Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in the US Senate, announced on Tuesday that he will retire at the end of the year. In doing so, he made room for a potential Senate bid by former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“I’ve always been a fighter,” Hatch, 83, said in a video statement. “I was an amateur boxer in my youth, and I brought that fighting spirit with me to Washington. But every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching.”
Shortly after Hatch’s announcement, Romney issued a short statement praising the Utah senator “for his more than 40 years of service to our great state and nation”. He did not address his own ambitions.
Hatch is the longest-serving Republican senator of all time, having represented Utah since 1977. Recently, he has faced competing pressures about his political future.
Donald Trump had lobbied him to run again, particularly after Hatch played an instrumental role as chairman of the Senate finance committee in crafting the overhaul of the US tax code, which was passed last month. Hatch was also a key player in the decision to shrink two Obama-era national monuments that Trump announced in Utah.
Later on Tuesday, Trump tweeted his congratulations “on an absolutely incredible career” and said Hatch had “been a tremendous supporter”.
“I will never forget the (beyond kind) statements he has made about me as president,” Trump wrote. “He is my friend and he will be greatly missed in the US Senate!”
Trump’s support has also been viewed as a move to stop Romney, who has privately expressed interest in Hatch’s seat, from declaring his candidacy. Hatch has been one of Trump’s most ardent defenders; Romney has been among the most vocal critics of Trump, as both candidate and president.
Romney is a former governor of Massachusetts but he is a Mormon and a Utah resident. He played a critical role in managing the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
A recent polled found that three in four Utahns thought Hatch should not seek an eighth term. A plurality expressed support for Romney taking his place.
Although Romney sought and secured Trump’s endorsement when he ran for the White House in 2012, the two engaged in a high-profile feud during the 2016 primary after Romney publicly urged his party not to nominate Trump. In a March 2016 speech, Romney called Trump “a phony” and “a fraud”.
“Dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark,” Romney said, adding: “Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities. The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.”
Trump hit back, stating that Romney had begged for his endorsement in 2012. “I could have said, ‘Mitt, drop to your knees’ – he would have dropped to his knees,” Trump said.
The two briefly appeared willing to bury the hatchet after Trump won the presidency and considered Romney for secretary of state. Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone, however, said the president-elect had only interviewed Romney as payback, “in order to torture him”.
Romney has continued to be a critic. Last summer, after Trump blamed both sides for violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in which a white supremacist drove his car into counter-protesters, killing one and injuring several, Romney called on the president to apologize.
“Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn,” Romney said.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at Tuesday’s briefing she had not spoken to the president about whether he would support any attempt by Romney to succeed Hatch in the Senate.
“The president certainly has the greatest and deepest amount of respect for Senator Hatch and his over four decades of experience in the Senate,” she said.
Romney has until 15 March to file paperwork and run for Hatch’s seat.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Biden Expected To Repeal Military Trans Ban Tomorrow
The Biden administration is expected to repeal the ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military, multiple people informed of the decision told CBS News. The announcement is expected as soon as Monday, one senior Defense official and four outside advocates of repealing the ban told CBS News.
The senior Defense official told CBS News the repeal will be through executive order signed by President Joe Biden. The announcement is expected to take place at a ceremony with newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will order the Pentagon to go back to the policy enacted in 2016 by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly.
The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The new order will direct the branches of the military to outline an implementation plan.
The ban was announced by former President Trump via a tweet in July 2017. The ban took effect in April 2019 and barred transgender Americans from enlisting in the military.
In 2014, it was estimated there were around 15,500 transgender military members serving, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Biden frequently repeated on the campaign trail his promise to repeal the ban.
Austin said at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he planned to repeal the ban.
“I support the president’s plan or plan to overturn the ban,” Austin said on Tuesday when asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “I truly believe, Senator, that as I said in my opening statement, that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve. And, you can expect that I will support that throughout.”
Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President
(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.
Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.
Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.
It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.
Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.
Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.
California Governor Formally Appoints Alex Padilla To Fill US Senate Seat Vacated By Kamala Harris
(CNN) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom formally submitted the appointment of Alex Padilla to the US Senate today, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Padilla formally resigned as Secretary of State this morning and Gov. Newsom also submitted his nomination letter for Assembly member Shirley Weber to replace him. The Deputy Secretary of State, James Schwab, will be the Acting Secretary of State.
“It is fitting that on the same day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a civil rights icon who fought for justice and representation — we also move forward the appointment of California’s first Latino U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and the nomination of Dr. Shirley Weber who will serve as the first-ever African American Secretary of State. Both will be strong defenders of our democracy during this fragile moment in our nation’s history,” said Gov. Newsom.
“I am humbled and honored by your trust in me to represent California in the United States Senate. I look forward to continuing to serve the great State of California as a United States Senator and to ensuring that the rights and democratic principles we cherish are protected and preserved for all people,” Padilla wrote in a letter to Gov. Newsom.
Some context: Earlier today, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally resigned her seat as one of California’s US Senators. She’ll be inaugurated as vice president on Wednesday, Jan. 20. In a farewell addressed posted to Twitter, Harris said, “Of course, I’m not saying goodbye. In many ways, I’m now saying hello as your vice president.”