DOJ attorneys were set to urge a federal appeals court on Thursday to allow investigators to search the cell phone of Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) as part of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into former President Trump’s role in the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
The FBI seized Perry’s phone over the summer. In October, his attorneys dropped a lawsuit for its return in what had been an effort to block the DOJ from reviewing its content.
A Trump ally who helped spread the former President’s false claims that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen through widespread voter fraud, the House Select Committee that investigated January 6 last year had reached out to Perry for an interview, but he apparently never responded.
The legal dispute that was set to play out on Thursday centered upon whether the contents of Perry’s cell phone are shielded from disclosure under the speech and debate clause in Article I of the Constitution.
That clause, which essentially states that speech inside the Capitol by Senators and Representatives is privileged and “shall not be questioned in any other place,” is also being invoked by former Vice President Pence in his effort to fight a subpoena from Smith’s office.
Perry’s attorneys are set to argue that his conversations with the White House are protected under the clause and therefore should be shielded from the DOJ.
Perry is under scrutiny for his role in the lead-up to January 6. He played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in lobbying Trump to appoint former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark as acting Attorney General so that Clark could launch investigations into Trump’s bogus election fraud claims—though Trump ultimately declined Clark’s appointment.
Meanwhile, though, the January 6 Committee had also raised numerous questions about a reported seven-and-a-half-hour gap in Trump’s phone logs on the day of the insurrection. “It does seem like the gaps are suspiciously tailored to the heart of the events,” then-Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) had said back in April.
Shortly after Perry’s attorneys dropped their lawsuit against the DOJ, legal negotiations over his phone progressed under seal.
However, the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press have argued that the case over Perry’s cell phone should be unsealed, and the court has agreed to hold a portion of Thursday’s hearing in public.