Confession, it is said, is good for the soul.
It should also be good politics.
It is past time for Mike Lee to start fessing up to all he knows about the plot to set aside the results of an honest and fair election to keep Donald Trump in power. We know Utah’s senior senator had a much greater role in that plot than he has previously acknowledged, his constituents deserve a much more detailed accounting of what went on and the extent of Lee’s participation in it.
Yesterday would be a great time for Lee to come clean. Saturday’s Utah State Republican Convention would be a really good opportunity, too.
Utah voters deserve this information as they decide whether to return Lee to the Senate for a third term. And the nation as a whole needs to know every possible detail of the behind-the-scenes efforts to overthrow the election, if only to see to it that it never happens again.
It appears that, by the time of the Jan. 6 congressional vote to confirm the results of the Electoral College vote that turned Trump out and put Joe Biden in, Lee had determined a plan to sabotage the process by encouraging a couple of swing states to send rival slates of electors was going nowhere and he was not going to publicly support it.
But a batch of text messages between Lee and then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, released last week by CNN, reveals our senator was bragging about spending “14 hours a day” over many weeks, calling state lawmakers and otherwise trying to ferret out a way for the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress to be pushed from a constitutional formality to a constitutional crisis.
The text messages establish that Lee was not being truthful when he said he was only made aware of the plan four days before Jan. 6.
Lee was also trying to give the Trump faction legal advice about what to do and which attorneys to engage to help them do it. Though he quickly came to regret recommending a lawyer who, as Lee said, opened herself and the Trump campaign up to serious accusations of libel by making wild claims of fraud supposedly committed by companies that make voting machine systems.
Whether it was conscience, cowardice or calculation that led Lee to abandon the plot to void the real election results, it is clear that the plan came far too close to succeeding. Close enough that a great many true believers, lathered up by Trump’s Big Lie of a stolen election, were willing to attempt a violent overthrow of the government of the United States on Jan. 6, 2021, by storming the U.S. Capitol.
It was pure American good luck that the rebellion did not succeed, or that the loss of life was not much greater.
By the end of that day, Lee had decided not to join a group of senators that included Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri — and Utah House members Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart — in voting to reject the electoral votes of one or more swing states.
His remarks on the proper constitutional role of Congress that day were bluntly eloquent.
“Our job is to open and then count,” Lee said. “Open, then count. That’s it. That’s all there is.”
This is where the ominous voice of the narrator says, “But that wasn’t all there was.”
It now seems clear that, had any Republican-controlled state legislatures followed the scheme to send, or even threaten to send, rival slates of electors to confuse Congress that day, they would have had some willing accomplices in at least a few senators, including Mike Lee.
It is Lee’s — and the nation’s — good fortune that it did not come to that. Had events gone that way, the United States government might have been overthrown, the Constitution that Lee claims to revere left in tatters. Or, had the plot still been stymied, Lee might find himself subject to the provision of the 14th Amendment disqualifying from office those who participate in rebellion against the United States.
It is time Mike Lee told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. To his constituents. To the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 uprising. And to history.