The ongoing legal tussle over U.S. Rep. Scott Perry’s, R-10th District, mobile phone has prevented the U.S. Justice Department from reviewing 2,200 documents in its criminal investigation of efforts by former President Donald Trump and his supporters to overturn the 2020 election results, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.
On Friday, Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. released a number of previously sealed opinions after deciding that the “powerful public interest“ outweighed the need for secrecy in the court battle, the Post reported.
Perry announced last August that federal agents had seized his phone — at the same time the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump’s private club in West Palm Beach, Fla., the Capital-Star reported at the time.
In a statement at the time, Perry, a close Trump ally who was involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, said he was “outraged — though not surprised — that the FBI under the direction of [U.S. Attorney General] Merrick Garland’s DOJ, would seize the phone of a sitting Member of Congress.
“My phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends. None of this is the government’s business,” Perry said in the statement.
Perry has agued that the documents on his phone are off-limits because of the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which shields members of Congress from criminal investigation in most circumstances, except for “Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace.”
In a a ruling last December, Howell rejected that claim for more than 90 percent of the records, and ordered Perry to turn over some 2,055 text messages, emails and attachments, ruling that they were “only incidentally related to his status as a lawmaker, and not central to that status and constitutionally protected as part of his lawmaking,” according to the Post.
According to the Post, Howell said the Justice Department agreed to unseal the details “because a federal appeals court held fast-tracked public arguments this week after staying Howell’s order and approved the release of her key opinions to certain members of Congress and the House general counsel’s office.”
Last December, Perry, a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, was revealed to be among the nearly three-dozen members of Congress contacted by a former top Trump administration official as plans were being laid to topple the results of the 2020 election, the Capital-Star reported at the time.
Perry, who won re-election last November, is the chairperson of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus.
The House’s Jan. 6 committee subpoenaed Perry and other top Republicans last May as they conducted their probe, the Capital-Star previously reported. Perry refused to cooperate in the committee’s investigation and publicly dismissed its legitimacy.
Through a spokesperson, Perry, who has not been charged, said that he is a considered a witness, not a subject, in the ongoing federal probe, the Post reported.
“As a Member of Congress, Mr. Perry had an obligation to be fully informed about his vote to certify the 2020 Presidential election. He is standing up to protect from Executive Branch intrusion the privileges afforded to all Representatives and Senators by the Speech or Debate Clause of the United States Constitution,” Perry’s attorney, John P. Rowley III, said in a written statement provided to the Post.
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