Rep. Scott Perry asked Trump for a pardon after Jan. 6, committee leader says as hearings open

Jeremy Roebuck and Jonathan Tamari
The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., one of the leading figures in the effort to throw out Pennsylvania’s votes in the 2020 presidential election, was one of several members of Congress who contacted the White House seeking a pardon from Donald Trump in the days after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, the vice chair of the House committee investigating the attack said in its first public hearing Thursday.

In her opening remarks of the committee’s primetime hearing, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R.-Wyo., referenced Perry, one of Trump’s most loyal allies in Congress, and one who took several steps to try to overturn the election results — including by trying to install an ally at the Department of Justice who would support Trump’s false claims about a stolen election.

When those efforts failed, Perry led the charge on Jan. 6 to block congressional certification of Pennsylvania’s election outcome. Hours after the Capitol riot, as blood and broken windows marked the building, Perry urged Congress to throw out Pennsylvania’s nearly 7 million votes. In the weeks leading up to that day, he had played a major role behind the scenes in trying to turn Trump’s election lie into reality.

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But Cheney’s description of Perry and other lawmakers seeking pardons was not publicly known before Thursday night.

“As you will see, Representative Perry contacted the White House in the weeks after January 6th to seek a presidential pardon,” Cheney said in a detailed opening statement. “Multiple other Republican congressmen also sought presidential pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.”

A group gathered to watch the January 6th hearing in York on Thursday, June 9, 2022.

Asked about the assertion, a Perry spokesman called it “a ludicrous and soulless lie.”

Perry has refused to respond to a committee request for an interview, saying its activities are out of compliance with House rules.

More:'His actions are treasonous': Protesters target Scott Perry on Jan. 6

Cheney mentioned Perry after detailing Trump’s efforts to replace then-Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen with someone who would be more willing to pressure state legislatures to undermine the election results. His suggested replacement was Jeffrey Bossert Clark, a Northeast Philadelphia native who Perry had introduced to Trump.

Clark has also refused to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Last year, Perry acknowledged connecting Trump and Clark, saying he had worked with Clark on legislative issues. “When President Trump asked if I would make an introduction, I obliged,” he said in a statement.

More:Perry: I 'obliged' Trump with introduction to Justice lawyer

In an October report, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee identified Perry and State Sen. Doug Mastriano, now the GOP nominee for Pennsylvania governor, as two of three key Trump allies who aided his efforts to subvert the election results and who have “notable” connections to the insurrection.

FILE - 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, on Aug. 23, 2021. The committee investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection has requested an interview with Perry. The Republican lawmaker is the first sitting member of Congress the panel has requested to speak with.  (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, File)

Perry and Mastriano directly contacted the Justice Department’s second-ranking official, Deputy Associate Attorney General Richard Donoghue, to reinforce Trump’s baseless claims, and to urge the department to investigate debunked accusations, the Senate report said in October.

When top Department of Justice officials balked at Trump’s attempts to usurp the results, Perry urged Trump to empower Clark.

Trump, in calls with top DOJ officials, cited Perry as one of the three key sources of information raising questions about the election results. And Perry pushed federal officials to investigate a false and debunked report purportedly showing that there were more votes in Pennsylvania than voters.

When that information was relayed to the Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania, the prosecutor dismissed it as “not well founded.”

Perry was recently elected as chairman of the House’s hard-right Freedom Caucus, a position that could give him significant sway over the chamber’s agenda if Republicans win a majority this fall. Perry was also one of 21 House members who voted against awarding Congressional Gold Medals to Capitol Police who fought the rioters, arguing that it would include a “politically motivated” narrative. (406 members voted to award the medals.)

More:Scott Perry votes against awarding medal to police who defended Capitol on Jan. 6

The Senate report in October also called for more scrutiny on Clark, a Justice Department lawyer who emerged as one of the strongest advocates for questioning the election results. After meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, the inquiry found, Clark pressed top Justice Department officials to issue a letter announcing they were investigating election fraud in key swing states and to urge lawmakers to appoint alternate slates of electors.

“I see no valid downsides to sending out the letter,” Clark wrote on Dec. 28 to acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Rosen and Donoghue, according to the report.

Seventy minutes later, Donoghue wrote back: “There is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this.”

Trump later considered installing Clark, a Tacony native and Father Judge High School graduate, as acting attorney general in an attempt to get more traction for his false fraud claims. He backed off when top department officials threatened a mass resignation.