US Midterms: Utah Senate Debate Focuses on Jan. 6

During a debate on Monday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and his independent challenger Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer, sparred over Lee’s alleged role in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and extend Donald Trump’s presidency.

US Midterms: Utah Senate Debate Focuses on Jan. 6
Image credit: Rick Bowmer/Associated Press [via The New York Times]

Facts

  • During a debate on Monday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and his independent challenger Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer, sparred over Lee’s alleged role in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and extend Donald Trump’s presidency. [McMullin was formally in the GOP and is endorsed by Democrats.]
  • Lee and McMullin agree on most issues, with the latter supporting limits on abortion, opposing Biden’s student-debt relief program, and blaming Biden for continued inflation. But when the moderator brought up claims by Trump and others that the 2020 election was rigged, McMullin and Lee traded barbs.
  • Lee replied to a question about who won the 2020 election by saying Biden was “chosen in the only election that matters, the election held by the Electoral College. It was on that basis that I voted to certify the election results" on Jan. 6, 2021.
  • McMullin, citing reports that Lee was texting then-Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows after the election, described Lee’s efforts to “mislead tens of millions of Americans” as “spurious” and criticized the senator’s alleged suggestions to present fake electors and reject the actual election results as “the most egregious betrayal of our nation’s Constitution in its history by a US senator."
  • Lee then responded by saying “...that’s not true. You know that’s not true. You, sir, owe me an apology.”
  • With less than a month before the November election, Lee is generally favored to retain his seat. Lee and McMullin aren't scheduled to debate again before the vote.

Sources: New York Times, FOX News, and Newsweek.

Narratives

  • Pro-Trump narrative, as provided by Federalist. Whether he’s buying what the House Jan. 6 committee is pandering, or he’s manipulating the facts for his benefit, McMullin has no right to slander Lee. Even non-partisan reports show Lee was only asking questions about the possibility of Trump remaining in office, not actively pursuing any schemes. This shows how dangerous Jan. 6 rhetoric can be.
  • Left narrative, as provided by AlterNet. The emails Lee sent to Meadows show how dedicated the senator was to the multi-step process the Trump admin. tried to execute in order to hang on to power. It’s important that the principled independent McMullin spell out for voters just how much of a willing participant in an attempted coup Lee was between the 2020 election and Jan. 6. This race is a referendum on democracy itself.