Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s private texts complicate his public statements

Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s private texts complicate his public statements

Around one particular yr in the past — on Feb. 4, 2021 — I sat down with Sen. Mike Lee to examine his investigations into the 2020 election. We spoke at length in his Washington business office, and our 45-moment dialogue protected what he characterised as his early curiosities about election fraud promises, his communications with Trump’s lawful workforce and his eventual determination to certify the electoral votes in all states.

Most of our discussion was on background, while the senator went on the history regularly (normally at my ask for). The Lee group has pointed to this prolonged interview — published in UT POL Underground — as an crucial account of Lee’s involvement in the election investigation.

Until eventually recently, all we understood about Lee’s steps arrived from Lee himself or people shut to him. In addition to my job interview, Lee spoke to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa for their reserve, “Peril.” He also discussed his involvement with Dennis Romboy at the Deseret News, as very well as during town hall meetings and on the Senate floor.

But substantially altered very last 7 days, when CNN launched more than 100 text messages involving Lee and then-White House main of staff members Mark Meadows. The texts recommend Lee was extra involved — and additional invested — in Trump’s attempts to invalidate the 2020 election than he portrayed during our interview previous year. 

The Lee camp denies this. Lee’s workplace turned down my request for a comply with-up interview. Spokesman Lee Lonsberry as a substitute sent a lengthy reaction.

“When Senator Lee reviewed proof and lawful arguments connected to the 2020 presidential election, his principal worry was for the regulation, the Constitution, and in particular the additional than 150 million Us citizens who voted in that election,” Lonsberry wrote in an e mail. “From the moment the electoral college or university solid its votes in mid-December, he produced obvious that Joe Biden experienced gained, and would within weeks develop into the 46th president of the United States absent a courtroom purchase or state legislative action invalidating electoral votes.” 

Lonsberry’s assertion ongoing: “Once it became very clear — based on his own thorough investigation — that no state would be rescinding its electoral votes, (Lee) recommended Mark Meadows that the effort to problem the election in Congress would conclusion badly and to allow the country move on.”

Lonsberry concluded: “That’s it. Which is what took place. And that’s what the CNN tale confirms. Senator Lee affirmed the result of the presidential election on January 6th, and later attended President Biden’s inauguration.”

And but, comparing Lee’s statements, unanswered thoughts continue to be. Through my unique conversation with Lee, he mentioned that his investigations stemmed from curiosity, not an endeavor to help the Trump lawful team’s initiatives to examine or overturn electoral success. But the newly launched text messages complicate this narrative.

In our interview, Lee said he kept close tabs on the Trump team’s progress due to the fact he “was truly curious about where it would go.” He said he explored lawful theories that could swing electoral success in Trump’s favor “more out of curiosity, than everything.” 

But in his texts to Meadows, Lee would seem to categorical aid for Trump’s initiatives, urging Trump to give additional accessibility to lawyer Sidney Powell. He delivers suggestions that would quite possibly allow for Trump to be declared the election’s winner and he implies the Trump workforce go after audits in intently resolved swing states. 

Does Lee feel these texts fall less than the scope of “curiosity”?

Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s private texts complicate his public statements

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, satisfies with customers of the Senate Minority Caucus at the Capitol in Salt Lake Metropolis on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

There are other unanswered queries.

At numerous points through my first job interview with Lee, he was adamant he under no circumstances deemed becoming a member of his Senate colleagues in objecting to Electoral University votes. When I questioned him if the considered at any time crossed his head, he laughed: “No. Who does that?”

But on Dec. 16 – two days following Lee publicly acknowledged the electoral votes — he asked Meadows in a textual content message for advice on how to item to all those same votes: “Also, if you want senators to object, we need to have to listen to from you on that ideally obtaining some advice on what arguments to elevate.”

What was Lee’s true place? 

In early 2021, a lawful scholar advising Trump named John Eastman wrote a memo that outlined the Trump camp’s past-ditch efforts to overthrow the election. When Lee gained the so-known as Eastman memo on Jan. 2, which claimed 7 states experienced “submitted dual slates of electors,” Lee told me he observed it “ridiculous.”

“I really don’t know no matter if some fifth-grader hacked into their account and created a dummy doc and they despatched this to me by incident, but this is a missing bring about,” he instructed me previous 12 months. Woodward and Costa wrote that Lee was “shocked” on obtaining Eastman’s memo and “had listened to very little about alternate slates of electors.”

But now we know Lee texted Meadows 4 periods about the concept outlined in Eastman’s letter — the day after obtaining Eastman’s memo. “Everything modifications, of class, if the swing states submit competing slates of electors pursuant to condition regulation,” just one text study. So, even while Lee known as the twin slates principle a “lost cause” to me, he seemingly texted Trump’s main of team declaring it was the president’s ideal legal pathway.

Why did Lee text Meadows about Eastman’s dual slate theory if he considered it was “a missing cause”?

In a rally in Ga on Jan. 4, 2021, Trump publicly chided Lee and stated he was “angry” at the senator. Days earlier, Lee circulated a statement from Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, that termed on Congress to certify the electoral final results (a simple fact which Lee easily admitted to me).

Trump’s anger very likely stemmed from this. But Meadows texted Lee on Jan. 4, presumably about this identical letter, stating: “Apparently, (Trump) was told that you came out with a letter versus the electoral objections. I informed him that you had been being quite valuable. Bad intel.”

Alternatively of confirming that he had, in point, circulated the Roy letter, the senator appeared to underscore his ongoing assist for Trump’s efforts. “I’ve been paying out 14 hrs a day for the past 7 days attempting to unravel this for (Trump),” Lee mentioned. “To have (Trump) get a shot at me like that in this kind of a public location without having even inquiring me about it is quite discouraging.” 

Why did Lee carry on to expend hours operating on troubles connected to the Trump team’s authorized attempts, even following he individually expressed aid for certifying the election and inspired his Senate colleagues to do the same?

A lot less than 40 several hours right before Trump supporters would storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, Lee was nevertheless evidently searching for a way to supply Trump an electoral victory, texting the following: 

But I have been calling state legislators for hours now, and am likely to invest hours doing the same tomorrow. I’m striving to figure out a route that I can persuasively defend, and this won’t make it any less difficult, especially if other people now feel I’m executing this since he went right after me. This just helps make it a good deal extra intricate. And it was complex currently. We need to have one thing from state legislatures to make this legit and to have any hope of profitable. Even if they can’t convene, it may well be plenty of if a majority of them are prepared to signal a statement indicating how they would vote.

The texts launched by CNN are just snippets of dialogue, but they frequently complicate Lee’s public narrative. There are things that can not be fairly surmised by the texted conversations on your own, but queries remain about Lee’s motives. Was he making an attempt to guarantee Trump remained on his side by placating his requests and aiding his endeavours — while secretly objecting to them — or was he genuinely seeking to support Trump overturn the election till the extremely last times foremost up to Jan. 6 and then publicly telling a diverse story? 

“It was a coup in search of a lawful concept,”a federal decide wrote of Eastman and Trump’s maneuvers — which Lee now appears to have inspired. The whole extent of Lee’s purpose or help is not however wholly recognized, but the textual content messages uncovered last 7 days increase much much too many thoughts — and, for now, Lee has declined to response them.