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Court filing reveals Rep. Scott Perry’s vast web of contacts in bid to reverse 2020 election

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At 11:08 p.m. on Dec. 30, 2020, days before Donald Trump prepared to install Jeff Clark atop the Justice Department amid his frenzied push to remain in power, Clark got a text from one key ally, Rep. Scott Perry.

“POTUS seems very happy with your response. I read it just as you dictated,” Perry (R-Pa.) texted the senior Justice Department official.

“I’m praying. This makes me quite nervous. And wonder if I’m worthy or ready,” Clark replied.

“You are the man. I have confirmed it. God does what he does for a reason,” Perry continued.

At the time, Clark was bolstering Trump’s false claims of voter fraud — and Trump, hoping to harness the Justice Department in his bid to overturn the 2020 election, was nearing a decision to appoint Clark as acting attorney general. He ultimately backed off amid a high-level rebellion at DOJ and in the White House. But the newly disclosed text messages show that Clark was girding for the appointment, bolstered by support from Perry, a conservative leader in Congress.

The intimate exchange between two central figures in Trump’s bid to subvert the election was disclosed in a newly unsealed court filing released Wednesday by a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. The exchange was one of dozens described in the filing, released in connection with an effort by special counsel Jack Smith to access communications stored on Perry’s cell phone.

The FBI seized Perry’s phone in August 2022, but he quickly moved to block prosecutors from accessing the files it contained, citing his constitutional protections. The litigation resulted in an appeals court ruling in September that largely backed Perry’s position. Wednesday’s release of the communications was part of the court’s decision to unseal key filings related to the court battle.

The newly disclosed filing reveals an extraordinary web of communications between Perry, who is now the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, and key figures in Trump’s orbit. They include:

A Dec. 12, 2020, text exchange with Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel discussing efforts to challenge Joe Biden’s victory in the election.
A series of exchanges between Perry and a former DOJ colleague, Robert Gasaway, between Dec. 30, 2020, and Jan. 5, 2021, in which Perry embraced a plan to have then-Vice President Mike Pence “admit testimony” prior to the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021. Perry agreed to “sell[] the idea” with a call to Trump, Pence and Trump adviser John Eastman, but Perry later alerted Gasaway that Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, “will not allow access.”
A description of numerous exchanges between Perry and top Trump administration officials, including Clark, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, senior adviser Eric Herschmann and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, a former House colleague of Perry.
A Nov, 12, 2020 text to Trump campaign lawyer Alex Cannon advising the campaign on challenges to the election results in Pennsylvania, as well as numerous other contacts with Trump-affiliated lawyers Jenna Ellis, Boris Epshteyn and Justin Clark.
An exchange with Simone Gold, a doctor known for opposing the Covid vaccine who would later plead guilty to misdemeanors for her role in the breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Exchanges with numerous Pennsylvania state legislators, including Doug Mastriano, strategizing ways to challenge the state’s election results.
Texts with “cybersecurity individuals” working with attorney Sidney Powell to challenge the election results, including Phil Waldron. In one exchange, Perry emailed former Trump National Security Council staffer Rich Higgins to relay an “incredibly spooky” allegation that the U.S. Army had confiscated election servers in Germany to help cover up fraud.

But the exchanges with DOJ’s Clark — described in the federal indictment against Trump as one of six unnamed and unindicted co-conspirators in an effort to subvert the 2020 election — are perhaps the most revealing. Clark, a low-profile figure who oversaw the Justice Department’s civil litigation in the final months of the presidential term, was introduced to Trump by Perry amid Trump’s effort to remain in office.
Trump came close to appointing Clark as acting attorney general in the early days of 2021 before backing down amid a mass resignation threat by senior DOJ and White House officials. During this time, Clark pressured top DOJ officials to send a letter to state legislatures urging them to consider sending alternate slates of presidential electors to Congress, and he obtained a security clearance to review intelligence about potential foreign efforts to interfere in the election.

Perry indicated in one newly disclosed exchange that Trump had personally approved a “presidential security clearance.”

In one exchange, Perry told Clark that Trump was upset with Clark for using the Justice Department to defend Pence against a lawsuit brought by another House member, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). Gohmert was seeking a court ruling declaring that Pence had the power to unilaterally reject Biden’s electoral votes, but DOJ’s civil division — then under Clark’s leadership — stepped in to defend Pence against the suit, which failed.

“[H]e’s not thrilled with your decision regarding Pence and Gohmert,” Perry texted.

Clark disclaimed responsibility for the brief, saying, “The branch within Civil Division responsible for Gohmert brief refused to have anything to do with my brief.”

“Folks are rebelling against [POTUS] because they know time is short and they yearn for Biden,” he added.

Notably, Clark has pointed to his involvement in the Gohmert suit — and the brief he appeared to criticize to Perry — as Clark defends himself against criminal charges brought against him by Georgia prosecutors.

“I was in charge of the defense of this 2020 presidential election case and my name is the first one on the filings defending the Vice President,” he wrote in a September declaration.

The exchanges revealed in the filing also include Perry’s contacts with other House members seeking to reverse Trump’s defeat or to raise challenges to the election results. Perry texted Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) on Nov. 7, 2020 that there was “concrete evidence” of fraud in Michigan. The same day and on Nov. 8, Perry “exchanged text messages with Congressmen Hice, Jordan, and Roy, about issues with ‘the Dominion voting system,’ prompting comment from Rep. Hice, ‘YES!! … And don’t forget, on the Trump campaign call this afternoon, they have uncovered ‘illegal ballot harvesting’ in 3 GA counties,’” the filing reveals.

And Perry also exchanged texts with then Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, who complained about “incompetence here in Georgia,” prompting Perry to respond, “Nothing can beat effective cheating.”