Monday, AUGUST 29, 2022
House Judiciary Committee Republicans are opening an investigation into Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz over reports suggesting his office’s involvement in examining a cellphone the FBI seized from Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-PA).
A letter sent Monday by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the ranking member, said such a move by the agency’s independent watchdog “creates a serious conflict of interest for the OIG in reviewing the Department’s actions.” Among the demands made of Horowitz were those for relevant documents and communications, as well as explanations for a forensic examination of Perry’s phone and concerns raised about the seizure. Jordan asked the inspector general to produce this material no later than 5 p.m. on Sept. 12.
Perry, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, was served with a warrant for his cellphone by three FBI agents while traveling with his family earlier this month. The move was part of a federal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, which started with the DOJ inspector general’s office and appears to have extended to prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington. A lawyer for the congressman said Perry is not a target of the inquiry, according to the New York Times.
Jordan’s letter cited a report by CNN that said the search warrant “indicated” the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General laboratory in northern Virginia was used to assist the FBI in conducting a forensic review of Perry’s phone. That same report said the “inclusion of the inspector general is unusual given the office investigates wrongdoing” by Justice Department employees, but it also noted the watchdog is investigating former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark and others while scrutinizing the agency’s role in efforts to block the certification of the 2020 election results.
“Reports indicate that Representative Perry’s phone ‘was imaged after the search,’ creating a forensic copy of the device’s contents — including communications protected by common-law privileges as well as the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause,” Jordan’s letter stated. “The OIG’s assistance to the FBI in imaging Representative Perry’s phone — in addition to posing questions about why the nation’s top law-enforcement agency cannot perform this task itself — raises serious concerns about why you would be willing to sacrifice the OIG’s independence to assist the FBI in advancing such a politically charged matter.”
The letter also noted that in June 2021, “the OIG initiated a review of the Department’s use of subpoenas and other legal authorities to obtain communication records of Members of Congress, other individuals, and journalists. On the one hand, the OIG is reviewing whether the Department’s actions in those cases were based upon any improper considerations; however, because of your decision, the OIG appears to be directly involved with seizing and imaging the phone of a Member of Congress. The OIG is now conflicted from reviewing the basis and propriety of the FBI’s controversial decision to seize Representative Perry’s phone.”
The Justice Department Office of the Inspector General declined to comment on Jordan’s letter.
“They made no attempt to contact my lawyer, who would have made arrangements for them to have my phone if that was their wish. 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,” Perry said. “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.”
Link to article here.