Appeals Court Restricts Special Counsel’s Access to Rep. Perry’s Phone

A new appeals court ruling on the amount of access that Special Counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution team could have to Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-Pa.) cell phone dealt a serious blow to Smith and his team. Readers will recall that Perry, the leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump had his phone confiscated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations in early August.

Perry, in an interview with Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade on July 25, called the seizure, which occurred while he was away on vacation and his family was at home, a “scenario” and an “intimidation”. My colleague wrote previously:

“While that story blew up, I heard from my attorneys, who talked directly to the Department of Justice, who said that I, their client, am not a target of this investigation,” Perry told Kilmeade. “If they would have just contacted my attorney, certainly, we would have provided the information necessary, as required by law. And that would have been the end of it. But they want this spectacle. They want this show. They want the intimidation.”

There’s some news about a recent court ruling regarding Rep. Perry’s cell phone.

A three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a part of a lower-court decision that would’ve allowed Smith’s prosecutors access to much of the content they were seeking from Perry’s cell phone.

The FBI seized Perry’s device in August 2022 under a search warrant authorized by a court. However, it still cannot access the relevant documents and communications, after Perry took steps to prevent this, citing the legal privileges he enjoys as a federal legislator and Congress’ authority to be free from executive branch interference.[…]

Smith’s team could seek a review of the ruling by the Supreme Court or the entire bench of the court. So, Tuesday’s decision may not be final.

Perry is seen to have won, even though the information available at this time is limited.

The new ruling marks a major milestone for Perry and the House of Representatives. They raised concerns about the prosecutors’ attempt to gain access to the phone of a Congress member.[…]

The appeals court has not released its 29-page decision, but the three-judge court indicated on Tuesday in its docket that it partially rejected the ruling by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell who had granted prosecutors access to most of the files seized off Perry’s cell phone. She blocked only a handful of dozen she deemed out of reach for federal investigators.

The crux of this case is whether or not a constitutional clause “grants immunity from criminal prosecution to members of Congress”

The courts are interpreting the Constitution’s clause on “speech and debate”, which gives immunity to Congressmen from criminal prosecutions that relate to their official work. Perry has argued much of the information Smith’s team is seeking to obtain is protected under this constitutional provision, and therefore should not be subject to prosecution.

Howell disagreed. He said that Perry’s efforts as a freelancer to investigate election fraud – and to communicate this information with the executive branch – rendered these contacts unprotected under speech or debate immunity.

We’ll let you know if and when we get an update. For example, if Smith’s office comments on the ruling, or a request is made by Rep. Perry’s lawyers for a review. This has not happened yet.