Sen. Mike Lee vetted whether Mike Pence could gavel Trump in as reelected, new book says
‘Peril’ describes how Utah Republican personally investigated Donald Trump’s election fraud claims
An account of Sen. Mike Lee vetting Donald Trump’s election fraud claims appears in a new book about the last days of the former president’s one term in office.
The book, “Peril,” describes parallel efforts by Lee and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to personally investigate Trump’s claims of voter fraud as Congress prepared to certify Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, according to a story Monday in The Washington Post.
Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward and national political reporter Robert Costa wrote the book that focuses on the transition between the Trump and Biden administrations.
Graham and Lee, both of whom ultimately voted to certify the election results, took the fraud claims seriously enough to get briefed on the details, involve their senior staff and call state officials throughout the country, the story says. But privately, Graham, according to the book, called the arguments suitable for “third grade.”
Lee received a two-page memo from the White House on Jan. 2 marked “PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL.” It included a claim that Vice President Mike Pence could hand the election to Trump because seven states had submitted dueling slates of electors to Congress, split between Trump and Biden. Pence could simply set those states aside on Jan. 6 and count only electors from the remaining states, it claimed. “Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected,” according to the Post story on the book.
Conservative legal scholar and author John Eastman, the story says, envisioned that outcome in a memo titled, “January 6 scenario,” which was obtained for “Peril” and reviewed by The Washington Post.
Lee knew dueling electors were merely Trump loyalists putting themselves forward in certain states, in a move Woodward and Costa describe as “a social media campaign — an amateur push with no legal standing,” the story says. Electors are generally bound by the popular vote in each state, and need 270 of the 538 electors to secure the presidency.
The authors suggest Lee, a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, was surprised Eastman, a Chapman University laws school professor and former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, had circulated that theory.
Document in hand, and bewildered that theories about dueling electors were still coming from Trump’s legal team, Lee made “phone call after phone call” to officials in some of the relevant states, such as Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona, he told constituents in a Jan. 27 online town hall.
No one seemed poised to certify a new slate of electors. “At that point, I believed that we had reached the end of the process, as indeed we had,” Lee said during the town hall.
The Deseret News reported on Lee’s Jan. 27 town hall meeting, though the senator did not mention some of the details revealed in the book such as the title and source of the memo.
Lee, who advised Trump on his legal challenges to the election results, said Trump’s inner circle repeatedly told him that state legislatures were acting to decertify or even recertify their slates of electoral votes before Congress convened on Jan. 6.
“As we got closer and closer to Jan. 6, I became concerned because I wasn’t seeing any of these developments occur, but I was continuing to hear this narrative,” he said at the town hall, adding it would have obviously made news if it were happening.
After receiving the weekend memo, Lee said he wanted to “get to the bottom of it” and started calling state officials in swing states that Trump had lost.
Lee said he found in conversations with governors, attorneys general, secretaries of state and legislative leaders in those states that not one was willing or inclined to decertify or recertify their electoral votes.
As Lee concluded Trump had reached the end of the road at that point, he was further surprised when the former president’s inner circle continued to argue that Congress could and would change the outcome of the election.
The senator said he had previously explained to Trump, his White House staff, his campaign team and his lawyers that Congress’ only role is to count the votes unless a state had submitted conflicting slates of electoral votes.
And although that has happened in the past, it did not happen in 2020. Each state’s electoral votes came in for either Biden or Trump. There were no dueling slates.
“This happens infrequently, fortunately. It would be a really big mess if it were to happen,” Lee said.
The Post story also mentions Lee saying on Fox News in February that Trump deserved a “mulligan” — a golf term for giving someone another chance — for his speech that encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol.
Lee tweeted afterward the media twisted his words.
“To be perfectly clear, my reference to taking a ‘mulligan’ was not referring to Trump, but to Democratic politicians whose inflammatory comments had just been played for me on the air. I used the term only to avoid needlessly inflaming partisan passions,” he said in a series of tweets.
“This is why no one trusts the media anymore,” Lee tweeted. “Fox News teed up an opportunity for me to slam Democrats’ inflammatory rhetoric, and I declined to do so.”