WASHINGTON ― Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) acknowledged Tuesday that it probably wasn’t a federal agent disguised as a Donald Trump supporter in a picture he posted last week.
The Utah Republican had said he wanted to ask FBI Director Christopher Wray about a claim on social media that new footage from inside the U.S. Capitol as it was under siege on Jan. 6, 2021, showed a man in a MAGA hat flashing a badge to police officers.
The images supposedly bolstered the conspiracy theory that the federal government orchestrated the riot ― until an NBC News reporter identified the man as Kevin Lyons, an Illinois resident who in July was sentenced to four years in prison for his actions that day.
HuffPost caught up with Lee on Tuesday and said that since Lyons was in prison, he was probably not some kind of federal agent.
“Yeah. Sounds right to me,” Lee said.
Lee hasn’t deleted his social media messages about Lyons or recanted his statements, but his remark on Tuesday showed a willingness to acknowledge facts that some other Republicans don’t share.
Several House GOP members, for instance, maintained that an Arizona man named Ray Epps must have been working for the government on Jan. 6 even after Epps pleaded guilty in September to disorderly conduct on restricted grounds.
“If they think that this is going to get me to stop talking about this guy, hell no, it’s not,” Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) told HuffPost.
Epps had encouraged other Trump supporters to storm the Capitol and was arbitrarily singled out as a “fed” by lawmakers looking to deflect blame from the then-president for the attack while Congress met to count the Electoral College vote, which Joe Biden won. The lawmakers echoed dubious amateur video analysis highlighting allegedly suspicious behavior by Epps ― just as Lee did with Lyons, whose “badge” turned out to have been a vaping device.
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) earlier this month announced Republicans would release thousands of hours of footage from inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 so that people could see the full truth of what happened. Conspiracy theorists have been having a field day with the new material.
Lee’s spokesperson told NBC News last week that the “American people deserve to be treated like adults regarding the events of January 6th and should be given all available information.” He suggested Tuesday that he had been trying to make a point about the FBI director needing to answer questions in general.
“I got a lot of questions for the FBI director about all sorts of things,” Lee said.