At a Republican Party dinner in St. George, two Washington, D.C., insiders — one Utahn and one from out of state — were asked whether they have plans to run for office in Utah.

Former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and former national security adviser Robert O’Brien delivered keynote speeches at the Washington County GOP Lincoln Day dinner Saturday. Both men have had their names floated as potential candidates for the U.S. Senate or for the Utah governor’s office.

Chaffetz chaired the House Oversight Committee when he served as a congressman, and he is now a regular Fox News contributor, while O’Brien served as national security adviser under former President Donald Trump.

According to a recording of the meeting obtained by the Deseret News, they were each asked what public offices they plan to run for.

O’Brien, who is not yet a Utah resident, answered with an anecdote from his time in the Trump administration. Shortly after Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, a national news outlet ran a story speculating that O’Brien had future presidential aspirations. He denied the report when Trump called to ask him.

“I have no intentions to run for president, I wouldn’t run for dog catcher,” O’Brien said he told Trump.

O’Brien said he told Trump he would endorse the president if he ran again in 2024. O’Brien then told the audience gathered in St. George, “that’s the story and I am sticking to it. I am not running for president.”

O’Brien also revealed that he may move his permanent residence to Utah. He didn’t directly address the possibility of running for office in the Beehive State, but if he moves to Utah this year he would be eligible to launch a campaign for the 2024 election.

U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien gives a statement during a news conference.
U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien gives a statement during a news conference with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, not pictured, at Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. | Eraldo Peres, Associated Press

Chaffetz said he is reluctant to step away from his job at Fox News, although he left the door open to a future run for office.

“Look, I love what I am doing now. There’s a reason why I left,” Chaffetz said. He resigned from congress in 2017, to take the job with Fox News where he has worked ever since. “But I’d love to serve again in some capacity. ... So, yeah, I’d consider that but it’s not something I am working on,” he said.

Referring to his family, Chaffetz said he’s hesitant to make plans that would take him away from other obligations.

“I don’t mean to be coy or cute or try to dance around (the question), but yes, at some point, in close consultation with my family, if the timing is right,” he said.

Speech highlights from O’Brien and Chaffetz

O’Brien’s main remarks touched on a number of experiences and insights from his time serving in the White House.

He led his speech by commenting on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) investment strategies that encourage companies to address climate change and other social criteria. O’Brien said while he was serving in the Trump administration he learned that federal pension managers were following ESG guidance by investing the money in Chinese companies that he said used “slave labor” and built “warships that are supporting the Chinese Communist Party.”

He said that the Trump administration demanded they stop. “It made no sense,” O’Brien said. “They were taking the pension money from our soldiers, airmen and marines and investing billions and billions of it in the same Chinese companies that are building warships and aircraft that are going to try and kill American service members.”

During his speech, O’Brien criticized the Biden administration for “relinquishing” America’s energy independence, a “humiliating” Afghanistan withdrawal and the “projection of national weakness in international politics.”

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He said he would often tell his staffers that “weakness, or even the perception of weakness in international affairs is provocative and it causes bad actors to do bad things.” O’Brien insisted that the Russia-Ukrainian war and recent Chinese aggression would not have happened if Trump was still in office.

O’Brien also said he believes China is serious about invading Taiwan in the “next year or two.” On the other hand, he said he believes the projection of American strength across the world will ease tensions. “If you do it in a humble, modest fashion then you can have peace in the world and America will prosper,” he said.

“This election that’s coming up in 2024 is so important,” O’Brien said, noting how powerful the presidency is in shaping the nation. He said he is “loyal” to Trump since “he kind of brought me to the dance,” but also noted the deep bench the Republican Party enjoys by having many “strong” candidates.

“Whoever the nominee is, whether it’s President Trump or one of the others, we have got to win,” he said.

During his speech, Chaffetz mostly recounted anecdotes from his time in Congress. But before diving into his remarks, he told the audience they should expect to see O’Brien in future high office roles.

“You might not realize it, but when we get the next Republican president, O’Brien will probably be the next secretary of state, secretary of defense or something like that,” he said.

“Character matters and that’s why Robert O’Brien is such an important leader for our day,” Chaffetz said.