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Johnson quietly makes controversial picks to House Intel panel

Speaker Mike Johnson on Wednesday tapped two members to serve on the prestigious House Intelligence Committee — and one of them is not only a former chair of the House Freedom Caucus, but also has publicly tangled with the FBI.

The GOP leader named Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) to the panel, which has oversight over the intelligence community and access to highly sensitive information, as well as Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas). Perry is a particularly contentious pick, as members of the panel have privately expressed heartburn over giving the Pennsylvanian that kind of power when he was part of a federal investigation that is examining efforts to subvert the 2020 election. Conservatives had pushed Johnson for Perry’s appointment.

“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,” Perry said in a post on X thanking Johnson for the appointment.

Some Republicans said they feared Perry’s presence on the panel will not only impact what different agencies are willing to share, but also that the former HFC chair will leak sensitive information to that group. His statement did little to assuage those concerns.

“Spoken like a true narcissist, believing he and he alone can bring ‘fresh perspective,’ whilst accusing everyone else of ‘blind obedience.’ Reminds me of the pro-Hamas student protesters who study an issue for five whole minutes and think they have all the answers,” said one GOP member of the Intelligence Committee, granted anonymity to speak candidly.

Some members believe that Jackson had a pressure campaign of his own — this one originating with former President Donald Trump, as POLITICO previously reported. Intelligence Committee members weren’t thrilled with the outside lobbying efforts, but saw Jackson as a better option than Perry.

Jackson in a statement said he is honored to accept the position and looks forward to working on the panel and conducting “key oversight of the intelligence community and ensure their focus remains on national security and protecting the American people at home.”

The appointments were announced on the House floor with little fanfare and no accompanying statement from the speaker’s office.

The two open seats from the panel resulted from the midterm departures of Reps. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.). Republicans familiar with the pressure campaigns believed Johnson could have circumvented the lobbying efforts by either leaving the panel spots open until next year or filling the seats with members who were retiring next Congress.

Both Perry specifically and the Freedom Caucus generally have had their sights on the panel for a while. But key Republicans felt picking Perry for the panel was out of the question given its oversight powers over the FBI, which seized his cell phone in August 2022. The Pennsylvania conservative also sought to litigate what the federal investigators would be able to access on his phone.

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