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What the final Jan. 6 committee report says about Utah Sen. Mike Lee

Utah Republican encouraged idea of alternate state electors but later expressed grave concerns about the plan

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Sen. Mike Lee holds his pocket copy of the Constitution as he speaks to a crowd of supporters.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, holds his pocket copy of the Constitution as he speaks to a crowd of supporters at an election party at the Hyatt Regency in Salt Lake on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, comes up several times in the Jan. 6 committee’s final report, including in a section titled “Fake Electors and the ‘President of the Senate Strategy,’” and in a footnote calling Donald Trump’s lead lawyer “walking malpractice.”

The Democratic-led House panel’s 684-page report contains detailed descriptions of the scheme former President Trump and his allies pushed to overturn the 2020 election. Much of it focuses on efforts to send alternative slates of electors to Congress from states that Joe Biden won.

The report says Lee encouraged the idea of having state legislatures endorse competing electors for Trump. But it also says he became concerned about the plan, not only for the 2020 election, but for future presidential elections.

Lee’s role in helping the White House explore ways to keep Trump in office were first revealed in a series of text messages between himself and then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows last April. Lee ultimately concluded that Congress’ only role in presidential elections is to open and count states’ electoral votes. He voted to certify the electoral results on Jan. 6, 2021.

“Indeed, as the joint session approached, Senator Mike Lee had expressed grave concerns about the fake elector effort in a series of text messages to one of the Trump team’s senior legal advisors,” the report says.

“Although Senator Lee had spent a month encouraging the idea of having State legislatures endorse competing electors for Trump, he grew alarmed as it became clear that the Trump team wanted the fake electors’ votes to be considered on January 6th even without authorization from any State government body.”

Asked for comment on what the report contains about Lee, the senator’s office pointed to an April 20 Deseret News story in which the Utah Republican said he was not doing Trump’s bidding.

In one of the text messages to Meadows, Lee wrote that he was spending 14 hours a day investigating “ever-changing rumors” about alternate electors, including calling officials in states that Biden had won. Lee said he found that none of the states were changing their electoral votes, and that he never urged states to do that then or at any time before.

The text exchanges show how Lee initially supported legal challenges to the election but ultimately came to sour on the effort and the tactics deployed by Trump and his lawyers.

The Jan. 6 committee also mentions text messages Lee sent to Trump adviser Cleta Mitchell, a Republican lawyer and conservative activist. Mitchell was on the call in which Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes to overturn the election.

“On December 30th, Senator Lee texted Trump advisor Cleta Mitchell that January 6th was ‘a dangerous idea,’ including ‘for the republic itself.’ He explained that, ‘I don’t think we have any valid basis for objecting to the electors’ because ‘it cannot be true that we can object to any state’s presidential electors simply because we don’t think they handled their election well or suspect illegal activity,’” according to the report,

“Senator Lee even questioned her about the plan’s dangerous long-term consequences: ‘(w)ill you please explain to me how this doesn’t create a slippery slope problem for all future presidential elections?’”

The report, in a section titled “187 Minutes of Dereliction,” also mentions two phone calls Lee received on Jan. 6, 2021 — the Trump misdial and a voice message from Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who also misdialed Lee. Both calls were intended for Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.

“Minutes after drawing increased attention to his besieged Vice President, the President called newly elected Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama at 2:26 p.m. He misdialed, calling Senator Mike Lee of Utah instead, but one passed the phone to the other in short order,” according to the report.

“Senator Lee wrote to a reporter that he received a call from the President moments after the Senate halted its proceedings and that the President claimed he had dialed Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., so Lee let Tuberville talk to the President on his phone for 5 or 10 minutes until they were ordered to evacuate,” the report says.

Lee told the Deseret News the next day that because the caller ID showed the call originated from the White House that he thought it might be national security adviser Robert O’Brien, with whom he’d been playing phone tag on an unrelated issue. When he figured out it was Trump calling Tuberville, he handed the phone to the newly elected Alabama senator and former Auburn football coach.

Tuberville and Trump talked for about five to 10 minutes, Lee said, adding that he stood nearby because he didn’t want to lose his cellphone in the commotion. The two were still talking when panicked police ordered the Capitol to be evacuated because people had breached security.

The report says that after Trump finally told Capitol rioters to go home, he and Giuliani, his lead lawyer, continued to seek to delay the joint session of Congress. 

“After he spoke with President Trump, Giuliani’s phone calls went nearly without fail to Members of Congress: Senator Marsha Blackburn, and then Senator Mike Lee,” according to the report.

Giuliani’s call to Lee was intended for Tuberville.

“Sen. Tuberville, or I should say coach Tuberville, this is Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer. I’m calling you because I want to discuss with you how they’re trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down,” Giuliani said in the voice message.

The committee report shows Lee texted O’Brien later in the day about Giuliani’s call.

“You can’t make this up. I just got this voice message (from) Rudy Giuliani, who apparently thought he was calling Senator Tuberville. You’ve got to listen to that message. Rudy is walking malpractice.”

The committee’s report comes nearly two years after the deadly riot at the Capitol. The 18-month-long investigation included more than 1,000 interviews.

The panel recommended that the Department of Justice prosecute Trump on criminal charges of obstruction of an official proceeding; conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to make a false statement; and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by assisting, aiding or comforting those involved in an insurrection.