There Are Lies ... and There Are Big Lies | Cover Story | Salt Lake City Weekly

January 13, 2021 News » Cover Story

There Are Lies ... and There Are Big Lies 

Tweets from Utah's delegation—and how some elected officials helped enable Donald Trump's ruse.

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Compiled by Jerre Wroble

Even prior to losing his bid for re-election in early November, President Donald Trump and his minions began floating conspiracies at his rallies and on social media about widespread voter fraud. And despite the Electoral College affirming Joe Biden's win over Trump with a vote of 306-232, Trump continued to complain of voter fraud, even after more than 80 judges found his claims without merit. As the world witnessed, his lies eventually drew a massive crowd to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, followed by a destructive insurrection on Capitol Hill that led to five deaths, including a Capitol Police officer. And tragically, after that day of infamy, another longtime Capitol Police officer, off duty, committed suicide.

On Jan. 6, when both houses of Congress met to certify the results of the Electoral College and formally recognize the election of the Joseph Biden—it was considered by many to be a perfunctory ceremony.

However, not all congressional representatives saw it as such. Some viewed it as Donald Trump's last chance to overturn the presidential election of 2020, and as such, they planned to announce objections, hoping to throw out voting results from key contested states.

Prior to the Senate's certifcation, Senate President Mitch McConnell split from the president, urging objectors to steer clear of their stated intentions: "We're debating a step that has never been taken in American history, whether Congress should overrule the voters and overturn a presidential election. I've served 36 years in the Senate. This will be the most important vote I've ever cast. President Trump claims the election was stolen. ... Dozens of lawsuits received hearings in courtrooms all across our country, but over and over, the courts rejected these claims, including all-star judges whom the president himself has nominated. ... The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken. They've all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever."

Yet, before and even following the attack by so-called "patriots" at the Capitol, eight senators and 139 representatives would vote to sustain objections to the Electoral College results. Of those, two representatives—District 4's Burgess Owens and District 2's Chris Stewart—were from Utah.

In the end, in the early morning hours of Jan. 7, after a day of insurrection and mayhem at the Capitol, Owens and Stewart split in the actual votes, supporting an objection to votes in Pennsylvania but opposing an objection to Arizona's count.

It's easy enough to tie Trump's fiery rhetoric to the "patriot" riot. But what of Utah's congressional representatives? By not nipping in the bud Trump's "great lie"—that the voting process was flawed and that Trump won the election by a landslide—are any of Utah's delegation complicit? Where did they stand on the matter?

Here's a glimpse at how the Utah's D.C. officials voted on the Electoral College certification, which ultimately showed Biden the winner. We've also included the congressmen's Twitter feeds leading up to and after the vote.

Finally, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes played a special role in perpetuating the Big Lie, especially when he took it upon himself in early November to travel to Nevada looking for voting irregularities. In addition, without consulting other Utah officials, he joined Utah to a Supreme Court case, calling into question election results in a number of battleground states.

You can decide who our real patriorts are. That is, if we can keep our republic.

click to enlarge Rep. Blake Moore - WIKI COMMONS
  • Wiki Commons
  • Rep. Blake Moore

1st District Rep. Blake Moore
Voted to CERTIFY the Electoral College votes

Voted AGAINST invoking the 25th Amendment

Voted AGAINST impeachment

Twitter feed: Jan. 6
Thank you for your outreach & support. I was evacuated from the House Floor. My team & I are safe. Appreciative of Capitol Police and their service. This saddens & troubles me greatly.

Jan. 7
The assault on the U.S. Capitol yesterday was deeply upsetting. Violence & intimidation against the Legislative Branch are unacceptable and un-American, & I urge Americans to unite & welcome a peaceful transfer of power.

I urge states across the USA to follow Utah's secure & efficient election process to address serious concerns about the integrity of their systems.

Read my full statement on the vote here:

Excerpt: "As I stated in August, I have been concerned that many states rushed to implement mail-in balloting systems during the pandemic. It took Utah several years to ensure we had a secure and efficient election process to address the integrity of mail-in ballots."

I could not in principle object or vote to agree to the objection, but I promise that I will fight for every American's voice to be heard and every voter to have trust in our system."

Jan. 8
I want to personally thank @CapitolPolice fallen officer Brian Sicknick's family for his sacrifice to me, my colleagues, and our country. I pray the families of all 5 lives lost and those injured are comforted.

click to enlarge Rep. Chris Stewart - WIKI COMMONS
  • Wiki Commons
  • Rep. Chris Stewart

2nd District Rep. Chris Stewart
Voted to OBJECT to counting the Electoral College votes

Voted AGAINST invoking the 25th Amendment

Voted AGAINST impeachment

Twitter feed: Jan. 4
After serious thought and consideration, I will not vote to certify the election. I believe there are critical questions that need to be answered concerning our Presidential election.

Voting is the most important duty we exercise in a republic. By my objection to certify the election, I am safeguarding the sanctity of each vote.

President-elect Joe Biden deserves to enter his Presidency without this cloud hanging over him, President Trump deserves answers, and most importantly, the American people deserve to have their confidence in our elections restored.

Until we have resolved the issues surrounding voting irregularities, ballot integrity and security, and the implementation of state election laws, I can not, in good conscience, uphold the oath I took to protect and defend our constitution by voting to certify the election.

Jan. 6
Protesters who are breaking windows, threatening violence, and accosting police are behaving inexcusably. It is un-American. This must stop now!

Watching & hearing what's going on here continues to make me sick & angry. I've spent my life in the military & serving my country in Congress. I understand people's fears & frustrations over the election. But nothing excuses this behavior. Its selfish & destructive. Stop it now!

Huge appreciation for our @CapitolPolice. I was locked in a small room with them for a couple of hours surrounded by violence and anger. They were calm and professional every moment. They represent the best our nation has to offer.

Today should have been the time for thoughtful & respectful debate, instead, it was overcome by a disgusting demonstration of lawlessness. As a result, effective debate has been eclipsed by fear for the future of our country. We must take a moment to reflect & unite as a nation.

I have continued concerns over the security and integrity of our elections. I am committed to restoring Americans' faith in our election process & democracy and I support the efforts of Sen. Tim Scott's 2020 Bipartisan Advisory Committee.

I have dedicated much of my life to serving my country in the Air Force & now as a Member of Congress. I have known brave patriots & know what true patriotism is. The behavior we saw today is not patriotism & I condemn the violent behavior exhibited by the mob at the Capitol.

Any encouragement of violent and illegal behavior is inappropriate, especially from our Commander in Chief.

America can do better than today. America must do better than today. We are a resilient nation who, time and time again, comes together after opposition to uphold the pillars of our republic. I have faith in our nation and I have faith in our democracy.

click to enlarge Rep. John Curtis - WIKI COMMONS
  • Wiki Commons
  • Rep. John Curtis

3rd District Rep. John Curtis
Voted to CERTIFY the Electoral College votes

Voted AGAINST invoking the 25th Amendment

Voted AGAINST impeachment

Twitter feed Jan. 5
I plan to respect each state's decision, certify the election, and continue to work with my colleagues on solutions for Utah.

On January 6, Congress will fulfill its Constitutional mandate to certify the Electoral College results and finalize the presidential election. In recognition of my responsibility in this process, I have studied my role and it is clear to me that I have a duty to speak on behalf of the election process in Utah and listen to any objection raised by my fellow lawmakers concerning their state. I have seen no evidence of wrongdoing within Utah and have no plans to object to Utah's Electoral College certificates. In fact, as I have watched the election process in Utah, I see within it a model for other states across the country.

Federalism is a core principle of our country and an important piece of that is respecting each state's election procedures and outcomes. The Constitution grants Congress the specific authority to count electoral votes, not debate the merits of each state's election laws or the validity of the electors they choose to send—to do so would be to federalize the election process, taking fundamental rights away from states. I have consistently opposed when Democrats have made such attempts and I will not use one standard for my party and a different one for the other. Therefore, I plan to respect each state's decision, certify the election, and continue to work with my colleagues on solutions for Utahns.

As I have said many times before: I have faith in America's election system and those who work tirelessly to ensure our elections are secure. That's not to say there isn't work to do. Americans deserve an election process that leaves no question of integrity and I am committed to supporting our state leaders and working with my colleagues to ensure election security, without further federalizing our elections."

Taking constituent calls here in DC—happy to chat about my decision not to object to the electoral college count tomorrow or any other issues that are important to you.

I've spent most of today talking with constituents and colleagues about the process tomorrow to certify the #ElectoralCollege results. Here's why I won't be objecting.

Jan. 6
Today's proceedings are extremely important. I'm watching the #ElectoralCollege Joint Session from my office and will go to the floor to vote after each objection.

My staff and I are safe— thank you to @CapitolPolice for working tirelessly.

It's totally inappropriate what's happening here at the Capitol. This is not who we are, we're better than this. My plea is that we use all our influence to tone this down & return to reasonable debate.

The United States Capitol is the Temple of Liberty and should be treated with respect & honor. The riots both in and outside the building are unacceptable and un-American. The President owes it to the American people to publicly call for an end to these riots. If this were in any other country, we would be condemning these actions and calling for their leaders to stop the violence. Those protesting say they are doing so in the best interest of America—but if that were true, they would end their assault on this sacred institution.

My anger continues to grow over today's desecration of the United States Capitol, our nation's home. What happened was an act of domestic terrorism inspired and encouraged by our President.

Frustrations with elections I can understand, but the justification for the actions of the president and the mob I cannot. No American, no elected leader, and certainly no president who participates, inspires, or condones actions such as these has my sympathy or support.

click to enlarge Rep. Burgess Owens - WIKI COMMONS
  • Wiki Commons
  • Rep. Burgess Owens

4th District Rep. Burgess Owens
Voted to OBJECT to counting the Electoral College votes

Voted AGAINST invoking the 25th Amendment

Voted AGAINST impeachment

Twitter feed: Jan. 3
Today, I took an oath to defend the constitution; an oath I do not take lightly. I'm honored #UT04 has chosen me to represent them in Washington. I promise to serve you to the best of my ability. From Juab & Sanpete to Utah & Salt Lake counties, thank you. I will make you proud.

Jan. 6
Proud to sign this statement alongside so many of my colleagues. We owe it to the American people to protect the integrity of our electoral system. Period.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – 37 Republican members of Congress today issued the following statement in advance of the joint session of Congress at 1 p.m. today: *** In the joint session of Congress today, we...

I am heartsick over what happened at the Capitol today. This is a sad day for our nation.

I was looking forward to giving my first floor speech. Telling the story of my great-great grandfather, my grandfather, and my father—who, regardless of their incredible success, were denied the right to vote.

I hoped—on behalf of those who felt or who were disenfranchised—to ask that we take a serious look at the transparency of our electoral process. Because of the unacceptable mob violence demonstrated today, I did not get that chance.

It is time for us to unite and focus on healing our country. I look forward to working with my colleagues to identify solutions that will restore faith in our democracy, and to getting back to the people's work.

Jan. 9
I continue to mourn the loss of @CapitolPolice Officer Brian Sicknick and pray for his family. His selfless service will always be remembered, and the individuals responsible must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

click to enlarge Sen. Mike Lee - WIKI COMMONS
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  • Sen. Mike Lee

Sen. Mike Lee
Voted to CERTIFY the Electoral College votes

"Our job is to open and then count."

Twitter feed: Jan. 6
Our job is to open and then count. Open and then count. That's it. That is all there is

The violence at the United States Capitol is completely unacceptable. It is time for the protesters to disperse. My staff and I are safe. We are working to finish our constitutional duty to finish counting votes today. God bless the Capitol Police keeping us all safe.

Jan. 8
The brave men and women of the Capitol Police put their lives on the line defending us from a violent mob Wednesday. Fourteen of them were hospitalized from injuries they suffered while protecting us and now one of them, Officer Brian Sicknick, has died. My family and I offer our deepest condolences and prayers to the Sicknick family. My colleagues and I will do everything we can to make sure those responsible for Officer Sicknick's death are brought to justice.

click to enlarge Sen. Mitt Romney - WIKI COMMONS
  • Wiki Commons
  • Sen. Mitt Romney

Sen. Mitt Romney
Voted to CERTIFY the Electoral College votes

"The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth."

Twitter feed: Jan. 2
The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic.

Jan. 6
Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.

We must not be intimidated or prevented from fulfilling our constitutional duty. I urge my colleagues to move forward with completing the electoral count, to refrain from further objections, and to unanimously affirm the legitimacy of the presidential election.

The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth. That is the burden, and the duty, of leadership.

click to enlarge Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes - WIKI COMMONS
  • Wiki Commons
  • Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes
"Biden & his allies know @POTUS will win if only verified, #legal votes are counted."

While not a U.S. congressman, Sean Reyes believed he had a role to play in this national election. He had just been reelected Utah's attorney general in the November 2020 election when he departed Utah for Nevada to look for signs of voter fraud. Trump would go on to claim (in error) that "many thousands of noncitizens voted" in Nevada. "They are totally ineligible to vote!" he added.

To the surprise of many state leaders, Reyes then teamed up with 16 attorneys general to join Utah to a lawsuit intended to undo Biden's win in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin. The suit, originally filed by Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court, with Donald Trump tweeting: "I am very disappointed in the United States Supreme Court, and so is our great country!"

Since the riots, Reyes has come under fire for his involvement with the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which views itself as the last line of defense against Democratic government overreach. In a story first reported on Jan. 7 by watchdog group Documented, a fundraising arm of RAGA—the Rule of Law Defense Fund—was listed as a participating organization on the now-deleted March to Save America website. The rally immediately preceded the Capitol uprising and featured Donald J. Trump and Rudy Giuliani as speakers.

The RAGA executive director has since disavowed "authorized" involvement at the rally, claiming it was a staff decision "to amplify a colleague speaking at the event" that included Texas AG Paxton telling the crowd: "We will not quit fighting."

The Rule of Law Defense Fund was also behind robocalls encouraging people to march on the U.S. Capitol, with a recording saying, "At 1 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal," according to NBC News.

The Utah AG's Office addressed Reyes' involvement with RLDF, stating he ran the fund "until this past fall," presumedly up until Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall took over. Marshall told NBC News he was new to the job, did not know about the robocalls and planned to investigate how they came to be.

When Utah State Senate-elect Mike McKell asked Reyes about his involvement in the rally, the Utah Office of the Attorney General tweeted:

"Attorney General Reyes is the former chairman of RLDF as of fall 2020. RLDF focuses on research and policy development. Under his tenure, RLDF was not involved in any political rallies. AG Reyes was not involved in organizing the rally in Washington, D.C. He supports everyone's right to peacefully protest and as stated previously condemns in the strongest possible terms all acts of violence and lawlessness at the Capitol Building last week."

The following tweets illustrate Reyes' post-election efforts in furtherance of the "big lie":

Twitter feed: Nov 6, 2020
Despite months of predictions about a "blue wave," @GOP kept the Senate & expanded seats in the House. Biden & his allies know @POTUS will win if only verified, #legal votes are counted. We are making sure that happens but looks like courts may have to decide that. #RuleOfLaw

On personal leave time to help prepare and support litigation in several states dealing with compromised election process.

To clarify a prior tweet, I am not taking a leave of absence from the AG's Office. I am taking a personal weekend to help review and advise on potential lawsuits related to ensuring all legal votes are counted.

Some mistakes were likely made innocently. Others appear very intentional. But, in either case, we should carefully review and remedy any such irregularities. For the sake of our nation and whomever wins this election, let's make sure it is done fairly everywhere. #RuleOfLaw

But, if even some actions in battleground states resulted in improper votes being counted or proper votes being rejected, that compromises the overall fairness of the electoral process and can disenfranchise the votes of millions of Americans.

I certainly do not believe all votes in the 2020 election are fraudulent — many dedicated volunteers and officials across the nation, including in Utah, worked hard to ensure a fair process.

Jan. 6, 2021
I condemn, in the strongest terms, the acts of violence at our nation's Capitol Building today. I pray for the safety of law enforcement working to keep order, for legislators of all parties as well as other civilians who are protesting peacefully.

There is no place for violence in our political discourse, even over the most serious issues and disagreements. We are a nation of laws. This is not how Conservatives and Republicans behave. We are the party of law and order. We uphold the rule of law. This is unacceptable.

This story has been updated to include House representatives' votes on invoking the 25th Amendment and the impeachment of President Trump

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