After Donald Trump's attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021, Rep. Scott Perry was quickly pinned as one of the plot’s most aggressive allies. It was Perry who pushed Trump to install Department of Justice underling Jeffrey Clark as the new acting attorney general after top Justice officials refused to go along with Trump's schemes to declare his election loss tainted or invalid, and Perry was one of the most aggressive promoters of even the most ridiculous election conspiracy claims. In August 2022, the FBI seized Perry's cellphone as part of an investigation into the Republican efforts to obstruct or overturn the 2020 presidential election.
On Wednesday, we learned even more about the extent to which Perry was intimately involved in—and, in fact, a prime pusher for—the plot to nullify that presidential election. Much of what prosecutors were able to obtain from Perry's communications has remained under seal, thanks to Perry's vigorous efforts to make sure neither prosecutors nor the general public ever saw them, but on Wednesday the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unsealed and posted documents that revealed a great number of those communications—only to delete them again hours later.
That almost certainly means that the court has ruled against Perry in his attempts to keep the documents hidden, but that court aides screwed up by releasing those documents early. The ship has sailed, though: A new Politico report describes the communications Perry has been trying to hide, and it’s clear the Pennsylvania congressman was neck-deep in nearly every aspect of the would-be coup.
Politico singles out Perry's frequent communications with Clark as "perhaps the most revealing," but what stands out even more is the extent to which Perry 1) was involved with each and every major aspect of the coup plans, from the dissemination of hoaxes meant to discredit the election results to the plans to have then-Vice President Mike Pence lead the rejection of electors to efforts to create slates of fake electors; and 2) was touching base with a great many of the Trump allies who are now facing possible prison time for their own roles in that scheme.
Among the contacts Politico reports on are December texts with Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel—the mere existence of which would appear to put the lie to Perry’s claims that he was challenging the election in some sort of "congressional" role, rather than as a strictly partisan scheme. He also communicated with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Trump adviser Eric Herschmann, director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe, and Pennsylvania Republican state legislator Doug Mastriano.
But Perry was also in touch with Sidney Powell's "cybersecurity" team, and with Trump-allied lawyers Jenna Ellis and Boris Epshteyn. In short, Perry was in active communication with most of the top names either currently under indictment or cited as key figures in the indictments. And those communications were efforts to assist in the conspiracy, not discourage it.
All of this makes it increasingly unclear why Perry is not among the list of the indicted. It may be that prosecutors simply feel his congressional speech and debate protections would so muddle the case against him as to not be worth the effort; it might be that later on, if plea deals with lawyers Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell prove useful, prosecutors will feel bolder in pinning Perry as one of the key seditionists.
There's no argument that he was not a key figure in the conspiracy, and there has long been enough evidence to conclude that much. But so far, the House Republicans who plotted to abet Trump’s attempted coup have faced no consequences. That's in part because state and federal officials have continued to prosecute coup enablers with seemingly glacial sluggishness. But it's also partly due to the sheer number of Republican lawmakers who abetted the coup, both before and after it became violent. House Republicans have the majority, and have successfully stonewalled investigations of their own conspiracy.
Perry faces a credible opponent in his next reelection bid, and his district is divided enough that he cannot count on a pro-coup Republican voting majority to bail him out of scandal eternally. Perhaps prosecutors will be bolder if Perry is tossed from office next November.
Perry appears to have been genuinely worried about that after the coup’s failure: Mark Meadows’ aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified to Jan. 6 investigators that Perry was one of the six House Republicans who requested that Trump issue them pardons for their roles in the coup during Trump's final days in office. Those pardons, however, never got written and were not granted.
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