Republican Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania has issued a legal filing that demands the FBI return his phone data and cease accessing any information they gathered from it. The seizure of the cell phone was the result of an executed search warrant on behalf of the bureau.
The warrant itself justified the “forensic extraction” of any relevant evidence on Perry’s device and is reportedly related to the Department of Justice’s January 6 probe, though the phone was taken just one day after the FBI’s raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Perry’s lawsuit is an “emergency motion for return of seized property” filed with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. In it, he claims that all speech found on his phone is protected by the “Speech and Debate” clause of the United States Constitution.
The clause reads: “For any Speech or Debate in either House [lawmakers] shall not be questioned in any other place.” Perry claims this allows him and other lawmakers to determine what information is protected, rather than establishing it during a government review.
“[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,” explained Perry’s attorneys, John Rowley and John Irving, in the lawsuit.
According to the filing, agents took his cell phone while he was on vacation, returning it after having extracted a forensic image of all of the data on it. It also seeks a temporary restraining order that would prevent anyone from being able to access said data. Apparently, the DoJ has not yet accessed the information and is instead in the process of getting a second warrant to determine what to look for.
Perry claims that following the seizure of the phone, he and his attorney discussed alternatives to litigation with the DoJ, however, he says they asked him to waive his immunity under the “Speech and Debate” clause as a lawmaker. In exchange, both parties would be able to review the data and determine what information is covered by privilege. This was not an option Perry was willing to take, causing him to decline.
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