WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania on Tuesday rebuffed a request for him to sit down for an interview and turn over documents to the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, joining other allies of former President Donald Trump in trying to stonewall the committee.
In a statement, Perry called the committee “illegitimate.”
In a letter to Perry on Monday night, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the panel, said the panel had received evidence from multiple witnesses, including then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and then-acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, that Perry had “an important role” in efforts to install Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general.
The lawmaker's refusal will test how far the committee is willing to go in its quest for information as members have so far resisted subpoenaing one of their own as they investigate the insurrection by Trump’s supporters and his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The letter is the first time the panel has publicly released a request to a fellow member of Congress as the members inquire about the details of Perry and other congressional Republicans who met with Trump ahead of the Capitol attack and strategized about how they could block the results at the Jan. 6 electoral count.
Also in the letter, Thompson added that while the panel “has tremendous respect for the prerogatives of Congress and the privacy of its Members," it also has "a solemn responsibility to investigate fully all of these facts and circumstances.”
The committee has also asked for any documents and correspondence between Perry and Trump, his legal team or anyone involved in the planning of Jan. 6 events.
The lawmaker, representing Pennsylvania's 10th District, was cited more than 50 times in a Senate Judiciary report released in October outlining how Trump’s effort to overturn his election defeat to Joe Biden brought the Justice Department to the brink of chaos and prompted top officials there and at the White House to threaten to resign.
Perry, who has continuously disputed the validity of Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania, has said he obliged Trump’s request for an introduction to Clark, then an assistant attorney general whom Perry knew from unrelated legislative matters. The three men went on to discuss their shared concerns about the election, Perry has said.
The Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud in Pennsylvania or any other state, and senior Justice officials dismissed Perry’s claims.
The recent Senate report outlined a call Perry made to Donoghue last December to say the department wasn’t doing its job with respect to the elections. Perry encouraged Donoghue to elicit Clark’s help because he’s “the kind of guy who could really get in there and do something about this,” the report said.
Perry has said his “official communications” with Justice Department officials were consistent with the law.
The panel voted in November to hold Clark in contempt after he showed up for a deposition yet declined to answer questions. But Thompson has said he will hold off pursuing the charges and allow Clark to attend another deposition and try again. Clark’s lawyer has said Clark intends to assert his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, but the deposition has been repeatedly postponed as Clark has dealt with an unidentified medical condition.
The panel has already interviewed around 300 people as it seeks to create a comprehensive record of the Jan. 6 attack and the events leading up to it.
Trump at the time was pushing false claims of widespread voter fraud and lobbying Vice President Mike Pence and Republican members of Congress to try to overturn the count at the Jan. 6 congressional certification. Election officials across the country, along with the courts, had repeatedly dismissed Trump’s claims.
An angry mob of Trump supporters was echoing his false claims as it brutally beat Capitol police and broke into the building that day, interrupting the certification of Biden’s victory.
Thompson, in his request for a meeting with Perry, wrote: “We would like to meet with you soon to discuss these topics, but we also want to accommodate your schedule.”
Associated Press writer Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.
Farnoush Amiri And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press