Ted Cruz said Republicans don't criticize Donald Trump because he "punches them in the face" for it.
Cruz said many Republicans asked themselves how to "deal with Trump" and his incendiary political style.
Cruz also praised policy achievements under Trump, who was once a staunch opponent that insulted his wife.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said his Republican peers are hesitant to criticize former President Donald Trump because if they do, Trump "turns around and punches them in the face."
Cruz made the comments at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Saturday while speaking to The Washington Examiner's David Drucker.
"Why are people reluctant on the Republican side to criticize Donald Trump? It's a number of things," Cruz said. "Unlike many people in politics, if someone criticizes him, he turns around and punches them in the face."
Cruz said he witnessed meetings in which "different Republican senators would criticize" Trump, who would then "spend the whole meeting just slamming them with a stick."
"I like what we accomplished under Trump. I think there's an incredible record of policy victories," Cruz said. "I disagree with a lot of the things Donald Trump says. And I made a decision that I wasn't going to be giving color commentary on MSNBC for every tweet or every statement that was obviously indefensible."
"I think that's the right balance, and I'll tell you for any Republican, that was a complicated decision: How do you deal with Trump?" Cruz added. "When he does things that are good and praise-worthy, I will praise him, and when he says things I disagree with, I'm just not going to engage in the day-to-day color commentary."
Cruz and Trump were staunch opponents in the 2016 presidential election, during which time Trump made several disparaging comments about Cruz and his family, though he later apologized. Cruz later became one of Trump's strongest allies.