Jan. 6 transcript reveals more about Sen. Mike Lee's effort to keep Trump in office

In this image from video released by the House Select Committee, Cleta Mitchell, a former Trump campaign lawyer, speaks during a deposition with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, that was displayed at the hearing June 21 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

In this image from video released by the House Select Committee, Cleta Mitchell, a former Trump campaign lawyer, speaks during a deposition with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, that was displayed at the hearing June 21 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (House Select Committee via AP)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A newly released transcript of a Jan. 6 committee interview with a Republican lawyer reveals more discussions Utah Sen. Mike Lee had about ways to keep former President Donald Trump in office.

In a May 18 deposition, Cleta Mitchell told House investigators that Lee reached out to her in a text message on Nov. 7 — four days after the 2020 election — asking, "What should I be doing? I'm trying to find out what's winnable and what isn't.

"I suspect that the only way to win this election would involve identifying systematic fraud."

Mitchell replied, "And I think that has happened in key states nationwide. Working on that now."

Lee and Mitchell have a close relationship, including her working as his attorney on election and campaign issues.

According to the transcript, Lee and Mitchell discussed Congress, and specifically the Senate, being the "court of last resort" on the election.

In a text exchange with Lee, Mitchell wrote, "The Senate should start making plans to object to the Biden electors in those states where the election is clearly fraudulent."

Lee, the transcript says, asked her about how to ascertain and develop a standard to determine whether the election in any state is clearly fraudulent. Mitchell told him that was up to him, and that if time doesn't allow for a resolution in the courts, Congress must decide.

Mitchell and Lee also discussed states sending alternate or competing slates of electors, something Lee believed Congress needed to object to the electoral vote, but that Mitchell believed wasn't necessary.

"I think that the best way to frame this, that our role (as to any state's electoral votes) is triggered by the existence of competing slate of electors," Lee texted Mitchell, according to the transcript.

"That seems to be the sweet spot for getting my colleagues to engage."

In a statement regarding Mitchell's interview transcript, a Lee spokesman said the senator's only role was trying to find the truth before voting to certify the election results.

"Contrary to the allusions of activists, Sen. Lee adhered to the Constitution and honorably fulfilled his lawful duty as an elected member of the United States Senate," Lee Lonsberry said. "Accordingly — and despite the Committee's partisan makeup — the January 6 Select Committee acknowledged Sen. Lee's vote to certify and his criticism of any action contrary to the wills of states."

Lonsberry pointed to Lee's speech on the Senate floor on Jan. 6, 2021, where the senator said, "I wanted to get the facts first and I wanted to understand what was happening. I wanted to give the people serving in government in the contested states the opportunity to do whatever they felt they needed to do to make sure that their election was properly reflected."

On Dec. 9 — five days before the states certified their electoral votes — Lee texted Mitchell saying, "Is there any chance we will see competing slates of electors named in some states?" She told him to call White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, to which Lee replied, "He told me yesterday he's working on it. I'm not sure what that means."

Asked why she told Lee to call Meadows, Mitchell said "Because I had nothing to do with it."

During the interview, Mitchell was asked about an email exchange with Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog organization. According to the transcript, Fitton asked Mitchell if there has been any follow-up to "your alternate electors idea?"

"I think there was an email about that earlier, there were a group of people who were discussing that. I don't know that it was — it wasn't my idea. It was actually Mike Lee's idea," Mitchell said.

The Jan. 6 committee's final 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, calling it a "slippery slope."

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.

Mitchell, according to the transcript, said there were a lot of people like Lee who believed there needed to be a competing set of electors to reject a state's electoral votes.

"Now Mike Lee is a constitutionalist, and he came to believe that, absent a competing slate of electors that he had, he did not have the constitutional prerogative to reject the electoral slate," she said.

Lee has said that he thought that theory was dead until he received a memo from conservative law professor John Eastman four days before Jan. 6, claiming seven states were sending Congress dueling slates of electors.

Lee said he couldn't get answers from the Trump campaign about "ever-changing rumors," so he started cold-calling state legislators and election officials in states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and Michigan to figure out what was going on.

He said he found that none of the states were changing their electoral votes. And he said he never urged states to do that then or at any time before.

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Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrectionU.S. electionsUtah congressional delegationPoliticsU.S.Utah
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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