In the weeks between the 2020 election and the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, almost 100 text messages from two staunch GOP allies of then-President Donald Trump reveal an aggressive attempt to lobby, encourage and eventually warn the White House over its efforts to overturn the election, according to messages obtained by the House select committee and reviewed by CNN.
The texts, which have not been previously reported, were sent by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. The text exchanges show that both members of Congress initially supported legal challenges to the election but ultimately came to sour on the effort and the tactics deployed by Trump and his team.
“We’re driving a stake in the heart of the federal republic,” Roy texted Meadows on January 1. That text was first released in December by the House select committee and described as being written by a House Freedom Caucus member. Roy’s authorship has not been previously reported.
When situated in the overall timeline of events between the election and January 6, the series of texts from Lee and Roy provide new details about how two Trump allies went from fierce advocates of the former President’s push to overturn Joe Biden’s win to disheartened bystanders. By January 3, Lee was texting Meadows that the effort “could all backfire badly.”
But shortly after the election, both men were encouraging Trump to keep fighting.
In a series of texts to Meadows on November 7, Lee offered his “unequivocal support for you to exhaust every legal and constitutional remedy at your disposal to restore Americans faith in our elections.”
Lee went on: “This fight is about the fundamental fairness and integrity of our election system. The nation is depending upon your continued resolve. Stay strong and keep fighting Mr. President.”
Also on November 7, Roy wrote to Meadows, “We need ammo. We need fraud examples. We need it this weekend.”
In a statement to CNN, Lee’s communications director, Lee Lonsberry, said, “I’d like to highlight that Senator Lee has been fully transparent,” pointing to how Lee had called for an investigation into claims of fraud in the 2020 election but ultimately recognized Biden as president-elect and voted to certify the electoral results on January 6.
Roy Communications Director Nate Madden told CNN the text messages “speak for themselves.”
In a tweet on Friday, Roy wrote: “Been off social media this Good Friday, but apparently there’s quite a stir. I’ll say this once. No apologies for my private texts or public positions – to those on the left or right. I stand behind seeking truth, fighting nonsense, & then acting in defense of the Constitution.”
An attorney for Meadows did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
A spokesperson for the select committee declined to comment.
A source familiar with the committee’s work tells CNN that Lee’s texts “reflect he was a cheerleader before he was against it. He uses legal language to push blatant conspiracy theorists into the Trump orbit.”
‘Can you help her get in?’
Over a few days in November, Lee lobbied Meadows to get attorney Sidney Powell access to Trump.
“Sydney Powell is saying that she needs to get in to see the president, but she’s being kept away from him,” Lee wrote to Meadows on November 7. “Apparently she has a strategy to keep things alive and put several states back in play. Can you help get her in?”
Lee then sent Meadows Powell’s cell number and her email.
On November 9, Lee again pressed Meadows about Powell, calling her a “straight shooter.”
That same day, Roy warned Meadows about Trump’s approach, texting him, “We must urge the President to tone down the rhetoric, and approach the legal challenge firmly, intelligently and effectively without resorting to throwing wild desperate haymakers or whipping his base into a conspiracy frenzy.”
Then came the now-infamous news conference on November 19, where members of Trump’s legal team – including Powell, Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis – laid out a series of false claims and conspiracy theories about alleged voter fraud.
The messages started to take on a more critical tone.
“Hey brother - we need substance or people are going to break,” Roy texted on November 19, a few hours after the news conference wrapped.
Two hours later, Lee texted Meadows with serious concerns, saying he was “worried about the Powell press conference.”
Lee told Meadows, “The potential defamation liability for the president is significant here.
“For the campaign and for the president personally.
“Unless Powell can back up everything she said, which I kind of doubt she can.”
Meadows responded, “I agree. Very concerned.”
The news conference came as Trump’s legal losses piled up in his effort to challenge the results in key swing states.
From Powell to Eastman
By late November, Lee had shifted away from Powell and started promoting right-wing lawyer John Eastman, who a federal judge in California said last month may have been planning a crime with Trump as they sought to disrupt the January 6 congressional certification of the presidential election, calling it “a coup in search of a legal theory.”
Privately Roy was also texting Meadows with support for Eastman, and criticizing Giuliani.
“Have you talked to John Eastman?” Roy texted on November 22. “Get Eastman to file in front of pa board of elections…
“Get data in front of public domain.
“Frigging rudy needs to hush.”
By December, both Republican lawmakers express grave concerns to Meadows about the plan to challenge the certification of the election on January 6.
On December 16, Lee asked Meadows for guidance: “If you want senators to object, we need to hear from you on that ideally getting some guidance on what arguments to raise.
“I think we’re now passed the point where we can expect anyone will do it without some direction and a strong evidentiary argument.”
On December 31 Roy expressed even more concern in a text to Meadows.
“The president should call everyone off. It’s the only path. If we substitute the will of states through electors with a vote by congress every 4 years… we have destroyed the electoral college… Respectfully,” Roy wrote.
By this time, Trump and his allies were working behind the scenes to enlist portions of the federal government in the effort to overturn the election. That included urging Justice Department officials, including then-Attorney General William Barr, to investigate fraud even after the agency had declared there was none. Trump was also putting heavy pressure on then-Vice President Mike Pence not to certify the election on January 6.
In a January 3 text to Meadows, Lee argued that Trump’s effort to have states send alternate slates of electors to Congress was not legitimate.
“I only know that this will end badly for the President unless we have the Constitution on our side,” Lee texted in a note to Meadows. “And unless these states submit new slates of Trump electors pursuant to state law, we do not,” Lee wrote to Meadows.
As CNN has previously reported, the plan to replace authentic electors with fake ones in a handful of swing states was orchestrated by allies of the former President and overseen by his then-attorney Giuliani.
None of those alternate slates of pro-Trump electors received sign-off from state officials or were put before Congress.
While Lee and Roy both voted to certify the electoral results in favor of Biden, more than 100 of their GOP colleagues in both the House and Senate did not. Chief among them were Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, both of whom Lee called out in his texts to Meadows.
“I have grave concerns with the way my friend Ted is going about this effort,” Lee wrote to Meadows. “This will not inure to the benefit of the president.”
Lee added that unless new, competing slates of electors were put forward in accordance with state law, the net effect “could help people like Ted and Josh to the detriment of DJT.”
When January 6 finally came, neither Lee nor Roy joined their colleagues in objecting to the 2020 presidential election results.
After the violence unfolded and Congress returned to session, Roy said on the House floor, “The President should never have spun up certain Americans to believe something that simply cannot be.”
He also texted Meadows, “This is a sh*tshow.
“Fix this now.”
This story has been updated with Rep. Chip Roy’s tweet on Friday.
CNN’s Tara Subramanian contributed to this report.