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Who is Scott Perry, Trump ally and lawmaker whose phone was seized by FBI?

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.). (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

After the FBI seized the cellphone of Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who boosted former president Donald Trump’s baseless election fraud claims, all eyes are on the latest Trump ally to face scrutiny by federal law enforcement.

Perry’s cellphone was seized Tuesday as part of the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the use of fake electors to try to overturn President Biden’s victory, according to a person familiar with the probe, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the phone seizure.

Perry is the first member of Congress known to have his phone seized as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into last year’s attempt at the U.S. Capitol to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Perry did not say why investigators confiscated his phone and wrote in a statement Monday that the contents of his phone are not the “government’s business.”

While Perry called his phone’s seizure and the FBI’s Monday search of Trump’s personal safe at his Mar-a-Lago home “banana republic tactics” and the work of an overaggressive Justice Department, Republican members of Congress were also subject to FBI search and seizures in the Trump era. Federal investigators seized the cellphone of Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.) in 2020 as they investigated stock trades he made before the coronavirus pandemic briefly sent the market crashing.

Rep. Scott Perry says the FBI seized his phone while he was traveling

Perry, a five-term congressman who last fall became chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is known both for his vigorous support of Trump and for his history of promoting baseless conspiracies on issues that range from terrorism to the coronavirus to the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

Long before embracing Trump’s false election claims, Rep. Scott Perry promoted groundless theories

For months, Perry has been on the radar of the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot. Last December, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the committee, sent Perry a letter requesting information on his effort to help install a little-known Justice Department official named Jeffrey Clark in the role of acting attorney general. The committee in July detailed the plan that involved Trump ousting then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and replacing him with Clark, who would then use his power to encourage key states won by Joe Biden to send in alternate slates of pro-Trump electors.

In the Jan. 6 committee hearing on June 23, witnesses described how President Donald Trump pressured the Justice Department to investigate election fraud. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

A report by the select committee determined Perry introduced Clark to Trump; it also cited evidence that Perry repeatedly communicated with Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, about Clark.

Perry quickly rejected the committee’s request to provide communications and voluntary testimony.

The 60-year-old congressman, who now represents Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, resisted calls for his resignation after reports of his involvement in efforts to overturn the election results — including his public objection to Congress counting Pennsylvania’s electoral votes for Biden.

“When votes are accepted under unconstitutional means, without fair and equal protection for all, the only result can only be an illegitimate outcome,” Perry said on the House floor after the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Perry not only embraced Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent but promoted some of the more outlandish claims — including one that a former Justice Department official called “pure insanity.”

The Washington Post previously reported that Perry “was at the heart” of bringing to Trump’s attention the so-called “Italygate” conspiracy, which claimed an Italian defense contractor conspired with the CIA to use military satellites to change votes for Trump to ones for Biden.

“Why can’t we just work with the Italian government?” Perry asked in a Dec. 21, 2020, text message to Meadows, according to the Jan. 6 committee.

Richard Donoghue, the former deputy to Rosen when he was acting attorney general, called the theory “pure insanity” and “patently absurd.”

Perry’s diligent efforts on Trump’s behalf also include allegedly seeking a preemptive pardon in case of any criminal liability stemming from his efforts to overturn the election. During testimony before the House select committee in June, Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Meadows, testified that Perry was among five Republican lawmakers who advanced Trump’s stolen election claim and also sought pardons.

Perry has denied he sought a pardon, issuing a statement after Hutchinson’s testimony saying, “I never sought a Presidential pardon for myself or other Members of Congress.”

Hutchinson testified that Perry spoke to her directly about a pardon, which Perry also denied.

“At no time did I speak with Miss Hutchinson, a White House scheduler, nor any White House staff about a pardon for myself or any other Member of Congress — this never happened,” Perry said in June.

Perry has spent 15 years representing Pennsylvania, first as a state legislator and then as a congressman in a career that for several years overlapped with his service with the state’s Army National Guard. He also serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee, according to his official House biography.

Perry has consistently voted with some of Congress’s most far-right members, opposing Trump’s impeachment, the Violence Against Women Act and the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act aimed at protecting Asian Americans who faced a surge in attacks during the coronavirus pandemic. But the congressman has on occasion broken with those conventions, including his recent vote in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would federally protect same-sex and interracial marriage.

Perry faces reelection in November, two years after he was redistricted into Pennsylvania’s more competitive 10th Congressional District, which includes Hershey, Pa.

If Republicans are successful in taking control of the House after the midterm elections, the Freedom Caucus, which Perry now leads, is expected to have a significant role in selecting the next House speaker.

Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein contributed to this report.