Senator Mike Lee and Consultant Chip Roy, as soon as backers of President Donald J. Trump’s claims of a stolen election, ultimately urged his high aide to alter course.
WASHINGTON — For weeks in late 2020, Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, cheered on President Donald J. Trump’s effort to combat his election defeat, privately providing up “a bunch of prepared and dependable advocates who will go to bat for him.”
In textual content messages to Mark Meadows, then the White Home chief of employees, Mr. Lee inspired the Trump marketing campaign to embrace Sidney Powell, a pro-Trump lawyer whom the senator described as a “straight shooter,” and mentioned the president ought to “rent the correct authorized group and set them unfastened instantly.”
However when Ms. Powell put forth wild claims of overseas rigging of election machines at a extensively derided information convention in November, Mr. Lee was chagrined and quietly started to query what Mr. Trump was as much as.
“I’m fearful in regards to the Powell press convention,” Mr. Lee wrote in one other textual content message to Mr. Meadows. “The potential defamation legal responsibility for the president is important right here.”
That message and several other others from Mr. Lee, in addition to a separate set of exchanges between Consultant Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, and Mr. Meadows, hint an about-face by the 2 Republican lawmakers. The pair began out as enthusiastic supporters of Mr. Trump’s claims of a stolen election however step by step grew alarmed about his push to invalidate the outcomes and in the end opposed his bid to get Congress to overturn them on Jan. 6, 2021.
The textual content messages, that are within the possession of the Home committee investigating the Capitol riot, have been obtained by CNN and authenticated by The New York Instances.
They supply a window into the eagerness of Republicans — even some who ended up voting on Jan. 6 to substantiate Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory — to imagine Mr. Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud and their willingness to go to nice lengths, together with makes an attempt at exploiting the nation’s election legal guidelines, to maintain him in energy. Additionally they illustrate how quickly these efforts spiraled uncontrolled, they usually present a eager consciousness on the a part of not less than some Republicans concerned that the endeavor had turn into untenable to the purpose of being harmful.
The textual content messages have been despatched to and from Mr. Meadows, who turned them over to the Home committee whereas he was cooperating with the panel. Mr. Meadows later refused to sit down for an interview with the committee, and the Home voted to recommend that the Justice Division prosecute him for legal contempt of Congress.
A lawyer for Mr. Meadows didn’t reply to a request for remark. A spokesman for the committee declined to remark.
The textual content messages with Mr. Meadows present that Mr. Lee tried a number of instances to supply recommendation and help for the hassle to overturn the election, utilizing a number of methods.
Mr. Lee instructed that Mr. Trump ought to “disassociate himself” from Ms. Powell’s false claims after her efficiency on the November information convention, however even after that, the senator vouched for the conservative lawyer John Eastman, who wrote a memo outlining plans for overturning the election that members of each events have likened to a blueprint for a coup.
Mr. Lee then endorsed a plan to have legislatures in “a really small handful of states” that Mr. Biden had received put forth pro-Trump electors, as a part of a scheme proposed by Mr. Eastman to permit Vice President Mike Pence to reject Mr. Biden’s victory.
However Mr. Lee backed off the hassle after no state legislature convened to certify so-called alternate electors, and he started criticizing plans by Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, each Republicans, to make use of Congress’s official rely of electoral votes on Jan. 6 to problem the election final result.
“I’ve grave considerations with the best way my good friend Ted goes about this effort,” Mr. Lee wrote to Mr. Meadows.
Mr. Lee in the end voted to substantiate Mr. Biden’s victory. Greater than half of the Republicans in Congress — eight senators and 139 House members — voted to invalidate it, after a mob of Mr. Trump’s supporters, enraged by the lie of a stolen election, stormed the Capitol demanding that it be overturned.
A spokesman for Mr. Lee confirmed the authenticity of the textual content messages and mentioned they instructed “the identical story Senator Lee instructed from the ground of the Senate the day he voted to certify the election outcomes of each state within the nation.”
“They inform the story of a U.S. senator fulfilling his responsibility to Utah and the American folks by following the Structure,” the spokesman, Lee Lonsberry, mentioned, citing the senator’s remarks after the lethal riot, which injured greater than 150 cops.
Mr. Roy’s textual content messages with Mr. Meadows inform an identical story of a lawmaker who appeared desperate to combat alongside Mr. Trump however in the end backed off when proof of a stolen election didn’t seem.
“Dude, we’d like ammo,” Mr. Roy wrote to Mr. Meadows on Nov. 7, earlier than the Texas lawmaker traveled to Georgia to attempt to help within the effort to combat that state’s election outcomes. “We want fraud examples. We want it this weekend.”
However Mr. Roy additionally warned in opposition to making inflammatory claims with out proof.
“We should urge the President to tone down the rhetoric, and strategy the authorized problem firmly, intelligently and successfully with out resorting to throwing wild determined haymakers, or whipping his base right into a conspiracy frenzy,” Mr. Roy wrote on Nov. 9.
The textual content messages present that Mr. Roy was additionally initially supportive of Mr. Eastman’s efforts however grew extra skeptical as weeks glided by and proof of widespread fraud did not materialize.
“The President ought to name everybody off,” Mr. Roy wrote to Mr. Meadows on Dec. 31. “It’s the one path.”
“If we substitute the need of states by electors with a vote by Congress each four years,” he added, “we now have destroyed the electoral faculty.”
The following day, Mr. Roy adopted up. If Mr. Trump “permits this to happen,” he wrote to Mr. Meadows, “we’re driving a stake within the coronary heart of the federal republic.”
On Jan. 6, the day that rioters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Roy once more reached out to Mr. Meadows.
“This can be a sh*tshow,” he wrote. “Repair this now.”
Mr. Meadows replied: “We’re.”
On Friday, Mr. Roy wrote on Twitter that he would make “no apologies for my non-public texts or public positions – to these on the left or proper.”
“I stand behind searching for reality, preventing nonsense, & then appearing in protection of the Structure,” he wrote.