The Associated PressSALT LAKE CITY (AP) — As a candidate, Donald Trump called for congressional term limits. As president, he is encouraging 83-year-old Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch to extend his streak as the longest-serving Republican in Senate history.
Trump praised Hatch on Monday as “a true fighter” during a joint appearance in Utah.
“We hope you will continue to serve your state and your country in the Senate for a very long time to come,” the Republican president told Hatch, who is contemplating retirement as the end of his seventh term approaches.
Trump’s support may have less to do with Hatch, however, than with a secret desire to block Mitt Romney from serving in the Senate.
The president declined to publicly attack the 2012 GOP presidential nominee on Monday, saying only that “Mitt’s a good man.” But privately, Trump has signaled support for an effort to submarine Romney, who is considering running for Hatch’s seat — but only if Hatch retires.
Trump has vowed to try to block Romney, whom he views as a potential thorn in his side in the Senate, according to a White House official and an outside adviser who have discussed the possible bid with the president.
Trump’s push to stop Romney’s prospective Senate bid puts him in line with former White House strategist, Steve Bannon, according to a person familiar with discussions between the president and the Breitbart News head who, like others interviewed, was not authorized to talk publicly about private conversations and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Bannon has publicly vowed to wage war on Republican senators deemed insufficiently pro-Trump in next year’s midterm elections. Privately, he said he would prioritize stopping Romney, even if it meant backing Hatch, who entered the Senate in 1977.Speech