The House select committee investigating the deadly January 6 riot has asked GOP Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania to voluntarily sit down for an interview – the first known effort by the panel to talk to a lawmaker about helping former President Donald Trump in his efforts to undermine the election.
The committee is not yet issuing a subpoena for Perry’s testimony. Instead the panel is sending a letter to formally request Perry’s cooperation. Perry, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, is the first lawmaker to receive such a letter from the committee.
The letter, released Monday, marks a significant step in the investigation and underscores how the panel is zeroing in on Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill.
“At this time, the Select Committee seeks your voluntary cooperation,” wrote Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who chairs the committee.
In the letter, the committee says it wants to discuss Perry’s attempted effort to install former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general.
“We have received evidence from multiple witnesses that you had an important role in the efforts to install Mr. Clark as acting Attorney General,” Thompson said in the letter.
Thompson adds that then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and then-acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, who have both been interviewed by the committee, “have provided evidence regarding these issues, and we have received evidence that others who worked with Mr. Clark were aware of these plans.”
CNN has reached out to Perry’s office for comment.
The committee in its letter tells Perry that Clark, whom the panel has begun criminal contempt proceedings against but has been given a second chance to come in and plead the Fifth Amendment, is aware that the committee is planning to ask him about his interactions with Perry.
The letter to Perry also states that the committee is aware of “multiple text and other communications” with Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, including evidence that the pair communicated over the encrypted app called Signal.
Addressing Perry’s role in spreading misinformation about the 2020 presidential election directly, the committee writes in its letter that it is aware that the Pennsylvania lawmaker communicated with the White House about a variety of topics including “allegations that the Dominion voting machines had been corrupted.”
The committee proposes scheduling a meeting with Perry on either December 28, December 29, January 3, January 4 or the week of January 10, when the House returns to session. The committee also suggests this meeting could be held in Perry’s home district if that accommodation works better. In addition to an interview, the committee is also requesting that Perry turn over all relevant documents and communication related to January 6.
Prior to this letter, a Senate report from Judiciary Committee Democrats characterized Perry as a key player in Trump’s attempts to pressure the Justice Department to support his false voter fraud conspiracy theories, which Trump had hoped would lead to Congress overturning his 2020 loss to Joe Biden.
Perry connected Trump with Clark, who was open to his claims of voter fraud, while Trump dispatched Perry to try to convince the top Justice Department brass that the election had been stolen, according to the Senate panel.
The Pennsylvania Republican is one of three people Senate Democrats singled out whose connection to January 6 was “particularly notable” and warranted further investigation beyond the scope of their probe.
The letter to Perry comes as the House select committee has made clear it will not spare Republican lawmakers from scrutiny as part of its sweeping probe, an extraordinary dynamic that could implicate some House members in a plot to overturn the election and which will almost certainly further inflame party divisions.
In its report to hold Meadows in criminal contempt, the House select committee revealed a text from an unknown lawmaker who applauded the then-White House chief of staff for installing Clark at the Justice Department. During the business meeting on the Meadows report, the committee’s vice chairwoman, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, made specific note of the interaction between Meadows and a member of Congress regarding Clark.
“As Mr. Meadows’ non-privileged texts reveal, he was communicating multiple times with a member of Congress – a currently serving colleague of ours – who was working with Mr. Clark,” Cheney said at the time. “Mr. Meadows has no basis to refuse to testify regarding those communications.”
Perry’s office has not responded to multiple requests from CNN to either confirm or deny that he was in contact with Meadows regarding Clark’s appointment.
Earlier this month, Thompson indicated that subpoenaing the records of lawmakers was still on the table.
“Absolutely,” Thompson said when asked about the potential of subpoenaing records of his colleagues. “I mean, it’s, you know, it’s an investigation. And we have methodically walking through the investigation. At that point, we’ll make the ultimate decision, whether that’s the direction we want to go.”
Taking the step of dragging their House colleagues into their probe comes with risks and the potential for lengthy legal battles. Should they win back the majority next fall, Republicans have already threatened to use the powers of the Congress to launch politically motivated investigations in the same manner that Democrats have used the January 6 select committee.
But the committee seems poised to head in that direction.
Just last week, members of the committee released text messages from unidentified lawmakers to Meadows and read them aloud on the House floor. The committee obtained the messages from the 6,000 documents Meadows turned over prior to ceasing to cooperate and used them as evidence to hold Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress, which now is in the hands of the Justice Department.
While the committee has not yet named the lawmaker’s whose texts it has received so far Thompson told CNN, “there won’t be any surprises as to who they are.”
Even though committee members have yet to even mention by name lawmakers who may be of interest to their investigation, the deliberate release of text messages last week was a strong signal. Along with examining the role Trump played in the lead up to January 6, the investigation is also digging deeply into how certain members of Congress helped lay the ground work for the riot – not just in helping spread false claims of voter fraud, but also in helping craft a plan for overturning the election on January 6.
Among the latest batch of text messages it received from Meadows, the committee highlighted a handful that showed some lawmakers encouraging him to continue the effort to undermine the election results.
On January 5 for example, an “unnamed lawmaker” who CNN has confirmed to be Rep. Jim Jordan, forwarded a text message to Meadows outlining a legal theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence had the authority to stand in the way of the certification of the 2020 election.
Other texts released by the committee show GOP lawmakers were pleading with Meadows to encourage Trump to tell his supporters to leave the Capitol on January 6.
“The President needs to stop this asap,” a message from one Republican member read, according to Cheney.
“Fix this now,” another GOP lawmaker texted Meadows on January 6, Cheney said.
The caucus of GOP House members who continue to peddle falsehoods about the 2020 election results or played an active role in strategizing ways to object to the certification of the electoral vote is not hard to identify.
Perry isn’t the only GOP House member who actively worked to undermine the election results. He also isn’t the only member to refuse to accept the 2020 results were accurate.
During a recent meeting of the House Rules Committee, where the committee considered the criminal contempt referral of Trump ally Steve Bannon, Jordan and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida were asked multiple times if they believe Biden won the election. They both said they recognize Biden as President, but refused to say he won.
Perry, Jordan and Gaetz are part of a list of Republican members that the committee has requested telecommunications companies to preserve the communications records of that CNN exclusively reported in August.
The committee has not revealed those names publicly, but that the list includes the names of Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Paul Gosar also of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Jody Hice of Georgia.
Also included on that list is the current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who threatened the telecommunications companies with reprisal if they complied with the committee’s request.
It is unclear if the list mirrors those the committee requested interviews with on Monday and separately, what means the committee will use to compel the telecommunications companies to cooperate with their request.
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.