A federal appeals court has prevented special counsel Jack Smith’s office from obtaining access to phone records taken from U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, a close ally of former President Trump.
A three-judge panel in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on Tuesday that nullifies portions of a prior court decision granting Smith’s team access to approximately 2,000 records from the Pennsylvania congressman’s phone.
Although the appeals court decision remains under seal, a summary judgment found in the docket suggests that the judges have remanded the decision to the lower court “in order to apply the correct standard” to Perry’s phone records.
Federal law enforcement officials confiscated Rep. Perry’s phone in August 2022 as part of the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s objections to the 2020 election results. Perry, a long-standing member of the Freedom Caucus, contested the electoral certification on January 6, 2021, and shares the belief with the former president that the 2020 election was not conducted in a fair manner.
While Tuesday’s ruling is seen as a setback for Jack Smith, the high-profile dispute over Perry’s phone records will continue. The lower court judge has been instructed to reevaluate Perry’s claims of privilege and determine whether investigators can scrutinize his communications with “individuals outside the federal government, interactions with members of the Executive Branch, and exchanges with other Members of Congress related to alleged election fraud,” as noted in the docket entry.
Tuesday’s decision may provide stronger legal grounds for Perry’s defense regarding the inclusion of his records in the special counsel’s investigation, though.
Immediately following the 2020 election, Perry sent letters to numerous state lawmakers outlining the Trump team’s allegations of widespread voter fraud. Perry’s interactions with executive branch officials were described as “proactive, persistent, and protracted” by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, who had previously allowed investigators to review the materials.
The sought-after records include a minimum of 930 conversations with former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark.