HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A federal judge has ordered Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania to turn over more than 1,600 text messages and emails to FBI agents investigating efforts to keep President Donald Trump in office after his loss in the 2020 election and illegally blocked the transfer of power to Democrat Joe Biden.
The decision, late Monday, came more than a year after Perry’s personal case cell phone was confiscated by federal authorities. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg’s ruling was largely consistent with an earlier finding by a federal judge that Perry appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
Boasberg, in a 12-page ruling, said that after reviewing each tape, he determined that Perry, a top Trump ally, could withhold 396 of the messages under the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause, which protects the work of members of Congress .
However, the remaining 1,659 records do not include legislation and must be disclosed, Boasberg ruled. This includes efforts to influence members of the executive branch, discussions about Vice President Mike Pence’s role in certifying the election, and providing information about alleged election fraud.
Perry’s attorney, John Rowley, did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether he would appeal. Rowley has said in the past that government officials never described Perry to him as a target of their investigation.
Perry is the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, a hardline faction of conservatives. Perry has not been charged with a crime and is the only sitting member of Congress whose cell phone was seized by the FBI in the 2020 election investigation.
Perry’s efforts to protect the contents of his cell phone have continued largely under wraps, except in recent weeks when snippets and brief summaries of his texts and emails were unwittingly unsealed — and then sealed again — by federal court.
Those announcements revealed more about where Perry might fit into the network of Trump loyalists that was central to his attempt to stay in power.
His efforts to elevate Jeffrey Clark to be Trump’s acting attorney general in late 2020 have made Perry a figure of interest to federal prosecutors.
Perry, in the past, said he was merely “honoring” Trump’s request to be introduced to Clark. At the time, Trump was looking for a like-minded successor to use the Justice Department to help stop the certification of Biden’s election victory.
But the reports suggest that Perry was a key ally of Clark, who positioned himself as the man who would change the Justice Department’s position, which had established there is no evidence of widespread vote fraud.
To that end, Clark drafted a letter he proposed sending to Georgia that said the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns that may have affected the outcome of elections in multiple states, including the state of Georgia,” according to Aug. indictment in that state, accusing Trump, Clark and 17 others of trying to illegally keep him in power.
At the time, Clark was Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and acting head of the Civil Division.
The standoff against Clark brought the Justice Department to the brink of crisis, prosecutors said, and ultimately Trump give way after being told it would lead to mass resignations at the Justice Department and his own White House counsel’s office.
Clark is now described in the federal indictment against Trump as one of the six unnamed and uncharged co-conspirators in an attempt to illegally undermine the 2020 elections.
Follow Mark Levy at www.twitter.com/timelywriter.