Rep. Burgess Owens officially endorsed former President Donald Trump in his bid for reelection on Thursday.

The congressman spoke with the Deseret News on Friday to explain his decision.

Owens said that despite early concerns about Trump, his support for the former president hasn’t wavered since learning in 2016 of Trump’s plans to help the Black community. And Owens says his present endorsement of Trump is based on the results of those promises.

“I’m one of those Republicans who has been so frustrated for decades by the promises that have been made by a party that never came through. Within four years President Trump did more than all the other presidents have done for our country because he was not going to be bullied, he was determined to put America first and this was happening even though they were coming after him in so many different fashions,” Owens said in a phone call, citing the record-low Black unemployment levels and decreasing wage gap at the end of the Trump administration.

The Republican congressman representing Utah’s 4th Congressional District, which covers southern Salt Lake County and parts of central Utah, revealed his endorsement in a statement given to conservative news website the Daily Caller.

“Donald Trump delivered record-breaking growth to all communities. As a child born in the segregated South, I witnessed Donald Trump help the Black community more than any president in my lifetime,” Owens said.

The statement continues: “(President Joe) Biden declared to the world if you don’t support him, ‘you ain’t Black,’ well, once again, I don’t support him. I’m proud to support Donald Trump in 2024, and I pray he gets the opportunity to finish the record growth he started. We need his boldness to reverse the damage Joe Biden has done before it’s too late.”

With this announcement, Owens becomes the 75th member of Congress to endorse Trump in his 2024 campaign. In addition, 10 senators have officially endorsed Trump as well.

Owens said he chose to make his endorsement public now as a way to draw attention to and protest what he sees as the unfair application of the law.

“I thought it would be a good time now to share with Americans that as we see our country going sideways, as we see what can happen when an administration is weaponized against any American citizen,” he said.

Trump has been charged with 91 felony counts related to four criminal cases in recent months. Two separate cases — one federal case, one case in Georgia — involve his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election. A second federal indictment stems from the former president’s alleged mishandling of classified documents. And another state indictment charges Trump with falsifying business records. He has denied wrongdoing in each case.

Owens says that the four indictments are illegitimate and represent the criminalization of free speech, something he says he saw growing up in the segregated South.

“Growing up in the ’60s, I know what it is to have a government that is weaponized against a people, a person, a race. In the Jim Crow South, I saw what it was to have personal liberty and civil rights being stripped away because the government had the power,” Owens said. “One of the first freedoms we have, which is freedom of speech, freedom to express ourselves, our doubts, our concerns, that all of a sudden that’s being criminalized.”

Owens has been an outspoken supporter of the previous president ever since he first ran for Congress in 2020.

“We need more leaders like President Trump who understand the freedoms that make up the fabric of America,” Owens said during a speech given at the 2020 Republican National Convention in North Carolina.

Owens entered office on Jan. 3, 2021, after narrowly defeating Democratic incumbent Ben McAdams. Just days later, Owens joined over 100 Republican colleagues in objecting to the certification of Pennsylvania’s electoral college vote because he said the results of the 2020 presidential election didn’t “make sense to me anecdotally or factually.” However, Owens voted against the Arizona objection.

Trump has also shown support for Owens. Trump endorsed Owens during the 2022 midterms, calling Owens a “fantastic” representative for the state’s 4th Congressional District.

“I campaigned with Burgess to flip this seat in 2020, and I am proud to support him again,” the former president said in a statement.

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And as Trump has recently faced several legal challenges, Owens has defended the former president.

Owens said that Trump’s first indictment this year “reeks of political vengeance” and that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has “weaponized our justice system to target opponents.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s first Republican presidential primary debate, Owens says that Republicans need to unite behind their party’s standard bearer.

“My hopes are that as we go through this process and we get these candidates to talk back and forth that we can come to one agreement and our agreement’s going to be President Trump and at that point we come together to go ahead against President Biden and the left,” Owens said.

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