On Monday, the House Jan. 6 committee voted unanimously to recommend criminal charges against former President Donald Trump and conservative attorney John Eastman for their role in the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The committee asked the Department of Justice to consider several charges against Trump, including conspiracy to defraud the federal government, conspiracy to make a false statement and inciting an insurrection. It is the first time in history a congressional committee recommended a criminal probe into a former president.
The committee also recommended the prosecution of Eastman, who was the architect of the legally dubious theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence could reject electoral votes from states won by Biden and have Congress throw the election to Trump.
The referrals carry no official weight; any decision to prosecute is solely at the discretion of the Department of Justice.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee has several connections to Trump and Eastman and appeared to work on their attempt to reverse the election results.
On Nov. 7, 2021, the day the election was called for Democrat Joe Biden, Lee texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows urging Trump to “exhaust every legal and constitutional remedy” available to him following the loss.
In a text message to Meadows, Edward Corrigan, the head of the Conservative Partnership Institute, said Lee was holding a meeting with other Republican senators on Nov. 9 at the group’s Capitol Hill townhouse.
“Mike Lee has about a dozen Senators coming over to CPI tonight and they want to hear from a legal expert on what’s going on with the campaign. Any suggestions who would be good for that?” Corrigan wrote in the text message first published by Talking Points Memo.
Lee was also aware of Eastman’s gambit to have legislatures in states won by Biden appoint new slates of electors for Trump, famously complaining he was “spending 14 hours a day” calling legislators in several states to discuss Eastman’s plan.
Lee has repeatedly said he was merely investigating “rumors” that some states may be sending alternate electors to Congress, which might derail the certification of the election results. Ultimately, Lee did not join a handful of his Senate colleagues in rejecting the election results on Jan. 6.
That’s not the only connection between Lee and Eastman. In an interview with National Review, Eastman cryptically said he was working with Lee “on broader things” unrelated to the alternate electors plan but did not elaborate. Lee has not answered questions about those “broader things.”
Eastman invoked his Fifth Amendment rights when questioned by the House Jan. 6 committee about his communications with Sen. Lee.
Sen. Lee’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Lee spent most of Monday using his social media channels to protest the effort to pass a bill to fund the government through next year, calling attention to the plight of a U.S. naval officer jailed in Japan for his role in a fatal traffic accident and attacking the Biden administration over immigration issues.
Lee was not the only Utahn who had a role in the events that led to the Jan. 6 attack. Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens both amplified Trump’s false claim that fraud was responsible for his loss. Stewart and Owens both voted to throw out the legal election results from Pennsylvania following the Capitol riot.
Neither Stewart nor Owens responded to emails asking for comment about the criminal referrals issued by the Jan. 6 committee on Monday.
Lee, Stewart and Owens voted against authorizing the investigation of what caused the Jan. 6 riot. Former Washington, D.C., police officer Michael Fanone accused Lee of opposing the investigation to cover up his role in helping the attempt to overturn the election.
Sen. Mitt Romney and Reps. Blake Moore and John Curtis voted in favor of an independent inquiry into the Capitol riot, which did not get enough support. Moore and Curtis opposed the creation of the House select committee.
Rep. Moore’s office told The Tribune he could not comment on the committee’s actions as he was touring the Great Salt Lake with local officials on Monday.
Romney and Curtis did not respond to questions about the criminal referrals.
In addition to the criminal referrals, the House Jan. 6 committee recommended a formal ethics inquiry into House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Scott Perry (Pennsylvania) and Andy Biggs (Arizona) for their refusal to cooperate with the investigation.
Correction Dec. 20: This article was updated with the correct votes for Reps. Moore and Curtis on the Jan. 6 committee creation.