Federal agents seized the cellphone of Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) while he was traveling with his family Tuesday, executing a court-authorized search warrant that a person familiar with the situation said was part of a criminal probe into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Perry said federal law enforcement agents did not attempt to reach his attorneys before the seizure, but he wrote in his statement that they would have handed over his phone had they been contacted. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment Tuesday evening.
The person familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the phone was taken as part of a Justice Department investigation into the use of fake electors to try to overturn President Biden’s victory. Perry is the first member of Congress known to have his phone seized as part of that inquiry.
“My phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends,” Perry wrote in the statement on Tuesday, comparing the situation with an FBI search on Monday of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. “As with President [Donald] Trump last night, DOJ chose this unnecessary and aggressive action instead of simply contacting my attorneys.”
Fox News first reported that Perry said agents confiscated his phone.
In June, Perry’s involvement in pushing Trump to get the election overturned became part of the questioning in the congressional hearings on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. At the hearing, former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen testified that Perry pressed him to investigate a false claim that an Italian defense contractor had conspired with senior CIA officials to use military satellites to flip votes from Trump to Joe Biden.
Witnesses testified that Perry helped push an effort to install Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official, as the acting attorney general. Clark played a key role in Trump’s efforts to get law enforcement officials to challenge Biden’s election victory.
And Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, testified that Perry was among several members of Congress who sought a preemptive pardon from Trump for their activities in the run-up to the Jan. 6 violence. Perry has denied that allegation.
In June, federal agents seized the cellphone of John Eastman, a lawyer who pushed false claims that mass voter fraud tainted the 2020 election. That same day, they also conducted a search at the home of Clark and reportedly took his electronic devices.
Perry said in his statement Tuesday that he is “outraged” but not “surprised that the FBI under the direction of Merrick Garland’s DOJ, would seize the phone of a sitting Member of Congress.”
Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.
The Jan. 6 insurrection
Congressional hearings: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held a series of high-profile hearings to share its findings with the U.S. public. What was likely to be the panel’s final public hearing has been postponed because of Hurricane Ian. Here’s a guide to the biggest hearing moments so far.
Will there be charges? The committee could make criminal referrals of former president Donald Trump over his role in the attack, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview.
The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.
Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6.