SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump boasted Thursday that Sen. Orrin Hatch called him the greatest commander in chief in history, but the senator's office says that's not exactly what the Utah Republican said.
"I want to thank senator, finance chairman and a very spectacular man, Orrin Hatch. Where is Orrin?” the president asked at a GOP retreat at the Greenbrier, a 240-year-old resort in West Virginia.
"Orrin is — I love listening to him speak. … He actually once said I'm the greatest president in the history of our country, and I said, 'Does that include Lincoln and Washington?' He said, 'Yes.' I said, 'I love this guy,'" Trump told reporters.
Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock said the senator has said that he would like to work with the president to make this the greatest presidency in history for the American people.
"He has not said that President Trump is the greatest president in the history of our country but that he could be," Whitlock said.
Hatch and Trump gushed over each other while celebrating the passage of the GOP tax plan on the White House steps in December. The president called Hatch, who heads the Senate Finance Committee, the "greatest chairman."
During his turn at the mic, Hatch said, "We’re going to keep fighting to make this the greatest presidency we’ve seen not only in generations but maybe ever."
"Whoa," Trump responded. "(House Speaker) Paul Ryan just said, 'How good was that?'"
Exultant House and Senate Republican leaders gathered with Trump on the South Lawn in December to hail the tax overhaul and slap each other on the back. No one heaped higher praise on the president than Hatch.
"Mr. President, I have to say you're living up to everything I thought you would," the seven-term senator said. "You're one heck of a leader."
Trump introduced Hatch, saying the senator was "someone who spoke very well of me when it wasn’t the easiest thing to do." He commended Hatch for his work on the tax bill.
"Great job, Orrin. Orrin is a special person," the president said.
Hatch, 83, announced in December that he would not seek re-election to an eighth term.