Election 2020

Sen. Lee: Presidency Not 'Something That You're Either Qualified for or Not'

Mike Lee

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said he doesn’t view the presidency as something you’re qualified to hold or not qualified.

Lee was asked this morning about Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky) Sunday comments on ABC about whether Donald Trump is qualified to be commander in chief.

“I think there’s no question that he’s made a number of mistakes over the last few weeks. I think they’re beginning to right the ship. It’s a long time until November. And the burden, obviously, will be on him to convince people that he can handle this job,” McConnell said.

“And I think a good step in the right direction was the changes he made in the campaign. He’s beginning to use a prepared script more often, which I think is absolutely appropriate for any candidate, whether you’re a longtime politician like Hillary Clinton or whether you’re new to the game like Donald Trump.”

Pressed again on whether Trump is qualified, McConnell replied, “Look, I’ll leave that to the American people to decide. You know, he won the Republican nomination fair and square. He got more votes than anybody else against a whole lot of well-qualified candidates. And so our primary voters have made their decision as to who they want to be the nominee.”

Lee, who has not endorsed Trump, told CNN what he’s “looking for in a presidential candidate is someone who’s willing to endorse a reform agenda.”

“A reform agenda based on restoring provisions of the Constitution that, I think, have been neglected and lost. Things like federalism and separation of powers… I’m looking for a candidate who will embrace those things and I’d love to see Donald Trump embrace our restoration of our lost Constitution,” he said. “If we had something like that I think it would be good for everyone. These are principles that are not distinctively, unavoidably Republican or Democratic, or Liberal or Conservative. These are just American ideals.”

As far as McConnell’s comments, “I never speak for a colleague.”

“I tend not to think of the presidency as something that you’re either qualified for or not. That really is up to the voters to decide,” Lee said. “It’s not like taking the bar exam if you’re a new lawyer, or becoming a licensed medical doctor. This is something that the American people have got to decide. And in order for them to decide in his favor, or in favor of any other candidate, he, like any other candidate, needs to come forward and explain what it is he wants to do for the country.”

Lee acknowledged that Trump has said “some things” he likes, including his short list for the Supreme Court. Lee’s brother, Associate Chief Justice Thomas Lee of the Utah Supreme Court, is on that list. “I think that was probably the best Supreme Court short list that I’ve ever seen,” the senator added.

“It’s not really something we think of in terms of qualifications. The American people decide whether or not someone is qualified and they make that decision, I think, based on what prescription the candidate has for office,” he said. “And people are still waiting to hear what [Trump] would do in office if he were elected president of the United States.”