C’mon. Who got him to put this statement out? He clearly gave his honest gut reaction to the possibility of Trump’s lawbreaking when CNN cornered him in the hallway a few days ago. He doesn’t care. The economy is good. The Democrats will do anything to hurt him.

Someone obviously leaned on him to clean it up.

Was it … George Conway and his co-authors in today’s WaPo op-ed? They were pretty harsh.

As individuals who have devoted their lives to nonpartisan enforcement of the law, we cannot think of a more dispiriting statement. Hatch is wrong about every aspect of this statement. The accusations against Trump come from career prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (otherwise known as Trump’s own Justice Department). But the more important point is this: We will rue the day a senator trotted out such callousness about federal felonies.

The whole idea of our criminal justice system is to enumerate those offenses that are so egregious that they demand serious jail time. Those felonies are the bread and butter of our criminal justice system. Of course, every criminal defendant seeks to minimize his crimes. But such defendants don’t have a cheering squad composed of United States senators. If Trump wants to argue he didn’t commit the crimes, as he used to assert in April, fine. He’s entitled to that defense. But the grievous minimization of serious campaign finance violations by members of Trump’s political party further corrode our commitment to our age-old ideal of being a “government of laws, and not of men.” If Hatch thinks too much activity has been criminalized, he is in a welcome position to change the laws as a member of the Senate. He shouldn’t denigrate the law in the process.

That’s a bad note on which to end a lo-o-o-o-ng Senate career, but still an op-ed is just an op-ed. I assume it was Hatch’s own staff that begged him to let them issue this statement, not wanting a man who’s served for ages on the Senate Judiciary Committee and chaired the body for years to have one of his last acts in office be a rhetorical thumbs up to a president on the brink of being accused of a felony by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney. However it happened, he’s now officially contrite:

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

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… 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.

And so the first man in the Senate to reach Stage Six of defenses to the campaign-finance allegations against Trump has stood down. I believe that leaves Rudy Giuliani as the only major Republican still playing on that field — and even Rudy inched away this morning. It might be awhile, possibly not until Mueller issues his report, that we see Stage Six again.

But we will see it again.

Here’s part of Hatch’s farewell address to the Senate yesterday, in which he lamented that “the bar of decency has been set so low that jumping over it is no longer the objective.” Maybe the cognitive dissonance in saying that the day after he announced to the world that he doesn’t care if the president of the United States committed any crimes is what finally convinced him and his staff to walk the Trump comments back.