Report sheds new light on Pa. lawmaker’s role in Trump’s pressure on Justice Dept. over election

The document raises ‘fresh questions’ about U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, according to a published report

By: - October 7, 2021 3:14 pm

House Homeland Security Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Scott Perry makes opening remarks during a hearing on “critical canine contributions to the DHS mission’” in Washington, D.C., May 18, 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Photo by Glenn Fawcett

A newly released congressional report on efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to pressure the U.S. Dept. of Justice and overturn the 2020 election prominently highlights a Pennsylvania lawmaker who is a close Trump ally, and who was in the vanguard of lawmakers who objected to certifying President Joe Biden’s victory last November.

The report by the majority-Democrat U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is the end result of an eight-month-long investigation into the events that finally ended with the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol, where pro-Trump extremists attempted to disrupt the legally mandated certification process.

The document “shows the American people just how close we came to a constitutional crisis.  Thanks to a number of upstanding Americans in the Department of Justice, Donald Trump was unable to bend the Department to his will,” Judiciary Committee Chaiperson Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement. “But it was not due to a lack of effort.  Donald Trump would have shredded the Constitution to stay in power.  We must never allow this unprecedented abuse of power to happen again.”

The report raises what the New York Times described as “fresh questions” about the role that U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican from central Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District “played in the White House effort to pressure the Justice Department to help upend the election.”

Perry’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the Times, Perry called former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue and tried to pressure him into investigating debunked election fraud claims that had been made in his home state. According to the report, Perry complained to Donoghue that the Justice Department was not doing enough to investigate such claims, the Times reported.

The report also indicates that Perry, a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, took a “direct role” in trying to help Trump put loyalists into the Justice Department, Politico reported. The document also recommends cooperating with the House Select Committee looking at the Jan. 6 insurrection. It names Perry and state Sen Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, as two people of interest.

Trump lost the 2020 election by 80,555 votes in Pennsylvania. As required by law, all 67 Pennsylvania counties conducted post-election audits of a statistical sampling after the 2020 general election. Sixty-three counties conducted “risk-limiting” audits. Neither review found evidence of fraud, the Capital-Star has previously reported.

Efforts to review the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections in Pennsylvania come after Trump made unsubstantiated claims that widespread voter fraud caused his loss. Republican allies across the country — including in Harrisburg — have echoed these calls, the Capital-Star reported.

In January, the Capital-Star and other news outlets reported that Perry “played a significant role” as former President Donald Trump considered firing the acting attorney general and backed down only after top department officials threatened to resign, according to a published report.

The New York Times reported that Perry made Trump aware of Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark. Perry was one of eight Republican members of Pennsylvania’s Capitol Hill delegation who objected to the results of last November’s general election. Perry also was among the Pennsylvania lawmakers who signed onto a Texas-led lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s election results.

According to the Times, Perry introduced Trump to Clark, “whose openness to conspiracy theories about election fraud presented Mr. Trump with a welcome change from the acting attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who stood by the results of the election and had repeatedly resisted the president’s efforts to undo them,” the Times reported.

Perry, of York County, won re-election last fall under the same mail-in ballot ground rules that Trump and other Republicans falsely claimed had made the election susceptible to widespread fraud. He defeated former state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, also of York County.

In a statement, Perry confirmed his conversations with Trump, saying that “throughout the past four years, I worked with Assistant Attorney General Clark on various legislative matters. When President Trump asked if I would make an introduction, I obliged.”

He added: “My conversations with the President or the Assistant Attorney General, as they have been with all whom I’ve engaged following the election, were a reiteration of the many concerns about the integrity of our elections, and that those allegations should at least be investigated to ease the minds of the voters that they had, indeed, participated in a free and fair election.”

Perry’s comments were first were first reported by WITF-FM in Harrisburg, which obtained the statement. It was silent on the calls for Perry’s resignation that first surfaced in January, and have continued intermittently since.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.