Good Friday morning from Salt Lake City. 

Utah Republicans were worried that Orrin Hatch might lose a primary election to a far-right challenger, so they were actively recruiting more mainstream candidates to run against him. Mitt Romney speaks with President Trump, adding fuel to the fire that he's about to launch a Senate bid. Jeff Sessions is planning an assault on states that have legalized marijuana.

Tick Tock:

  • 17 days until the opening day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (1/22/2018)
  • 62 days until the final day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (3/8/2018)
  • 63 days until the filing period for candidates in the 2018 election opens (3/9/2018)
  • 69 days until the filing deadline for the 2018 elections (3/15/2018)
  • 74 days until the statewide caucus meetings for Utah Republicans and Democrats (3/20/2018)
  • 106 days until the Utah GOP State Convention (4/21/2018)
  • 113 days until the Utah Democratic State Convention (4/28/2018)
  • 172 days until the 2018 Primary Election (6/26/2018)
  • 305 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 1,033 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

Utah news highlights

Inside Orrin Hatch's decision to retire

We spoke to several Utah Republicans about Hatch's decision to call it a career. We're told his eyesight is rapidly deteriorating, and there was much concern that he would stumble or look feeble on the campaign trail. For his part, Hatch couldn't fathom losing an election after seven straight wins, but there was a real concern among Republicans. Gov. Gary Herbert was so convinced that Hatch couldn't win this year that he was encouraging Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and former aide Derek Miller to run against Hatch if he decided not to retire [Utah Policy].

Romney appears to be getting closer to running for Senate

Mitt Romney spoke with President Donald Trump on the phone Thursday evening as speculation is growing that Romney will soon launch a bid to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch in Washington [Politico].

Week in review

Hatch's decision to retire. How Mitt Romney entering the U.S. Senate race could boost Republicans down-ballot, and the book that's tearing Washington apart. Bob Bernick and Bryan Schott discuss in our week-in-review video [Utah Policy]. Here's the podcast version if you prefer that format [Utah Policy].

Why Utah needs Mitt Romney

Bob Bernick argues that Mitt Romney should run for U.S. Senate to put a reasonable Republican in that seat instead of a far-right "nutcake" [Utah Policy].

Other Utah headlines

  • Kaysville Councilman Dave Adams is refusing to resign after being censured by his colleagues after reports he's being investigated for extortion [Deseret News, Tribune].

  • Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski fired 911 Director Scott Freitag after he was arrested for drunk driving on Wednesday. Freitag is also a member of the Layton City Council [Utah Policy, Deseret News, Tribune].

  • Utah lawmakers are considering a plan to charge a fee to local governments that don't have adequate affordable housing to fund the new homeless shelters in Salt Lake City [Tribune].

  • Harry Goslin Jr., the newly elected mayor of East Carbon took the oath of office on Tuesday, then immediately resigned. Goslin says he could not fulfill the duties of his office because of personal issues [ETV10].

  • Kelle Stephens, president of Dixie Technical College, says she was fired this week because she was blackmailed by a former employee [Tribune].

  • Matt Hillyard, the son of Sen. Lyle Hillyard, passed away on Thursday morning. Matt, who had Down syndrome, was a fixture at the state capitol for decades [Tribune].

National headlines

  • President Donald Trump, through his lawyers, tried to keep Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself in the Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller has also substantiated former FBI director James Comey's claims about Trump's conduct toward him [New York Times].

  • The FBI is launching a new investigation into the Clinton Foundation to determine if there were any illegal activities when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State [The Hill].

  • Right-wing provocateur Steve Bannon's supporters are jumping ship after explosive comments from him have been made public. Billionaire Rebekah Mercer has pulled her financial support of Bannon, which is putting his plans to be a major player in the 2018 elections in jeopardy [Politico].

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions nixed an Obama-era policy that kept the Justice Department from prosecuting marijuana cases in states where it was made legal. The move sent marijuana stocks tumbling [CNN].

  • President Trump and top GOP leaders will meet at Camp David on Friday to discuss strategy for the upcoming midterm elections [Politico].

  • President Trump has agreed to suspend joint military drills with South Korea during next month's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang [NBC News].

  • The Trump administration announced it would allow offshore drilling in nearly all coastal waters off the United States. The move will open up some areas off of California and the East Coast for the first time in decades [New York Times].

  • A Yale psychiatrist briefed a dozen members of Congress in December about President Donald Trump's fitness for office [CNN].

On this day in history

  • 1781 - Richmond, Virginia is burned by British naval forces led by Benedict Arnold.

  • 1846 - The U.S. House of Representatives votes to stop sharing the Oregon Territory with the United Kingdom.

  • 1882 - Charles Guiteau is found guilty of assassinating President James Garfield and is sentenced to death by hanging.

  • 1914 - The Ford Motor Company announces an eight-hour workday and minimum daily wage of $5 plus bonuses.

  • 1925 - Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming becomes the first female governor in the United States.

  • 1949 - President Harry Truman unveils his Fair Deal program.