Pennsylvania Republican and 2020 election denier Scott Perry announced Tuesday that the FBI seized his cellphone a day after federal agents executed a search warrant at former President Donald Trump's home in Florida.
The reason for the phone seizure is unclear thus far, but it may have had something to do with the Jan. 6 attack and Trump's efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory. Perry is a key figure in the House Jan. 6 committee’s investigation. According to the committee, Perry aided in Trump's failed plan to install then-Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, another election denier, as acting attorney general in the final weeks of his presidency.
Almost uniformly, GOP lawmakers responded with outrage over a sitting member of Congress having his phone seized, as though being elected makes one exempt from the law.
Federal authorities executed a search warrant on Clark’s home in June. And law enforcement is taking a similar approach with Perry, who I should note is refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify before the Jan. 6 committee.
Almost uniformly, GOP lawmakers responded with outrage over a sitting member of Congress having his phone seized, as though being elected makes one exempt from the law. In reality, the fact that powerful people are theoretically subjected to the same laws as less powerful people is a tenet of democracy.
But many Republicans seem to disagree.
In a statement to Fox News, Perry himself expressed outrage “that the FBI under the direction of Merrick Garland’s DOJ, would seize the phone of a sitting Member of Congress.”
House GOP leaders were in lockstep on what effectively amounts to a "members of Congress should be immune from investigation” line of attack, too.
House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik called it an “absolute outrageous abuse of power to seize the cell phone of a sitting member of Congress.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the Justice Department's "targeting" of Trump and members of Congress amounted to “abusive tactics.” And House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said seizing the phone of a “Trump ally in Congress” is a sign of “failed dictatorships.”
“We can’t tolerate it in America,” Scalise said.
We have, we can, and we will.
In fact, the Trump administration investigated and convicted a Trump ally in Congress — former Rep. Chris Collins of New York — for insider trading in 2020. Some readers may remember that Collins was the first GOP member of Congress to endorse Trump ahead of the 2016 election. (He served just two months of a 26-month prison sentence before Trump pardoned him.)
Republicans weren’t up in arms over the Collins investigation or the conviction. And when the FBI searched the home of Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, earlier this year, House GOP leaders certainly weren’t falling over themselves coming to his defense.
So what’s changed? The target of these investigations.
Unlike Collins and Cuellar, Perry appears to have been a major player in Trump's efforts to maintain power indefinitely — a goal an unsettling number of Republicans seem to support. Some of those rushing to Perry's defense may fear their own actions related to the 2020 election could land them in hot water, too.
Regardless, the GOP’s message is clear: Perry and Trump-loving members of Congress like him deserve a free pass from law enforcement.