Ted Cruz defended his decision to vote for Donald Trump on Monday in an interview with conservative radio host Glenn Beck, but again did not say that he considered Trump fit for the presidency, casting the decision mainly as a vote against Hillary Clinton.
The Texas senator announced in a Facebook post on Friday that he'd vote for Trump after declining to endorse his party's nominee in a speech at the Republican National Convention in which he encouraged voters to "vote your conscience."
On Monday, Beck, who supported Cruz's candidacy during this year's Republican primary and who is among Trump's staunchest conservative critics, noted to Cruz that he didn't say after endorsing Trump that he believed the businessman was fit to be president.
"What I said is this is a binary choice," Cruz responded. "I wish it were not a binary choice. As you know, I tried very, very hard, as did you, to prevent it from being a binary choice between Hillary and Donald Trump, and I think it is fair to say there was no other Republican candidate who left more on the field and did more to stop Donald from being the nominee than I did, but the voters made a different decision and you have to respect the democratic process even if you may not be terribly happy with the outcome."
Cruz also did not specifically say that he encouraged others to vote for Trump, but instead said that he encouraged them "to do what is right and honorable and principled."
Repeatedly asked what new information had changed his mind since July's convention, Cruz said Trump's release of a second list of potential Supreme Court nominees on Friday, which included Cruz's Senate ally Utah Sen. Mike Lee, and his promise that he would choose nominees only from the lists he had released.
"I'd say the most significant thing that changed was on Friday, the day that I announced that I would vote for Donald Trump," Cruz said. "The Trump campaign put out a list of potential Supreme Court nominees and I think, to me, critically committed that the only nominees he would consider for the court were on that list. Now that was a major shift."
Cruz cast the shift and Lee's inclusion on the list as the result of his influence with the Trump campaign, saying, "That was not an accident that that occurred."
Asked how he could trust Trump to keep his word after having previously called him a "pathological liar," Cruz said, "I hope that he would follow through on that commitment. One never knows if one will. But the fact that he is publicly promising, 'I will nominate from these 21,' I think creates a dynamic where compared to Hillary, who is promising to put left-wing ideologues, that's a clear choice."
Cruz further explained in the interview that he had modeled his convention speech after Ronald Reagan's speech on Gerald Ford in 1976 and Ted Kennedy's speech on Jimmy Carter in 1980, saying that he had meant for the speech to lay out a path for the campaign to earn his support.
At the end of the interview, Beck delayed going to a break, saying that the next question was "worth $20,000 to me, bump the next commercial, please." He then asked Cruz about a story in Politico reporting that Cruz had rented his email list of supporters to Trump long before publicly announcing his support for him.
Explaining how he justified this move, Cruz said, "As you noted, on your radio show, you sell advertising. That's how you actually fund your radio show and that's true as far as I know of every radio show and that's how one communicates. That's also true of every candidate. You don't sell your list, but you rent your list. There are some who want to access your supporters. They pay for it and that helps fund your efforts."
He added, "That is true of every other candidate, and so, yeah, there's a hit piece today in Politico, a left-wing rag, that is hitting me, but somehow is not applying that standard to anyone else in the political world or for that matter to anyone else on radio who sells advertising every day to fund communicating with voters."
The Politico story did note that neither Jeb Bush nor John Kasich, other primary rivals of Trump's, had sold their lists to the GOP nominee, with a Kasich adviser saying that he would not.
Christopher Massie is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Christopher Massie at Christopher.Massie@buzzfeed.com.
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