The legal battle over Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-Pa.) phone has become clearer.
In a 51-page December decision unsealed Friday, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell indicated that Perry had requested the protection of 2,219 files from the Jan. 6 committee investigating former President Donald Trump — and his efforts to sway the 2020 election. cancelled.
“The powerful public interest in accessing these judicial records cannot be understated,” Howell wrote in his memorandum Friday.
Perry’s phone was seized one day after the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home to retrieve classified documents in August. Perry claimed that he only had personal or work-related files that were “none of the government’s…business,” which Howell has since denied.
Perry, a close friend of the former president, sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prevent access to his phone. However, he quietly dropped that suit in October while continuing to assert that the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause should shield him from investigators.
While Howell allowed Perry to withhold 161 of his records from investigators, she ordered him to release 2,055 files, including 960 of his contacts with the executive branch.
“What is clear is that the clause does not protect President Perry’s political discussions…with state legislators regarding hearings before with them about possible electoral fraud or acts they that could be taken to challenge election results in Pennsylvania,” she wrote in December.
The judge in Washington, D.C. added that this “fantastic view of the scope of the legislative privilege” that Perry claimed was protected “would provide Members of Congress with a powerful dual shield of non-disclosure and immunity for almost any of their activities.”
Not only was Perry a White House contact with DOJ official Jeffrey Clark in the days after Trump’s election loss, but he was also named as one of at least five Republicans who asked for a pardon before the end of Trump’s term.
Perry was previously subpoenaed to testify at the January 6 committee but refused to show.
Howell’s ruling that the files need to be investigated is still being debated by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to Politico.
If they rejected Perry’s argument that the “speech or debate” clause should protect his communications, he would have to ask a full bench of DC Circuit Court judges — or the Supreme Court itself — to reconsider.