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House speaker appoints Trump loyalists Perry, Jackson to Intelligence Committee

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Wednesday appointed Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Ronny Jackson (R-Tex.), two Trump loyalists who denied the results of the 2020 election, to the House Intelligence Committee, granting them oversight of the U.S. intelligence community and sensitive government material.

Seats on the committee are highly sought after in Congress and closely watched, as members have access to some of the nation’s most classified information and are charged with overseeing the spy agencies — including the intelligence gathering within the FBI — which former president Donald Trump has routinely expressed disdain for.

Perry, a hard-line Republican who previously served as the chair of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, played a key role in promoting false claims of election fraud and pushed the Trump White House and Justice Department to investigate baseless claims and prevent the transfer of power to President Biden. The FBI seized Perry’s cellphone records in 2022 as part of the criminal investigation into Trump’s efforts to subvert the election, and Perry sought to block what the federal investigators would be able to access on his phone. In December 2023, a federal judge ordered that Perry disclose nearly 1,700 records from his cellphone to the investigation being conducted by special counsel Jack Smith. Perry’s lawyer has said that U.S. officials never described Perry as a target of their ongoing investigation in their discussions with the congressman, and he has not been charged.

Jackson, a retired U.S. Navy officer who joined Congress in 2021, served as the physician to Presidents Barack Obama and Trump. He was demoted in rank from retired rear admiral to captain in July 2022 following a damaging Pentagon inspector general’s report that substantiated allegations about his inappropriate behavior as a White House physician. Jackson has denied the report’s allegations and claimed they were politically motivated.

The appointments of Jackson and Perry come a day after Johnson, a staunch Trump ally, broadly outlined a “three-pronged approach” on how the Republican majority can target the Justice Department, New York and other jurisdictions for investigating Trump — using, among other things, House oversight powers.

Johnson, who was elected to the speakership after a group of Republicans ousted his predecessor for working with Democratic lawmakers to pass legislation, has vowed to help Trump win in November, and the selections of Perry and Jackson to replace two GOP members who resigned from office show how he’s willing to elevate two hard-right, pro-Trump members to the prestigious roles.

Scott and Perry will replace retired members Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who upset fellow Republicans when he opposed the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Chris Stewart (R-Utah).

Taylor Haulsee, a spokesman for Johnson’s office, said in a statement that the speaker “has the utmost confidence in Congressmen Perry and Jackson to capably serve the American people on the Intelligence Committee.”

Jackson and Perry both issued statements thanking Johnson for the appointments.

“I’m humbled by his confidence in me, my service to our Nation, and my experience in this arena,” Perry, a military veteran, said in his statement. “I look forward to providing not only a fresh perspective, but conducting actual oversight — not blind obedience to some facets of our Intel Community that all too often abuse their powers, resources, and authority to spy on the American People.”

In a short video posted on social media after his committee appointment, Perry also said Johnson “took a strong look” at his background. “I’ve held a national security clearance for decades and I think that’s important to him, and I think he also wanted some different viewpoints on the committee,” he added.

Jackson, who had previously expressed interest in joining the committee, said in his statement that he believes the committee “will be able to restore the American people’s complete faith in our intelligence community.”

The office of Rep. Jim Himes (Conn.), the top Democrat on the committee, declined to comment on the appointments. But the move drew sharp criticism from Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who sits on the House Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.

Connolly told MSNBC on Wednesday that Johnson’s appointment was “a very bad decision for our country” that shows the speaker is “pandering to the right.”

“Neither of these two gentlemen is qualified for the intelligence committee. Neither should ever be near the intelligence committee. And it’s going to make cooperation between our counterintelligence operations and the intelligence services and the Congress much more complicated,” he added.

Meanwhile, former congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Republican who served on the House select committee that investigated the insurrection, called the appointments “insane” in a social media post Wednesday.

Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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