Earlier this week, after the news broke that Donald Trump’s longtime consigliere Michael Cohen had been sentenced to 36 months in prison, the Republican leadership tried to pretend it wasn’t a big deal. The senior Republican, Senator Orrin Hatch (UT), even went so far as to have this exchange with CNN’s Manu Raju:
Hatch: I don’t care. All I can say is that he’s doing a good job as president.
Raju: It doesn’t bother you, these crimes he was alleged to be involved with, the president?
Hatch: No, because I don’t think he was involved in crimes. But even then, you know, you can make anything a crime under the current laws. If you want to you can blow it way out of proportion. You can do a lot of things.
All I can say is this: President Trump, before he became president—that’s another world.
Of course, a former lawyer turned FEDERAL LAWMAKER for the last 40 years saying he doesn’t care about the law, and those laws are so facile as to be meaningless in the face of political affiliation, did not go over well with anybody. A United States senator should never be cavalier when it comes to the laws of our country because a United States senator’s job is to be dead serious about the laws of our country. Clearly, someone in the Hatch camp was able to get a note into the crypt where Sen. Hatch sleeps in a coffin. Hatch, or one of the Renfields working for him, put out an apology Friday.
Earlier this week in an unplanned hallway interview with CNN, I made comments about allegations against the President that were irresponsible and a poor reflection on my lengthy record of dedication to the rule of law.
From there, Hatch reiterated the conservative talking point that Michael Cohen isn’t to be believed, and he has to chase that stiff drink of a talking point with how much he supports Robert Mueller.
I continue to believe that, and when we see Mueller’s full report and the complete filings from the New York U.S. Attorney’s office, we can determine the path forward. While I believe the President has succeeded in a number of important policy areas, that success is separate from the validity of these investigations, which I believe should be allowed to run their course.
I also said in the unplanned hallway interview that “you can make anything a crime under the current laws.” I’ve long believed our criminal code is simply too large. I’ve proposed legislation to reduce overcriminalization, simplify our criminal code, and reinvigorate criminal intent requirements. (See here, here, here, here, and here.) But at a time when faith in so many of our institutions is at an all-time low, I regret speaking imprudently. 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.
“I’ve proposed legislation to reduce overcriminalization” is a rich sentiment coming from a man who championed the Clinton-era Prisoner Litigation Reform Act in 1995, taking away many prisoners’ right to a fair hearing. This is the same man who, along with then-Senator Jeff Sessions, pushed for “reform” legislation that threatened to relax juvenile detention requirements for separating children from adult prisoners, as well as the requirements for states to address racial disparities in their juvenile justice systems.
One day I’ll put together a breakdown of Hatch’s “lengthy record of dedication to the rule of law.” Today is not that day. But have no doubt—Beelzebub broke the mold when he made Sen. Orrin Hatch.