Even after constant debunking, a disturbing number of Republican lawmakers rallied behind then-President Donald Trump, defending his fantasy that the 2020 election was "stolen" from him through Democrats engaging in widespread election fraud.
It wasn't until January 6 of last year, when a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to halt the congressional confirmation of then-President Elect Joe Biden's victory, that conservative lawmakers finally began to accept the facts.
Now, CNN is reporting that new texts have emerged between Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah and former President Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows from the weeks ahead of January 6.
In one text, Lee urges Meadows to arrange a meeting between Trump and far-right conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, who became infamous during Trump's lame duck period for her increasingly unhinged claims about the 2020 election.
In another, Lee offered Meadows and Trump his
"unequivocal support for you to exhaust every legal and constitutional remedy at your disposal to restore Americans faith in our elections. ... This fight is about the fundamental fairness and integrity of our election system. The nation is depending upon your continued resolve. Stay strong and keep fighting Mr. President."
After Powell appeared with then-President Trump's campaign lawyers in an utterly bizarre press conference where she continued to promote conspiracy theories and lies about elections software companies like Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, Lee began cautioning Meadows about the path they were taking.
Lee said he was worried about fallout from the press conference, writing:
"The potential defamation liability for the president is significant here. ... For the campaign and for the president personally. ... Unless Powell can back up everything she said, which I kind of doubt she can."
On December 8, Lee texted Meadows a version of the "Green Bay Sweep" promoted by Trump lawyer John Eastman:
"If a very small handful of states were to have their legislatures appoint alternative slates of delegates, there could be a path."
Meadows responded that he was "working" on that plan.
By January 3, Lee told Meadows that Congress could only reverse the election results if legislatures in states Trump lost certified Trump electors instead. He expressed concerns that Trump's increasingly erratic claims about how to bypass the election results would end up hurting him in 2024.
The disturbing effort from a Republican senator to assist Trump in stealing the election has social media users livid.
One thing that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough is that these guys were looking for whatever loopholes they could find to keep Trump in power. They knew he lost, that the country voted him out, but tried to find a way to install in for a second term anyway. And… https://t.co/IIneL8JBcX
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) April 15, 2022
Can we please stop calling it alternate slates of electors & call it what it is: a plan to discard the votes of American citizens & install the candidate who lost. A coup. https://t.co/jpyNrvGejW
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) April 15, 2022
Sen. Mike Lee: “I’ve been calling state legislators for hours today,” as he tried to convince them of a scheme to just throw out the election results and keep Trump in office.
What a bunch of traitors. https://t.co/J0RhV5LhQ8
— Eric Kleefeld (@EricKleefeld) April 15, 2022
The evidence is all around, these people (Republican members of congress, of the senate, state officials, regular people and a sitting president) tried desperately to find a way to subvert democracy.
Make no mistake, they will do it again. https://t.co/laWMOL1d8W
— Amy McGrath (@AmyMcGrathKY) April 15, 2022
This is, in plain English, a sitting US Senator openly conspiring with the President’s Chief of Staff to overthrow our government.
Where the hell is the accountability? https://t.co/uFFBscRy6Y
— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) April 15, 2022
Some accused Lee of hypocrisy, noting his constant shows of reverence for the Constitution.
Dude who drapes himself in the Constitution abandons it at literally the first hint of inconvenience. https://t.co/5Lb9zNI2b2
— Andrew Fleischman (@ASFleischman) April 15, 2022
Tell us more about the "willful subversion" of the Constitution, @SenMikeLee https://t.co/pxUSH6m4UL pic.twitter.com/g0YioQt9Qj
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) April 15, 2022
as i keep saying, “constitutional conservative” is one of those phrases that means the literal opposite of what it’s supposed to imply https://t.co/MekMgm7ZuZ
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) April 15, 2022
Noted constitutionalist, @SenMikeLee, doing some coup stuff https://t.co/bwFO31XtsH
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) April 15, 2022
A spokesperson for Lee told CNN that the senator has been "completely transparent."