As Rep. Scott Perry was making clear he wanted to contest Donald Trump’s loss of the presidency in the 2020 election, his conversations with a Justice Department official took him inside the then-president’s management of the agency.
Perry’s text messages, revealed for the first time in court filings on Wednesday, included several communications in late December 2020 and early January 2021 with DOJ’s Jeffrey Clark, a Trump appointee sympathetic to contesting the election, as Trump considered installing Clark as attorney general.
Perry texted Clark, “POTUS seems very happy with your response. I read it just as you dictated,” according to court records.
Then, Clark responded: “I’m praying. This makes me quite nervous. And wonder if I’m worthy or ready.”
“You are the man. I have confirmed it,” Perry wrote back, late at night on December 30, 2020. “God does what he does for a reason.”
The messages represent the never-before-seen extent to which Perry and Clark discussed Clark’s ascendance in Trump’s sphere as the then-president sought ways to hold onto his elected office. The tenor of Perry’s messages and his connection to Clark was generally known before, but court records posted publicly for a brief time on Wednesday and captured by news organizations provide a new level of detail on what Perry was saying to others about contesting Trump’s loss of the presidency.
The congressman and the Justice Department official’s communication continued into 2021, as Perry talked to Clark about his efforts to get the DOJ official a security clearance that would allow him to get intelligence about the election.
Perry told Clark, who was about to receive an intelligence briefing he requested about election security, to “make sure [an intelligence chief] gives you exactly what … you need.” Clark asked Perry to tell Trump to provide him access to classified information, and Perry said Trump would, according to the communications in court records.
Perry’s messages also highlight other ways the Pennsylvania Republican attempted to question the election results.
Perry asked a former Trump administration official if “anyone in the senate has the courage to fight” against what he believed was fraud in the election.
He floated what he believed was “credible information” about Pennsylvania ballots to a Trump campaign attorney, and discussed with other members of Congress what they believed was voter fraud in Michigan and Georgia.
And he received messages from a former colleague of a Trump administration contact asking if Perry could help persuade Trump, then-Vice President Mike Pence and others to use the vice president’s power to change the debate rules around the electoral college vote, according to previously secret court records made public for a short time on Wednesday.
Perry also messaged with his chief of staff about wanting an audit of county election systems.
The disclosure of the texts illuminate more of the behind-the-scenes discussions as Trump used powerful allies across the federal government to challenge the 2020 election results.
Perry’s 2020 election texts were described and quoted by federal District Judge Beryl Howell in an opinion she wrote in December 2022, as special counsel’s office prosecutors swept in cell phone records from several of Trump’s top allies before deciding to charge the ex-president with obstruction and other crimes.
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals above Howell looked at her opinion and other underlying records confidentially, but the appeals court briefly made Howell’s writing public on Wednesday afternoon, before taking it down from their website, suggesting a mistake had been made.
John Rowley, an attorney representing Perry, called the disclosure of the text messages this week “unfortunate.”
“The communications reflect his efforts to understand real-time information about the 2020 election. They were confidential and intended to address critical business before Congress in service of his constituents,” Rowley said in a statement provided to CNN.
Howell confidentially reviewed more than 2,000 documents Perry had sought to keep from investigators after they seized his cell phone last summer, including the text messages. Howell had found the messages should be available to the special counsel investigators looking at top government officials’ efforts to question Trump’s loss in the election, but the appeals court curtailed some of what investigators could see of Perry’s.
CNN previously reported that, according to court records, Perry had tried to cajole the executive branch officials about the election in ways that Howell deemed “proactive, persistent and protracted.”
The judge also called Perry’s phone compendium a “multi-pronged push for Executive Branch officials to take more aggressive action.”
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