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Congressman Scott Perry Sues to Prevent the Justice Department from Accessing His Cellphone Records

Perry's cellphone was seized and forensically copied by the FBI the day of the Mar-a-Lago raid

Congressman Scott Perry is suing the Department of Justice to have his cell phone data returned to him.

Perry’s cellphone was seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Aug. 9, the same day the agency raided President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The Pennsylvania congressman was on vacation with his family in New Jersey when agents executed a warrant signal by U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The warrant had been signed on Aug. 2, two weeks prior to when it was served. 

According to the lawsuit, the agents created a forensic image of Perry’s phone and its data before returning the physical device:

In subsequent discussion with prosecutors from the United States Department of Justice, the undersigned counsel explained that the data from Rep. Perry’s phone includes information that is protected by the Speech and Debate Clause of the United States Constitution, the Attorney-Client privilege, marital privilege, and which is otherwise persona and confidential.

Through his legal team, Perry has requested that the Court “order the government to return the data that the government obtained from his cellphone for which it has failed to establish by probable causes a sufficient nexus to any criminal conduct under investigation.” The team further argued that it’s protected by legal precedent, including the Speech and Debate Clause. 

Under that particular clause of the Constitution, members of Congress have the protected right to speak and debate freely during legislative activities without their statements being later used to implicate them in a lawsuit.

Perry also asked the Court to prohibit the federal government from “obtaining record and information” from the congressman’s cellphone that is “within the possession, custody, and control of AT&T.” If the government has already obtained the data from AT&T, Perry’s lawyers have asked the Court to order the records be secured and note reviewed “until both parties can be heard.”

[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,” John Rowley and John Irving, attorneys for the congressman, wrote in the emergency motion. 

The seizure of Perry’s cellphone was a part of the FBI’s probe into the event at the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

Perry has denied accusations from the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 that he sought a pardon from President Donald Trump for his alleged involvement in attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

The notion that I ever sought a Presidential pardon for myself or other Members of Congress is an absolute, shameless, and soulless lie,” Perry wrote on Twitter in June. 

Perry told the York Daily Record the FBI seizure of his cellphone is an example of government overreach. 

“This breathtaking abuse of power by President Biden and his enablers will never deter me from protecting Constitutional Rights for all Americans, and pushing back against these banana republic tactics from a failed and floundering administration,” the congressman said on Aug. 24. 

According to Politico, the case has been assigned to Biden-appointee Judge Jia Cobb.

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