Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) criticized Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump for what he described as his lacking being sufficiently pro-Constitution.
Sasse, who is set to appear at campaign rallies for his senate colleagues Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, also both candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, has not endorsed a candidate. However, he has been outspoken in his criticism of Trump.
Partial transcript as follows:
GEIST: All right, all right. Big red. So let’s talk about this, a lot of people are viewing your efforts as not endorsing a particular candidate but going out to say we’ve got to stop Donald Trump in his tracks. Is that a fair assessment of what you’re doing in Iowa?
SASSE: Hey, I’m pro-Constitution and I want to make America great again. And the best way to do that is by uniting around the things that bring us together — and that’s not one guy’s ego. That’s the system of laws and limited government. So, if being pro-Constitution makes me anti-Mr. Trump, I think that’s his problem.
GEIST: What is it specifically about Mr. Trump that you think is anti-Constitution?
SASSE: I mean, the guy talks constantly how he’ll get everything done alone. He said recently that if he’s elected president he’ll be able to do whatever he wants. That’s pretty much what the American Revolution was about. We already have one party in this country that’s gone post constitutional. We don’t need another one.
SCARBOROUGH: Senator, we had him on the show the other day. He complained how Ted Cruz was, nobody in the senate liked Ted Cruz. He’d spend a lifetime making deals with other people, said he could work with other people, said he could work with people like Nancy Pelosi and work across the aisle. That doesn’t sound like a guy who’s talking about doing it all by himself.
SASSE: “Yeah, well, i mean, when you talk to people in my town, you don’t hear anybody saying if only there were more people who inside Washington were focused on themselves and their deal making ability. what you hear about is people who want to believe in a shared sense of human dignity again and limited government because they believe in limitless human potential. I think more washington deal making is not really what anybody in Nebraska’s talking about and i haven’t heard it in Iowa either. they want to talk about a constitutional republic.
SCARBOROUGH: I’m all for the constitutional republic. Been fighting for it for 20 years. You said Donald Trump was all about Donald Trump and he was going to do things by himself like a king. then I said, no, he spent 20 minutes on our show yesterday talking about how unlike Barack Obama and Ted Cruz he wanted to work with other people. Then you criticized that. Which is it?
SASSE: Joe, did you ask him what he means if he says he’s president he’ll be able to do whatever he wants? Because I don’t hear him getting hard questions.
SCARBOROUGH: He actually didn’t say that on our show. If he did say that on our show, I certainly would have said, what do you mean. I would have explained checks and balances but, again, when he’s on our show it made it sound like that he understood that unlike Barack Obama, you have to reach out to the other side and deal with the other side.
SASSE: Here’s what people are asking they’re saying, which way is it? Trump says he’s for single payer health care. He says he hates guns when he was thinking about running as a Democrat. He says that he’s proposed a $6 trillion tax increase in the past. He says when he runs — if he gets elected president, he’ll be able to do whatever he wants. A lot of people really, really appreciate that he’s accurately diagnosing a lot that’s wrong but that’s not the same as telling us what he’s for. What’s he for?
SCARBOROUGH: Senator, you’re a really smart guy. Mika and I were talking about it, you’re one of our favorites. When I ask this, I’m not asking this as a leading question or poking and prodding -but a hell of a lot of people in your great state of Nebraska like Donald Trump, believe in Donald Trump, like my brother who’s pro-gun, who is an evangelical, who’s gone to church every Sunday his entire life who would rather drowned in Scambia bay than ever vote for a Democrat is 100% behind Donald Trump. I know a lot of lifelong Republicans that are, too. Diagnose that for me, not just my family, but your Nebraska supporters that support Donald Trump. Why is that given his past?
SASSE: That’s a great question, and I’m telling ya, I think that Donald Trump is really entertaining. I think that Donald Trump would be a great guy to have a beer with. I get that you guys have him on ever day because he makes for great television and your brother may be different, but I live in my state and I commute every week and what I hear at the grocery store is people saying, I am sick of Washington. I am sick of the mess that is there. I am sick of the fact that people won’t be blunt about the real problems we face.I want to make America great again and I’m glad Donald Trump will attack all of that nonsense, But frankly I’m not really sure what he’s for. That’s what people actually say on the street. And I’ll tell ya, the oath I took is to a Constitution. I want to make America great again as well, and the way you do that is by a nation of limited government. That’s what people actually want when you give them time. If you just give them the choice between establishment insiders and Donald Trump, man, he’s a lot of fun. That’s different than telling you how he’d really govern and I think you guys misread how many folks really doubt back on the grassroots whether or not they’re sure that Trump’s for anything particular or if he’s just for Donald Trump.
SCARBOROUGH: Senator, I haven’t seen a I’m guessing Donald Trump would be ahead. Let’s not talk about my brother.
SASSE: I think that’s true.
SCARBOROUGH: Let’s not talk about this show. Let’s not talk about having a beer. I’m talking about your people, the people you represent and is it — again, I ask this with all due respect because I love ya.I really do. I think you’re a rising star.
SASSE: “I didn’t know that, Joe. I appreciate that.
SCARBOROUGH: You actually did know that. but — but it sounds like you’re talking down to people that you represent by saying, yeah, he’s entertaining and he’s a fun guy to have a beer with, but, you know, there’s nothing there. And the voters are wrong in your own state. He’s probably in first place among your constituents.
SASSE: Let’s be clear. I also think he’s in first place and I think there’s a huge element of it that is protest voting.When 3 to 1 Americans think the country is on the wrong track, Washington doesn’t work. Nobody says that as effectively as Donald Trump. And a huge part of what people are saying is I want this to change and I want to make America great again. They’re right about that. A lot of great Americans are in Donald Trump’s camp and he owes it to them to tell them what his actual positions are.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. senator, I’ll tell you what, thank you so much for being with us. Come back again.
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN