A federal appeals court issued a secret hold that temporarily blocks the Justice Department from searching the phone of Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), the chair of the far-right Freedom Caucus and a key figure who helped former President Donald Trump try to overturn the 2020 presidential election, reported POLITICO on Monday.
"In a sealed order issued earlier this month, the three-judge panel temporarily blocked a lower-court ruling that granted prosecutors access to Perry’s communications. The Dec. 28 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell was the product of a secret, monthslong legal battle by prosecutors who have been fighting the Pennsylvania Republican’s attorneys on the matter since August," reported Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein.
Perry's phone was seized by the FBI last August, as part of the investigation into the plot to overturn the election.
"The existence of the legal fight — a setback for DOJ reported here for the first time — is itself intended to be shielded from public scrutiny, part of the strict secrecy that governs ongoing grand jury matters. The long-running clash was described to POLITICO by two people familiar with the proceedings, who spoke candidly on the condition of anonymity," said the report. "The fight has intensified in recent weeks and drawn the House, newly led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, into the fray. On Friday, the chamber moved to intervene in the back-and-forth over letting DOJ access the phone of Perry, the House Freedom Caucus chair, reflecting the case’s potential to result in precedent-setting rulings about the extent to which lawmakers can be shielded from scrutiny in criminal investigations."
“The Speaker has long said that the House should protect the prerogatives of Article I," said a spokesperson for McCarthy. "This action indicates new leadership is making it a priority to protect House equities.”
Perry was an integral ally of Trump in the plot to throw out the 2020 election results. He first introduced Trump to Jeffrey Clark, the former DOJ official who tried to order the department to dispute the election and lean on states to overturn their results. He also was in close contact with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and fed him conspiracy theories about the election, including that Italian satellites were being used to remotely hack voting machines.