On the evening of Jan. 6, after the rioters were cleared out of the U.S. Capitol and Congress got back to the work of counting the Electoral College votes, Sen. Mike Lee was exchanging some text messages with me, a journalist with The Salt Lake Tribune.
After conversing about the day’s events, which I won’t detail here as I agreed to keep them off the record, Lee related the story of how then-President Donald Trump mistakenly called his phone thinking it belonged to Tommy Tuberville, the newly-elected senator from Alabama .
Lee agreed to let me publish the story, which I initially broke in my newsletter “The Rundown” the following morning. After my reporting, the story was picked up by several other news outlets.
On Wednesday night during the second impeachment trial of Trump, Lee strenuously objected to House impeachment managers referring to other reporting that said Lee overheard Trump telling Tuberville to delay the certification of the Electoral College votes by objecting.
In my reporting, Lee did not say he overheard the former president’s conversation with Sen. Tuberville, although he did tell me the call lasted for several minutes.
Here, unedited, is what Lee told me via text message that evening.
Moments after the proceedings in the Senate were halted by the Capitol Police, my phone rang. The caller ID indicated that the call was coming from the White House. I thought it was Robert O’Brien, the president’s national security advisor, calling to update me on a question I had asked him about a security threat from Iran.
To my great surprise, it was not Robert O’Brien, but President Trump on the other end of the line. My heart started to beat a little faster, as I was convinced he could only be calling to argue with me about my reading of the Twelfth Amendment and Article II, Section 1.
There was a lot of noise and commotion in the room, but I thought I heard him say “How’s it going, Tommy?”
I said, “Mr. President, this is Mike Lee.”
“No,” he insisted, “I dialed Tommy’s number.”
“Mr. President, are you calling for Tommy Tuberville (my new colleague from Alabama)?”
Anxious to hand the phone to someone else (and not have to argue with the president about matters at hand), I asked if he’d like me to find Senator Tuberville.
He said, “Yeah sure, that’d be great.”
I went and found Senator Tuberville, handed him my phone, and explained that the president would like to speak to him. I stood nearby for the next five or ten minutes as they spoke, not wanting to lose my phone in the middle of a crisis.
Then the Capitol Police became very nervous and ordered us to evacuate the chamber immediately. As they were forcing everyone out of the chamber, I awkwardly found myself interrupting the same telephone conversation I had just facilitated.
“Excuse me, Tommy, we have to evacuate. Can I have my phone?”
Senator Tuberville promptly ended the call and returned my phone to its rightful owner.