican, announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of the year, rebuffing personal pleas from President Trump to seek an eighth term and paving the way for Mitt Romney, a critic of Mr. Trump’s, to run for the seat.”
“Romney’s potential ascent is particularly alarming to the White House because the former presidential candidate has an extensive political network and could use the Senate seat as a platform to again seek the nomination.”
Hatch “made his decision public on Tuesday afternoon via a video announcement.”
“When the president visited Utah last month, he said I was a fighter. I’ve always been a fighter. I was an amateur boxer in my youth, and I’ve brought that fighting spirit with me to Washington,” he said. “But every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching.”
“In a statement he posted on Facebook on Tuesday, Mr. Romney made no mention of his intentions; he only saluted Mr. Hatch.”
“By Tuesday evening, Mr. Romney had updated his Twitter profile to change his location to Holladay, Utah, from Massachusetts. Mr. Romney intends to make his intentions known in a matter of weeks, according to an adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity. His senior campaign team will include … [Spencer] Zwick; Matt Waldrip, who had been running Mr. Romney’s annual policy retreats; and his former chief of staff, Beth Myers.” (New York Times)
“Romney advisers said Tuesday that they expect him to run for the seat, although the man known for employing a methodical decision-making process has not made a final decision. One adviser said that any announcement would not come anytime soon.” (Boston Globe)
STAYING OUT. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) said he will not run for the seat and endorsed a Romney bid. (Twitter)
WHITE HOUSE REACTION. “White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday she had not discussed Romney's potential candidacy with Trump and could not say whether the president would support him.” (AP)
BEHIND THE SCENES. During a phone call with Romney last month, Trump “told Romney that he knew he was thinking about running. But according to one person familiar with the conversation, the details of which have not been reported before, Trump didn’t press the former Massachusetts governor about his thinking or ask why he might be interested in being a senator. Romney’s aides came away convinced the president was trying to suss out Romney’s intentions and position himself as an ally, when he’d been anything but.”
Meanwhile, two other Republicans are being floated for the seat, including state Auditor John Dougall and state Rep. Daniel McCay, though Romney will be the heavy favorite if he runs. (Politico)
What We're Following See More »
"The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her alleged role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for interfering in the upcoming midterms. Elena Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said she managed the finances of 'Project Lakhta,' a foreign influence operation they said was designed 'to sow discord in the U.S. political system' by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control and the National Football League national-anthem protests."
The United States and South Korea have suspended "another major joint military exercise to give the diplomatic process with North Korea 'every opportunity to continue.'" Exercise Vigilant Ace, which last year "involved 12,000 US troops and some 230 military aircraft from the US and South Korea," was due to take place in December. Trump has canceled other operations in the past, which Gen. Robert Abrams said "had resulted in a 'slight degradation' to the readiness of US and Korean troops," but were a "prudent risk" to improve improve relations with Pyongyang.
"Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has decided to take part in an anti-terror finance meeting with Saudi security officials and their Middle Eastern counterparts in Riyadh later this month, opting to attend despite growing global outrage over the suspected murder of a U.S.-based journalist at the hands of Saudi operatives, according to three people familiar with his travel plans. The security gathering next week is separate from a Riyadh financial summit that Mnuchin announced on Thursday he would not attend."
"Steve Penny, the former president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, has been indicted on a felony count of tampering with evidence" in the sexual assault case against disgraced USA gymnastics physician Larry Nassar. Nassar was found guilty in January of sexually abusing dozens of young gymnasts, and was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. Penny, who was arrested on Wednesday in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, "is accused of ordering the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch in Texas," where much of Nassar's abuse occurred.
Defense attorneys involved in the Mueller probe say the public "shouldn’t expect a comprehensive and presidency-wrecking account of Kremlin meddling and alleged obstruction of justice by Trump — not to mention an explanation of the myriad subplots that have bedeviled lawmakers, journalists and amateur Mueller sleuths. ... Perhaps most unsatisfying: Mueller’s findings may never even see the light of day."