The US House of Representatives has sought to intervene in an ongoing legal battle between the Justice Department and Rep. Scott Perry over whether to allow the Department to access the contents of the Pennsylvania Republican’s phone.
A person familiar with the situation said the bipartisan legal advisory group — consisting of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and others in the leadership — voted unanimously to intervene. It was an attempt to unseal the record in Perry’s case, the person said, a move believed to be in the chamber’s best interest to preserve the constitution’s speech or debate clause, which protects the work of members of Congress.
“It was a unanimous vote on the bipartisan rights group related to the establishment of the House of Representatives,” Jeffries told reporters Monday.
CNN previously reported on the sealed court battle between Perry’s attorneys and the Justice Department after he confiscated the congressman’s phone last year.
The DOJ has attempted to gain access to Perry’s text messages as part of a criminal investigation into the 2020 election interference.
Perry texted then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows with advice from a “cyber forensics team” he was in contact with after the 2020 election.
Perry believed that election security was compromised, contributing to Donald Trump’s loss of the presidency, and wanted to preserve post-election voting machines. This led to Pennsylvania lawmakers reaching out to powerful Trump supporters, including Meadows, Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, and others who made false claims of voter fraud.
Perry previously said the Justice Department had told his attorneys that he was not a target of the investigation.
He sued the Justice Department days after the search, then quickly asked the court to shelve the public-facing lawsuit. The Justice Department approached Perry’s phone seizure and other phone seizures from Trump allies in two parts, according to sources familiar with the investigation and public records. The DOJ would image the phone through a first warrant and then request a second warrant through a confidential court proceeding to access the data.
Following Perry’s lawsuit, the dispute was kept under wraps when Perry’s attorneys and Justice Department investigators appeared before Chief Justice Beryl Howell during a closed hearing in mid-October, CNN reported at the time.
Howell is overseeing federal jury trials in Washington, DC, and several of the prosecutors involved in those trials are now working with Special Counsel Jack Smith.