Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) defended President Donald Trump In a Tuesday interview with Politico’s Isaac Dovere, declaring Trump a conservative leader and an advocate for decentralization.
Lee described Trump as “the leader of the Republican Party”, given Trump’s position as a Republican President of the United States.
Upon being asked whether Trump was a leader within the conservative movement, Lee responded in the affirmative, stating “I think he’s someone who’s come to Washington with an idea of breaking up accumulated power.”
Lee went on to say that providing Trump “sticks to conservative principles”, the President will “bring about the kind of change he promised to bring in”.
The Utah Senator also praised the themes in Trump’s inaugural speech, particularly the notion of “a shift of power from Washington DC back to the American people”.
Lee clarified that he remains opposed to the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), the Republican legislation aimed at repealing and replacing Obamacare.
“The [healthcare bill] released a few days ago is not sufficiently conservative for me to vote for it,” continued Lee.
While Lee criticized McConnell, stating that he would’ve much preferred Senate leadership “to have been open” about the legislation, he was effusive in his praise of Trump’s approach to the health care bill. Lee debunked remarks made by other Republican Senators that Trump lacked an awareness of the details of the health care bill.
“There are very few individuals in the legislative branch or the executive branch or the judicial branch who understand every detail of [the health care bill], but for a President, compared to any American or even any American involved in government, [Trump] knows a lot about it.”
“He discussed a lot of details in our meeting the other day, and he didn’t have a teleprompter in front of him, I didn’t see him being scripted on any of that. I was actually fairly impressed with how many details he did know.”
Dovere noted that the Cato Institute’s Executive Vice President, David Boaz, whom he also spoke to, was “surprised” by Lee’s remarks. Boaz condemned Trump as “not a conservative”, but a “a scary authoritarian, nationalist, protectionist cronyist.”
Boaz, a leader within the libertarian wing of last year’s failed ‘Never Trump’ effort, has little hope for the Trump presidency, and believes any future for the conservative movement is contingent on it re-embracing “intellectual conservatives” such as those published in the “National Review and The Weekly Standard”.
Although Lee was a critic of Trump’s during the previous election cycle, he later changed his tone in a February speech to the Heritage Foundation. During the speech, Lee compared Trump’s election to his own 2010 election to the Senate as an “anti-establishment challenger”, and declared that Republicans should “make a case for a unifying, principled-and-populist agenda” to empower “Forgotten Americans”.