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Utah Sen. Mike Lee advised, then warned Trump White House on attempts to overturn the election

 Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.
US Senate
Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, advised and encouraged the White House in its attempts to overturn the 2020 election and eventually warned them against their own strategy, according to text messages obtained as part of a House investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection and as reported by CNN.

The texts between Lee and then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows show that Utah’s senior senator initially supported legal challenges of battleground state election results and made suggestions to bolster their strategy.

For example, Lee texted Meadows in early November, “The nation is depending upon your continued resolve. Stay strong and keep fighting Mr. President."

In late November, he texted Meadows, “Please tell me what I should be saying.”

He also lobbied to get attorney Sidney Powell a meeting with Trump. Powell was a part of the Trump campaign’s legal team until the end of November and pushed baseless theories of election fraud.

But over time, Lee became increasingly concerned with the efforts and on Jan. 3 texted Meadows that they could “backfire badly.”

On Jan. 6, after pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol, Lee did not object to the results of the election on the Senate floor because none of the states had put forth another slate of electors.

“This simply isn’t how our federal system is supposed to work,” Lee said on the Senate floor on Jan. 6. “Our job is to convene, to open the ballots, and to count them. That’s it.”

Lee declined an interview with KUER, but his communications director Lee Lonsberry said in a statement that the text messages are consistent with the senator’s speech that day.

“They tell the story of a U.S. Senator fulfilling his duty to Utah and the American people by following the Constitution,” Lonsberry said in a statement.

But Lee’s two GOP primary challengers are criticizing the text messages.

“Our senior senator, Mike Lee, researched overturning a lawful democratic election for partisan political gain,” said former GOP state Rep. Becky Edwards, who’s running to unseat Lee. “This was an assault actually on our integrity as a country. It's an assault on the oath that Sen. Lee took to the Constitution and the democratic process.”

Republican candidate Ally Isom, former deputy chief of staff for former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, said behavior like these text messages is exactly why she’s running.

“I think Utahns want a senator that they know they can count on to work 14 to 16 hours a day for them,” she said, “somebody who’s committed to their issues and their priorities rather than playing partisan political games and getting caught up in the in the pandering that's so common in Washington, D.C.”

The primary election is on June 28.

Copyright 2022 KUER 90.1. To see more, visit KUER 90.1.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER. She’s been reporting on politics ever since the 10th grade, when she went to so many school board meetings the district set up a press table for her. Before coming to Utah, Sonja spent four years at KQED in San Francisco where she covered everything from wildfires to the tech industry. When she’s not working, you can find her skiing, camping, or deeply invested in a 1000 piece puzzle.