Posted 5:00 a.m. today

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr

The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Word of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s decision to retire had hardly stopped echoing earlier this week than two things happened:

  • The unsurprising, pro-forma speculation that Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential nominee and critic of President Donald Trump, would likely be a prominent candidate to replace Hatch.
  • The troubling bursts, on various social media platforms, from Russian bots and trolls to discredit and demean Romney – intervening in an American election.

The hashtag “#neverromney” emerged – a jab at the “Never Trump” movement during the presidential campaign that emerged after a March 2016 speech from Romney.

In two days, trending topics like “Mitt Romney” and “Hatch” skyrocketed on Russia-linked Twitter networks. Trending hashtags on those networks, such as “neverromney” and “orrinhatch” had a similar bounce.

This has nothing to do with taking any sides in the Utah Senate race.

This is about the apparent continued Russian interference in American campaigns and elections.

Just as we’re seeing another resurgence of this meddling, there are rumblings out of Washington that Republican leaders are anxious to bring the congressional inquiries into Russian involvement in domestic politics to a close before the 2018 campaign season…