SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sen. Mike Lee will attend a high-priced fundraiser for his reelection campaign today at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, a day after defending Sen. Mitt Romney’s vote in the Senate impeachment trial.
Lee released a statement through his campaign website Friday saying there is no cause for alarm when, in the rare instance, he and Romney disagree with each other or with most Senate Republicans.
“To the contrary, it shows that neither one of us blindly defers to anyone. We each do our own homework and then, after conferring with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and with each other, we reach our own conclusions,” Lee wrote.
Lee voted last week to acquit Trump, while Romney voted to convict him. Lee also deemed an impeachment trial of a former president unconstitutional and called it a “farce.” Romney said the House impeached Trump while he was president and the Senate should not give up its power to hold him accountable for abusing the office, even in his final days in office.
Lee said he and Romney both know from experience what it feels like to vote contrary to most or even all of their GOP colleagues.
“It can be liberating. It can be terrifying. It is often both,” said Lee, who has been the lone dissenter on some Senate votes.
Romney was the only senator in history to vote remove a president of his own party as he did last year at Trump’s first impeachment trial. He was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict the former president in the second trial. Both ended in acquittal.
“While Sen. Romney and I sometimes reach different conclusions, there is enough room in the Republican tent for both of us — just as there is room enough for all Republicans in a general election, regardless of how they voted in the primary,” Lee wrote.
Having different perspectives in the GOP leads to more robust debate and produces more thoughtful policy, which will benefit Republicans in future elections, Lee said. The Republican Party, he said, should work “tirelessly” to take back the House and Senate in 2022.
Lee will be among the Republicans trying to hold on to their seats in next year’s midterm election. He sent a flurry of fundraising emails the past few weeks saying the Democrats are gearing up to spend millions of dollars to defeat him.
Earlier this week, the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah kicked off a campaign called “Humans Against Mike Lee” aimed at ousting the two-term senator.
The fundraising dinner at Mar-a-Lago hosted by prominent Republican donors costs $10,600, according to an invitation Politico reporter Marc Caputo posted on Twitter. Lee campaign manager Matt Lusty said the event is being held at the Palm Beach, Florida resort because the hosts have ties to Trump there.
The invitation does not mention Trump.
But Lusty said if Trump drops by, Lee would like to talk to him about unifying the Republican Party to win elections.
“I know the senator wants to take that opportunity to talk to him about uniting the party and making sure there’s a good game plan to win back the House and Senate in 2022,” he said.
Lee has not talked to Trump since the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, according to Lusty.
Also attending the dinner are controversial GOP House members Rep. Matt Gaetz, of Florida, and Rep. Lauren Boebert, of Colorado.
Gaetz claimed Antifa infiltrated the violent mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol. Boebert caused a stir this week when she appeared at a House committee meeting via Zoom with several rifles and handguns on a bookshelf behind her.
After @NikkiHaley dissed Trump in @politico, he snubbed her at Mar-a-Lago.— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) February 20, 2021
Now, after defending @MittRomney’s impeachment vote, @MikeLeeforUtah makes the MAL Hajj for a reelection fundraiser Saturday w/@mattgaetz & @laurenboebert
What happens next on “As Trump Turns”? pic.twitter.com/K1m8tEZe05
Politico reported this week that the former president turned down a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Nikki Haley, his former ambassador to the United Nations and potential 2024 presidential candidate, after she criticized him for his role in the Capitol riot.
On C-SPAN’s Washington Journal this week, Republican Accountability Project executive director Sarah Longwell said the GOP is divided right now and unsure of who its leader is or who it will be in the future.
The organization launched a $1 million campaign, featuring television ads and billboards, this week to defend the 10 House members who voted to impeach Trump and the seven senators, including Romney, who voted to convict him. The House members especially will likely draw primary election opponents put forward by Trump and his allies to “get them out of office and sort of make the Republican Party entirely Trumpist.”
“These Republicans chose to do the right thing and abide by the oaths they took to the Constitution,” Longwell said. “They’re going to get a lot of criticism and maybe even threats for that choice, but we want them to know that there are a lot of Republicans who support them, too, and who appreciate their integrity.”
Some Republicans in Utah launched a petition to censure Romney. But Utah GOP leaders issued a statement saying the party is looking “neither to the past, nor to be punitive” as the new year begins.
“Disagreement is natural and healthy in a party that is based on principles — not on persona,” the statement said.
Both the Utah GOP and Lee cited Ronald Reagan’s comments that there is room in the Republican tent for many views. Lee said the Republican Party tent is open to anyone willing to support “liberty-minded objectives.”
“With our eyes fixed on the future, we should be including and inviting our friends, neighbors, colleagues and family members — and anyone else who might be discouraged or disaffected — by bringing more people into the tent,” Lee wrote.