20230105 perry

House Speaker Fight Shows Election Deniers Who Tried To Overthrow Democracy Still Control GOP

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Trump coup accomplices Jim Jordan and Scott Perry have become two of the GOP’s biggest powerbrokers.

On the first day of the new Congress, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) delivered one of the nominating speeches for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was seeking the House speakership. Jordan bemoaned a “government that has been weaponized” against the American people and called for greater accountability. The next day, during a second round of failed votes for McCarthy, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the leader of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, voiced a similar sentiment but in opposing McCarthy: “Washington is broken… We have an administration that has contempt for the American people.” Though the two men were on different sides in this battle royal, they were united in hypocrisy, for each of these decriers of abusive power had been collaborators in Donald Trump’s public crusade to promote the lies about the 2020 election that led to the January 6 insurrectionist attack on the Capitol and in Trump’s devious plotting to overturn the election and upend American democracy.

Their roles in the House GOP’s crapshow illustrated a profound fact largely overlooked in this hullabaloo: The political chaos that brought the House of Representatives to a standstill was being perpetuated by a party that two years earlier had tried to sabotage the republic and had championed falsehoods and conspiracy theories that led to seditious violence in the very chamber where the speakership fight was now occurring. Of the 222 Republicans currently in the House GOP caucus, 119 had on January 6, 2021, after the Trump-incited riot, affirmed the false charge of a stolen election by voting to block certification of Joe Biden’s victory. This group included most of the anti-McCarthy bloc, among them Reps. Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, and Ralph Norman, who in January 2021 texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that Trump should consider “Marshall Law” to remain in office. And this group included McCarthy.

The GOP civil war in the House was being fought over whether to elevate an election denier who had helped spread the Big Lie that spurred violence to a position that is second in the line of presidential succession. Yet McCarthy’s participation in that assault on democracy was not an issue. For Republicans, it was a prerequisite.

Though most Republicans elected to the new Congress share culpability for January 6 and the failed effort to blow up the 2020 election, Perry and Jordan stand out for their significant participation in Trump’s anti-constitutional and arguably criminal caper.

The House January 6 committee’s report details Perry as a key conspirator in one of Trump’s plots to reverse the election. After the 2020 election was called, Perry was a prominent cheerleader of Trump’s fraudulent claim the election had been stolen from him. He was one of 27 Republican House members who signed a letter requesting that Trump “direct Attorney General Barr to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate irregularities in the 2020 election.” He attended a December 21 Oval Office meeting with at least 10 other congressional Republicans to discuss a strategy for objecting to the electoral college votes on January 6. And with 125 other House Republicans, he supported Texas’ lawsuit that called for throwing out the votes of Pennsylvania and three other states.

But Perry outdid other GOP election deniers with his behind-the-scenes scheming to corrupt the Justice Department.

He participated in numerous post-election meetings in which senior White House officials, Rudolph Giuliani, and others, discussed strategies for challenging the election, chief among them claims that the election had been tainted by fraud. On January 2, 2021, Representative Jordan led a conference call in which he, President Trump, and other Members of Congress discussed strategies for delaying the January 6th joint session. During that call, the group also discussed issuing social media posts encouraging President Trump’s supporters to “march to the Capitol” on the 6th.

In late December 2020, after Barr resigned (having told Trump privately and stated publicly there was no evidence of any significant electoral fraud), Trump relentlessly leaned on the Justice Department—mainly, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his deputy, Richard Donoghue—to affirm his baseless assertion that the election had been rigged. They resisted and repeatedly told Trump the allegations of fraud were untrue. Trump was not getting what he wanted from the department.

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