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The Jan. 6 Committee referred two Pennsylvanians for potential ethics or criminal charges

The committee's emphasis on U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and Philadelphia native Jeffrey Clark underscored Pennsylvania's role in the attempts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election results.

A video of then-President Donald Trump speaking is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington in October.
A video of then-President Donald Trump speaking is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington in October.Read moreJ. Scott Applewhite / AP

Two Pennsylvanians figured prominently in the findings of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol as the panel released a summary of its investigation Monday and made referrals for potential criminal and ethics charges.

The committee accused Jeffrey Clark, a Philadelphia native and former Justice Department attorney, of conspiring with former President Donald Trump to defraud the United States government. Clark supported false election claims and was in line to be appointed U.S. Attorney General by Trump. The committee included him in a list of people referred for possible criminal prosecution.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.), a close Trump ally, was among four House Republicans that the committee referred to the House Ethics Committee Monday for possible sanction over their refusals to comply with subpoenas.

“With regard to the Department of Justice, Jeffrey Clark stands out as a participant in the conspiracy,” the investigative committee wrote, pointing to evidence that Clark, if appointed attorney general, planned to send out a letter falsely saying that federal prosecutors had found reason to doubt the election results in Georgia. “The letter was transparently false, improper, and illegal.”

The letter was never sent, and Trump backed down from plans to appoint Clark to the nation’s top law enforcement position when attorneys at the White House and the Justice Department threatened a mass resignation. Trump and his allies hoped the letter would help lay the foundation for Vice President Mike Pence to count false electors from swing states during the joint sessions of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

Perry had introduced Clark to Trump and pushed hard for Clark’s elevation as the president’s allies scrambled to subvert the election results. Many of their interactions were publicly known before Monday’s 154-page summary was released, but their prominence in the findings underscored the role Perry, Clark, and Pennsylvania played in the plot to usurp the lawful election outcome.

“Perry was working with Clark and with President Trump and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows with this goal: to enlist Clark to reverse the Department of Justice’s findings regarding the election and help overturn the election outcome,” read the summary.

Perry spokesperson Jay Ostrich dismissed the committee’s referral to the ethics panel.

“More games from a petulant and soon-to-be defunct kangaroo court desperate for revenge and struggling to get out from under the weight of its own irrelevancy,” Ostrich said in a statement.

The Jan. 6 committee, releasing its first formal findings after its final public meeting, wrote in a summary that Perry’s “willful noncompliance” violates House rules that require members of Congress to conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.”

» READ MORE: Controversial Pa. Republican Scott Perry is about to lead Congress’ most far-right faction

The committee had subpoenaed Perry and several other Republicans who have been prominent Trump supporters, and backers of the “Stop the Steal” movement, but he refused to testify.

Perry, who has gained influence as the new chair of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, has derided the committee as illegitimate. It is made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans who have been critical of Trump, and will almost certainly be disbanded when the GOP takes control of the House in January.

The committee wrote that Perry likely has “material facts regarding President Trump’s plans to overturn the election,” noting that he attended a White House meeting on Dec. 21, 2020, to discuss a plot to have Pence dispute the election outcome when Congress met to certify the results. The report notes that Perry is among the members of Congress who later inquired about a potential presidential pardon, citing sworn testimony from an aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows. Perry has called that claim a “soulless lie.”

Perry has also drawn attention from federal prosecutors, who seized his cell phone earlier this year.

It’s not clear whether the Department of Justice, which is already conducting its own investigation, will move forward with criminal charges against Trump or anyone else involved in the election scheme. The referrals are ultimately just suggestions from Congress. The ethics accusations also face long odds in the evenly split House Ethics Committee, given the partisan divide around Jan. 6.

But the summary and referrals represented the culmination of the committee’s groundbreaking work investigating the riot that shocked the Capitol, and the events leading up to it. Further evidence and details are expected to be released later this week.

Among the episodes detailed in the summary is Perry’s effort to have Clark installed as attorney general, so that Clark could offer public support for Trump’s lies about election fraud.

Perry introduced Clark to Trump and then “sent multiple text messages” to Meadows between Dec. 26 and Dec. 28, 2020, “pressing that Clark be elevated within the Department,” the report said.

At one point Perry reminded Meadows “that there are only ‘11?? days to 1/6 … We gotta get going!,’ and, as the days went on, one asking, ‘Did you call Jeff Clark?’ ”

Clark, who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, was an attorney who long focused on environmental issues. But Trump hoped to elevate the lawyer to the top of the Justice Department. Clark, in turn, planned to send out a letter raising unfounded doubts about the results in Georgia to give a veneer of credibility to Trump’s false claims.

(In fact, the DOJ had investigated claims of fraud in Georgia and found nothing that raised doubts about the results.)

“Clark’s contact with Trump violated both Justice Department and White House policies designed to prevent political pressure on the Department,” the summary said.

At one point Perry called the DOJ’s second-ranking official, Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, “and suggested that the Department hadn’t been doing its job,” the summary said. “Perry told Donoghue that Clark ‘would do something about this.’ ”

Federal agents in June searched Clark’s Virginia home.

Clark’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Perry has previously acknowledged introducing Clark to Trump and said in January 2021 his conversations with both “were a reiteration of the many concerns about the integrity of our elections, and that those allegations should at least be investigated to ease the minds of the voters that they had, indeed, participated in a free and fair election.”

Another Pennsylvania Republican, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, also figured in the report. It said Kelly, of Butler County, played a role in the plot to submit a false slate of Wisconsin electors to Pence. Staffers for Kelly and Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) attempted to deliver the fake certificates, but a Pence aide declined to accept them, the report says. Kelly, a staunch Trump supporter, has said he was unaware about his aide’s involvement.

The House Ethics Committee will face a likely unprecedented task when they consider the referral against Perry, said Charlie Dent, a former Allentown congressman who once chaired the ethics panel.

“They might be deadlocked. That’s very possibly the outcome,” said Dent, though he said any final result could depend on who is appointed to the ethics committee in the new Congress.

The ethics committee is evenly divided, so any punishment would require a bipartisan vote, which may be difficult given the partisan divides around Jan. 6. The members are appointed by party leaders in the House — which likely means that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), potentially the next House speaker, would pick the Republican members who would then consider the referral against him, Perry, and two other GOP congressmen.

“We have no idea who the next chairman would be or the composition of the committee,” Dent said. “It could change dramatically from what it is today.”

And the issue of House members defying subpoenas from a House investigation is likely unprecedented, Dent said.

The ethics committee can recommend four punishments: expulsion, censure, reprimand, or a letter of reproval. All but the letter require a majority vote from the full House, which will have a GOP majority come January.

U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, an Allentown Democrat, currently chairs the ethics committee. Her office said in a statement that she “strictly adheres to the rules of confidentiality of the Committee, and does not make any public comment on pending or possible matters before the Committee.”