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Washington • Sen. Mike Lee, who offered a strong rebuke of Donald Trump this week, still plans to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland later this month and will serve on the committee drafting the rules by which the GOP nominee will be chosen.
Lee, R-Utah, however, doesn't plan to offer any changes to the current rules, according to his office, though some delegates are hoping to wrest the nomination away from Trump by altering rules to let them support any candidate.
"He's going to go," Lee spokesman Conn Carroll said. "Things can change, but that's the plan."
Several Utah officials are skipping the July 18-21 convention: Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Mia Love and Chris Stewart will be absent. Sen. Orrin Hatch's office didn't respond to requests over two days asking if he would attend. (He has, in the past, disagreed with but also defended Trump's provocative or offensive remarks, blaming them on his inexperience as a candidate.) Rep. Rob Bishop, a delegate, is going to Cleveland.
Lee, who had backed Sen. Ted Cruz in the waning days of the primary battle, is also a delegate to the convention and will serve, with his wife, Sharon, on the Rules Committee, headed by Utahn and former U.S. Rep. Enid Mickelsen.
The Utah senator told Newsmax TV on Wednesday that he wasn't sure if he could back Trump after being pressed by host Steve Malzberg about why Lee wasn't "trumpeting Trump."
"He accused my best friend's father of conspiring to kill JFK," Lee said, referring to Cruz.
In May, Trump had said that Cruz's father, Rafael, was with Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassin killed President John F. Kennedy.
Lee on Wednesday also noted Utah's distaste for Trump he finished third in the March Republican caucuses citing the businessman's "religiously intolerant comments," with which Mormons have taken issue.
"He's wildly unpopular in my state," Lee said, "in part because my state consists of people who are members of a religious minority church a people who were ordered exterminated by the governor of Missouri in 1838 and statements like that make them nervous."
"Look, these things are not something that I couldn't get over if I heard the right things out of him," Lee added. "But if you want to go to why it is I have concerns, I can go on if you like. I hope I can get over these concerns."
In an interview last week corresponding with the re-release of his 2015 book, "Our Lost Constitution," Lee told The Salt Lake Tribune that Trump has work to do if he wants conservatives to coalesce around his candidacy.
"As with any election cycle, any presidential election, conservatives should make the nominee earn their vote … whether that's Donald Trump or whether it turns out to be someone else," Lee said.
"Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee but either way, whoever is running on the Republican ticket should need to earn the vote of conservatives. So if Donald Trump acts like a conservative, I suspect he may earn a lot of conservative votes. If he doesn't, and if someone else does, perhaps that's where a lot of people will move their votes."
Bishop, Utah's longest-serving House member, said this week that he isn't sure he would support any effort to change the rules to allow delegates to choose another candidate over Trump, though he didn't rule it out.
"I don't have a problem with those kind of things before the election process starts," said Bishop, a former Utah Republican Party chairman. "But to change the rules at this convention, at this stage, simply because you're not crazy about the outcome, I'd have to think long and hard about that."
Editor Nick Parker contributed to this story.