At an Arizona campaign stop on Oct. 30, 2020, just days before the general election that would send Donald Trump into retirement, Utah Sen. Mike Lee extolled the former president’s virtues of “selflessness” saying, “To my Mormon friends, my Latter-day Saint friends, think of him as Captain Moroni.”
In that moment, and in the weeks that followed, Mike Lee showed us that he is far from the “constitutional conservative” he promised Utahns when he first ran for the United States Senate in 2010. Lee traded his honor and decency in the thrall of a man who knows neither. It was the first, but not the last, red flag that Lee would wave in our faces. We must no longer ignore them.
Last week, CNN reported that in testimony to the bipartisan January 6th Committee, former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows turned over texts between himself and Republican members of Congress. Mike Lee, along with Texas Rep. Chip Roy, featured prominently in these communications.
Among the first of his texts to Meadows, Lee texted a long statement from himself and several other Republicans redoubling their support for him and his attempts to remain in office.
“This fight is about the fundamental fairness and integrity of our election system,” Lee texted.
Lee knew then, as he knows now, there was no demonstrable fraud in the 2020 election. Yet, he persisted.
In subsequent communications, Lee pointed two attorneys, Sidney Powell and later John Eastman (who Lee said had developed and “interesting” legal theory that Mike Pence could toss the election) toward the White House suggesting they make Trump available to them. Based on his messages, it appears that Lee was in regular contact with Powell including featuring her at a “steering committee” meeting. It was only following Powell’s insane antics and accusations that Lee backed away from her and suggested the Trump White House do the same.
On Nov. 20 and 22, more than two weeks after Election Day and Joe Biden had been declared president-elect, Lee pleaded with Meadows: “Please give me something to work with. I need to know what I should be saying.”
As late as Jan. 4, 2021, (two days before electoral certification and the Capitol riot) Lee texted Meadows again, frustrated with Trump’s inability to focus but saying, “But I’ve been calling state legislators for hours today, and am going to spend hours doing the same tomorrow.”
Lee was referring to the theory that state legislatures could send competing slates of electors and thereby overturn election results.
Mike Lee’s attempts to find “legal” remedies on Trump’s behalf demonstrate either an active desire to overturn the 2020 election or a shocking lack of judgement. I suspect both. Either taken individually would be disqualifying to an individual in a powerful position of public trust. On Jan. 6, Lee, sniveling coward that he is, wouldn’t vote to object to the electoral count. Trump’s earlier public criticism of Lee must have finally been a bridge too far.
Lee is up for reelection this November. As Utahns being to think about their choices, they should take to heart that when given every chance to choose fealty: to faith, to country, to Utah and to the Constitution, he’s put himself, his ambition, and his grasping for power first.
He will of course claim that everything he advocated was motivated by “legal” options, but that is thin cover and ignores the fact that his efforts helped create a crisis not seen in this country since the Civil War. Like so many members of Congress who supported the Confederacy, Lee should no longer serve in high office.
Where his loyalty lies is clear. It is not with us or our countrymen.
Reed Galen is a co-founder of The Lincoln Project. He worked in Republican politics for two decades including for President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is a resident of Park City.