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As Jan. 6 panel seeks cooperation from Rep. Scott Perry, he says no

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., is the first sitting lawmaker that the the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has sought to question.
Samuel Corum
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Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., is the first sitting lawmaker that the the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has sought to question.

Updated December 21, 2021 at 2:48 PM ET

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has requested that Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania provide information about his involvement in unsuccessfully seeking to install former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general of the United States.

Perry is the first sitting lawmaker that the panel has sought to question.

"We have received evidence from multiple witnesses that you had an important role in the efforts to install Mr. Clark as acting Attorney General," Chairman Bennie Thompson wrote in a letter, made public by the committee, to Perry.

"Mr. Clark has informed us that he plans to invoke his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination in anticipation of a deposition to be conducted by the Committee. When Mr. Clark decided to invoke his 5th Amendment rights, he understood that we planned to pose questions addressing his interactions with you, among a host of other topics," the letter continued.

The panel is interested in Clark, the former Justice Department official, for his role in promoting baseless allegations of voter malfeasance in the 2020 election. In the waning days of Trump's presidency, the former president and Clark reportedly devised a scheme to oust then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who declined to pursue these erroneous charges of voter fraud, and take the job for himself.

On Tuesday, Perry said via tweet, "I decline this entity's request and will continue to fight the failures of the radical Left who desperately seek distraction from their abject failures of crushing inflation, a humiliating surrender in Afghanistan, and the horrendous crisis they created at our border."

The GOP congressman argued the committee was not "duly constituted under the rules of the US House of Representatives" and therefore "illegitimate."

Perry's response not only signals a likely conflict between the committee and a fellow House member, but sets up the possibility that the panel will issue subpoenas to compel his cooperation.

A committee spokesman reiterated the committee's belief that Perry has "information directly relevant to our investigation."

"The Select Committee prefers to gather relevant evidence from members cooperatively, but if members with directly relevant information decline to cooperate and instead endeavor to cover up, the Select Committee will consider seeking such information using other tools," the spokesperson said in a statement.

The House committee initially had requested Perry's voluntary cooperation, including providing the panel "with all relevant electronic or other communications on these and other topics related to January 6th, including your communications with the Trump legal team, the former President himself, and others who were involved in planning the events of January 6th."

In his letter, Thompson wrote that the committee is also seeking information regarding communications between Perry and the White House alleging that Dominion voting machines had been compromised — a major catalyst for the events on Jan. 6.

"In addition, we have information indicating that you communicated at various relevant times with the White House and others involved in other relevant topics, including regarding allegations that the Dominion voting machines had been corrupted," the chairman's letter said.

Legal drama surrounding Jan. 6 panel

Alex Jones, the founder of right-wing media group Infowars, addresses a crowd of pro-Trump protesters on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
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Alex Jones, the founder of right-wing media group Infowars, addresses a crowd of pro-Trump protesters on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

The news that Perry was being asked to testify broke shortly after it was made public that Infowars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was suing the Jan. 6 House committee. Jones and his attorneys hope to block the panel from obtaining documents and compelling the right-wing provocateur to testify.

In the lawsuit filed on Monday, Jones said he was subpoenaed in November by the House Select Committee to provide documents and testimony about his role regarding the Capitol insurrection.

"The Select Committee has requested countless documents that Jones possesses for various subjects including about his participation in legally permitted protests in Washington, D.C., financial transactions pertaining to those protests, and documents sufficient to determine how he promoted the protests," the suit says.

"Through counsel, Jones has raised a number of constitutional objections to both the deposition subpoena and the document subpoena," it says.

Jones said he has offered to provide documents and written answers to the panel's questions, which he said the committee refused.

Instead, he charges, the committee called on Jones to appear in person to be deposed on Jan. 10, 2022.

Jones has insisted that if he is compelled to testify, he will assert his Fifth Amendment right, which protects citizens from being forced to provide incriminating evidence against themselves during legal proceedings.

Jones helped organize the Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse that preceded the riot, and he also claimed to facilitate a donation that covered significant funding for the event. He also spoke at a Jan. 6 event at Freedom Plaza.

This is not the first time Jones has been called to face legal repercussions for promoting dangerous and untethered conspiracy theories on his platforms.

Last month the right-wing media personality was found liable for defamation against the families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Jones had used his talk show to promote the unfounded conspiracy that the shooting was a hoax perpetrated by the political left in order to increase gun safety laws. Twenty children and six educators were killed in the shooting spree.

The lawsuit is the latest legal challenge to the panel in recent months

Cleta Mitchell, a Republican lawyer who aided in former President Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election results, last week filed a suit to stop the House's subpoena for relevant phone records related to the Capitol attack.

Mark Meadows, Trump's former White House chief of staff, sued the panel earlier this month to try to block subpoenas from the committee. He has since been held in contempt for defying a congressional subpoena.

And Trump, for whom the rally-turned-riot was held, in October sued the committee and the National Archives to stop the panel from acquiring his presidential records tied to the attack.

"The Committee's request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by [President] Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration. Our laws do not permit such an impulsive, egregious action against a former President and his close advisors," Trump's lawsuit alleged at the time.

NPR's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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