The final report from the House Jan. 6 committee shows Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee was aware of Donald Trump and his allies’ efforts to manufacture electoral votes for Trump in states won by Democrat Joe Biden in 2020 and to subvert the counting of actual votes in Congress.
The 845-page report details a multi-pronged effort by Trump and others to promote false claims that his loss in the 2020 presidential election resulted from rampant voter fraud. Those falsehoods led to a mob of Trump supporters overrunning the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Lee encouraged the idea of alternate electors
The Jan. 6 committee’s report provides several new details about Lee’s actions in support of Trump after the election was called for Biden, most notably a campaign directed by attorney John Eastman to have legislators in some states to appoint electors for Trump.
Lee has repeatedly claimed he was merely investigating “rumors” that some states were considering sending alternate slates of electors to Congress. That claim is contradicted by the report, which says Lee “spent a month encouraging the idea of having State legislatures endorse competing electors for Trump.”
Lee communicated with key players in the fake electors plot during the time between the 2020 election and Jan. 6. Text messages in the report suggest Lee took an active role in making sure the effort was legal, while there are no messages that support his claim of being an investigator.
On Dec. 8, 2020, Lee brought up the alternate elector scheme, texting Mark Meadows, then-White House chief of staff, “If a very small handful of states were to have their legislatures appoint alternate slates of electors, there could be a path.”
During an October 2022 debate against independent Senate candidate Evan McMullin, Lee denied he “supported or ever did support a fake electors plot” and accused McMullin of a “reckless disregard for the truth.” Lee won reelection in November and will start his third term in the chamber next month.
Lee’s office did not answer questions about whether he disagreed with the report or how it squared with his explanation of his role after the 2020 elections.
Lee worries about “slippery slope problem”
The newly released report also details previously unknown communications between Lee and senior Trump legal adviser Cleta Mitchell from texts she turned over to investigators. Mitchell was part of the infamous phone call where Trump pressured Georgia election officials to “find” 11,780 votes to overturn his loss in that state.
In the week ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection, Lee’s text messages to Mitchell show him taking a hard pivot away from the alternate elector plot, seemingly understanding it was doomed to fail because no state legislatures had signed off, calling the plan for members of Congress objecting to certifying the election a “dangerous idea.”
“I don’t think we have any valid basis for objecting to the electors,” Lee wrote on Dec. 30. “It cannot be true that we can object to any state’s presidential electors simply because we don’t think they handled their election well or suspect illegal activity.”
In previously released text messages, Lee told Meadows that he’d been working “14 hours a day” to find a path he could “persuasively defend.”
“I only know that this will end badly for the president unless we have the Constitution on our side,” Lee texted the chief of staff on Jan. 3.
“We need something from state legislatures to make this legitimate and to have any hope of winning. Even if they can’t convene, it might be enough if a majority of them are willing to sign a statement indicating how they would vote,” Lee told Meadows the following day.
When it became clear to Lee that the Trump team planned to move forward with an effort to have members of Congress object to electoral results without sign-off by state lawmakers, the Utahn warned Mitchell that their plan could lead to unforeseen consequences.
“Will you please explain to me how this doesn’t create a slippery slope problem for all future presidential elections,” Lee texted Mitchell.
Lee and Mitchell are longtime associates. Mitchell represented Lee’s campaign in a 2017 case in front of the Federal Election Commission. She also signed a 2018 letter supporting Lee as a potential United States Supreme Court nominee.
Ultimately, Lee did not join several of his Senate Republican colleagues in voting to reject the electoral college results on Jan. 6 because the “rumors” that states were sending alternate electors were unfounded.
“On that basis, I voted to certify the results of the election,” Lee said during his debate with McMullin. Lee has never publically explained what he would have done if those rumors turned out to be true.
Rudy Giuliani called Lee’s phone after the Capitol riot was over on Jan. 6
The Salt Lake Tribune previously reported about Donald Trump’s inadvertently calling Lee’s phone looking for Alabama GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville as the attack on the U.S. Capitol was underway, but that wasn’t the only interaction Lee had with Trump or his team that day.
After Trump posted a video on Twitter telling the rioters to go home, lawyer Rudy Giuliani called several Republicans in Congress, including Lee. Giuliani’s phone records turned over to the committee also show calls to the phones of Sens. Marsha Blackburn, Bill Hagerty, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Rep. Jim Jordan.
The report does not detail whether Giuliani actually spoke to Lee during that phone call. Lee’s office did not respond to questions asking for clarification.
At some point, Giuliani left a voicemail on Lee’s phone intended for Tuberville, urging him to object to the certification of the electoral votes to buy time for state legislators to either decertify their presidential electors or appoint new ones.
“The only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous States and raise issues so that we can get ourselves into tomorrow — ideally until the end of tomorrow. So if you could object to every State and, along with a congressman, get a hearing for every state, I know we would delay you a lot, but it would give us the opportunity to get the legislators who are very, very close to pulling their vote,” Giuliani said in that voicemail.
Lee shared Giuliani’s errant message with then-national security advisor Robert O’Brien.
“You can’t make this up. I just got this voice message [from] Rudy Giuliani, who apparently thought he was calling Senator Tuberville,” Lee texted O’Brien. “You’ve got to listen to that message. Rudy is walking malpractice.”
Lee’s other contacts about the 2020 election
In a Nov. 9, 2020, text message to Meadows, Lee pushed for lawyer Sidney Powell to gain access to the president, describing her as a “straight shooter.”
“Apparently, she has a strategy to keep things alive and put several states back in play. Can you help her get in?” Lee texted.
Later, Lee quickly backed away from Powell following a press conference where she pushed an outlandish conspiracy theory that a vast plot, including George Soros and deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, had rigged voting machines to steal the election from Trump.
The transcript of Powell’s interview with the House committee suggests her post-election contacts with Lee were more extensive.
Powell says she remembered attending one meeting with several members of Congress at the invitation of Lee.
“The one meeting I remember in connection with the election was at the request of Senator Lee who asked me to come meet with whoever wanted to show up to listen to what I was seeing at that point,” Powell told investigators.
The transcript of Powell’s testimony suggests she spoke with Lee more than one time following the election. Investigators asked Powell: “If (Lee) said that he spoke to you several times regarding your claims or theories with respect to the election, would that jive with your memory?”
“I certainly wouldn’t dispute it,” Powell answered.
The committee also asked Eastman about a National Review article where he said he was working with Lee on “broader things.”
In his answer, Eastman invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to the committee’s transcript of that interview.
They also asked Eastman if he had a conversation with Lee, to which he also invoked his Constitutional rights.
Earlier this week, the Jan. 6 committee unanimously recommended criminal charges against Eastman and Trump.