'Informal legislative factfinding': Court to decide whether DOJ can go through Rep. Scott Perry's phone
The United Stats DC Circuit Court of Appeals will soon determine whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) can search Rep. Scott Perry's (R-PA) phone as the agency continues to investigate the Jan. 6 attack, CNN reports.
CNN previously reported that the DOJ "seized" Perry’s cell phone in August of 2022 as part of the investigation, considering the congressman staunchly supported former president Donald Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
Now, the House Freedom Caucus chairman is scheduled to testify in court this week against the agency's attempt to probe "the contents" of the cellular device, according to NBC.
READ MORE: Scott Perry: The most dangerous insurrectionist in Congress
Shortly after Perry's phone was confiscated in August with a search warrant, CNN reports, officials returned the phone to the congressman after they collected an image of the device.
The warrant indicated the phone data would be taken to a Justice Department forensic lab in Northern Virginia, but because the initial warrant authorized only the seizure of the phone, investigators would need a second warrant from a judge before they could go through the data.
In an interview with ABC, Perry asked, "Why should I be limited just because someone has made an accusation? Everybody in America is innocent until proven guilty."
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Elliot Williams, a former Justice Department official who also worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee, said "We want members of Congress to be able to do their jobs without constantly being hauled into court. But it defies logic and probably the Constitution for Congress to think it can wave a wand and call everything it touches quote 'informal legislative factfinding.'"
According to Law Insider, informal legislative fact-finding is defined as "an informal conference or consultation proceeding used to ascertain the fact basis for case decisions."
In seeking to block DOJ’s access to Perry’s phone, his lawyers have pointed specifically to a 2005 ruling concerning an FBI search of then-Rep. William Jefferson’s congressional office in a bribery probe. The DC Circuit said that the Justice Department ran afoul of the constitutional clause by sorting through the Louisiana Democrat’s files without his consent.
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Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who "confidentially reviewed details about the information on Perry's phone, ruled, contrary to his lawyers' belief, officials should be able to search "certain materials" that don't "fall under his legislative work because they weren't sanctioned by any legislative authority." Although, other materials may be protected by the Speech or Debate Clause, according to CNN.
However, the appeals court, which is "above Howell," placed her decision "on hold" while it hears Perry's defense, CNN notes.
Prosecutors have yet to review "the more than 2,000 records they seek."
READ MORE: 'Dissemination and action': DOJ pursues text messages of MAGA congressman who pushed election lies
CNN's full report is available at this link. NBC's report is here.
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