SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee defended President Donald Trump raising the specter of fraud regarding mail-in voting, although he acknowledged that the practice has worked fine in Utah.
“An entire country is moving toward mail-in balloting all at once. There is legitimate reason for concern. We ought not dismiss that cavalierly,” the Utah Republican said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
Lee also answered questions about Trump nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court and that if confirmed, how she might deal with cases involving the 2020 election.
A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lee is scheduled to meet with Barrett, a federal appeals court judge, on Tuesday. The committee is scheduled to hold confirmation hearings in mid October.
Trump continues to raise doubts about the legitimacy of the upcoming election on the campaign trail.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told a congressional committee last week that the agency hasn’t historically seen any coordinated voter fraud in a major election by mail or otherwise.
“To my knowledge there haven’t been significant problems with it in Utah,” said Lee, who heads Trump’s reelection campaign in Utah.
“But the fact that Director Wray says that he hasn’t historically seen evidence that it’s been manipulated is analytically different from the question of whether these things could be manipulated moving forward.”
Lee said states should decide for themselves whether to have mail-in voting and that procedures must be in place to prevent, deter and detect tampering.
“Human nature is such that people might cheat,” he said.
“It’s important to remember whether we’re talking about mail-in ballots or any other form of potential election fraud, the canard that you can’t prove that it’s happened on any widespread basis in the past is very different than saying there’s no reason to worry about it ever.”
Stephanopoulos asked Lee whether Barrett should recuse herself from election-related cases if confirmed.
“I’m not going to purport to speak for what she ought to do with regard to her recusal. I have every confidence that she’ll make the right decision,” he said.
Barrett, Lee said, would be on par with the other justices, and whether she removes herself from any other case is up to her in consultation with her colleagues, her staff and the rules at play.
Asked what Barrett’s confirmation would mean for Roe v. Wade, Lee said only time will tell.
“Although I would point out here that anytime someone is looking at overruling a precedent, it’s a lot more complicated than people might think,” he said. “In any event, you can’t look at the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice and boil down that jurist’s contribution to the law past and future to what they might do with a single case.”
Human nature is such that people might cheat.
–Utah Sen. Mike Lee
Lee also said he has no idea how Barrett would rule on Affordable Care Act, which he believes is unconstitutional.
“The fact that Congress chose to enact an unconstitutional law shouldn’t tarnish Judge Barrett in this,” he said. “Her job is to figure out if it’s unconstitutional or not.”
Though polls show a majority of Americans want the winner of the Nov. 3 election to pick a replacement for liberal-leaning Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Lee said he doesn’t see backlash against Republican candidates.
Trump, he said, has vowed to appoint federal and Supreme Court judges who are textualists and who are originalists and who interpret the law based on what it says rather than on the basis on what they wished it said.
“This is exactly what he promised to do and he’s fulfilling that promise,” Lee said. “I think the American people respect someone who’s willing to stand behind his campaign promises, which is what he’s doing with Judge Barrett.”