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Hatch willing to help Trump; other Utah politicians not so sure

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SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Thursday he "will do what I can" to help Donald Trump win the presidency, even though many of his Utah constituents have "serious reservations" about the GOP's presumptive nominee.

Hatch joined other Senate Republican leaders at a meeting with Trump, after the controversial billionaire businessman and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., agreed they're "totally committed" to uniting the party.

Ryan's joint statement with Trump, issued after their closed-door meeting Thursday, did not say he now supports the nominee. The speaker said last week he was not ready to endorse Trump.

Hatch, however, said after sitting down with Trump in Washington that he's going to help him defeat the likely Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"This election is perhaps the most important of my lifetime. With such critical issues as the future of the Supreme Court hanging in the balance, it is vital that we defeat Hillary Clinton and elect a Republican to the White House," he said.

Hatch offered to help Trump identify future Supreme Court candidates.

But Utah's senior senator, who serves as the Senate's president pro tempore, also called on Trump to "listen to policymakers and carefully consider his approach to issues like international trade, religious liberty and entitlement reform."

This election is perhaps the most important of my lifetime. With such critical issues as the future of the Supreme Court hanging in the balance, it is vital that we defeat Hillary Clinton and elect a Republican to the White House.

–Sen. Orrin Hatch

He had some suggestions about the candidate's tone, too.

"I will also encourage Donald to soften some of his rhetoric and always act in a manner worthy of a presidential nominee," Hatch said, citing what he termed "serious reservations" among many of his Utah constituents.

Those not backing Trump — yet

Not everyone in Utah's all-Republican congressional delegate is on board with Trump.

Sen. Mike Lee told The Washington Examiner that Trump "scares me to death. So does Hillary Clinton. There is no easy choice right now." Lee had backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for the GOP nomination, the winner of Utah's March caucus vote.

Lee was not available to discuss his comments but said in a statement to KSL News, "I have not supported Donald Trump up to this point. I have not endorsed him. I have some concerns with him."

Rep. Mia Love said Thursday that she was happy Trump was able to meet with GOP leaders in Congress — including Ryan, her official congressional mentor — but she still isn't ready to back him.

"I think that it is an encouraging first step, but that's just what it is — it's just a first step. I believe that there is a long way to go … to see what type of president he would actually be. There's so much that we don't know yet," she said.


Love said in judging a candidate, "there are times when you have to really look at policy instead of blindly following parties or blindly following an individual because they have the (nomination). It’s not good representation of your district."

Still, she said, even the Democrats in the 4th District don't support Clinton. Utah Democrats overwhelmingly backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in their party's caucus vote.

Love, who was elected to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this July where Trump will be nominated, said she's waiting to see if going "represents Utah in a light that will be positive."

And Rep. Rob Bishop isn't going to endorse until after the nomination is final.

"Essentially, he’ll never vote for Hillary, and he is reserving his formal support until a nominee is made official in Cleveland," Bishop's spokesman, Lee Lonsberry, said. Bishop, also a delegate, said he wants a president who'll work with Congress.


"If the president is merely a continuation of the status quo, it will mean four more years or guerrila warfare," Bishop said recently. "As someone who never watched any of Trump's reality shows, I'm anxious to watch his prime-time efforts."

Rep. Chris Stewart said he's hopeful Ryan will have some sway with Trump.

"I think it's essential for those of us who are conservatives to feel comfortable that Mr. Trump is a conservative. Because right now, some of us are not convinced that he is," Stewart told KSL Newsradio.

While he believes the country "could survive a Trump or a Hillary Clinton presidency," the likelihood the next president will appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices is a tipping point for him, Stewart said.

But Rep. Jason Chaffetz said last week he will support the Republican nominee. Still, he stopped short of backing Trump by name the day after Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich dropped out of the presidential race.

"My prime goal is to make sure Hillary Clinton is not the next president of the United States," Chaffetz said then. "There's a lot to like about Donald Trump, but my job is also not to be the cheerleader for the president."

Contributing: Andrew Adams

Lisa Riley Roche


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