Question of whether Scott Perry search warrant is made public rests with federal judge

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

The question of whether the public can view the search warrant and other records relating the FBI's investigation of U.S. Rep. Scott Perry now rests with a federal judge.

Lawyers representing The York Dispatch and several other media outlets filed additional briefs in the last week in the ongoing legal battle. It all began in August, when the FBI executed a search warrant against the Republican congressman from Carroll Township.

Perry, a key ally of former President Donald Trump in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, sued the U.S. Department of Justice to get his phone back and block investigators from searching the phone.

"The government’s continued insistence on secrecy has denied the public any chance to understand for itself why a court approved the dramatic step of seizing a sitting Member of Congress’s property," the latest brief by the Reporters Commitee for the Freedom of the Press reads.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., nominates Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., in the House chamber as the House meets for a second day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Federal investigators' arguments for obtaining that warrant against Perry were made under seal. The seizure came a day after agents searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida for classified documents.

The news outlets, which also included the York Daily Record and The Patriot-News, filed a lawsuit Sept. 29 to have judicial records in the Perry investigation unsealed, including the warrant, the warrant application, affidavits and other related documents.

"The merits of the media coalition's petition to unseal the warrant materials is now fully briefed before the magistrate judge," said Katie Townsend, a Reporters Committee lawyer, via email.

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Before the Reporters Committee filed its brief in support of unsealing the records, Magistrate Judge Susan Schwab allowed additional redactions, requested by the government, to the government's opposition brief.

"The United States has shown a compelling reason for the three additional redactions that it proposes to its opposition brief, i.e., that the information at issue would reveal the strategy and direction of the grand jury’s investigation," Schwab wrote in a May 5 order.

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The government argued that unsealing details would harm both the government's potential case against Perry and Perry himself.

"Granting Applicants' requested belief would compromise the government's efforts to investigate serious crimes that threatened the lawful and orderly certification of the 2020 presidential election results," the government's brief reads. "It would also unjustly implicate uncharged individuals in criminal acts without providing them any forum in which to clear their names."

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Now, what will be unsealed — if anything — is up to Schwab.

"RCFP attorneys are proud to be representing the media coalition in this case," Townsend said, "and we are hopeful that the court will unseal the warrant materials, which are of the utmost interest to the public."

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.