Independent Senate candidate Evan McMullen on Monday accused Utah Republican Mike Lee of betraying his oath to the Constitution during the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot, prompting Lee to accuse McMullen of spreading Democratic lies.
The exchange happened during the only live debate between the two candidates, one that drew the sharpest distinction between the conservative Republican and the relatively conservative Independent when it came to the riot that McMullen called a “a violent insurrection with the intent of overturning the Republic.”
When Lee was asked if President Joe Biden fairly won the election, Lee said, “Yes, Joe Biden is our president.”
“He was chosen in the only election that matters, the election held by the Electoral College,” Lee said. “It was on that basis that I voted to certify the election results.” Lee added that caveat that there is “always room for debate and questions” about how well each state ran their election.
McMullen rejected Lee’s answer right away, and called up reports from earlier in the year that showed Lee was texting President Trump’s staff after Trump lost.
“For you to talk about the importance of the Electoral College I think is rich,” McMullen said.
“I think you knew how important it was when you sought to urge the White House that had lost an election to find fake electors to overturn the will of the people. Sen. Lee, that was the most egregious betrayal of our nation’s Constitution in its history by a U.S. senator, and I believe that it will be your legacy,” McMullen said, drawing scattered applause but mostly heavy boos from the audience.
“You advised spurious so-called legal efforts to mislead tens of millions of Americans that the election had been stolen,” McMullen said. “And congratulations, you succeeded. As recently as this year, and even tonight, you’re still casting down on the legitimacy of the election.”
“You’re going a tremendous disservice to this country, Sen. Lee. You have betrayed your oath to the Constitution with this,” he said.
“Evan that’s not true,” Lee fired back to applause. “You know that’s not true. You, sir, owe me an apology.”
Lee said he was in communication with Trump’s staff and others because there were rumors that some states would switch out their electors. “The rumors were false. On that basis I voted to certify the results of the election,” Lee said.
Lee has said in prior interviews that he only encouraged Trump’s team to explore every legal remedy that might allow him to claim victory. Press reports agreed that as it became clear Trump could not win, Lee cooled to the idea of fighting the result any further.
McMullen later called the Jan. 6 riot a violent insurrection and said Lee failed to do his duty to defend the Constitution. “It was a betrayal of the American Republic.”
“I disagree with everything my opponent just said, including the words ‘but,’ ‘and’ and ‘the.’ It was an information-free, truth-free statement,” Lee said.
“There is absolutely nothing to the idea that I would have ever supported or ever did support a fake elector plot. Nothing. Not a scintilla of evidence suggesting that, and yet you continue to insist that with a cavalier, reckless disregard for the truth.”
Lee then accused McMullen of mimicking Democratic talking points and spreading “lies that are specific to the Democratic Party.” He said he acted in accordance with the Constitution and said claims to the contrary go against that truth.
“How dare you, sir?” Lee said as he held up a pocket Constitution.
“Sen. Lee, the Constitution is not a prop,” McMullen tried again.
“This is not a prop and I don’t carry it as a prop,” Lee said. “This is a reference manual. I carry it with me next to my heart because I refer to it daily, constantly.”
“You distort the truth and you should be ashamed,” Lee finished.