GOP senator accuses fellow Republican of spreading ‘fake news’ about criminal justice reform bill

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCawthorn, Lee introduce bills banning interstate travel vaccine mandate Retreating economy creates new hurdle for Democrats in 2022 McConnell vows GOP won't help raise debt ceiling in December after Schumer 'tantrum' MORE (R-Utah) called out fellow Republican Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - House debt vote today; Biden struggles to unite Arkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike MORE (Ark.) Monday, saying he was spreading “100% fake news” about a pending criminal justice reform bill. 

Lee was referring to a tweet from Cotton on Saturday saying there had been no hearings on the First Step Act, which seeks to overhaul the criminal justice system.

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Cotton also asserted that the legislation “gives early release to 'low level, nonviolent' criminals like those convicted of assaulting police, even with deadly weapons.”

“I highly respect my colleague from Arkansas but everything in his tweet and this thread is 100% fake news,” Lee said in his tweet, referring to Cotton's assertions.

Lee went on to refute Cotton’s other assertions, including by saying that "the First Step Act does not 'give early release' to anyone. Anyone claiming it does, does not understand how the bill works."

Last week, President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE publicly voiced his support of the legislation at a news conference, saying “I’ll be waiting with my pen” to sign it.

Cotton has been an outspoken critic of the legislation as well as previous attempts at criminal justice reform.

He released a statement last week announcing his opposition and penned an op-ed in USA Today, writing that "so-called 'criminal-justice reform' ... is just a misguided effort to let serious felons out of prison." 

Lee tweeted that if Cotton “has good faith problems with this bill then he should welcome a full and open debate on the Senate floor.”

The First Step Act passed the House in May with bipartisan support by a 360-59 vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill A politicized Supreme Court? That was the point The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Democrats optimistic after Biden meetings MORE (R-Ky.) is reportedly warning Trump and other advocates of the bill that it's unlikely the Senate will take up the legislation this year because of a tight floor schedule.