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Trump is 'very high' on Mitt Romney, Hatch says

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SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch said Friday that President-elect Donald Trump is "very high" on Mitt Romney and wants to have a friendship with the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.

"I hope they can get together because these are two giants in the Republican Party, two giants in politics and they can help each other," Hatch said.

The senator said Trump told him Thursday that he feels bad about some of the dialogue they had during the campaign "where he was kind of tough on Mitt." Hatch said Romney is a "champion" with a strong personality and a tremendous capacity to work.

"Anybody would want Mitt to be on their team. I just hope they can get together because they have had a real split over the years," Hatch said.

Romney is scheduled to meet with Trump on Saturday. He has been mentioned as a possible secretary of state or for another Cabinet position in the Trump administration.

"Frankly, he's very high on Mitt. He wants to have a friendship there. I'm really pleased," Hatch said.

Trump is holding meetings at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, over the weekend.

Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the presidential transition, said most conversations start out with Trump soliciting opinions and thoughts, and as the discussion progresses he may or may not consider the person for a post.

"I think what that meeting suggests, and the meetings you’ve seen over the past couple of days, is the president-elect wants the best and brightest people to put this country forward, people who supported him, people who didn’t support him," Spicer told reporters Friday according to USA Today.

Romney and Trump attacked each other with vitriol during the campaign.

Romney called Trump "a phony, a fraud" during a speech at the University of Utah in March. He later said Trump would be "terribly unfit" for the office and didn't have the temperament to be president.

At a campaign rally in Salt Lake City about two weeks later, Trump said he loved Mormons but questioned whether Romney was really a member of the faith.

"I have lots of friends and by the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them," Trump said. "Are you sure he's a Mormon?"

Kirk Jowers, a longtime Romney supporter and friend, was reluctant to say anything specific about Romney's meeting with Trump.

"I'm thrilled to see Trump reaching out to people who weren't with him during the process," said the former head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and adviser to five presidential campaigns.

The presidential appointments so far have been Trump loyalists, but "Mitt hopefully starts a new entry where he does start to reach out to true Republican talent and perhaps even Democratic," Jowers said.

Jowers said he thinks substantive issues would keep Trump and Romney apart more than campaign rhetoric, specifically their differences on Russia.

But he said Romney and Trump "absolutely" could get along in the administration.

"I think this is a huge moment for the Republicans to see that Trump is, if not forgetting some pretty harsh campaign rhetoric, that he's willing to put the country's business ahead of personal feelings," Jowers said.

In a speech Friday to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition in Salt Lake City, Hatch said Trump is "softening a little bit" from some of the things he said during the campaign, drawing laughter from the 300 business and political leaders at the forum.

"And I'm going to see that he softens a lot more," said Hatch, who campaigned for Trump.

If Trump's selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate doesn't say something about his ability to choose people, nothing will, he said.

Also Friday, Utah's senators announced their support for Trump's selection of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for U.S. attorney general — a man who some groups have labeled a racist for comments he allegedly made 30 years ago.

"Oh, give me a break," Hatch said, calling Sessions a "fine fellow."

"He's from the South and naturally being from the South the far left constantly tries to make all of them less than what they are," he said. Hatch said he hopes the "Democrats don't make a fuss about it" but that they probably will.

Hatch was a member of the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee that rejected Sessions' nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of alleged racially charged comments and actions. Hatch voted for Sessions, but two Republicans joined the Democrats in opposing the nomination.

The Justice Department has veered from its core mission and too often politicized enforcement of the law during the Obama administration, Hatch said. Sessions, he said, would get it back on track.

"Sen. Sessions has broad law enforcement experience at both the state and the federal levels, and in both the executive and the legislative branches," Hatch said.

A former U.S. attorney and attorney general in Alabama, Sessions has served in the Senate since 1997. He was the first sitting senator to endorse Trump and was a close adviser during the campaign.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, also expressed his support of Sessions in a statement Friday.

"Sen. Sessions’ solid understanding of the Constitution and firm commitment to the rule of law is exactly what the Justice Department needs," he said.

Lee said he has worked closely with Sessions on the Judiciary Committee the past six years and has "every confidence that he will make a great attorney general for all Americans."

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Dennis Romboy


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