Sen. Mike Lee unleashed a spirited critique of Donald Trump on Wednesday when he was asked why he had not endorsed the Republican nominee . But he concluded by suggesting that he would reconsider his opinion if Trump offered evidence that he would not govern as an “autocrat.”
The Utah Republican, a close friend of former GOP presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz, told Newsmax TV’s “The Steve Malzberg Show” he was concerned that the billionaire mogul had accused Cruz’s father, Rafael, of conspiring to kill John F. Kennedy “without a scintilla of evidence,” according to a transcript posted on Breitbart.com. He also said that Trump’s comments about Muslims, including his call for a temporary ban on Muslims visiting the United States, was “religiously intolerant.”
This time, Lee’s comments came just weeks before Trump is scheduled to accept the GOP nomination amid internal strife among those who have endorsed him and those who have withheld their support.
“Hey look, Steve, I get it,” Lee said, addressing the anchor. “You want me to endorse Trump. We can get into that if you want.”
“We can get into the fact that he accused my best friend’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.”
Malzberg responded that Lee’s concerns about Trump did not measure up to conservative critiques of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He said that the FBI investigation of Clinton’s email servers and allegations of conflicts of interest associated with her family’s charitable foundation should “dwarf” concerns about Trump, including his peddling of the JFK assassination rumor. But Lee would not let up.
“He said that. He actually said that,” Lee said. “Without a scintilla of evidence. That concerns me.”
But he left an opening for Trump at the end of the interview.
“I hope I can get over this, because I can’t vote for Hillary,” he said. “What I am saying is Donald Trump can still 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.”
Lee concluded by saying, “I am sorry, sir, but that is not an unreasonable demand.”