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In this image from video, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks as the Senate reconvenes after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP) In this image from video, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks as the Senate reconvenes after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP)

In this image from video, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks as the Senate reconvenes after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher April 11, 2022

Attack ad on Sen. Mike Lee advising Trump on 2020 election omits that Lee opposed overturning result

If Your Time is short

  • Lee advised Trump’s legal team, but he ultimately broke with Trump, concluding there was no evidence for overturning the result of the 2020 presidential election.

 

As investigators continue to analyze what led to the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Sen. Mike Lee was hit with an ad over his connection to the insurrection.

The Utah Republican, endorsed for re-election by former President Donald Trump, was targeted by his main challenger,  independent candidate and former Republican Evan McMullin.

"Senator Mike Lee advised Trump's legal challenges to overturn our election," the narrator says at the start of McMullin’s 30-second TV ad. "He was one of only two senators who was in on the scheme, receiving the plan four days before the January 6th insurrection."

Lee and another Republican senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, advised Trump’s legal team in its efforts to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election. But Lee ultimately broke with Trump, concluding there was no evidence for taking the victory away from Joe Biden.

How Lee advised Trump

On Jan. 6, 2021, then-President Trump held his "Save America" rally where he repeated his Pants on Fire claim that he won the 2020 election. Trump invited the crowd to "walk down to the Capitol" where the House and Senate were holding a joint session to certify the electoral college vote for Biden. A mob breached the Capitol and shut down Congress for hours. 

Early Jan. 7, after the attack was quelled, Congress certified Biden’s win. Lee and Graham voted to certify the presidential election results and against objections to certifying the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

In supporting the election result, Lee said on the Senate floor:

"I’ve met with lawyers on both sides of the issue. I’ve met with lawyers representing the Trump campaign, reading everything I could find about the constitutional provisions in question, and I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with legislators and other leaders from the contested states….

"I spent an enormous amount of time reaching out to state government officials in those states, but in none of the contested states — no, not even one — did I discover any indication that there was any chance that any state legislature, or secretary of state, or governor, or lieutenant governor, had any intention to alter the slate of electors."

Details of Lee’s actions have been publicly reported.

"Peril," a September 2021 book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward and reporter Robert Costa described how Graham and Lee took the claims of election fraud seriously enough to get briefed on the details, involve their senior staff and call state officials throughout the country. 

As summarized by the Post, a key document was a memo written about counting electoral votes by conservative legal scholar John Eastman, who is referenced in the ad.

Lee received an Eastman memo from the White House that said Vice President Mike Pence could ignore seven states that had submitted dueling slates of electors to Congress, split between Trump and Biden, and count only electors from the remaining states, handing the election to Trump. 

Woodward and Costa reported that Lee knew the alternate electors were merely Trump loyalists putting themselves forward in certain states, in a move the authors describe as "a social media campaign — an amateur push with no legal standing."

Lee said that he made "phone call after phone call" to officials in some of the relevant states, such as Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona, saying that no one seemed poised to certify a new slate of electors. "At that point, I believed that we had reached the end of the process, as indeed we had," Lee said during a Jan. 27, 2012 online town hall

A Utah newspaper, the Deseret News, reported more on what Lee said at the town hall. He said that Trump’s inner circle repeatedly told him that state legislatures were acting to decertify or even recertify their slates of electoral votes before Congress convened on Jan. 6. As that date approached, Lee said, "I became concerned because I wasn’t seeing any of these developments occur but I was continuing to hear this narrative." 

Lee said that after calling governors, attorneys general, secretaries of state and legislative leaders in several states, not one state was willing or inclined to decertify or recertify their electoral votes.

UTpolunderground.com, a political news website, also carried an article about Lee’s outreach to state officials and his conclusion that there was no evidence to overturn the election. When we asked Lee’s campaign for comment, a spokesperson referred us to the UTpolunderground.com article.

Utah race could help decide Senate control

On April 1, the same day McMullin tweeted out his ad, Trump endorsed Lee, calling McMullin "McMuffin." McMullin, a former CIA operative, was a Republican before running as an independent for president in 2016. He made news in February with reports showing he raised more campaign money than Lee in the final quarter of 2021. 

Democrat Kael Weston, a former State Department official, is campaigning for the Senate seat, but the Utah Democratic Party is being pressured to not field a candidate in hopes of giving McMullin a better shot to defeat Lee, the Deseret News reported.

The Utah race could play a role in determining which party controls the Senate, which is now split 50-50. Campaign watchers rate the race as solid or safe Republican.

Lee, who was elected in 2010, is also being challenged in Utah’s June 28 primary. The leading Republican challengers are former Utah state lawaker Becky Edwards and communications strategist Ally Isom.

Our ruling

McMullin claimed in an ad that Lee "advised Trump's legal challenges to overturn our election" and "was one of only two senators who was in on the scheme."

Lee and another GOP senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, advised the Trump team’s efforts to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election. But Lee ultimately broke with Trump, concluding there was no evidence for overturning the result.

McMullin’s claim is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rate it Half True.

RELATED: Evan McMullin ad portraying GOP Utah Sen. Mike Lee as pro-Russia, anti-Ukraine is Mostly False

RELATED: Fact-checking ads in 2022 federal and state elections

RELATED: Fact-checks on Jan. 6

RELATED: The 2021 Lie of the Year: Lies about the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and its significance

Our Sources

Twitter, Evan McMullin tweet, April 1, 2022

Email, Kelsey Koenen Witt, Evan McMullin campaign communications director, April 8, 2022

Email, Mike Lee campaign spokesperson Matt Lusty, April 11, 2022

KUER.org, "How Utah’s Members Of Congress Voted On Certifying The Presidential Election," Jan. 7, 2021

UTpolunderground.com, "Decision Point: Senator Lee And Election Certification," Feb 12, 2021

YouTube, Sen. Mike Lee remarks, Jan. 6, 2021

U.S. Senate, "Question: On the Objection (Shall the Objection Submitted by the Gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Perry, and the Senator from Missouri, Mr. Hawley, Be Sustained?)," Jan. 7, 2021

Google Books, pages from the book "Peril," accessed April 8, 2022

FoxNow13.com, "Independent candidate Evan McMullin unveils first attack ad of Senate campaign," March 31, 2022

Washington Post, "Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee personally vetted Trump’s fraud claims, new book says. They were unpersuaded," Sept. 20, 2021

Deseret News, "What Trump’s inner circle told Utah Sen. Mike Lee in the days before Jan. 6," Jan. 28, 2021

Deseret News, "Why is President Donald Trump ‘angry’ at Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee?", Jan. 5, 2021

New York Times, "Here are the Republicans who objected to certifying the election results," published Jan. 7, 2021; updated Jan. 8, 2021 

Salt Lake Tribune, "What Sen. Mike Lee told me about Trump’s call the day of the Capitol riot," Feb. 10, 2021

Sen. Mike Lee, statement, Dec. 14, 2020

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Attack ad on Sen. Mike Lee advising Trump on 2020 election omits that Lee opposed overturning result

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