Texts show how GOP lawmakers shifted on Trump's election conspiracies
Two Republican members of Congress repeatedly pressed former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for evidence of widespread voter fraud before turning skeptical of former President Trump's election conspiracies, texts reported by CNN reveal.
Why it matters: The texts from Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the aftermath of the 2020 election highlight the winding road some Trump loyalists took to opposing election objections on Jan. 6.
- Spokespeople for both lawmakers confirmed the authenticity of the texts to Axios. "The messages speak for themselves," said Roy spokesperson Nate Madden.
- Lee Lonsberry, a spokesperson for Lee, said, "The text messages tell the same story Sen. Lee told from the floor of the Senate the day he voted to certify the election results of each and every state in the nation."
- The texts are reportedly among those handed over by Meadows to the Jan. 6 select committee. A spokesperson for the panel declined to comment.
Lee texted Meadows on Nov. 7, 2020, the day major outlets called the election for Biden, urging the Trump team to use "every legal and constitutional remedy" to challenge the election and to work with pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.
- Lee later expressed concerns about "potential defamation liability" from Powell's outlandish claims at a Nov. 19 press conference and, later that month, turned to another pro-Trump lawyer: John Eastman.
- He continued to press Meadows for talking points and guidance in the following months, and as late as Dec. 8, he said that "there could be a path."
- On Jan. 3, however, he raised "grave concerns" about plans by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) to object to certifying the election, warning it "could all backfire badly."
Roy texted Meadows on Nov. 5, "We have no tools / data / information to go out and fight RE: election / fraud. If you need / want it, we all need to know what's going on," adding two days later, "we need ammo. We need fraud examples."
- Like Lee, Roy voiced support with pro-Trump attorneys and pleaded for more evidence in the following weeks, texting on Nov. 19 "we need substance or people are going to break."
- On Dec. 31, however, Roy texted that Trump "should call everyone off," and the following day he said, "If POTUS allows this to occur... we're driving a stake in the heart of the federal republic."
- On Jan. 6, Roy, like many other Trump allies, texted Meadows as the Capitol riot unfolded, calling it a "sh*tshow" and telling him to, "Fix this now."
The bottom line: Both lawmakers voted against objections to certifying electors from Arizona and Colorado.
- Roy co-signed a statement with other conservative House Republicans three days before Jan. 6 opposing election objections. Lee reportedly shared the statement with Senate colleagues, prompting public criticism from Trump.
- Lee bristled at that criticism, texting on Jan. 4 that he was "calling state legislators for hours" and "trying to figure out a path that I can persuasively defend," but that "my ability to do that with credibility is impaired."