Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) sued to block the Justice Department from obtaining the contents of his cell phone. The FBI seized his phone earlier this month reportedly in connection with a federal investigation into attempts by several allies of former President Trump to subvert the 2020 election results.
After FBI agents seized Perry’s phone, it was placed in the custody of the DOJ’s inspector general, which has helped spearhead an inquiry into a scheme by Trump and his allies to replace department leadership as part of a fruitless attempt to steal a second term for the former president.
In his 16-page lawsuit, which was filed last week in federal court in D.C. but was not publicly docketed until late Tuesday, Perry claimed that the DOJ has not accessed records on his phone yet. He said that the department is working on obtaining a second search warrant that would inform its review, including a process to filter out potentially privileged content.
With the lawsuit Perry is attempting to block the government from searching his phone. He is also demanding that the DOJ return any data it may have acquired.
“[F]ederal agents should not be given carte blanche to root around in Rep. Perry’s phone data looking for evidence that they hope might further their investigation,” Perry’s attorneys John Rowley and John Irving wrote in the filing.
Perry’s attorneys said that after the seizure of his phone, he and his counsel conferred with DOJ about an “alternative process” — such as allowing the government and Perry’s counsel to simultaneously review information on his phone to figure out whether the material is protected under the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause. Perry’s attorneys, however, claimed that the DOJ requested that Perry waive the closure protection of the Speech and Debate clause before beginning the agreed upon review process.
Earlier this month, Perry told Fox News that federal agents approached him while he was traveling with his family with a warrant for his phone. Perry claimed the FBI made “no attempt to contact my lawyer, who would have made arrangements for them to have my phone if that was their wish.”
John Irving, one of Perry’s lawyers, told the New York Times that investigators reportedly returned Perry’s phone a day after the FBI seized it. Irving also reportedly said prosecutors told Perry that he is a witness, not a target of their inquiry.
The FBI’s seizure of Perry’s phone was reportedly in connection with a federal investigation into efforts by Trump allies Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman to overturn the election results. Clark, a former DOJ official, attempted to weaponize the department as a tool to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory on Trump’s behalf. Eastman, a conservative lawyer, was part of a pressure campaign aimed at pushing then-Vice President Mike Pence to discard the results of the 2020 election.
FBI agents also seized Eastman’s phone in June while he was in New Mexico. Eastman swiftly sued to force the DOJ to return his phone.
In recent months, the Jan. 6 Select Committee has detailed evidence showing communications between Perry and Clark amid Trump’s refusal to concede the election. Perry was a key player in pushing Trump to tap Clark as his acting attorney general in the face of significant pushback from top DOJ officials. During a public hearing, the committee revealed text messages showing Perry repeatedly urging then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to get in touch with Clark.