Police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020, accused Sen. Mike Lee of lying about his reasons for opposing a full investigation into the events leading up to the attack. The officers allege newly revealed text messages detailing Lee’s efforts to help former President Donald Trump reverse his 2020 election loss suggest he was trying to cover up his involvement.
Former officer Michael Fanone, who was beaten by the mob of Trump supporters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn met with Lee and Sen. Lindsey Graham last year to ask them to support an independent investigation into the deadly riot. The two were joined by Sandra Garza, the girlfriend of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick who was knocked unconscious during the attack and died the day after, and his mother, Gladys Sicknick.
Following the publication of a series of text messages showing Lee was actively working to assist the effort to overturn the election results, the group told Rolling Stone they now believe Lee opposed the investigation to keep his involvement from becoming public.
Fanone says Lee explained he could not support the commission because it would be too “partisan.” The next day he voted against it.
Fanone said Lee “lied to my face” and suggested Lee’s actions to assist Trump following the 2020 election may be criminal.
“Mike Lee is not a politician. He’s a criminal suspect,” Fanone said.
Garza said Lee told her he wanted to focus on the security failures leading up to the attack, which she called a “crap story” to cover up his involvement.
“They knew that it was going to open up a lot of stuff that would look bad for them because they were doing stuff behind the scenes,” Garza said.
Gladys Sicknick, the mother of slain officer Brian Sicknick, said Lee should explain his behavior to the House select committee investigating the insurrection.
“It’s my hope that Mr. Lee will willingly and truthfully participate in the Congressional inquiry, according to his Oath to the Constitution,” Sicknick wrote to Rolling Stone.
Lee’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
After days of refusing to answer questions about the text messages, Lee finally broke his silence on Wednesday evening, claiming the text messages were taken out of context and suggesting their release was politically motivated to damage his reelection chances. Lee did not join with several Republicans in objecting to the certification of electoral votes on Jan. 6.
Lee was one of 35 Senate Republicans who torpedoed the formation of an independent commission to investigate Jan. 6, suggesting it was nothing more than a witch hunt.
“Establishing a Kangaroo Commission to politicize the events of that day will neither help us deliver justice nor get to the bottom of the truth,” Lee said in a statement following that vote.
Since the Jan. 6 attack, Lee has criticized the Department of Justice for its treatment of those arrested for their alleged participation in the riot. He and other Republicans sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland in June 2021 alleging “unequal justice” for the rioters compared to the violence and property damage from the Black Lives Matter protests.
“DOJ’s apparent unwillingness to punish these individuals who allegedly committed crimes during the spring and summer 2020 protests stands in stark contrast to the harsher treatment of the individuals charged in connection with the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.,” the letter said.
On Wednesday, Sen. Mitt Romney said he disagreed with the overall effort to reverse the 2020 election results on behalf of Trump but did not believe Lee had done anything illegal.