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House group supports Pa. Rep. Scott Perry’s fight to keep DOJ away from his cell phone

  • Robby Brod
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., is followed by reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., is followed by reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The Justice Department has hit another snag in its attempts to access the contents of Congressman Scott Perry’s cell phone, seized last summer as part of an unnamed investigation.

The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, whose five House members include Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Democrat Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, voted unanimously to represent Scott Perry while a federal appeals court decides whether DOJ has the right to access the contents of Perry’s phone.

Perry says investigators informed him he’s not the subject of their investigation. He hasn’t been charged with any crime.

Dickinson College president John Jones, a former federal judge, said the House leaders are standing on principle.

“They don’t want their information, their phones, their communication seized in connection with investigation of third parties,” Jones said. “They’re putting themselves in the position of Congressman Perry and saying, ‘We want to create a very high bar for the Department of Justice to be able to view what’s on our phones.’”

A three-judge panel is overseeing Perry’s appeal of a federal court ruling last year that federal investigators could access the contents of a copy of Perry’s phone.

Jones said it’s rare for the group to intervene.

“The last time I remember them doing that in a prominent way was in the same sex marriage cases some years ago, when they intervened, when the Department of Justice would not defend the Defense of Marriage Act,” he said. “But the principle that they’re standing on is that the speech or debate clause essentially prevents the Department of Justice from simply fishing around a congressman’s phone unless there is some credible allegation that that congressman or congresswoman committed a significant crime.”

In December, Judge Beryl Howell ruled that the Department of Justice could see some of the data on Congressman Perry’s phone, which Perry appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, a three-judge panel is overseeing the case while that decision is stayed.

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