Three central Pennsylvania news organizations filed a petition today in federal court, asking the government to unseal records related to the seizure of U.S. Rep. Scott Perry’s cell phone.
Perry, R-York County, became an early target of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Requests for testimony and documents from him were the first public initiatives the committee made to gather information from a Republican member of Congress involved in President Donald Trump’s effort to remain in office after he was voted out.
As part of the committee’s work, Perry’s cell phone was seized Aug. 9 by the FBI.
The York Daily Record, PennLive and The York Dispatch are asking the United States District Court for the Middle District, in Harrisburg, to unseal the warrant and related documents used to seize that phone.
“The York Daily Record joined this effort to unseal the search warrant for our congressman’s cell phone because, as the court documents note, there is a compelling public interest in transparency here,” said Scott Fisher, USA Today Network Central Pennsylvania regional content director. “Mr. Perry has been a central figure in the Jan. 6th committee’s investigation, and his constituents have a right to understand the reasons for the seizure of his phone.”
Perry compared the capture of his phone to the search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, describing it as “banana republic tactics.”
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“They made no attempt to contact my lawyer, who would have made arrangements for them to have my phone if that was their wish,” Perry said. “I’m outraged — though not surprised — that the FBI under the direction of Merrick Garland’s DOJ, would seize the phone of a sitting member of Congress.”
He has since filed suit against the U.S. Department of Justice, demanding his phone data be returned and asking for a temporary restraining order to keep the DOJ from searching the data until the judge rules in this motion.
“The seizure of Congressman Perry’s phone is a subject of enormous public interest,” the application to unseal the documents says. “Any search of the property of a member of Congress is a matter of paramount public concern.”
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which wrote the application to the court, provides legal representation and other resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists.
“News organizations and the House committee investigating Jan. 6 have also already put a lot of information about Congressman Perry’s involvement, or not, in those events in the public domain. So we think it’s untenable that the government would insist on wholesale secrecy with respect to these court records when we already know a substantial amount about the nature and scope of the investigation that they relate to,” said Grayson Clary, an attorney for the Reporters Committee.
Kim Strong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: 3 media organizations ask court for documents in Scott Perry probe