SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — As he launched his long-awaited U.S. Senate campaign in Utah, Mitt Romney spoke with The Associated Press about immigration, gun control, Russia and why he’s running in Utah.
Some highlights of the phone interview with Romney:
Romney said he agrees with President Donald Trump on the need for border security, including penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants and stopping chain migration, a term critics use to describe family-based immigration. Romney took issue, though, with “language that’s come out of Washington generally” that can make minorities and immigrants feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.
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Speaking days after 17 people died at a Florida high school shooting, Romney insisted it was an appropriate time to talk about what can be done to protect students. “I don’t think we can just wait and hope things like this are going to stop of their own accord,” he said.
Still, he said he wouldn’t support any federal gun proposals he knows about because none would prevent school shootings, with the possible exception of an enhanced background-check proposal by Sen. Orrin Hatch. While he said most gun control should come from states, Romney said he would support regulations on bump stocks, a rapid-fire device used in the Las Vegas mass shooting.
Romney was asked about Trump’s claims Friday that he was vindicated by the U.S. special counsel filing charges against 13 Russians of disrupting the 2016 election. Romney said Robert Mueller hasn’t completed his investigation and he should stay in place until it’s done. The news of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections isn’t at all surprising, though. The man who once called Russia America’s greatest geopolitical threat demurred when asked whether Trump should be firmer on Russia, saying he expects he’d be able to speak directly to the president.
Facing some skepticism from locals this week about the strength of his ties to Utah, Romney pointed out that his Mormon ancestors helped build the state before he came to help run the 2002 Olympics. He was encouraged to run by the retiring senator he’s running to replace, Orrin Hatch, who presented him with a memo outlining why he should get into the race, he said. On Utah issues, Romney said he agrees with Trump’s recent decision to roll back protections on public land by downsizing two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.
Despite his concerns that it will add to the deficit, Romney said he’d likely have “swallowed hard” and voted for the GOP tax overhaul. Romney said he, unlike others, believes Republicans will hold onto a majority in Congress because people will see higher wages and lower taxes. “Whether or not they’re happy with Republicans for a whole host of reasons, they’re still going to say ‘You know what, it’s the economy … I’m voting for Republicans,'” he said.