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Retiring Hatch touts Supreme Court nominee in Utah speech

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, right, meets with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Retiring Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch went before a hometown crowd Thursday to tout his party's second Supreme Court nominee in as many years and take shots at Democrats who oppose him.

Hatch said those on the other side of the aisle have "completely lost their minds," on Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats worry Kavanaugh would tilt the court right on issues such as women's access to abortion.

He said Democrats are still angry about Hillary Clinton's loss, "especially" to President Donald Trump.

"I love the fact that she was beaten, especially by Donald Trump," he said.

Hatch blasted the current fierce dispute over the release of documents from Kavanaugh's time in the George W. Bush White House as a "sideshow" and a "fishing expedition."

Democrats, for their part, complain Bush's lawyer is selectively releasing documents on an expedited basis without proper oversight. The Senate is planning to vote on Kavanaugh's nomination in the fall, though Democrats have argued it should wait until after the midterm election.

As he prepares to finish a four-decade career in the Senate, Hatch has pledged to do everything in his power to see Kavanaugh confirmed to the high court.

"This is going to be one of the most interesting Supreme Court nominations in history," said Hatch, who has served during confirmation hearings for every sitting justice. "At the end of the day Kavanaugh is going to be confirmed."

If Trump had truly wanted to cause a furor he could have picked a number of people more conservative than Kavanaugh, Hatch told the small group at the conservative Sutherland Institute think tank. He didn't name any specific alternative, though Utah's junior Sen. Mike Lee was on the president's short list.

Hatch will retire at the end of this year, and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney is the heavy favorite in the race to replace him.

Hatch said he was confident Romney will win and be an "excellent" senator. But he also referred to his influential position in Washington and said with a smile: "I can say this: You're going to miss me."