It’s not every day when FBI agents approach a sitting member of Congress as part of an apparent law enforcement operation. It’s even more unusual when those FBI agents go so far as to take the lawmaker’s phone.
With this in mind, the fact that this appears to have happened to a key Pennsylvania Republican is a rather extraordinary development. NBC News reported:
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., said Tuesday night that the FBI seized his cellphone earlier in the day, less than 24 hours after federal agents searched former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida. “This morning, while traveling with my family, 3 FBI agents visited me and seized my cell phone,” Perry said in a statement.
In the interest of specificity, it’s probably worth emphasizing that all we have to go on in this story is Perry’s word. Federal officials have not confirmed any of this, and I haven’t seen independent verification of the GOP congressman’s version of events.
That said, it seems unlikely that the far-right lawmaker would simply make up something like this. So let’s work from the assumption that Perry, while traveling, really was approached by three FBI agents who proceeded to “seize” his cell phone. The question, of course, is why in the world they would do that.
For now, we’ll have to wait for real clarity on the answer, but the important thing to remember is that this congressman is not just a random figure on Capitol Hill.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, it was late last year when the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack announced that it wanted to hear answers from a specific Republican lawmaker: Perry. He wasted little time in announcing that he would refuse to assist in the investigation.
It was at that point that many Americans probably asked, “Who?”
There’s no shortage of high-profile members in the House GOP conference, but Perry isn’t necessarily one of them. Unlike some of his Republican brethren who never miss an opportunity to appear in the media, Perry likely couldn’t be picked out of a lineup by much of the public.
But as new information comes to light about GOP efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Perry’s name keeps coming up.
During a Jan. 6 committee hearing last month, for example, we learned of a Dec. 21, 2020, White House meeting focused on the Republican scheme to overturn the last presidential election. Among the participants was Scott Perry.
A month earlier, we learned at a different Jan. 6 hearing about GOP lawmakers who allegedly sought pardons from Trump before he left office. Among them was Scott Perry.
Around the same time, we saw testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said under oath that Trump discussed ideas with allies about going to the Capitol on Jan. 6. Among those the then-president talked to about this was Scott Perry.
A month before that, we learned of allegations that then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows literally set fire to papers in his office after a meeting with a congressional Republican. The lawmaker was Scott Perry.
When CNN obtained thousands of text messages Meadows received from Republican allies in the runup to Jan. 6, they showed one House member who pushed unusually bonkers conspiracy theories about votes being changed by “Italian satellites.” The member was Scott Perry.
In fact, just weeks after the Jan. 6 attack, we learned how Trump came to be in contact with anti-election lawyers such as Jeffrey Clark, who was a relatively obscure Justice Department official at the time. It turns out, a House Republican helped put Clark on the then-president’s radar. The Republican was Scott Perry.
And yesterday, it was this same GOP congressman whose phone was taken by the FBI. Watch this space.
Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”