In law consciousness of guilt consists of evidence that a person knew he or she was committing a crime. Such consciousness may be evinced by a false alibi, a contrived explanation for one’s actions, intimidation of a witness, destruction or concealment of evidence or even flight. In the realpolitik of top level government crime it could even consist of seeking a presidential pardon.
According to January 6 Committee member Liz Cheney, Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry is a man very conscious of his own guilt. Perry, you may recall, played a seminal role in the December 2020 crisis at the Justice Department, when Donald Trump considered firing acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen and replacing him with Jeffrey Clark, the acting chief of the civil division of the DOJ. The New York Times reported that Perry introduced Clark to Trump because of Clark’s “openness to conspiracy theories about election fraud.”
According to Cheney, Perry actively sought a presidential pardon from Trump. “As you will see,” Cheney said Thursday during the first night of the televised January 6 Committee hearings, “Representative Perry contacted the White House in the weeks after January 6 to seek a presidential pardon. Multiple other Republican congressmen also sought presidential pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.”
Cheney didn’t name any additional members of Congress or provide additional evidence to back up the claim during her statement. Other candidates have been mooted, including Arizona Representatives Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, and Alabama Representative Mo Brooks.
Innocent people don’t seek preemptive pardons, of course. New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put it this way when she tweeted, “Hey quick question [Lauren] Boebert, did you ask for a pardon after tweeting the Speaker’s location on Jan 6th?”
Seeking a preemptive pardon is a dangerous game. There’s always the chance that you won’t get it or, if you do get it, there’s the chance that it won’t work. It’s not the kind of thing you want to get caught doing, and no one knows this better than Scott Perry himself, who has officially denied seeking a pardon from Trump. “The notion that I ever sought a Presidential pardon for myself,” Perry tweeted, “or other Members of Congress is an absolute, shameless, and soulless lie.” I’m guessing that means he didn’t get his pardon.
Liz Cheney wouldn’t claim that Scott Perry asked for a pardon without evidence, and I fully expect that evidence to come to light as the televised hearings continue to unfold. In the meantime Cheney has given Mr. Perry plenty of proverbial rope. So far he’s hanging himself with it right on cue. His official denial that he asked for a pardon might actually turn out to interfere with his ability to use it should he be lying. Now wouldn’t that be interesting? And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.