Unsealed court ruling sheds light on Scott Perry's efforts to overturn the 2020 election

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Text messages in a newly, and temporarily, unsealed federal court ruling revealed that U.S. Rep. Scott Perry relentlessly lobbied to assist then-President Donald Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Perry, a six-term Pennsylvania Republican who serves as chair of the House Freedom Caucus, has sought to prevent the Justice Department from reviewing the texts and has fought efforts to bring the messages to public view.

An unsealed ruling by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell contains the substance of many of the texts. The decision partially rejected Perry’s claim that his texts can remain shielded under the “speech and debate” exemption granted federal legislators. That ruling was overturned by an appeals court, which limited the number of messages the Justice Department could review and sent the case case back to the lower court.

Text messages reveal that Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry doggedly tried to assist former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Text messages reveal that Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry doggedly tried to assist former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

In the texts, Perry repeatedly and doggedly lobbied to replace acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen with a Trump loyalist, Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department civil attorney, who would then do Trump’s bidding to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The texts also reveal that Perry communicated with Pennsylvania officials, including state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Franklin County Republican and promoter of election fraud conspiracy theories, to find means to overturn the state’s vote for President Joe Biden. Among those efforts were a failed attempt to have Republican members of the state Legislature to hold a hearing to question the integrity of voting machine systems and urging GOP legislators to send a letter to the vice president asking him to “weigh the validity of (Pennsylvania’s) purported electors and electoral votes.”

Text communications with York County legislators identified in the ruling include state Reps. Mike Jones, Dawn Keefer and Seth Grove, as well as state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, all Republicans.

One text exchange with a fellow House member – time-stamped at 8:07 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, after the violence at the Capitol and before Congress certified the results of the election – cites an unfounded conspiracy theory that an Italian defense contractor conspired with Britain's intelligence agency, MI6, and the CIA to use an algorithm transmitted by satellite to change votes in the 2020 election.

Howell’s ruling had been sealed, and media outlets, including the York Daily Record, York Dispatch and PennLive, have sued to make it public. The ruling was posted on a public court docket Wednesday, but it was again placed under seal later in the day, indicating that its disclosure had been inadvertent. The three Central Pennsylvania news organizations have been working with the Reporters' Committee for the Freedom of the Press in a legal action to gain access to the search warrant for Perry's phone.

Previously: Appeals court blocks DOJ from reviewing Rep. Perry's texts with fellow members of Congress

Perry's role in Jan. 6: 12 things to know about U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, who is a focus of the Jan. 6 probe

Howell’s ruling ordered the release of more than 2,000 text messages between Perry and others that described his efforts to assist Trump in overturning the election. His push to replace the acting attorney general with Clark has been previously reported, but other efforts included trying to convince Vice President Mike Pence to order testimony from Trump allies before Congress before the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory. Pence’s staff declined the overtures, according to the texts.

Howell ruled that the exchanges undermined Perry’s assertion that his communications should be protected under the Constitution’s “speech and debate clause,” which is intended to shield members of Congress from being prosecuted for conducting legislative business.

Howell wrote, “If Rep. Perry was purely gathering information, he would not have been attempting to influence the conduct of executive branch officials and encouraging them to engage in efforts to challenge the legitimacy of the 2020 election.”

Federal agents investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results seized Perry’s phone in August 2022. That investigation led to Trump being indicted in federal court in Washington, D.C. The former president also faces a racketeering case brought by the Fulton County District Attorney in Georgia.

Since the seizure, Perry has fought, with mixed success, to prevent the Justice Department from examining his texts and public disclosure of his communications related to promoting unfounded allegations of widespread election fraud in 2020.

Perry’s attorney, John Rowley, a former federal prosecutor who represents a number of Trump allies in Jan. 6-related cases, released a statement to Politico Wednesday night, saying, “The disclosure of Representative Perry’s private communications, taken from the phone of a sitting member of Congress who has never been accused of wrongdoing, in unfortunate. The communications reflect his efforts to understand real-time information about the 2020 election. They were confidential and intended to address critical business before Congress in the service of his constituents.”

Shamaine Daniels, a Democratic Harrisburg City Council member who challenged Perry in 2022 and has announced she will run against him in 2024, called the revelations about Perry “very disappointing, but...not shocking.”

She called Perry “a threat to our democracy” and described him as “the most dangerous member of Congress.”

This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Scott Perry's efforts to overturn 2020 election detailed in court doc