Texts show details of Pa. Rep. Scott Perry’s role in plan to overturn 2020 election

Rep. Scott Perry speaks from a microphone

In this file photo from August 2021, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) takes a question from a reporter at a news conference held by the House Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/AP Photo)

This story originally appeared on WITF.

The Jan. 6 Select Committee has received text messages that midstate Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry sent to White House staff, confirming Perry’s direct involvement in the Trump administration’s plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

In one exchange, on Dec. 26, 2020, Perry texted former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows: “Mark, just checking in as time continues to count down. 11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration. We gotta get going!”

Perry encouraged Meadows to talk to Jeffrey Clark, an assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice who was sympathetic to Trump’s voter fraud lies. The two planned to advocate for Clark’s promotion to attorney general. A U.S. Senate report said Clark planned to say the DOJ was investigating Georgia’s election results, despite no evidence to warrant a probe.

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That message was one of multiple Perry sent to Meadows revealed in a filing Friday in federal court by the Jan. 6 Select Committee. The back-and-forth sheds light on Perry’s involvement in Trump’s plan to overturn the legal election results and remain in power despite his loss.

Trump met Clark at the White House the following week and discussed elevating him to attorney general, but didn’t move forward after Justice Department officials and White House lawyers threatened to resign.

But Perry’s texts to Meadows came while that plan was still active.

“Mark, you should call Jeff,” he wrote about Clark. “I just got off the phone with him and he explained to me why the principal deputy won’t work especially with the FBI. They will view it as as [sic] not having the authority to enforce what needs to be done.”

Meadows responded, “Let me work on the deputy position.”

Perry messaged him back two days later: “Did you call Jeff Clark?”

Clark resigned from the DOJ one week after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The committee has not subpoenaed Perry for testimony, but he is the first sitting lawmaker to receive a request from the committee to testify.

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Perry was one of eight Pa. Republicans who voted against the commission.

He called the investigation part of the “failures of the radical Left” and “illegitimate,” despite federal courts repeatedly upholding its document requests.

On Tuesday, CNN published texts that Meadows handed to the Jan. 6 committee that show Perry appearing to urge Meadows to push debunked claims that Dominion voting machines were hacked by China.

“From an Intel friend: DNI needs to task NSA to immediately seize and begin looking for international comms related to Dominion,” Perry wrote to Meadows five days after the 2020 election.

He also accused then-CIA Director Gina Haspel of “covering” for those involved with the machines.

Perry, a fifth-term Republican who represents Dauphin and portions of York and Cumberland counties, began his term earlier this year as chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republican House members. The group formed in 2015 and doesn’t make its membership public. There are 43 U.S. House representatives who have identified themselves as members, many of whom are some of President Joe Biden’s largest detractors on Capitol Hill.

Freedom Caucus members worked to advance Trump’s agenda.

At times, they used disinformation to do so, such as when they called mail-in ballots “fraud-prone.” This is false. Numerous independent studies and election security officials found no widespread voter fraud anywhere in the country, including with mail-in voting.

According to the New York Times, Perry and other House Freedom Caucus members regularly held calls and meetings with Trump and his top aides in December 2020 as they devised a strategy to overturn the election.

The texts revealed by the Jan. 6 committee show Perry tried to pressure the Justice Department into corroborating false claims about widespread voter fraud, including “allegations that the Dominion voting machines had been corrupted.” Perry has been identified as “particularly notable” by the Committee, who recommended further investigation beyond their findings.

Hours after the U.S. Capitol was stormed by Trump supporters, Perry voted to not certify Pa.’s results despite county, state and federal judges and public officials of both political parties, and election experts, having concluded the 2020 election was free and fair.

Berwood Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research and the Floyd Institute for Public Policy at Franklin & Marshall College, said that Perry’s claims of voter fraud don’t line up with the facts.

“He was clearly one of the leaders in trying to get the election results overturned. An election, I would add, that he won handily,” Yost said, adding that he understands Perry’s rhetoric is a tool to “work up” his supporters.

“It’s really a dangerous thing for democracy. We need to trust our processes. And this is a real problem by continually calling into question the legitimacy of an election that, frankly, was very good for Republicans across the board. It doesn’t make much sense.”

In the court filing, the committee outlined Perry’s false claims of election fraud that he communicated with the DOJ. He alleged that 205,000 more votes were cast than voters registered in the commonwealth. In reality, votes in Pa. equaled the same amount as registered voters who voted, according to an audit of the commonwealth’s election.

Perry falsely claimed that over 4,000 Pennsylvanians voted more than once. But only three instances of double voting have been identified to date in Pennsylvania, and all three were attempts to vote twice for Trump.

He also claimed that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar were responsible for creating “confusion, chaos, and instilling fear” in voters about being infected by COVID-19 by encouraging voters to vote by mail rather than in person. Pa. officials said multiple times that they promoted voting by mail to ensure fair voter access during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yost said Perry continues to push disinformation about Pa.’s election security, despite the unpopularity of the claims.

According to polls conducted last year by F&M’s Center for Opinion Research, 51% of respondents “strongly disagree” with the eight Pa. representatives in Congress who voted against certifying the commonwealth’s 2020 election results. When Republicans in the state legislature were planning an investigation into the election, which is now ongoing, 45% of respondents said they “strongly oppose” such an investigation. And, about 9 in 10 said another event like the Capitol attack on Jan. 6 would be “bad for our democracy.”

“When we ask questions about the most important problems facing the state, election integrity shows up very rarely. People care about the economy. They care about the fact that the government is so divided and politicians aren’t getting things done,” he said. “I’m concerned about the fact that we’ve had multiple recounts in this state, there is no evidence of this, that multiple challenges have shot this down.”

Pa.’s 2020 primary and general election were determined multiple times to be accurate, legal, and secure by various election security authorities both from and outside the commonwealth.

Perry did not return a request for comment.

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