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Trump to give nation’s highest civilian honor to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, and Elvis, and Babe Ruth

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune The Salt Lake Chamber honors Sen. Orrin G. Hatch as the 39th Giant in Our City, in honor of his service and professional achievement, Saturday, June 9, 2018 at Grand America Hotel.

Washington • Elvis Presley. Babe Ruth. Orrin Hatch.

Those are three of the seven honorees that President Donald Trump has awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor given to Americans who “made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Hatch, a Utah Republican senator who is retiring after serving seven terms, will be honored Friday at the White House with the award.

The White House praised the 84-year-old senator, who is the longest-serving Republican in Senate history, for sponsoring the most bills that have become law as well as his work to confirm judges throughout his tenure.

“He has led the way in confirming qualified judges throughout the federal judiciary in order to protect our constitutional order, and has championed religious liberty, fought against communism, and stood on the side of freedom around the world,” the White House said in announcing the award.

Hatch’s office declined comment, though it noted that the senator would speak at the Friday event.

The Utah senator has been effusive about Trump since he switched over to backing the then-Republican hopeful after supporting Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio initially.

He’s showered praise on Trump, saying he might be the “"greatest president in the history of our country," according to Trump, who then called Hatch a “spectacular man.”

“Orrin is — I love listening to him speak ... He actually once said I’m the greatest president in the history of our country and I said, ‘does that include Lincoln and Washington?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I love this guy,’” Trump said at a GOP retreat earlier this year.

Hatch later clarified that Trump is one of the best presidents he’s served under. As the senior Republican in the majority, Hatch is the president pro tempore, meaning he’s the third in line in presidential succession behind Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“He’s not afraid to make decisions,” Hatch told MSNBC. “He’s not afraid to take on the big mouths around here.”

The White House said Saturday that the medal would also be awarded to the legendary Yankees player Babe Ruth, musical icon Elvis Presley, the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia as well as philanthropist Miriam Adelson (the wife of GOP donor and Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson), and former football stars Alan Page and Roger Staubach.

Mitt Romney, the senator-elect to replace Hatch, tweeted his congrats to the senator.

“Serving Utah for 42 years, and a good man, this is well deserved,” the incoming senator said. “Congratulations to my friend, Senator Hatch."

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