Sen. Mike Lee gave an interview with NewsMaxTV’s Steve Malzberg Wednesday night—and he explained in no uncertain terms that he is not endorsing presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump any time soon.
“Hey look, Steve, I get it. You want me to endorse Trump,” Lee (R-Utah) began. “We can get into that if you want.” And get into it he did, listing three big reasons he doesn’t trust Trump:
We can get into the fact that he accused [Sen. Ted Cruz’s] father of conspiring to kill JFK.
We can go through the fact that he’s made statements that some have identified correctly as religiously intolerant.
We can get into the fact that he’s wildly unpopular in my state, in part because my state consists of people who are members of a religious minority church. A people who were ordered exterminated by the governor of Missouri in 1838. And statements like that make them nervous.
When Malzberg pushed back, suggesting Trump would be better for religious liberty than his likely general election opponent, Hillary Clinton, Lee would have none of it. Instead, he drove his point home, first reiterating the dishonesty of Trump’s accusations about Cruz’s father and then doubling down on the importance of First Amendment protections:
I hope I can get over this, because I can’t vote for Hillary. What I am saying is Donald Trump can still get a vote from a lot of conservatives like me, but I would like some assurances on where he stands.
I would like some assurances that he is going to be a vigorous defender of the U.S. Constitution. That he is not going to be an autocrat. That he is not going to be an authoritarian. That he is not somebody who is going to abuse a document that I have sworn an oath to uphold and protect and defend.
I am sorry, sir, but that is not an unreasonable demand.
This critique is especially damning coming from Lee, who has made a name for himself as a constitutionalist who understands the dangers of the imperial presidency (in other words, the opposite of Donald Trump). Lee has also been a principled advocate of criminal justice reform, even in the face of backlash within his own party.
And, as he mentioned, he hails from the heavily Mormon Utah (Lee is also Mormon) .Mormons have remained staunchly anti-Trump even while most other traditionally Republican demographic groups tilt his way. Even if Lee were personally inclined toward Trump, which he clearly isn’t, the opposition among his constituents would be something a good senator would have to consider.
But it’s really this religious liberty argument where Lee hits it out of the park.
Trump’s various plans for banning, registering, or otherwise recklessly discriminating against Muslims on the basis of their religion is dangerous, unconstitutional, and immoral in the extreme.
If the government suppresses one religious group, it has license to suppress any religious group—including your own.
It doesn’t take any special legal or religious insight to figure this out, though judging by Lee’s lonely stand, that’s insight which yet escapes the bulk of Republicans now backing Donald Trump.