The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee is demanding answers about the Department of Justice inspector general’s involvement in the FBI’s seizure of Rep. Scott Perry’s cellphone earlier this month.
In a letter to Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, said recent news coverage of Mr. Horowitz’s office’s involvement in the seizure and examination of the lawmaker’s phone “demands a full and complete explanation.”
“The [Inspector General’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,” Mr. Jordan wrote on Monday.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
FBI agents seized Mr. Perry’s phone on Aug. 10 while the Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus was on vacation with his family, as part of a federal probe into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
Citing media reports, Mr. Jordan said the seizure was part of a joint investigation conducted by the Department of Justice and its Inspector General’s office and that, after the phone was seized, the watchdog assisted the FBI in conducting a forensic review of its contents.
Mr. Jordan said the contents of Mr. Perry’s phone are protected by the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause, which protects sitting members of Congress from legal action against them for speech related to their work as a legislator.
Mr. Jordan said that Mr. Horowitz’s office initiated a review in June of the Justice Department’s use of subpoenas and other authorities to compel lawmakers to hand over communications and records which may be constitutionally protected. He said the IG’s involvement in the FBI’s seizure of Mr. Perry’s phone calls into question its ability to complete an independent investigation of the matter.
“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,” Mr. Jordan wrote. “The OIG is now conflicted from reviewing the basis and propriety of the FBI’s controversial decision to seize Representative Perry’s phone.”
“You, as the former chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, should not be so reckless as to risk the independence of your office to carry out the investigative work of an agency you oversee,” he wrote.
Mr. Jordan’s letter adds to a list of concerns he has raised regarding what he says is a growing politicization of the Justice Department.
Citing whistleblower complaints, Mr. Jordan has recently accused FBI officials of “padding” its data on domestic violent extremism investigations in a bid to target Democrats’ political opponents.
“Congress and the American people cannot afford to lose faith in the OIG, especially as the Biden administration continues to weaponize federal law-enforcement resources against its political opponents and so many FBI whistleblowers continue to come forward with shocking allegations,” Mr. Jordan wrote.