Judge orders Rep. Scott Perry to disclose 1,600 messages to federal prosecutors

The records in question could help fill crucial gaps in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation. An inadvertently disclosed court document obtained last month by POLITICO revealed key aspects of the messages Perry had sought to shield from Smith’s team, including exchanges with Trump’s alleged co-conspirators in the effort to disrupt the transfer of power. The messages showed Perry as a crucial go-between for Trump and his allies on key aspects of their effort in the final frantic weeks of Trump’s presidency.

An attorney for Perry said he has not yet determined whether he will appeal Boasberg’s ruling.

The FBI seized Perry’s phone in August 2022 in connection with its investigation into former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, a key Trump ally in his bid to prevent the transfer of power. Perry introduced Trump to Clark in the final weeks of his presidency and pressed Trump to elevate Clark to the top of the Justice Department. Trump came close to appointing Clark acting attorney general — part of a last-ditch plan to use the Justice Department to raise doubts about the outcome of the election — before a mass resignation threat by DOJ and White House officials led Trump to back down.

Boasberg’s order largely endorses a ruling made nearly a year ago by his predecessor, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, who found that Perry was required to disclose 2,055 communications he had attempted to shield, with only about 200 others protected from prosecutors. Howell ruled that Perry’s “informal” efforts to probe election fraud were not covered by the “speech or debate” clause because he was not authorized by any House committee to conduct the investigation.

Howell also ruled that many of Perry’s contacts with members of the Trump administration could not be shielded because he was seeking to influence the executive branch and pursuing political ends rather than legislative ones. In other communications, he was seeking to influence the Pennsylvania state legislature.

Perry appealed Howell’s ruling in January, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals quickly halted her decision, considering the matter for another eight months before ruling that Howell had gone too far. Instead, the circuit ordered Boasberg — who by then had succeeded Howell as chief of the Washington, D.C. district court — to review all 2,055 emails Perry was attempting to shield and decide whether they could be disclosed.

Boasberg ultimately agreed that nearly all of Howell’s initial determinations were correct. While some of Perry’s contacts with executive branch officials or outside allies related to his legitimate work as a legislator, the vast majority, he determined, were “non-legislative” communications that could not be shielded from investigators.

Boasberg also said messages Perry exchanged about efforts to urge Vice President Mike Pence to resolve disputes about electoral votes were too tangential to Perry’s own legislative duties to qualify for protection. Pence ultimately concluded he did not have the power to determine whether particular slates of electoral votes were valid.

Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.

According to a court document obtained by POLITICO, Representative Scott Perry has been ordered by a judge to disclose 1,600 messages to federal prosecutors. These messages are believed to fill crucial gaps in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation. The inadvertently disclosed court document revealed that the messages include exchanges between Perry and Trump’s alleged co-conspirators in the effort to disrupt the transfer of power.

Perry’s phone was seized by the FBI in August 2022 as part of an investigation into former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, a key Trump ally in his bid to prevent the transfer of power. Perry introduced Trump to Clark and urged him to elevate Clark to the top of the Justice Department. However, Perry’s attempts to shield some of his communications were ruled against by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell nearly a year ago.

Judge Howell found that Perry was required to disclose 2,055 communications, with only about 200 being protected. She ruled that Perry’s informal efforts to probe election fraud were not covered by the “speech or debate” clause as he was not authorized by any House committee to conduct the investigation. Howell also determined that many of Perry’s contacts with members of the Trump administration and the Pennsylvania state legislature could not be shielded.

Perry appealed Howell’s ruling, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals halted her decision, ordering Chief Judge Boasberg to review all 2,055 emails Perry was attempting to shield. Boasberg largely agreed with Howell’s initial determinations, stating that the majority of Perry’s communications were “non-legislative” and could not be shielded from investigators. Messages related to Perry’s efforts to urge Vice President Mike Pence to resolve disputes about electoral votes were also deemed too tangential to his legislative duties to qualify for protection.

It is unclear whether Perry will appeal Boasberg’s ruling. The disclosure of these messages is expected to provide further insight into the efforts to disrupt the transfer of power and potential involvement of Trump’s allies.

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