Rep. Scott Perry played a key role in promoting false allegations of fraud

Written by Javed Iqbal

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Of all the fantastic false allegations of fraud and vote manipulation in the 2020 presidential election, “Italygate” was one of the most extreme. And rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) Was at the core of bringing it to Donald Trump’s attention.

This particular allegation of fraud centered on what a former Justice Department official on Thursday described as an “absurd” allegation: that an Italian defense attorney had conspired with senior CIA officials to use military satellites to turn votes from Trump to Joe Biden. As The Washington Post has reported thatthe theory was pushed by a Virginia horse-country socialite who once gave an extended television interview from a 22-room mansion that she repeatedly described as her own, though it was not.

But as the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, demonstrated Thursday, Italygate also reached the highest levels of the U.S. government. On December 31, 2020, the committee showed text messages between Perry and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, which included a YouTube video of it asking Perry, “Why can we not just cooperate with the Italian government?”

Meadows discussed the claim “frequently,” according to the rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Who chaired the hearing during Thursday’s committee hearing, who focused on Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to help overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Perry also pressured acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to research. “I told him that this whole case about Italy had been refuted,” Rosen said during Thursday’s hearing. Another former court official who testified Thursday, Richard Donoghue, said the theory was “pure insanity” and “obviously absurd.”

That was not Perry’s only involvement in encouraging Trump to get the vote overturned. The committee obtained records from the National Archives showing that Perry was among the Republican members of Congress who met with the president in the Oval Office on December 21, 2020. On that day, Meadows tweeted that the purpose of the meeting was to “prepare to fight back. against more evidence of voter fraud. Stay tuned. “

The committee also showed White House logs showing Perry returning to the White House the next day – and “this time he brought a Justice Department official named Jeffrey Clark.”

It was the first known meeting between Clark and Trump – and it probably set in motion the events that led to a dramatic showdown between the president and senior leaders of the Justice Department, who had rejected Trump’s demand that they declare that fraud had tarnished Bidens. victory.

Perry said in a statement Thursday that he was working with Clark “on various regulatory issues” and that “when President Trump asked if I would make an introduction, I was obligated.”

The committee also showed testimony from Cassidy Hutchinsona former special assistant to Trump, and several other former White House Trump officials who stated that Perry was among several members of Congress who sought a preventive pardon from Trump for their activities in the run-up to the January 6 violence .

Perry has vehemently denied seeking a pardon, saying in a statement Thursday: “I have never sought a presidential pardon for myself or other members of Congress.”

Other members of Congress seeking pardon, according to this testimony: Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Louie Gohmert of Texas. In an email to the White House shown Thursday, Brooks, on his and Gaetz’s behalf, asked that Trump “grant general (all-purpose) pardons” to any member of Congress who voted for him on January 6, 2021. to reject proposals for election colleges from Arizona or Pennsylvania. More than 145 Republican lawmakers voted to oppose one or both submissions. Those mentioned by name during the hearing were contacted for comment.

Hutchinson said Perry spoke directly with her about the request, which Perry denies.

“I never spoke to Miss Hutchinson, a White House planner, or any White House staffer about a pardon to myself or any other member of Congress – this never happened,” Perry said in a statement.

Biggs said in a statement Thursday that Hutchinson was “wrong” in believing he was asking for pardon.

Gohmert said in a statement that he had sought pardon for “other deserving individuals,” but not for himself.

Hutchinson told the committee that rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) talked about pardons, but never specifically asked for one. She also said she heard from Patrick Philbin, a lawyer in the White House law firm, that rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) Had contacted the office and asked for pardon, but that she had not spoken to the congresswoman in Georgia. direct.

“The general tone was that we can be prosecuted because we were defensive of the president’s position on these things,” Eric Herschmann, a former White House lawyer, said in a recorded testimony played out at Thursday’s hearing.

“100% fake news,” Jordan tweeted after the testimony.

“Saying ‘I heard’ means you do not know,” Greene said tweeted. “Spreading gossip and lies is exactly what the Witch Hunt Committee on January 6 is all about.”

After the video ended, Kinzinger stated, “The only reason I know to ask for pardon is because you think you have committed a crime.”

Brooks said in a statement sent to reporters as Thursday’s hearing unfolded that he had agreed to testify before the committee, but only under a number of conditions, including that his clarification should be public and that questions are “relevant to and limited to events surrounding ”the January 6 attack.

Those involved in the uprising have repeatedly pointed to Perry as the main channel for the House of Representatives’ GOP conference to the White House in Trump’s quest to overturn his defeat. Perry has so far stoned the committee and defied a subpoena requesting his cooperation in the investigation.

Kinzinger said Thursday that Republicans’ flirtation with Italygate was “one of the best examples of how far President Trump would go to stay in power and search the Internet to support his conspiracy theories.”

Despite being rejected by judicial officials, the theory found its way to Kash Patel, a Defense Ministry official who called Donoghue to assess his point of view. Finally, the acting Secretary of Defense, Christopher Miller, called an attaché in Rome to ask that they also investigate the matter.

Some of Perry’s communications with judicial officials were revealed in a report released by the Senate Judiciary Committee in October.

A combat veteran who started his political career in the Pennsylvania legislature, Perry has long made false allegations and called on the Trump administration to investigate various conspiracy theories that spread unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud.

Perry heads the House Freedom Caucus, the hard-line right-wing group that counts several of its members among those seeking pardon, according to Thursday’s testimony.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Stated at the committee’s first hearing this month that Perry was among those who had sought pardon, but Thursday was the first glimpse of testimony from former White House officials that confirmed this claim. .

After the first hearing, Perry tweeted: “The notion that I have ever sought a presidential pardon for myself or other members of Congress is an absolute, shameless and soulless lie.”

Cheney ended the first hearing with a scathing reprimand of those members of Congress who she said helped fuel the January 6 violence.

“I say this to my Republican colleagues who defend the indefensible,” she said. “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your disgrace will remain.”

Mariana Alfaro, Matthew Brown, Rosalind S. Helderman and Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.

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Javed Iqbal

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