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)
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Trump wants to move the two grants, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grant and the Drug Free Communities Act, to the Justice and Health and Human Services departments, respectively. This would result in a $300 million plus reduction in funding, about 95 percent of the cost of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "'I’m baffled at the idea of cutting the office or reducing it significantly and taking away its programs in the middle of an epidemic,'" said Regina LaBelle, who served as ONDCP chief of staff during the Obama administration. This is the second time the Trump Administration has proposed gutting the agency.
A new report assembled by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has identified more than 500 potential conflicts of interest in President Trump's first year. First, the report notes, Trump spent 122 days at his properties during his first year. He has been accompanied by 70 federal officials and 30 members of Congress. "Second, far from this signaled access to power being an empty promise, those who patronize President Trump’s businesses have, in fact, gained access to the president and his inner circle." Lastly, about 40 special interest groups and 11 foreign governments have held events at Trump properties.