By redrawing the boundaries of two Utah national monuments, President Donald Trump handed Sen. Orrin Hatch a major victory in the Republican lawmaker’s fight against increasing federal control over western lands.
Trump heaped praise on Hatch’s role in shrinking the monuments and even handed Hatch the pen he used to sign the monument proclamations. The ceremony took place at the steps of the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday.
All the while in private, Trump is asking Hatch, the the longest-serving GOP senator in history, to run for re-election.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) December 4, 2017
Politico reported on Sunday that Trump told Hatch in an October phone call that “I really hope you will consider running again.” At the time. Hatch hadn’t made up his mind.
In one sense, Trump is rewarding a staunch political ally and encouraging him to stay in office by handing him major political victories.
Trump signed two proclamations shrinking the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante by more than 2 million acres, restoring the land to its previous uses. Utah Republicans fiercely opposed both monument designations.
However, allies of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney see it as Trump trying to keep Hatch’s seat off limits to those who could upset his agenda.
“Hatch is a known entity for Trump and has been really good for the president for the most part,” Kirk Jowers, who chaired Romney’s political action committee, told Politico.
“He knows for a fact he’s not going to get that with Romney. I don’t know that he knows what he’s going to get with Romney, but it’s not going to be what he’s got with Hatch,” Jowers said.
Romney was one of Trump’s most vocal Republican critics, calling him a “con man, a fake” during a widely broadcast speech during the GOP primary where he voters to not vote for the real estate mogul.
It’s still uncertain whether or not Hatch will seek re-election. The uncertainty is annoying Romney and his allies who want him to run for Senate in Utah where his Mormon roots could make him an attractive candidate.