By Zachary Cohen, Ryan Nobles, Annie Grayer and Jamie Gangel, CNN
Newly obtained text messages and recent court filings fill in significant gaps about the key role a little-known Pennsylvania Republican congressman played at almost every turn in scheming to reverse or delay certification of the 2020 election.
The texts, which were among those selectively provided by Donald Trump‘s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to the House select committee, show Rep. Scott Perry pushing to have the nation’s top intelligence official investigate baseless conspiracy theories and working to replace the US acting attorney general with an acolyte willing to do Trump’s bidding.
“From an Intel friend: DNI needs to task NSA to immediately seize and begin looking for international comms related to Dominion,” Perry wrote to Meadows on November 12, just five days after the election was called for Joe Biden.
In the text, which has not been previously reported, Perry appears to be urging Meadows to get John Ratcliffe, then-Director of National Intelligence, to order the National Security Agency to investigate debunked claims that Dominion voting machines were hacked by China.
Perry, a five-term congressman, is a retired Brigadier General with nearly 40 years of military service, including flying combat missions in Iraq. Given his extensive background, he is likely familiar with the inner-workings of government intelligence.
Perry has thus far declined to voluntarily cooperate with the House select committee, and in a previous statement has called the committee illegitimate.
Perry on Tuesday refused to answer several questions from CNN at the Capitol about his texts to Meadows.
It’s unclear whether Meadows responded to Perry’s November 12 text. A source familiar with the situation tells CNN that Meadows did not approach Ratcliffe about what Perry was asking.
Last year, the Senate singled out Perry for his role in promoting Trump’s election fraud conspiracies. The Meadows texts provide new details into his efforts behind the scenes. In particular, the texts show how Perry, now the head of the House Freedom Caucus, was one of the most vocal advocates for recruiting top government officials to investigate baseless claims of voter fraud.
Perry wrote to Meadows again on November 12 claiming that “the Brits” orchestrated a conspiracy to manipulate voting machines in the US and that then-CIA Director Gina Haspel was helping cover it up.
“And Gina is still running around on the Hill covering for the Brits who helped quarterback this entire operation,” Perry texted. “DNI needs to be tasked to audit their overseas accounts at CIA – and their National Endowment for Democracy. “
More than a month later, Perry texted Meadows a YouTube link detailing another conspiracy theory: that votes were changed by Italian satellites.
“Why can’t we just work with the Italian government?” Perry wrote. According to the text logs, Meadows does not appear to have responded to that message, emails released by the Senate Judiciary Committee last year show he did forward the same video link to then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen hours later.
Rosen subsequently refused to look into the claim further and said he would “not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his ‘witnesses,’ ” an email discussion between the acting attorney general and top DOJ officials emails show.
“Pure insanity,” another former DOJ official, Richard Donoghue, responded to Rosen about the claim.
New court filing
A new court filing also reveals how Perry played a key role in strategizing with Trump allies about throwing out electoral votes in states Trump lost.
In testimony released on Friday, former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson told House investigators about Perry’s role in White House strategy sessions.
“Mr. Perry is one that immediately jumps to mind as me recalling him physically being there and then pushing back,” Hutchinson said, describing how the Pennsylvania Republican clashed with Trump’s White House counsel over whether the plan for states to submit alternate slate of electors was legally sound.
On November 21, Meadows also went through Perry in order to get in touch with local lawmakers in his state.
“Can you send me the number for the speaker and the leader of PA Legislature. POTUS wants to chat with them,” Meadows wrote to Perry.
More than a month later, Perry texted Meadows stressing a need for urgency as January 6 and Biden’s inauguration were quickly approaching.
“Mark, just checking in as time continues to count down. 11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration. We gotta get going!” he wrote to Meadows on December 26.
On five occasions, according to the text messages reviewed by CNN, Perry texted Meadows to request the conversation move to the encrypted messaging app “Signal” or to alert Meadows to a message he sent on the encrypted platform.
Such a move could put the exchange out of the committee’s reach because Signal does not collect or save user data, making it more difficult to provide that information to outside entities, including law enforcement and congressional investigators, even under subpoena.
The committee has previously released a January 5 text message Meadows received from an unidentified member of Congress saying, “Please check your signal.”
CNN has now confirmed that message came from Perry.
Enlisting Justice Department officials
The texts also show that Perry acted as a conduit between Meadows and Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Clark, a relatively obscure official who emerged as a central figure in Trump’s election gambit after the former President nearly named him as acting attorney general days before the US Capitol riot.
The messages draw a direct link between Perry, Clark and the Trump White House-led effort to enlist the Justice Department to help overturn the election.
Starting in late December, after top Justice Department officials refused to intervene in the election process on Trump’s behalf, Perry repeatedly pushed Meadows to install Clark in a top position at the department and give him the “authority to enforce what needs to be done,” the texts show.
“Mark, you should call Jeff. I just got off the phone with him and he explained to me why the principal deputy won’t work especially with the FBI. They will view it as as not having the authority to enforce what needs to be done,” Perry texted Meadows on December 26, days before the heated Oval Office meeting where Trump raised the idea of replacing the then-acting attorney general with Clark.
“I got it. I think I understand. Let me work on the deputy position,” Meadows responded.
Nearly a week later Perry texted Meadows again about Clark.
“Please call me the instant you get off the phone with Jeff,” Perry wrote to Meadows on January 2, referring to Clark.
In January 2021, Perry admitted to being the link between Trump and Clark.
“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,” Perry said in a statement to a local Pennsylvania outlet in January 2021.
Perry’s role in the pressure campaign against Justice Department officials in December 2020 was detailed in a Senate Judiciary report released last year. But the report also acknowledged that its findings were incomplete, listing Perry as one of three Trump allies whose connections to January 6 required further investigation by the House select panel. The committee has asked Perry to talk with them voluntarily, but Perry has so far refused.
“I stand with immense respect for our Constitution, the Rule of Law, and the Americans I represent who know that this entity is illegitimate, and not duly constituted under the rules of the US House of Representatives,” Perry wrote in a statement on Twitter declining the panel’s request in December.
California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democratic member of the committee that’s investigating the insurrection, told CNN they have not ruled out issuing subpoenas to lawmakers, including Perry. Lofgren noted that because Perry swore to uphold the Constitution as a member of Congress, he’s “legally obliged” to talk to the committee.
“We could do a variety of things to try and compel, but the main thing is he should come in and not try and hide the truth,” Lofgren said. “We need to get to the bottom of this to protect our Constitution and system of government.”
This story has been updated with additional details Tuesday.
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