The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have rightly come under fire in recent weeks for their raid on former President Donald Trump's home and seizure of Congressman Scott Perry's personal cell phone. No doubt, transparency surrounding these actions is a necessity if the DOJ and FBI want to maintain any semblance of legitimate law enforcement agencies going forward.
On Monday, House Judiciary Ranking Member Jim Jordan sent a letter to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, demanding an explanation for his office's involvement in the seizure of Congressman Perry's Phone.
#BREAKING: @Jim_Jordan just sent a letter to Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz requesting details on the OIG's unusual decision to assist the FBI with the unprecedented seizure of U.S. Representative Scott Perry's personal cell phone. pic.twitter.com/Aj8nyzluH9— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) August 30, 2022
Ranking Member Jordan's letter outlines how the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) worked with the FBI to execute this blatantly political act:
Jordan's letter cited a report by CNN that said the search warrant "indicated" the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General laboratory in northern Virginia was used to assist the FBI in conducting a forensic review of Perry's phone. That same report said the "inclusion of the inspector general is unusual given the office investigates wrongdoing" by Justice Department employees, but it also noted the watchdog is investigating former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark and others while scrutinizing the agency's role in efforts to block the certification of the 2020 election results.
"Reports indicate that Representative Perry's phone 'was imaged after the search,' creating a forensic copy of the device’s contents — including communications protected by common-law privileges as well as the Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause," Jordan's letter stated. "The OIG'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."
The letter also noted that in June 2021, "the OIG initiated a review of the Department's use of subpoenas and other legal authorities to obtain communication records of Members of Congress, other individuals, and journalists. 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. The OIG is now conflicted from reviewing the basis and propriety of the FBI's controversial decision to seize Representative Perry's phone."
Regarding former President Trump, a federal district court judge has issued an order indicating that she intends to appoint a special master to review materials seized by the FBI during its raid on Mar-a-Lago, which occurred earlier this month.
...While it is too late to prevent the DOJ from looking at this material, it can still result in an independent judgment on what may be privileged as well as new information on the classification and categorization of these documents...— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) August 30, 2022
Professor Jonathan Turley explained that this could help bring some clarity to the FBI's recent actions:
Judge Cannon filed an order Saturday morning that “The Court hereby provides notice of its preliminary intent to appoint a special master in this case.”
Such an appointment should have been done before the Justice Department reviewed the material. The Department sought a ridiculously broad search warrant and Magistrate Paul Reinhart simply signed off on the order without considering the wide array of privileged material that could be seized. It adopted language so broad that it was the legal version of Captain Jack Sparrow’s “Take what you can … Give nothing back.” It allowed the seizure of any box containing any document with any classification of any kind — and all boxes stored with that box. It also allowed the seizure of any writing from Trump’s presidency.
However, a special master could still serve the same interests of transparency and legitimacy. The special master could divide these documents in classified material, unclassified but defense information, and unclassified material outside of the scope of the alleged crimes. The last category would then be returned.
To learn more, join RNLA this Friday at 2:00 p.m. for a webinar discussing the Biden Administration's weaponization of the DOJ to target political opponents. Register here today!