Pa. Dems call for Perry to resign after reports put him at center of election 'crisis'

Staff and wire report
In this image from video, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., speaks as the House debates the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Pennsylvania, at the U.S. Capitol early Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (House Television via AP)

PHILADELPHIA — They couldn’t beat him at the polls in November, but leaders of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party on Sunday called for Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry to resign following news reports he urged President Donald Trump to use a lawyer from Philadelphia to try to overturn Joe Biden’s election as president.

“Scott Perry has disgraced South Central Pennsylvania, failed his country, and betrayed the trust of anyone who cares about our democracy. He is a stain on our Congress and must resign immediately,” state Democratic Party chair Nancy Patton Mills said in a statement.

If the Carroll Township Republican, who represents Harrisburg, Hershey and York, won’t quit, he should be removed from Congressional committee assignments by House GOP minority leader Kevin McCarthy, R.-Calif., and denied state and national congressional funding, Patton Mills added.

“There must be consequences for this conduct,” State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat who hopes to run for governor, said in a post on social media. Shapiro also wrote that Perry “should familiarize himself with” a section of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bars people from Congress who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or aided rebels against the government.

The Democratic Party of York County also weighed in, saying in an email statement: "From his continued calls to invalidate the 2020 election results to his involvement in coordinating an attempt to take over the United States Department of Justice with then-President Trump, Perry has shown he is not serving the constituents of his district, nor is he focused on anything other than his own self being.

"If Perry refuses to resign, we immediately call on Speaker of the House (Nancy) Pelosi to call for Perry’s expulsion from Congress."

More:Police: Washington Twp. man told Perry 'You deserve to have your head taken off'

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More:Perry questioned Pa.'s electors; now calls for calm during chaos

Liberal Democratic Philadelphia state Reps. Malcom Kenyatta and Brian Sims also called on Perry to resign.

Perry has faced calls to resign back home since after repeating Trump’s baseless claims and objecting to his own state’s Electoral College votes for   Biden.

He did so on the House floor just hours after rioters, egged on by Trump at a rally near the White House, stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing lawmakers to flee. Five people died in the attack, including a Capitol Police officer.

The York Dispatch has reached out to Perry's office for comment. Perry has not issued a public response. 

On Saturday, The New York Times reported Perry introduced attorney Jeffrey Bossert Clark, a northeast Philadelphia native, to Trump. The three allegedly discussed "a plan to have the Justice Department send a letter to Georgia state lawmakers informing them of an investigation into voter fraud that could invalidate the state’s Electoral College results."

The article noted former Justice Department officials briefed on the plan said dozens of investigations nationwide failed to turn up significant voter fraud.

Perry "played a significant role in the crisis that played out at the top of the Justice Department this month, when Mr. Trump considered firing the acting attorney general and backed down only after top department officials threatened to resign en masse," the newspaper reported.

Clark resigned from the Justice Department on Jan. 14, less than a week before the end of Trump’s presidency, and didn’t have a new job lined up at the time. One legal industry consultant said he’d be “radioactive” on the job market now.

Trump met with Clark at the urging of Perry, according to The New York Times, adding that Clark, unlike more senior lawyers working for the U.S. Department of Justice, believed election challengers might still make a successful legal case, despite the failures of court challenges by previous Trump lawyers.

The effort, which reportedly included a plan to replace acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Clark, was dropped after senior Justice Department officials who considered it futile to try to overturn the winner of a national election threatened to quit, according to news reports.

Perry, since Biden’s election, has condemned Democrats’ “hasty rush to judgment” in pushing a second impeachment of Trump. The “sham” vote on Jan. 13, he said in a statement at that time, “wouldn’t be fit for the Inquisition or prairie justice — it’s an embarrassing and dangerous stunt that furthers our American divide, and I proudly voted against it.”

Clark had been responsible for environmental law policy in Trump’s Justice Department. Trump had made simplifying and rolling back environmental rules that he said crippled industry a goal of his administration; he blamed excessive rules for destroying U.S. industrial jobs. Clark’s former law firm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday on whether it’s considering rehiring him.

Perry was one of eight Pennsylvania Republican Congressmen who voted against certifying the state’s vote for Biden, citing their concern about voting problems, despite courts’ dismissal of similar claims. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who is not running for reelection, and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., who represents electorally competitive Bucks County, voted with Democrats to confirm the totals.

Law firms are increasingly aware of reputation hits they could suffer from being connected with someone like Clark, said Kent Zimmermann, a legal industry consultant for the Zeughauser Group. The anti-Trump Lincoln Project, for example, has publicly targeted lawyers who challenged the presidential election results.

Saturday's New York Times article notes Perry’s involvement is "likely to heighten scrutiny of House Republicans who continue to advance Mr. Trump’s false and thoroughly debunked claims of election fraud, even after President Biden’s inauguration ... and as Congress prepares for an impeachment trial that will examine whether such talk incited the Capitol riot."

— The Philadelphia Inquirer, Bloomberg News, The Associated Press and The York Dispatch contributed to this report.