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Why the Jan. 6 investigation is focusing on one Republican rep

For the first time, the Jan. 6 committee is focusing its attention on one member of Congress: Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.


A year ago this week, Donald Trump pressed the Justice Department's top two officials on voter-fraud claims they knew to be false. The officials — acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, and his deputy, Richard Donoghue — responded by telling the then-president that they could not help him change the election's outcome.

Trump said he was asking for something slightly different. "Just say that the election was corrupt [and] leave the rest to me" and to the White House's congressional allies the then-president said, according to Donoghue's written notes.

In other words, Trump wanted the Justice Department to lie, at which point some congressional Republicans would advance the rest of the scheme to overturn the results.

The then-president did not identify the lawmakers by name, but as The New York Times reported over the summer, at other points during the conversation, Trump specifically referenced a handful of far-right lawmakers — including Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.

A year later, the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has some questions for the GOP congressman. NBC News reported overnight:

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot is turning its attention to a fellow lawmaker for the first time, with a request for information from Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.

To be sure, at least at this point in the process, the bipartisan panel has extended a request to Perry, not a subpoena, which would represent an even more dramatic escalation.

But it's also clear that the select committee's interest in the Pennsylvania Republican is quite serious, and is focused on the plot to install Jeffrey Clark as the acting attorney general in the closing weeks of the Trump administration in order to further undermine the transfer of post-election power.

"We have received evidence from multiple witnesses that you had an important role in the efforts to install Mr. Clark as acting Attorney General," Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chair of the Jan. 6 committee, told Perry in a letter yesterday. Thompson added, "We are also aware that you had multiple text and other communications with President Trump's former Chief of Staff regarding Mr. Clark — and we also have evidence indicating that in that time frame you sent communications to the former Chief of Staff using the encrypted Signal app."

In case that weren't quite enough, the committee chair went on to write, "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."

At first blush, this may seem like a minor step. A congressional committee sent a polite request for information to a fellow lawmaker. High drama it isn't.

But let's not miss the forest for the trees: The committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has collected all kinds of documents and materials, and it's taken all kinds of depositions while conducting all kinds of interviews, but this is the first time it has specifically reached out to a member of Congress — suggesting Perry is in a relatively unique position with regards to the larger anti-election scheme.

All things considered, Perry, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, doesn't appear to have the kind of public profile some of his more notorious colleagues have, but the Pennsylvania Republican is, and has been, at the center of this scandal for much of the year. It was Perry, for example, who first introduced Clark, a relatively obscure Justice Department official, to Trump. It was also Perry who shared bogus voter-fraud claims directly with the Justice Department after Trump's defeat.

As recently as October, a Senate Judiciary Committee report put Perry at the center of the efforts to overturn the election results. Politico reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee urged "other congressional investigators to further probe [Perry's] involvement in the runup to the Jan. 6 insurrection."

Evidently, the Jan. 6 panel is doing exactly that.