Sen. Orrin Hatch will retire at the end of his term

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan R-Wis. left accompanied by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch R-Utah signs the final version of the GOP tax bill during an enrollment ceremony at the

It is widely thought that his retirement could clear the path for former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, though it is unclear whether Romney will jump back into the political arena.

"I join the people of Utah in thanking my friend, Senator Orrin Hatch for his more than forty years of service to our great state and nation", Romney said in a written statement on Facebook Tuesday that did not address his own future. Last month, Mr. Trump spoke to Romney, according to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. But since Romney lost to Barack Obama - an event that roughly coincided with Bannon assuming control of Breitbart - Romney has become a symbol of the political establishment Breitbart reviles.

His decision comes after The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah's largest newspaper, published a scathing Christmas Day editorial calling on him to leave the seat.

He was not a candidate for political office previous year when he pilloried Mr Trump. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. Romney would likely be among a small number of influential Republicans willing to take on Trump.

Hatch's term is set to expire in January 2019.

"Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud". The then-president-elect grinned like the Cheshire cat, while Mr Romney awkwardly turned to the camera, brow furrowed in seeming discomfort. Will he speak out against the president, as he once did?

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The Utah Republican is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Amid earlier speculation about Hatch's plans, the Utah senator stepped up to defend Romney, a fellow Mormon.

He served as a chairman on his son's investment firm and on the board of directors of Marriott International.

Bids by Romney and Pawlenty, however, would mark a comeback for a quieter, more traditional sort of Republican campaign, featuring seasoned politicians with deep, longstanding connections among major donors and the national party. He is also the second-longest serving senator in the US history. But every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. "I will never forget the (beyond kind) statements he has made about me as President", he added.

Trump had been open in recent months about pressuring Hatch to stay in the Senate, and his private lobbying campaign was bolstered by a public love fest, with Trump inviting Hatch with him on Air Force One in December when he shrunk the boundaries of two Utah monuments.

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