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In the hot seat: An interview with Utah Sen. Mike Lee

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Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), speaking at the 2013 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., said the most memorable moment about attending the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was either meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or having lunch with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at the King David Hotel. (2013 file photo/Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Every week, TheBlaze will feature interviews with newsmakers that we think would be of interest to our readers. As part of this ongoing series, we sat down with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Lee, 46, was re-elected in 2016 to his second term as a U.S. senator representing Utah. Before running for the Senate, Lee clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, both before and after his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, and served as general counsel for former-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R).

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Senator, you recently travelled to Israel for the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. How important would you say that this event was, both for Israel and the United States?

This was a historic moment for the United States and Israel.  Jerusalem is — and has been for decades — Israel’s capital.  And a 1995 law passed by an overwhelming supermajority in Congress required us to move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Israel’s antagonists around the world have been critical of Israel’s decision, made many decades ago, to place its capital in Jerusalem.  That, however, is a decision for the state of Israel, and not for other nations or international organizations.

In your opinion, what was the most memorable or noteworthy moment from this trip that you witnessed?

The most memorable moment had to be either my meeting with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu (who expressed profound gratitude for President [Donald] Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy to that ancient city), or having lunch with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at the King David Hotel, where Jared and I recalled the first conversation we had about this issue, shortly after President Trump took office.

What do you consider to be the single most important political issue of this generation?

I believe the single most important political issue of this generation involves the need to restore a proper understanding of the important, but long-neglected constitutional limits on federal power.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in the Senate, or the thing that you're most proud of taking a stand on as a senator?

I am particularly pleased to have been the lead sponsor and author of the USA FREEDOM Act, which ended the NSA’s bulk, warrantless collection of the telephone calling records of hundreds of millions of innocent American citizens.

Which historical figure do you most admire? Why?

While there are many historical figures I admire, there is one figure in U.S. history who I think receives far too little recognition:  Calvin Coolidge.  President Coolidge was a steadfast believer in the need to adhere to structural constitutional protections like (1) federalism (the constitutional mandate that most government authority must remain close to the people, at the state and local level, while only those powers recognized as federal in the Constitution should be exercised by our government in Washington, D.C.), and (2) separation of powers (the constitutional notion that the legislative branch makes laws, the executive branch enforces them, the judicial branch interprets them, and that each branch needs to stay in its own lane rather than usurp the role of another branch or delegate its responsibilities to another branch).  Even though Coolidge was often criticized for his commitment to the Constitution, he didn’t waiver, and the country benefited considerably as a result.

What is one thing that you wish people knew about you?

I’m fluent in Spanish, having learned it as a young missionary.

What's your favorite thing about your home state?

Utah has the greatest snow on earth — skiing on fresh Utah powder is an otherworldly experience.

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