Scott Perry: Step forward or step down

York Dispatch editorial board

A number of bombshells were dropped during the House select committee’s first public hearing last week to share evidence gathered in its investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. One of them reverberated particularly loudly throughout Pennsylvania.

Committee vice-chair Rep. Liz Cheney asserted that Rep. Scott Perry was among a number of House Republicans who sought a pardon from outgoing President Donald Trump in the days following the capitol riot.

The five-term, York-area congressman took none too kindly to the allegation.

More:Scott Perry's alleged pardon request renews calls for criminal probe

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

More:Perry, other GOP lawmakers escalate standoff with Jan. 6 panel

“The notion that I ever sought a Presidential pardon for myself or other Members of Congress is an absolute, shameless, and soulless lie,” he declared on Twitter.

When it comes to shamelessness, we’re on a topic Perry knows something about. His efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election — up to and including attempts to throw out his own constituents’ votes — are the very definition of the word.

It was Perry, recall, who connected Trump with a relatively minor Justice Department official, fellow conspiracy theorist Jeffery Clark, who was willing to push the president’s fictional narrative of a stolen election. When Trump moved to fire acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen to make room for Clark, the top tier of the Justice Department threatened to resign en masse.

It was one of several potential constitutional crises that were narrowly averted in the months following the 2020 election and we have Scott Perry largely to thank for it.

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)

It was also among the actions taken by Perry and fellow Trump-loss deniers that Wyoming Republican Cheney described on CNN in April as, “a massive and well-organized and well- planned effort that used multiple tools to try to overturn an election. 

“It’s absolutely clear that what President Trump was doing, what a number of people around him were doing, that they knew it was unlawful,” she said. “They did it anyway.”

Here’s where allegations of pardon-seeking get dicey for Perry. One wouldn’t seek a pardon, seemingly, without having done something pardonable; without knowing it was unlawful and doing it anyway, to paraphrase Cheney.

“It’s hard to find a more explicit statement of consciousness of guilt than looking for a pardon for actions you’ve just taken, assisting in a plan to overthrow the results of a presidential election,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and member of the select committee, told reporters.

Of course, if the committee is mistaken in its pardon contention, Perry could easily clear up the matter by accepting members’ invitation to testify. It’s not too late; Cheney made clear last week that the investigation is continuing.

Perry could no doubt add much to the public’s understanding of events before and after Jan. 6, what with his outsized role in the ex-president’s scheming to illegally stay in office. It’s hard to imagine, for example, the committee not welcoming his account of a post-election meeting with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who then reportedly burned papers in his office.

If Perry truly believes his actions have been honorable, reputable and, most importantly, lawful, he should testify. If he has done nothing that would require a pardon and has taken no steps to secure one, he should declare so in a forum more substantive than a tweet.

He seemed to say as much himself in one of his friendly talk-radio echo chambers on Friday.

“I’m in the fight to serve our Republic, and if it means stepping out and having the light shown on me, I’m going to do it,” he said.

Offer accepted, congressman. Step into the light and serve our Republic by assisting an investigation into the most serious assault on it since the Civil War.

Because, as you added in that interview, “This is the price to be paid for service, and if you’re not willing to pay the price, quite honestly, you shouldn’t serve.”

We couldn’t agree more.