Rep. Scott Perry played key role promoting false claims of fraud

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

This particular allegation of fraud centered on what a former Justice Department official described Thursday as a “preposterous” claim: that an Italian defense contractor had conspired with senior CIA officials to use satellites military to reverse votes from Trump to Joe Biden. As reported by The Washington Post, the theory was pushed by a Virginia horse country socialite who once gave a lengthy TV interview from a 22-bedroom mansion she repeatedly described as her own, even if it wasn’t.

But as the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack demonstrated on Thursday, Italygate has also made its way to the highest levels of the U.S. government. The committee showed Dec. 31, 2020, text messages between Perry and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that included a YouTube video about it, with Perry asking, “Why can’t we just work with the government. Italian?

Meadows discussed the allegation “frequently,” according to Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who led the questioning during Thursday’s committee hearing, which focused on Trump’s efforts to make pressure on the Justice Department to help overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Pear also urged Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to investigate. “I told him that everything about Italy had been debunked,” Rosen said during Thursday’s hearing. Another former justice official who testified on Thursday, Richard Donoghue, said the theory was “pure madness” and “patently absurd”.

That wasn’t Perry’s only involvement in encouraging Trump to overturn the vote. The committee obtained documents 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. That day, Meadows tweeted that the purpose of the meeting was to ” prepare to fight back against growing evidence of voter fraud. Stay tuned.”

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

It was the first known meeting between Clark and Trump – and it likely sparked the events that led to a dramatic confrontation between the president and senior Justice Department officials, who had refused Trump’s demands to declare that the fraud had tainted Biden’s victory.

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

The committee also showed testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former Trump special aide, and several other former Trump White House officials, saying Perry was among several members of Congress who sought a precautionary pardon from Trump for their activities in the run-up to the January 6 Violence.

Perry strenuously denied asking for a pardon, saying in a statement Thursday, “I have never asked for a Presidential pardon for myself or any other members of Congress.”

Other members of Congress who have asked for forgiveness, according to this testimony: Representatives Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Louie Gohmert of Texas. In an email to the White House posted Thursday, Brooks requested on his and Gaetz’s behalf that Trump “grant blanket (all-purpose) pardons” to every member of Congress who on Jan. 6, 2021, voted for. reject submissions from Arizona or Pennsylvania electoral colleges. More than 145 Republican lawmakers voted to oppose one or both submissions. The individuals named at the hearing have been contacted for comment.

Hutchinson said Perry spoke to him directly about the request, which Perry denies.

“At no time did I speak to Miss Hutchinson, a White House planner, or any White House staff member about a pardon for myself or any other member of Congress – that does not happen. is ever produced,” Perry said in a statement.

Biggs, in a statement Thursday, said Hutchinson was “mistaken” in thinking he had asked for forgiveness.

Gohmert said in a statement that he asked forgiveness for “other deserving people” 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, an attorney with the White House Legal Counsel’s Office, that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) had contacted the office and asked for forgiveness, but she didn’t hadn’t spoken to the congresswoman from Georgia. directly.

“The general tone was that we could be sued because we were defending the president’s position on these things,” said Eric Herschmann, a former White House attorney, in recorded testimony played during Thursday’s hearing.

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

“Saying ‘I heard’ means you don’t know”, Greene tweeted. “Spreading gossip and lies is exactly the purpose of the January 6 Witch Hunt Committee.”

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

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

Those involved in the insurgency have repeatedly singled out Perry as the House GOP conference’s chief go-between in the White House in Trump’s quest to undo his defeat. Perry has so far stalled the committee, defying a subpoena asking for his cooperation in the investigation.

Kinzinger said Thursday that the Republicans’ flirtation with Italygate was “one of the best examples of how far President Trump would go to stay in office, scouring the internet for support for his conspiracy theories.”

Although debunked by justice officials, the theory made its way to Kash Patel, a Defense Ministry official, who called Donoghue to assess his views. Finally, the acting Secretary of the Defense Department, Christopher Miller, called an attaché in Rome to ask him to investigate as well.

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

A combat veteran who began his political career in the Pennsylvania legislature, Perry has long pushed false allegations and urged the Trump administration to investigate various conspiracy theories propagating unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud.

Perry leads the House Freedom Caucus, the far-right group that counts several of its members among those who have asked for forgiveness, according to Thursday’s testimony.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), at the committee’s first hearing this month, said Perry was among those who asked for forgiveness, but Thursday was the first glimpse of testimony from former officials. the White House corroborating this claim.

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

Cheney closed that first hearing with a scathing rebuke of members of Congress who she says helped stoke the violence on Jan. 6.

“I say this to my fellow Republicans who stand for the indefensible,” she said. “There will come a day when Donald Trump will be gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

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

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