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Rep. Scott Perry calls Jan. 6 panel ‘illegitimate,’ refuses to cooperate

Next steps unclear as House rules, Constitution may provide protection

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., said he wouldn't cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., said he wouldn't cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Scott Perry said Tuesday he would not cooperate with the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation, a move that forces the panel to grapple with how it will extract information it seeks from a sitting member of Congress.

“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 said in a statement. “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 and refuse to address at our southern border.”

On Monday, Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., asked Perry to sit for an interview and provide the committee with communications Perry had with former President Donald Trump and with others regarding Jan. 6 events.  Perry, along with Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., led the charge to object to the electoral votes of Pennsylvania.

The panel said it was interested in the role Perry played in an unsuccessful attempt to install Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general. Clark, a former assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources, met with Trump and other White House officials to consider ways the election results could be overturned. The committee said it has evidence from multiple witnesses, including former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, that Perry had a crucial part pushing Clark as the top Justice Department official. 

Responding to Perry’s rejection, a spokesperson for the select committee said if members with relevant information don’t cooperate, the panel “will consider seeking such information using other tools.”

Perry has “information directly relevant” to the investigation, according to the spokesperson.

“While he says that he respects the Constitution and Rule of Law, he fails to note that multiple federal courts, acting pursuant to Article 3 of our Constitution, have already rejected the former President’s claims that the committee lacks an appropriate legislative purpose,” the spokesperson added.

Other potential witnesses who did not cooperate voluntarily received subpoenas, and continued refusal led the House to recommend that former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Bannon and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows face criminal charges for contempt of Congress.

Taking that route with a sitting House member is more difficult — and may not be possible — because of protections they have under the Constitution and House rules, however.

Stanley Brand, a law professor at Penn State University and a former House counsel, said member conduct has been “pretty much considered the exclusive prerogative of the Ethics Committee,” which is evenly divided to be free of partisanship. 

“So I think there are some legal issues raised by trying to subpoena a member by a committee that has not specifically been delegated authority in the member conduct area,” Brand said.

The New York Times reported the Jan. 6 committee has also weighed the possibility of criminal referrals regarding Republicans and Trump. Taking that step with a sitting lawmaker, Brand said, could be an attempt to circumvent the Speech or Debate Clause in the Constitution, which has been interpreted as protecting members from being arrested or questioned by prosecutors or courts for actions connected to legislative actions.

“One could argue that a subpoena by the committee to a member is an attempt to divest them of their speech or debate privilege which they would have against a Department of Justice subpoena or investigation or charge,” Brand said. “And that it’s an end around their constitutional right to be free of prosecution for their legislative acts.”

Thompson in his letter acknowledged the committee “has tremendous respect for the prerogatives of Congress and the privacy of its Members. At the same time, we have a solemn responsibility to investigate fully all of these facts and circumstances.”

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