'Based' Mike Lee criticizes FBI search of Trump home, spars with Senate opponent on Twitter

A screenshot of Sen. Mike Lee’s personal Twitter account is pictured Wednesday.

A screenshot of Sen. Mike Lee’s personal Twitter account is pictured Wednesday. (Twitter.com/BasedMikeLee)



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee is using a new personal Twitter account to attack the FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Florida residence and spar with his challenger in the U.S. Senate race.

The Utah Republican's Senate Twitter account was silent on the search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home Monday, as was the rest of Utah's all-Republican congressional delegation with the exception of Rep. Chris Stewart.

"This is not about Trump. This is about potentially breathtaking abuses of power by the FBI," Lee tweeted on his personal account, @BasedMikeLee.

According to Urban Dictionary, "based" is used "when you want to recognize someone for being themselves" such as "courageous and unique or not caring what others think, and is especially common in online political slang."

In a series of a dozen tweets Tuesday, Lee questioned the FBI action and listed reasons why he believes the agency can't be trusted.

"As a lawyer, former federal prosecutor, and current member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have a few questions about the FBI's raid of Mar a Lago. First, did Attorney General Garland personally sign off on this action?" he tweeted.

Agents on Monday searched Trump's estate, which is also a private club, reportedly as part of a federal investigation into whether the former president took classified documents from the White House to his Florida home.

Lee wrote in his Twitter thread that the search could be a product of the "growing political weaponization" of federal law enforcement agencies. He said Hillary Clinton was not subjected to a raid even though she "mishandled" classified material and "destroyed evidence."

" ... Why should we assume that the FBI is above targeting Republicans when it creates documents like this one, which encourages agents to be suspicious of people who display the Betsy Ross Flag or the 'don't tread on me' Gadsden Flag?" Lee wrote in reference to the agency's "domestic terrorism symbols guide" attached to his tweet.

Lee wrote that if the search is really about presidential records, why would Trump — who was himself in charge of declassifying documents at the time he obtained and had unfettered access to them — be subject to prosecution for hanging onto classified documents?

Evan McMullin, an independent who is mounting a strong challenge to Lee for the Senate seat, jumped into the fray, tweeting at the senator, "If I'd conspired with a guy whose home is now being invaded by the FBI, I'd be worried …@SenMikeLee, how are you feeling?"

"I'm feeling great, thanks," Lee tweeted at McMullin from his "based" account. "I'd be worried if I had celebrated what could turn out to be a breathtaking abuse of power by the FBI for political purposes."

In another tweet, McMullin wrote, "American politics have become strange to say the least, but @SenMikeLee has certainly made them even weirder, apparently now rage tweeting from this new account. This is one of those moments in a campaign when you start to wonder if your opponent is okay."

The two candidates also engaged in more back-and-forth on Twitter, with McMullin accusing Lee of trying to help Trump overturn the 2020 election results with fake electors and Lee accusing McMullin of defamation.

"Stick to the truth or lawyer up," Lee wrote.

"It's the truth, 'Based Mike.' Sue me," McMullin countered.

Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics polls show Lee and McMullin are locked in a tight Senate race.

Lee apparently launched his personal Twitter account late last month. He had posted 53 times and had just over 14,600 followers as of Wednesday. It's not unusual for politicians to have more than one Twitter or Facebook account, including personal and campaign accounts. Lee also maintains an account on Parler, a conservative alternative to Twitter he joined in 2019.

In 2020, Lee took to Parler to defend Trump's pursuit of legal challenges to the 2020 election results.

Regarding the Monday search of Trump's house, Rep. Chris Stewart was the only other Utah member of Congress to weigh in. He said he's been sounding the alarm about the intelligence community and FBI politicization for years.

"Yesterday, we saw the culmination of that weaponized politicization," Stewart tweeted Tuesday.

"Did President Biden have knowledge of this raid? Where is the raid on Hunter Biden's home? Where is the demand for documents regarding Speaker Pelosi's alleged insider trading?"

Utah GOP Gov. Spencer Cox gave a lengthy response to a question about the search at Mar-a-Lago during an online town hall meeting with Utahns on Tuesday.

"Any time something that happens with a former president of the United States and we have another party in office, there is automatically going to be a reflexive movement to believe that it is political," he said. "I think, I hope, that the Department of Justice and FBI really understand that and understood that when they undertook this.

"We do not believe in punishing our political enemies or using the levers of justice — or police powers of our state — to punish in any way our political adversaries," he added. "I don't believe that Republicans should do that to Democrats. I don't believe Democrats should do that to Republicans. ... It worries me."

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.

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