The panel investigating the violent insurrection at the US Capitol is seeking an interview and phone records from the five-term Dauphin County congressman.
WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania on Tuesday rebuffed a request for him to sit down for an interview and turn over documents to the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 US Capitol insurrection, joining other allies of former President Donald Trump in trying to stonewall the committee.
“I stand with immense respect for our Constitution, the Rule of Law, and the Americans I represent who know that this entity is illegitimate, and not duly constituted under the rules of the US House of Representatives,” Perry said in a statement.
In a letter to Perry on Monday night, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the panel, said the panel had received evidence from multiple witnesses, including then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and then-acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, that Perry had “an important role” in efforts to install Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general.
The lawmaker’s refusal will test how far the committee is willing to go in its quest for information as members have so far resisted subpoenaing one of their own as they investigate the insurrection by Trump’s supporters and his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The letter is the first time the panel has publicly released a request to a fellow member of Congress as the members inquire about the details of Perry and other congressional Republicans who met with Trump ahead of the Capitol attack and strategized about how they could block the results at the Jan. 6 electoral count.
Also in the letter, Thompson added that while the panel “has tremendous respect for the prerogatives of Congress and the privacy of its Members,” it also has “a solemn responsibility to investigate fully all of these facts and circumstances.”
The committee has also asked for any documents and correspondence between Perry and Trump, his legal team or anyone involved in the planning of Jan. 6 events.
A request for comment left with Perry’s office was not immediately returned.
In January, Perry was the subject of a New York Times report, saying that he had introduced Trump to Clark who, according to the newspaper, discussed a plan to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Perry initially denied the report, only to confirm it several days later. Gov. Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta all called on Perry to resign in the wake of the report.
Perry was cited more than 50 times in a Senate Judiciary report released in October outlining how Trump’s effort to overturn his 2020 election defeat brought the Justice Department to the brink of chaos and prompted top officials there and at the White House to threaten to resign.
Perry, who has continuously disputed the validity of President Joe Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania, has said he obliged Trump’s request for an introduction to Clark, then an assistant attorney general whom Perry knew from unrelated legislative matters. The three men went on to discuss their shared concerns about the election, Perry has said.
The recent Senate report outlined a call Perry made to Donoghue last December to say the department wasn’t doing its job with respect to the elections. Perry encouraged Donoghue to elicit Clark’s help because he’s “the kind of guy who could really get in there and do something about this,” the report said.
Perry has previously said his “official communications” with Justice Department officials were consistent with the law.
Following the 2020 election, Perry, along with more than half of the Republicans in Pennsylvania’s Legislature and seven other Republican members of Congress from Pennsylvania, tried in court and in Congress to block the state’s electoral votes from going to Biden.
They have amplified unfounded tales of election fraud and irregularities. They described ballots cast by legal, eligible voters as “illegal ballots,” and distorted the actions of state election officials and judges as illegal or unconstitutional.
Even after the violent insurrection at the US Capitol, Perry and the seven other Republican congressmen from Pennsylvania not only voted against accepting the state’s electoral votes for Biden, but also against Trump’s second impeachment.
After Congress voted to accept Pennsylvania’s electoral votes for Biden, Perry issued a statement saying that he accepted the results, but still maintained that the election was tainted by “constitutional abuses.”
The Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud in Pennsylvania or any other state, and senior Justice officials dismissed Perry’s claims
The letter sent Monday night is the first time the panel has publicly released a request to a fellow member of Congress as it investigates Trump’s communications with his Republican allies. But the panel notably did not subpoena Perry, as it has other witnesses close to Trump whom lawmakers believe have relevant information.
In his letter to Perry, Thompson added that the panel “has tremendous respect for the prerogatives of Congress and the privacy of its Members. At the same time, we have a solemn responsibility to investigate fully all of these facts and circumstances.”
The panel voted in November to hold Clark in contempt after he showed up for a deposition yet declined to answer questions. But Thompson has said he will hold off pursuing the charges and allow Clark to attend another deposition and try again. Clark’s lawyer has said Clark intends to assert his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, but the deposition has been repeatedly postponed as Clark has dealt with an unidentified medical condition.
The panel has already interviewed around 300 people as it seeks to create a comprehensive record of the attack and the events leading up to it.
Trump at the time was pushing false claims of widespread voter fraud and lobbying Vice President Mike Pence and Republican members of Congress to try to overturn the count at the Jan. 6 congressional certification. Election officials across the country, along with the courts, had repeatedly dismissed Trump’s claims.
An angry mob of Trump supporters were echoing his false claims as they brutally beat Capitol police and broke into the building that day, interrupting the certification of Biden’s victory.
In his request for a meeting with Perry, Thompson wrote: “We would like to meet with you soon to discuss these topics, but we also want to accommodate your schedule.”
Perry, who is up for reelection in 2022, represents District 10, which includes Dauphin County and portions of Cumberland and York counties. Perry was elected in November to chair the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.