Special Council Jack Smith’s attempt to undermine former President Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign has included the seizure of a cell phone belonging to a Trump ally.
As Epoch Times reported:
A phone belonging to Mr. Perry, an ally of former President Donald Trump, was seized one day after the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence was raided by FBI agents in the summer of 2022.
Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa) told The Epoch Times in August 2022 that three FBI agents had seized the phone from him, with the lawmaker adding that the agents made no attempt to contact his lawyer.
“I’m outraged—though not surprised—that the FBI under the direction of [Attorney General] Merrick Garland’s [Department of Justice (DOJ)], would seize the phone of a sitting Member of Congress,” the congressman said in a statement.
“My phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends. None of this is the government’s business,” he added.
Now on Tuesday, a federal appeals court blocked special counsel Jack Smith’s team from gaining access to seized phone records of Perry, who has been fighting to keep the records protected. A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on Sept. 5 that vacates parts of a lower court ruling that gave Mr. Smith’s prosecutors access to the around 2,000 records from Mr. Perry’s phone.
While the appeals court ruling remains under seal, a summary judgment posted in the docket indicates that the judges have sent the case back to a district court “to apply the correct standard” to some of Mr. Perry’s records, Epoch Times reports.
And that’s not all, as a separate order released on Sept. 5 by the appeals court gave both Mr. Perry’s lawyers and Mr. Smith’s team a week to indicate whether they think any parts of the ruling should remain secret.
“In the event the parties conclude that the record or any portion of it should remain under seal, the parties are directed to identify the proposed redactions and provide an explanation for each proposed redaction,” reads a summary order filed in the docket.
Perry has been fighting to keep his phone data private since it was seized, suing the Biden administration in an effort to compel government officials to return the data and any other property included in the seizure, and prohibit officials from acquiring any other information until the matter is fully litigated.
Initially, Perry was unsuccessful. On Dec. 28, 2022, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell rejected Mr. Perry’s bid to shield the records. Judge Howell, an Obama appointee, ruled that the DOJ could access 2,055 records from the lawmaker’s seized phone. She said that another three records could be partially accessed, while ruling that Mr. Perry correctly asserted privilege over 161 other records.
Perry argued that many of the records that Mr. Smith’s team is seeking meet this definition because they arose in the course of legislative duties and so should not be made available to prosecutors.
In her decision, Judge Howell said that Mr. Perry had sought to protect “random musings with private individuals” as well as “political discussions with attorneys from a presidential campaign” and “state legislators concerning hearings before them about possible local election fraud.”
But, as the Epoch Times noted, the core legal issue for consideration is the court’s interpretation of the “speech or debate” clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives members of Congress immunity from criminal proceedings that are tied to their official work.
Now that the appeals court’s decision on Sept. 5 rejects portions of Judge Howell’s ruling, with the summary judgment ordering it “vacated in part and remanded to the district court to apply the correct standard to Representative Perry’s communications with individuals outside the federal government, communications with members of the Executive Branch, and communications with other Members of Congress regarding alleged election fraud.”
Previously, a judge “largely sided with the defense team over the scope of materials covered in a protective order,” CBS News reported, granting the former president the ability to speak publicly about material related to the case.
Trump’s team had argued that only “sensitive materials,” like grand jury documents, be out of bounds for Trump to discuss publicly.
The judge also warned Trump not to make “inflammatory statements” that could “potentially taint the jury pool,” a very subjective call.
Trump posted recently on social media:
“Almost all legal scholars have voiced opinions that the 14th Amendment has no legal basis or standing relative to the upcoming 2024 Presidential Election. Like Election Interference, it is just another ‘trick’ being used by the Radical Left Communists, Marxists, and Fascists, to again steal an Election that their candidate, the WORST, MOST INCOMPETENT, & MOST CORRUPT President in U.S. history, is incapable of winning in a Free and Fair Election. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
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