Sen. Hatch regrets ‘I don’t care’ remark about allegations Trump directed his former lawyer’s hush money payments

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 11: Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, speaks with Roll Call in his office on Dec. 11, 2018, as he prepares to depart the U.S. Senate. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch on Friday walked back comments he made earlier this week defending President Donald Trump of allegations he was tied in court documents to charges against Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

After Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and court papers showed Cohen identified “Individual 1” – Trump – as directing his actions, Hatch essentially shrugged it off saying Trump is a good president and the economy is doing well.

"The Democrats will do anything to hurt this president," he told CNN. "What happened before he was elected president is one thing, but since he’s been elected the economy’s done well, our country is moving ahead. We’re in better shape than when we were before he became president. And I think we ought to judge him on that basis."

After CNN’s Manu Raju pointed out it wasn’t Democrats, but federal prosecutors making the allegations about Trump, Hatch responded, "I don’t care, all I can say is he’s doing a good job as president.”

Friday, after days of ridicule for his comments, Hatch said his remarks in an “unplanned hallway interview” were “irresponsible and a poor reflection on my lengthy record of dedication to the rule of law.”

Hatch stands by his point that the criminal justice system needs to be revamped – he’s long called for laws to ensure the accused knowingly committed a crime – and, “I’ve proposed legislation to reduce over-criminalization, simplify our criminal code, and reinvigorate criminal intent requirements.”

“But at a time when faith in so many of our institutions is at an all-time low, I regret speaking imprudently,” Hatch said. “I don’t believe the president broke the law, but one of the core principles of our country is that no one is above the law. That means anyone who does break the law should face appropriate consequences.”

Hatch, in his farewell speech to the Senate on Wednesday, called for more civility in politics and that Congress needs to tone down its rhetoric.