Republican congressman says FBI seized his cellphone

Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania said Tuesday that the FBI had seized his cell phone.

“This morning, while traveling with my family, 3 FBI agents visited me and seized my cell phone,” he said in part in a statement.

The search is connected to an investigation being conducted in part by the Justice Department inspector general, according to a personal familiar with the matter. The watchdog is investigating the actions of former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, and potentially others, as it examines the department’s role in seeking to assist former President Donald Trump to block certification of the 2020 election results.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and its inspector general both declined to comment.

Perry is closely linked to Clark, who has come under scrutiny by federal investigators for his role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election and had his home searched by law enforcement officials earlier this summer.

The Perry search warrant indicated that the inspector general’s lab in Northern Virginia could conduct a forensic examination of the seized phone. The inclusion of the inspector general is unusual given the office investigates wrongdoing by Justice Department employees. Perry, a five-term congressman, has never worked for the department.

The inspector general is the same Justice Department watchdog office that was listed as doing the forensics and other investigative work following June searches of Clark and former Trump attorney John Eastman.

The new details come as Perry and other Republicans criticize federal law enforcement for the search of a sitting congressman’s communications, which, if they relate to his legislative work, may be protected under the Constitution.

Yet the authorities took precautions not to access information of Perry’s on Tuesday that should be protected, the source said.

Perry’s phone was imaged after the search on Tuesday morning and returned to him soon after. The warrant indicated that federal authorities would need to go back to federal court for a second warrant to access the contents, according to the source.

Eastman, Clark and Perry haven’t been charged with any crimes. It is unclear if there is a target of the criminal investigation into political contacts that aided Trump’s post-election pressure campaign, but the DOJ inspector general investigates wrongdoing by employees within the Department of Justice, which Clark was at the time Trump tried to enlist him to push false voting fraud claims. Perry had introduced Clark and Trump.

Other prosecutors who are based in DC at the Justice Department are working on the criminal investigation related to Clark and Eastman, alongside the inspector general’s office, according to several sources familiar with the probe.

This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

[Read More…]