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Opinion: Why I’m supporting Mike Lee

Everyone in Washington knows that Utah’s senior senator is guided by the Constitution, no matter who the president is and what party is in charge

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Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks as he and Evan McMullin debate at Utah Valley University in Orem on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks as he and Evan McMullin debate at Utah Valley University in Orem on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

I first met Utah Sen. Mike Lee after I left the George W. Bush administration. We were both practicing law at the time. We became friends, and we worked together in politics. Lee and I campaigned for our friend Mitt Romney when he ran for president in 2008 and again when he was the Republican nominee in 2012.

My relationship with Lee was important because when I became the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs in 2018, I knew that I could rely on him to help me bring Americans home. He was always there for our fellow Americans, especially when the hostages were connected to Utah by residency or by family and religious ties. 

While I cannot discuss the details of the cases, I can tell you that Lee played — and continues to play — an important role in freeing our citizens wrongfully detained overseas.

When I became national security adviser, I was again able to count on Lee’s support as we pursued peace in the Middle East, promoted religious freedom around the world, encouraged our NATO allies to spend more on defense to protect Europe against Vladimir Putin’s threats, developed a bipartisan consensus to oppose China’s genocide against the Uyghurs and its crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, and fought trafficking in all of its forms on our southern border and beyond. All of these policies made America and the world safer.

Mike was not, however, a rubber stamp for the president I advised. From his emphatic “no” to Donald Trump’s nomination shouted from the floor of the Republican National Convention in 2016 to his vote to certify President Joe Biden’s election on the Senate floor in the early morning hours of Jan. 7, 2021, Lee has demonstrated his political independence.

While Lee was with the Trump administration on the critical national security issues we faced, if he didn’t agree on a policy, he let the president know in no uncertain terms. When Lee believed that an intelligence briefing to Congress after a counterterrorism operation was inadequate, he called the president to complain and went public with his criticism of Defense Secretary Mark Esper. He was right to do so.

Lee and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders led the Senate to pass a war powers resolution requiring the administration to end the war in Yemen even though Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis adamantly opposed the legislation. Lee was acting on his constitutional principles, and he was right. 

When the president issued an emergency declaration to move funds to build a border wall, Lee supported the House Democrats’ bill to end it. While he recognized there was a crisis at the southern border, he said, “Congress has been ceding far too much power to the executive branch for decades, and it is far past time for Congress to restore the proper balance of power between the three branches.” 

Lee is guided in his work as a senator by the U.S. Constitution. Everyone in Washington knows this about him, and they know he will not deviate from the Constitution no matter who the president is.

Lee also believes in Ronald Reagan’s doctrine of “peace through strength.” As the former national security adviser, I can report that we are facing the most dangerous international threats to our security since World War II. Our nation appears weak. From crime in our cities, to the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, to our surrendering of energy independence, our adversaries look on with hope that their time for tyrannical rule has arrived.

America must immediately send a message to our foes that we are returning to the policies that made us great. Electing a GOP House and Senate this November will announce to the world that we are back. Lee is a man of principle and political independence who believes in the values of the Republican Party. His politics are not driven by hatred for anyone or for the desire for approval from the Washington elite and their liberal media enablers. Lee will represent Utah values in that new majority.

That is why Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence have endorsed Lee. And that is why the key players on the Trump administration’s national security team — Secretary Mike Pompeo, Ambassador Nikki Haley, Ambassador Ric Grenell and I — have all endorsed Lee. We ask for your endorsement of this great Utahn at the polls on Nov. 8 as well.

Former Ambassador Robert C. O’Brien served as the 27th United States national security adviser. He and his wife have a home in Utah.