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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah says an armed group that took over federal buildings at an Oregon wildlife refuge should stand down and nothing in his Mormon beliefs justifies their actions.
The Republican senator made the comments to reporters Wednesday in Salt Lake City after meeting with entrepreneurs and tech company workers to discuss conservative legislation he's working on.
Lee also said he's unsure of any real impact that will come from President Barack Obama's recently announced plan to strengthen controls on guns and said he's holding out on endorsing a Republican presidential candidate.
Here are highlights from Lee's comments on Wednesday:
Lee was asked Wednesday about the group of armed people who have taken over a federal building at an Oregon wildlife refuge and the group's leader referencing his Mormon beliefs while explaining his anti-government movement. Lee, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he's not aware of any tenet of his faith that justifies the occupation. Lee said the group should peacefully stand down, and he expects that the group will face charges.
Lee said it sounds like the president hasn't announced major changes on gun control, but it's unclear how they'll play out. The president on Tuesday announced a plan to expand mandatory background checks to gun shows, flea markets and online sales and add more than 230 examiners and staff to help process them. Obama called on states to submit accurate and updated criminal history data. "Background checks were required before yesterday. And they'll still be required today and tomorrow," Lee said.
2016 PRESIDENTIAL ENDORSEMENT:
Lee is the only member of Utah's congressional delegation who has not yet endorsed a 2016 candidate. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Utah's four GOP members of the U.S. House of Representatives are all backing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Lee said he has held out on making any endorsement because his three closest friends in the Senate — Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — are all running for the GOP nomination. "All three of those friendships mean a lot to me, and that's why, up until this point, I haven't been able to see myself getting involved," Lee said. The senator said he doesn't know when he'll endorse a candidate.
Lee was asked if he'd support Donald Trump, who continues to dominate national polls, if the billionaire wins the Republican primary contest. The senator said he intends to support whoever wins the GOP nomination. When asked to talk about Trump, Lee quipped, "He's got great hair." Lee said Trump should be considered a serious contender because of the way he has performed in polls and that Trump has channeled angst that people feel about dysfunction in Washington. Lee said he doesn't agree with Trump on every issue, and there are some areas where he's unsure about where the mogul stands. Immigration and the federal tax code were two areas Lee cited.
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