Harrisburg-area Congressman Scott Perry finds himself at the center of the latest revelation about former President Donald J. Trump’s refusal to accept President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s electoral victory last fall, and Trump’s seemingly unending schemes to try to undo it.
Perry was identified in a New York Times report Saturday evening as the person who introduced Trump to a senior U.S. Department of Justice attorney who was open to Trump’s unproven claims of election fraud and, according to the Times reporting, may have been interested in providing a route around more senior leaders who had steadfastly rejected them.
In an earlier report on Friday, the Times described the scheme revolving around attorney Jeffrey Clark, in which Trump had apparently discussed firing Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in the dying days of his administration, replacing him with Clark, and seeing if that could give new juice to block Biden’s win at the state or federal levels.
Biden was sworn into office on Jan. 20.
Clark, at the time the alleged plot was coming together, was the Acting Assistant Attorney General of Justice’s Civil Division. The Times has also reported that he is claiming that some aspects of the Times’ reports on the situation -— based on interviews with four other DOJ officials — are incorrect.
Clark also told The Times he could not discuss any conversations with Mr. Trump or Justice Department lawyers because of “the strictures of legal privilege… Senior Justice Department lawyers, not uncommonly, provide legal advice to the White House as part of our duties,” he said. “All my official communications were consistent with law.”
Perry, a conservative Republican from northern York County who was just re-elected to his fifth term in the House of Representatives, did not reply to text or telephone messages left by PennLive Saturday, first left in an effort to determine if he might have been the unnamed “Pennsylvania politician” that the Times identified as the conduit between Clark and Trump in its initial report.
As a result, it was not clear Saturday night what Perry’s role was in the ongoing Trump – Clark conversations, if any, beyond first introducing Clark to the president as someone who, as the Times reported, “agreed that fraud had affected the election results.”
The Times, in its report, also said that it could not get any responses from Perry.
In emailed responses to a PennLive question about whether he accepted Biden’s election last week, Perry said he did, though he still had fundamental problems with the way the election had been administered in Pennsylvania.
In fact, he was the leader of the floor fight to get Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral college votes invalidated in the House earlier this month, in the hours after the police and National Guard members had reclaimed the U.S. Capitol from pro-Trump mobs who had violently stormed the building during Congress’s session on Jan. 6.
Here’s Perry’s emailed response to PennLive from Jan. 15 about whether he had any doubts about the validity of Biden’s win in Pennsylvania.
“Whether you identify as Republican, Democrat, Independent or other, American voters need to trust that their vote counted, and equally trust that no illegal vote nullified their voice. This is not – nor has it ever been – about one person or achieving a certain outcome. It is a mission to ensure the preservation of the very heart of our Republic – a free and fair election.
“There continue to be unresolved issues that will be vetted over the next few weeks by the Pennsylvania House and the courts. In the end, what we should all hope for is that all Pennsylvanians are able to look one another in the eye and know without a shadow of doubt that their elections are secure and their voices equally heard.
“While our objection as prescribed by the Constitution ultimately failed, the constitutional concerns of my constituents were recognized by the Speaker and aired before our Nation in accordance with the sacrosanct process intended by our Founders and codified by the Constitution. Congress upheld its duty, and Joe Biden was certified as President-Elect of the 2020 election.
“I accept the results, and have always respected the Office of the President of the United States — regardless of who sits in it. I fully intend, however, to continue to work with my colleagues at the state and federal levels to strengthen election integrity to ensure that these constitutional abuses never happen again. We simply must have — and restore —faith and trust in our electoral system. The future of our Republic, and the millions of Americans who have fought and sacrificed for it, deserve nothing less.”
In the end, the effort to replace Rosen with Clark was dropped. The Times’ account said that happened because virtually the entire rank of top managers at the Department of Justice had learned of the effort and indicated they would resign en masse, and Trump eventually worried that that mass exodus would only further undercut his diminishing efforts to stay in office.
For a lawmaker who’s willingness to shoot from the hip has regularly left him exposed to ridicule by critics and left even some supporters cringing, the latest episode may put Perry on the national radar to the greatest extent yet.
Next month, Trump is set to stand trial in the U.S. Senate on articles of impeachment that blame him for inciting the violence at the Capitol this month. And the plot to execute an 11th-hour Department of Justice change-out – which seemed particularly focused on attacking Biden’s electoral win in Georgia – could add to the argument that Trump was willing to anything to cling to office.
One rising state Democrat was already calling on Perry to resign hos office Saturday night: “Scott Perry, this is not your first time being a national embarrassment but make it your last – resign,” said Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia.
And Attorney General Josh Shapiro fired off a Tweet calling for “consequences” for Perry’s actions.
Top Republicans who spoke with PennLive earlier Saturday, and were not aware of Perry’s involvement in the DOJ scheme, said Trump’s fascination with overturning Georgia’s results appeared to come from the fact that that loss caught his campaign the most by surprise, and it was the closest of the swing states.
The Trump campaign appeared to have hoped, they added, that if they could get Georgia blocked, other states might follow suit until Biden’s electoral college majority was undone.
The Times story on Saturday evening that identified the “Pennsylvania politician” as Perry wrote about he and Clark in the context that their involvement showed how Trump, in his last weeks, was increasingly willing to give audiences to lower-level officials when their superiors or elected leadership weren’t telling him what he wanted to hear.
It was not clear how or when Perry met Clark, a Philadelphia native but someone who had spent the vast majority of his professional career working out of Washington D.C., either in private practice or at the Department of Justice.
Telephone messages left by PennLive at Clark’s residence in Fairfax County, Virginia through the day Saturday also went unanswered.