The Travel Angle To FBI Seizures: A Congressman’s Phone The Day After The Raid On President Trump

The FBI raid on President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property doesn’t much concern me. A judge signed off on the warrant. Given the gravity of the situation the raid would have been approved by the FBI Director, also appointed by Trump. While I have concerns that search warrants generally have too low of a threshold, none of us would receive the careful process that would have to have gone on here. Still, I don’t know whether to expect anything to come of it.

That whole issue aside, what interests me is that the FBI interdicted Representative Perry at the airport to seize his cell phone one day after the raid on Mar-a-Lago. Proving once again: there is a travel angle to everything.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) had a key role in trying to install a new attorney general who would comply with the President’s wishes to help overturn election results, according to the House committee investigating the attack at the Capitol on January 6th.

  • Three FBI agents approached him at the airport
  • They had a warrant for his personal cell phone

“This morning, while traveling with my family, 3 FBI agents visited me and seized my cell phone. They made no attempt to contact my lawyer, who would have made arrangements for them to have my phone if that was their wish. I’m outraged — though not surprised — that the FBI under the direction of Merrick Garland’s DOJ, would seize the phone of a sitting Member of Congress,” Perry said in his statement. “My phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends. None of this is the government’s business.”

The FBI isn’t obliged to politely request evidence from an individual’s lawyer prior to securing that evidence. As we know from other cell phones text messages about January 6th that have been sought with a subpoena can be deleted.

And of course the phone contains both potentially relevant and non-relevant information. Those need to be extracted and separated. Generally personal information won’t raise concerns. Legislative information will be concerning, for separation of powers reasons. But it’s clear that the FBI can do this.

Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) was convicted in a bribery case involving accusation of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to promote West African energy and communications companies. $90,000 was found in his refrigerator. The FBI raided his congressional office. Ultimately several of the counts against him were tossed after the Supreme Court’s ruling in McDonnell v. United States which generally requires tying direct action to payments.

Regarding the raid of Representative Jefferson’s office, a three judge panel of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that prior to reviewing the files it was first necessary to ascertain which pertained to his work as a legislator. A Members of Congress is subject to criminal law just like anyone else, but raiding a Congressional office led to special circumstances where the FBI had to take care not to impinge on separation of powers or the Speech or Debate clauses of the constitution. There was not, however, anything in the constitution which prevented the raid.

There’s a high burden to take a sitting Congressman’s phone (although less of a burden than raiding their congressional office!), and to seize items from a former President. Such officials are generally accorded a higher level of deference than the rest of us.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I hate both parties and am so disgusted with the politics in this country that I recently filed the paperwork to unregister to vote. I’m certainly no fan of Trump or the Republicans in general.

    That said, if you’re not concerned with the precedent this sets, please at least be consistent and don’t start whining and crying when this happens to your guy in a few years.

  2. Sure…. The highest care was taken. We still haven’t see, one client of Epstein.

    Americans have been played for over 100 years.

    Many people are above the law and many are below the law. Just look at how the poor are treated as opposed to the politically connected.

  3. What happens if you use Google voice for text messaging? They don’t need the actual cell phone for that

  4. I have no idea if there is anything to these seizures or not. I will withhold judgement. But I can guarantee you, that when the Republicans return to power, there will be payback. Washington has operated on a “weapons down” mode for quite some time. That’s both good and bad, as it has allowed bad actors (Biden family, Pelosi husband) to get away with some awfully shady things, while letting minor things go. No more. Good for the goose, good for the gander.

  5. He didn’t even have time to wipe it, like with a cloth, or have his staff destroy it with a hammer.

  6. No person should be above the law, including former US Presidents and the rest of us.

    In the case of the Congressman, his phone was imaged to prevent the data from being wiped. Its contents, interestingly enough, won’t be searched until subject to another warrant or court order. The same can’t be said for what US DHS/CBP can do to those of us exiting or entering the US and may have our devices images by CBP or other parts of DHS.

  7. Since we’re on the subject of travel, let’s have a look at the passenger manifests of Epsteins jet?
    These A-holes are trying to spark a civil war. They may just get their wish.

  8. @gary. You really shouldn’t turn your website into political banter.

    You either focus on travel. Or you focus on politics.

  9. Obviously we don’t want to purchase the same kind of safe that Donald has, unless it was one of his staff that actually opened it for the feds. I would expect him to buy a better safe.

  10. Not to be a fox mouthpiece, but is it true that Nancy Pelosi’s son has traveled with her (see how I intertwined that Gary) on government planes to conduct business (just like Hunter). There are pics floating around of him in the background at all her Asia stops, where he supposedly met and conducted personal business. Seems like that would be illegal, hmmm. Then again so should a million dollar well timed stock purchase.

  11. If law enforcement shows up with a valid warrant to get in your safe, you have a couple of options – open it, call your lawyer to get the warrant quashed, or have law enforcement open it for you the hard way. Generally speaking, a motion to quash usually happens after the search, not before. And refusing to cooperate with a valid warrant is grounds for other charges. Opening it the hard way just results in the same end result, them obtaining whatever they’re looking for, and you with a broken safe. There are no safes that are uncrackable that I’m aware of.

  12. Now he’s pleading the Fifth in the civil case, clearly the actions of a broadly innocent man, with no guilt on his conscience. (Who are we kidding, there’s no way his narcissism ever allows him to feel guilt, only fear of consequence.) By the way, lest we all forget, the whole investigation around Hillary Clinton’s email, the underlying statute at issue was mishandling of classified information.

  13. It is perfectly obvious that Gary tries to make everything he posts here about travel and, in the process, makes nothing about travel. Gary won’t do the research that other sites do to create his own content so either talks politics – which is bound to generate lots of clicks – or reposts other people’s random and bizarre travel experiences. Neither is thought leadership of any kind but esp. about travel.

    Specific to the topic he teed up, it should be obvious that there is a massive effort underway to eliminate any opposition to the political ruling class which are free to do whatever they want without accountability and do the complete opposite of the rules they impose on others.

    and, Gary, if you want to talk about travel-related issues, how about you discuss the number of ATC ground stops at Austin – there was yet another today due to alarms and security. How can a city that became the flocking ground for liberals from California turn into such a dumpster fire – and, more significantly, how should it be fixed. YOUR OWN research and opinions, Gary, about your home town and aviation in it would demonstrate that you really are interested in thought leadership and not just generating clicks on the internet.

  14. C_M, re: “… bad actors (Biden family, Pelosi husband)…”. Your choice of Pelosi and Biden as “bad actors” speaks volumes about your politics.

    Chipper, re “Not to be a fox mouthpiece,…” as you proceed to exactly be a faux news mouthpiece.

    Compared to Trump and his 3 eldest children and his ilk, Biden and Pelosi and their families are choirboys. Trump and his ilk are the ultimate bad actors. Us New Yorkers have known for over 40 years how corrupt and dishonest Trump et. al. are. Ever wonder why none of them moved back to NYC in 2021? They’d be run out of town faster than you can say “fake news”. Interesting to observe the hypocrisy, deceit and mental contortions of the MAGA cultists as they try to support him. Yeah, Trump is all for law and order … for everyone except himself and his lackeys.

  15. Cant begin to tell you how burned out I am due to non-stop political diatribe So I seek solace wherever I can hope to find it. We are all at the mercy of our leaders. Maybe I could interject how I loathe life since the loss of my husband and the mere idea of travel without him has totally lost its appeal.

  16. joanie,
    thanks for sharing and I am so sorry for the loss of your husband and all of the implications that has for how you view life.
    Your point is completely valid. People including me are tired of a system we can’t fix because we aren’t interested in doing what it takes to get and stay in power.

    We need places of refuge including about subjects that matter to us – of which travel is one – that are not politicized or so full of banal anecdotes that they have no connection with the rest of any of us.

    I do wish you well and, to the extent an online community can support you, that you find that hope for today, tomorrow and the next day

  17. Weapons down? Civil war?


    No fan of Hillary, but she sat under oath for 11 hours. Something like 40 congressional investigations that turned up nothing. And many people screaming about the Trump raid were adamant about Hillary’s email issues.

    A little consistency would be nice, but that flies in the face of the new American way: partisanship before facts.

    Yes, the popcorn is ready.

  18. -The world is broken! Politics is broken! There’s nothing that can be done, we’ve tried absolutely everything!!

    -How about stop electing Republicans? Have we tried that?

    -No, we cannot do that, it’s out of the question. Oh how can we ever fix this? We’ve tried everything!

  19. @Tim Dunn “if you want to talk about travel-related issues, how about you discuss the number of ATC ground stops at Austin” a fire alarm was triggered today by a water main break, everyone was evacuated from the terminal and then had to be rescreened. I have written about the absolute mess of AUS, which is largely a mess from the city council – which has the airport with insufficient fuel reserves, which killed lounge deals and on and on, including their bizarre plans to manage passenger traffic growth that involve terminating a lease on their own property using eminent domain to seize the south terminal. You’re telling me to write something I’ve already written more than once.

  20. @Not Deplorable – We all know Trump and family are bad actors. Not denying that. I was merely pointing out the current bad actors on the other side that will be the targets. Not to mention the Clintons and their so-called “charity”. Bernie’s wife? I do wish they would go after all of them – seems like some people play by different rules than you and me.

    As far as Hillary’s emails go, they had to reinterpret the statute not to indict her. I have had a security clearance, and trust me, I couldn’t get the stuff off my desk fast enough. (Though honestly, I’d see more classified info in open publications than I did in so-called “Secret” documents. But you don’t get in trouble for having a copy of AvWeek on your desk.) If you’re a grunt federal employee, the consequences for mishandling that stuff is severe. If I did what she did, I’d still be making big ones into little ones.

  21. Gary,
    you do realize that you repeat a WHOLE LOT OF THINGS so I’m not sure why trashing on AUS at least once a week shouldn’t be part of that routine?
    No other mid-size airport has as much difficulty just running the place.

  22. I’m outraged that a sitting member of Congress would try to overthrow the U.S. Government…..

  23. I’ve never understood people who complain about free websites. Just go somewhere else. There’s a lot of other travel + points websites. Either learn what you can here and ignore the irrelevant stuff or just go…..

  24. Jorge,
    let’s be clear that Gary has and can produce very good content which is why I bother to read. He has been responsive to feedback which is why I give it.
    The average American is tired of politics and doesn’t want to have to wade through piles of garbage comments in order to find a few gem articles.
    When you read a story such as was expressed in the comments here, it proves that “just go elsewhere” is a horribly crass approach to life.

    There is a market for high quality travel related content. I and others want Gary to be on our list.

  25. C’mon man no more complaining about Austin’s airport. Given how Austin has become severely Californicated their airport is running just fine by California standards.

  26. Too bad they didn’t take this approach with Hillary and her staff prior to Bleachbit and hammers. The 4th amendment protects cell phones since the 2018 SCOTUS ruling so this is interesting or a broad abuse of power/witchhunt. After the raid on Trump and this other stuff, the DOJ better have some major crime or there will be hell to pay I think.

  27. @JorgeGeorge Paez
    Then why aren’t you outraged at the election theft committed by the democrat party.

  28. Oh wow. Someone who seeks to undermine a valid election, abets an attempt to overthrow our government, removes presidential and/or confidential documents from the White House as well as sexually assaults women, doesn’t pay taxes, and falsely values their assets is subject to investigation? Who knew?

  29. @koggerj
    Those of us in the reality based community don’t complain about things that didn’t happen.

  30. @Jared – You absolutely have seen Epstein’s client – he occupied the White House for four years.

  31. @koggerj: One reply then back to ignoring you (like everyone else here) because one shouldn’t feed a (internet) troll and it’s clear you’re completely irrationally bigoted. “Hey libtards this is what actual fascism is”, hey GOPmoron, much as you would like to you can’t rewrite history, Trump and his minions were much closer to fascists than Democrats could ever be, firing disloyal aides, targeting political opponents, “fake news” (right out of the fascist’s playbook). “Why aren’t you outraged at the election theft committed by the democrat party”, hey GOPracist because there was and is no election theft committed by the democrat party, please show us one bit of real evidence of such a theft, Trump’s (biggest liar in the history of US politics) word isn’t evidence, every instance of election fraud recently has been committed by a GOPliar and GOPbigots are infinitely more guilty of election theft by way of voter suppression efforts. Nice try GOPdeplorable, keep working on that hypocrisy and deceit and lies, I’m going back to ignoring you.

  32. @Still N̶o̶t̶ Deplorable

    Just wait until we’re back in charge. You want to start a civil war and tear this country apart. Who would you say is more likely to take up arms and defend the union?….patriotic, freedom-loving Americans or your side…..the purple and green-haired freaks, full of tattoos who can’t decide which of the 83 genders they feel like pretending to be? The price shall be paid

  33. @Still Not Deplorable

    Repeating the same talking points over and over against doesn’t make your nonsense anymore true.
    Get cancer.

  34. “ A judge signed off on the warrant.”

    Good point Gary. It’s not as if judges had signed off on other warrants either knowingly or unknowingly because of fraudulent pretext presented to them. It most certainly is a high bar.

    Russia Russia Russia

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