Recently released text messages between Senator Mike Lee and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows show Lee was advising and assisting former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. The posts also reveal that Lee was aware of a legally questionable strategy for then-Vice President Mike Pence, rejects the Electoral College votes much sooner than he claimed.
CNN released nearly 100 text messages from Lee and Texas Rep. Chip Roy at Meadows in the wake of Trump’s 2020 election defeat. The texts trace how Lee went from a staunch defender of Trump’s efforts to a warning to the White House that the scheme could backfire.
Lee’s efforts to help Trump began Nov. 7, the day Democrat Joe Biden was declared the winner. He sent Meadows a statement signed by the leaders of several prominent conservative groups urging Trump to “exhaust all legal and constitutional remedies” to challenge the results.
“Use it however you see fit,” Lee wrote. “And if it is useful for you to disclose it, please do so.”
Lee also pressed Meadows to help attorney Sidney Powell gain access to Trump. Powell alleged that a secret cabal, including George Soros, the late Hugo Chávez, the CIA and thousands of election officials, conspired to steal votes from Trump in 2020.
“Sydney (sic) Powell says she needs to come in to see the President, but she’s being kept away from him. Apparently she has a strategy to keep things alive and get multiple states back in play. Can you help him get in? Lee wrote to Meadows on November 7.
Two days later, Lee contacted Meadows again on Powell’s behalf.
“Sidney told us the campaign lawyer didn’t know he was focusing on this and blocking progress. I have no way of verifying or disproving this on my own, but I found her to be a straight shooter,” Lee wrote.
Powell’s conspiracy allegations led her to be sued for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic. Powell faces multiple disciplinary sanctionsincluding disbarment, in multiple states for his actions after the 2020 election.
On November 19, Lee realizes her support for Powell may have been a mistake following a disastrous press conference where she detailed bizarre claims about a global communist plot to rig the election against Trump.
“I’m worried about Powell’s press conference,” Lee wrote in the first of a series of text messages. “Unless Powell can back up everything she said, which I kinda doubt she can.”
Over the next three days, Lee contacted Meadows several times, asking for marching orders.
“Please give me something to work with. I just need to know what to say,” Lee wrote on November 19.
“Please tell me what I should say,” Lee asked the next day.
On November 23, Lee brought up attorney John Eastman for the first time, suggesting irregularities in several states and proposing an audit.
“Eastman has some really interesting research on this. The good news is (sic) that Eastman is proposing an approach that, unlike what Sidney Powell (sic) is proposing, could be looked at very quickly,” Lee said.
Eastman was behind a scheme to overturn the election results by asking a handful of Biden-backed states to submit alternative voter lists. Competing slates would allow the vice president to reject those states’ results, possibly nullifying the House of Representatives election to keep Trump in the White House.
Lee claimed to have first heard of the Eastman plan on January 2, when he received a copy of a confidential memo from the White House. He told authors Bob Woodward and Robert Costa he was “surprised” by the plan and made “phone call after phone call” to see if any states were willing to certify alternate voters, but found none.
In reality, Lee knew about the scheme almost a month before his claim.
On Dec. 8, Lee texted Meadows, “If a very small handful of states were to have their legislatures appoint alternate slates of delegates, there might be a plan,” Lee wrote.
“I’ve been working on it since yesterday,” Meadows replied.
Eastman invoked his Fifth Amendment rights when questioned by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Eastman was asked about his communications with Lee but also pleaded the Fifth.
On December 16, Lee asked Meadows if they wanted any senators to oppose the certification of electoral votes, which was part of Eastman’s plan to reject the results. But Lee seemed to cool off on the plan, realizing such a move may not have been legal.
“Also, if you want senators to object, we need to hear from you on this, ideally for guidance on what arguments to raise,” Lee wrote.
“I think we’re past the point now where we can expect anyone to do it without some direction and a strong argument of proof,” Lee added.
The next message available to Meadows came on Jan. 3, when he warned of efforts by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and others to oppose the election results.
“I have serious concerns about how my friend Ted is going about this,” Lee wrote. “It will not benefit the president.”
But, Lee still hoped that some states would certify alternative voter lists, which would make objecting to the results much easier.
“Everything changes, of course, if swing states submit competing voter lists according to state law,” Lee said.
Lee warns Meadows that the push for Congress to hand Trump the victory could backfire on the president.
“I only know it will end badly for the president unless we have the Constitution on our side. And unless these states submit new lists of Trump voters in accordance with state law, we will not,” Lee wrote.
The next day, Trump shot Lee in public at a rally in Georgia after Lee announced that he did not support the objection to the election results.
“Mike Lee is here, but I’m a little mad at him,” Trump said.
Lee was not happy to be publicly called out by the President and evacuated to Meadows.
“I spent 14 hours a day for the last week trying to sort this out for him. Seeing him shoot me like that in such a public setting without even asking me the question is pretty disheartening,” Lee said.
Lee explained that he called lawmakers in several states to try to develop a way to defend Congress by rejecting results in favor of Trump. In one text, Lee suggested he was trying to convince these state lawmakers to fabricate a pretense for Congress to act.
“We need something from the state legislatures to legitimize this and have hopes of winning. Even if they can’t meet, it might be enough if a majority of them are willing to sign a statement stating how they would vote,” Lee wrote.
In the end, Lee did not join other Republicans in opposing the results.
The Tribune contacted Senator Lee’s office for comment.
Lee faces Republicans Becky Edwards and Ally Isom in a primary election in June as he seeks a third term in Congress.
In a statement to The Tribune, Edwards ripped Lee over his involvement in the scheme to overturn the election results.
“Sen. Mike Lee researched overturning a legal, democratic election for partisan and political purposes. The moment Lee realized the seriousness of Trump’s attempts to undermine the 2020 election, he should have stopped researching legality. such actions and stop pressuring local lawmakers,” Edwards’ campaign said in a text message.
“Lee has an obligation to protect and defend our Constitution and our democratic process, as he swore to do when he took office. Instead, he allowed the situation to continue and allowed those who sought to hold on to power regardless of the consequences,” Edwards added.
Isom did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Independent U.S. Senate candidate Evan McMullin also jumped on Lee’s text messages, suggesting Lee tried to cover up his involvement in the campaign platform.
“Why did Senator Mike Lee advise bogus legal efforts to void the 2020 election? And why did he hide these plans in the days leading up to January 6? McMullin said on Twitter, linking his message to a fundraising appeal.
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Correction: 10:51 am April 15: This article has been updated with the correct spelling of Sidney Powell.