Jan. 6 Cop Says Sen. Mike Lee Lied After Pushing to Overturn Election - Rolling Stone
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Jan. 6 Cop Says Sen. Mike Lee ‘Lied’ After Pushing to Overturn Election

A group of people affected by the Capitol Attack met with Republican lawmakers after the attack to push for an independent investigation. New revelations have left them fuming

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in CongressSen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in Congress

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), in Congress

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP

In May 2021, people who lived through the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol came to Republican lawmakers with a straightforward ask: Support the formation of an independent commission to investigate what happened that day and why.

The group included several people who’d been personally — and tragically — affected by the day’s events. Mike Fanone is a former D.C. police officer whose body-camera footage shows supporters of Donald Trump beating him as they attack the Capitol. Harry Dunn was a Capitol Police officer who endured racist abuse during the attack. Sandra Garza was the longtime girlfriend of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was attacked during the Capitol violence and died the day after. Gladys Sicknick is Brian’s mother. They hoped a face-to-face meeting would persuade Republican lawmakers to back a real investigation into what went wrong.

The meetings did not go as they’d hoped. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Fanone says, barely paid attention as the officers showed his harrowing body-camera footage from the melee. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) defended Graham’s behavior — and told the group he opposed the commission, as it would be too “partisan.” The next day, Senate Republicans voted to block the commission.

The group came away frustrated. Now, a year later, they’re furious — especially with Lee. Text messages leaked this month reveal Lee was actively working to overturn the election in the weeks before Jan. 6.

Members of the group who shared their accounts with Rolling Stone say they viewed Lee’s excuses for opposing the commission as “appalling,” and they’re accusing him of working to stymie the inquiry in order to cover up his own actions.

Fanone, who resigned from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department last December, says he feels Lee and the other politicians in the room deliberately lied to him.

“I never had a particularly high opinion of politicians,” Fanone says. “I’m not shocked that I sat in a room across from somebody while I showed them body worn camera footage of myself almost being beaten to death by Trump supporters on January 6 and then had them lie to my face.”

Fanone also offered a blunt assessment of Lee’s conduct: “Mike Lee is not a politician. He’s a criminal suspect.” Lee did not respond to a request for comment.

Garza, Brian Sicknick’s longtime partner, says she views Lee’s claim that he feared politicizing the attack as a “crap story” and accused Lee and other Republicans of wanting “to cover their tracks.”

“They knew that it was going to open up a lot of stuff that would look bad for them because they were doing stuff behind the scenes,” Garza says.

According to Garza, Lee told the group that one of his reasons for opposing the commission was a desire to focus on the failures of law-enforcement agencies rather than the political challenges to the election. In light of the texts, Garza sees this as a “pathetic” attempt to avoid blame. “He defaulted to that … ‘Oh, let’s just focus on the failures of the [Capitol Police] leadership or the failures of the other law-enforcement agencies so we can take the focus off me, my colleagues, and Trump,’” Garza says. “That’s all that was.”

Garza said former Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican, helped arrange the meetings, which took place last May 27. Comstock did not respond to a request for comment.

Along with Fanone, Garza, Gladys Sicknick, and Comstock, the group lobbying for the independent commission included U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn. Dunn suggested the lawmakers couldn’t have objectively considered the group’s request for an independent investigation since some of them were involved in the effort to overturn Trump’s loss.

“I feel like it’s a little disingenuous to entertain a meeting (of people lobbying for a commission) when some individuals already knew how deep the scandal went,” Dunn says.

A proposal to establish the commission, which would have followed the model of the body that investigated the 9/11 attacks, had passed the House days prior to the group’s meeting. Ultimately, that plan was defeated in the Senate on May 28, the day after the group met with lawmakers. Only six Republicans backed the proposal, and 11 didn’t participate in the vote.

Lee was one of the Republican senators who voted to block the commission. At the time, he issued a statement criticizing it as a “a Kangaroo Commission to politicize the events of that day.” Specifically, Lee objected to the fact the commission proposal “contained broad investigative mandates even to areas outside the events of January 6th.”

Lee’s leaked text messages were exchanged with Trump’s former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in the weeks after President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump was projected on Nov. 7, 2020. The messages, which were published by CNN on April 15, are reportedly among those that have been obtained by the House select committee that was established to investigate the attack after the commission proposal was blocked by Lee and the other Republican senators. In one message dated Jan. 4, 2021, Lee indicated to Meadows he had “been spending 14 hours a day for the last week” working on getting support for overturning the election from state legislators. Garza says she found this particularly galling.

“I’m curious if he was putting any of that effort in trying to comfort any of the families of the officers who committed suicide shortly after the 6th, and I know he wasn’t,” Garza says of Lee.

Four police officers who responded to the violence committed suicide in the months after the attacks. Lee did not respond to a request for comment.

Garza says the meeting — which also included Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) — was particularly memorable due to Graham’s response as Fanone attempted to show the lawmakers his graphic body-camera footage from the attack.

“That meeting was the most seared into my brain because I couldn’t believe how disrespectful Lindsey Graham was being.… Mike made a point to show his body-cam footage to each lawmaker because that was so important to him,” Garza says, adding, “When he was showing this video … I’m watching Lindsey Graham look out the window, tap his fingers on the table, looking up at the ceiling, totally uninterested.”

Garza said she was “so upset” with Graham’s behavior that she interjected to tell him that he was “being disrespectful to officer Fanone.” According to Garza, it was Lee who came to Graham’s defense. “Mike Lee interjected and said, ‘Ma’am, I can tell you that’s just his normal day body language.’ … Giving me this kind of bullshit story defending him,” Garza recounts.

Graham and Scott both were among the Republicans who voted to block the commission. Braun was one of 11 senators who did not vote on the bill at all. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Asked about his opposition to the commission, a spokesperson for Scott pointed to a podcast hosted by The Economist in February, during which Scott suggested the events of that day showed “the good and the bad, the ugly and the sad.”

“But we should also recognize that the vast majority of us, just a few hours later, went in, codified the results of the election,” Scott says on the podcast. “We forget the part of the story where Republicans walked back into the chamber to vote to certify this election.”

While they did not support the commission to investigate January 6, Scott, Lee, and Graham did not object to the certification of the election results. Eight Republican senators and 139 House members voted against certifying 2020 election results.

Fanone said he had little faith in the meeting because of reports published that day that said Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was lobbying his colleagues to vote against the commission as “a personal favor” to him. While he had little confidence in the commission vote, Fanone said it was still important for him to personally share his footage with lawmakers, particularly since some Republicans have downplayed the violence.

“I went in there not thinking that I was going to change any of these hearts and minds, but I simply wanted them to know that I knew they were full of shit, that I had videotape evidence … and that I was going to keep talking about it publicly,” Fanone says.

After the Republican senators blocked the commission, the House established the select committee to investigate the attack. Last July, Dunn and Fanone gave emotional public testimony to the committee about their experience of the violence.

However, the concerns Garza and Fanone have with Lee’s dual role opposing the January 6 commission after participating in the efforts to overturn the election touch on one of the major questions surrounding the House select committee. Republican members of Congress were intimately involved in efforts to overturn the election on January 6. Activists involved in the planning of pro-Trump protests near the White House that day have told Rolling Stone they participated in extensive planning calls with Republican members of Congress. Multiple Republican House members were set to take part in pro-Trump protests in Washington that day, and even after the violence, 147 Republicans voted against the electoral certification. While the committee is taking a deep look at what happened that day — including the months of prior efforts to spread false conspiracy theories and challenge Trump’s loss — it has, thus far, shied away from subpoenaing members of Congress.

The House select committee does not have criminal authority, but it can make referrals to the Justice Department. In an email to Rolling Stone, Gladys Sicknick wrote it would be a “dereliction” of duty if Lee does not testify before the committee.

“Senator Lee is in a position to assist the process of determining what happened at the Capitol. I think that he, along with other officials, are duty-bound to offer testimony to the January 6th Commission as it seeks to establish whether what occurred was spontaneous, or a carefully planned insurrection,” Sicknick wrote. “It’s my hope that Mr. Lee will willingly and truthfully participate in the Congressional inquiry, according to his Oath to the Constitution.”

Garza said she wants to see the role of members investigated, and it’s part of why she supported an independent commission rather than a congressional committee. “You don’t know who’s tight with who, and who’s friends with who, and who will cover for who,” says Garza. “I mean, that’s why I wanted the independent commission.”

A select committee aide told Rolling Stone that “no decision has been made” on whether to subpoena members of Congress. There is, as The Atlantic noted last year, “no established historical or legal precedent regarding congressional power to enforce subpoenas against members of Congress.”

For his part, Fanone argues the committee might need to establish new norms.

“What we’re dealing with right now is unprecedented in American history,” Fanone says. “I think that we need to set aside all of the pomp and circumstance and actually just enforce the fucking law.”

In This Article: Donald Trump, Jan. 6, mike lee

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