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Mike Lee and the “Good Republicans” Were No Different Than the Crazy Kraken Lady

Clowns to the left of me. Clowns to the right.
April 15, 2022
Mike Lee and the “Good Republicans” Were No Different Than the Crazy Kraken Lady
(Composite / GettyImages / Shutterstock)

Among the self-appointed responsible Republicans, the story of Trump’s attempted election theft goes something like this:

The former president had a few CRAZY people around him providing bad advice. Rudy and Lin Wood and Sidney “Release the Kraken” Powell and their ilk were egging on a strategy that was never going to work and that nobody was actually on board with.

Meanwhile, the rest of the players were maybe not profiles in courage, but they were trying to do the right thing. Just, you know, behind the scenes. Some were encouraging Trump to be more presidential—to finally do that growing into the office they had promised he would do four years ago now that he had lost. Others knew it was all a farce but were just “humoring” the president for a little bit. What could be the harm? After all, it was, they assured each other, the last thing they would ever have to do for Donald J. Trump.

According to a new book by Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns, Mitch McConnell went so far as to say that “everybody around [Trump], except for clowns like Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, are trying to get him to do the right thing.”

That’s not quite right.

The real story is that the circus was in town and even the supposed “good Republicans” were happy to put on their clown make-up.

On Friday morning, CNN published text messages in which Sen. Mike Lee (R-Constitution)—the purported originalist, the man who shouted at Trump from the convention floor in 2016, the Republican in good standing who maintains support even from Never Trumpers who yearn for a the party to return to normal—was not only one of the clown insurrectionists, but was a leader of the troupe!

Here are three texts from Mike Lee to the White House chief of staff on the day that the election was officially called for Joe Biden—and a few days after Biden’s impending victory was quite clear:

  • “Sydney [sic] Powell is saying that she needs to get in to see the president, but she’s being kept away from him. Apparently she has a strategy to keep things alive and put several states back in play. Can you help her get in?”
  • “It was at the president’s request that Sydney has been working on a strategy and has been trying to get in to see him. But she’s being kept out.”
  • “[Powell email address][Powell phone number] Sidney Powell”

It was not the case that everyone around Trump was doing the right thing while Sidney Powell contaminated the water table.

The true story is that “good Republican” Mike Lee and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were forcing the crazy into the Oval Office at the most combustible time imaginable.

Two days after those texts, Lee updated Meadows on his progress. He said that CPI—presumably the Conservative Partnership Institute—had held a steering committee meeting featuring Powell with the goal of “socializing with Republican Senators” on the need to press forward with the coup.

On November 19, Lee’s texts betray some . . . concern with Sidney Powell’s rhetoric. And Lee has the gall to suggest to Meadows that the person he thrust on the White House might need to be shunted aside.


You would think that setting in motion this insane assault on our democracy might’ve chastened Lee a bit, given his professed love for The Constitution.


On November 23 Lee has a new harlequin he wants to throw into the mix, the man who wrote the memo suggesting Mike Pence could overturn the election. Lee texted:

“John Eastman has some really interesting research on this. The good news is is that Eastman is proposing an approach that unlike what Sidney Powell has propose could be examined very quickly.”

By January 3, 2021, “Good Republican” Mike Lee was in his feels.

The Eastman plan he had suggested was moving forward, but he was no longer confident it would work. Lee had “grave concerns” about the way his colleague Ted Cruz is arguing publicly for all the things he had been pushing in private. He was upset that President Trump doesn’t recognize how hard he’s been working—14 hours a day!—trying to help steal the election for him. And despite these disappointments he was still burning the midnight oil calling state legislators trying to figure out how to end our constitutional Republic.

In the end, Lee might not have voted to overturn the election but he was every bit a part of the coup as Cruz and Hawley and the rest.

As it turns out this wasn’t the case of “responsible” people trying to nudge things in the right direction in private.

It was a case where one posse of clowns was so insane that they were giving away the game. While the “responsible” clowns like Mike Lee did everything in their power to figure out how they could keep the madman in power, without getting Rudy’s hair dye on their face.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.