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A U.S. federal appeals court has thrown up a big roadblock for special counsel Jack Smith as he continues his investigation into the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol Building two-and-a-half years ago.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled last week that Smith cannot have access to the phone records of Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) because allowing him to obtain the information amounts to a breach of the GOP lawmaker’s immunity under the Constitution’s “speech and debate” clause.
Smith was seeking Perry’s communications with colleagues and Executive Branch officials, Politico reported. However, the clause in question shields members of Congress from being slapped with legal proceedings while they are engaging in their elected official duties.
“While elections are political events, a member’s deliberation about whether to certify a presidential election or how to assess information relevant to legislation about federal election procedures are textbook legislative acts,” U.S. District Judge Neomi Rao wrote in the opinion issued last week.
Newsmax noted further:
The decision marked the the first time an appeals court has held that lawmakers’ cellphones are subject to the same protections as their physical offices.
It also was the first significant legal setback for Smith in his bid to obtain evidence about involvement by allies of Donald Trump in the then-president’s alleged effort to overturn the 2020 election, Politico reported.
Rao, a Trump appointee, was joined by another Trump appointee, Judge Gregory Katsas, and by Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush.
The three-judge panel’s ruling overturns a lower court decision by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, who mostly sided with the government’s request to gain access to Perry’s cellphone data.
The appeals court sent the case back to Howell’s court and instructed her to apply the new ruling to any future decision in the case, according to the outlets.
Meanwhile, Fox News host Jesse Watters tore into Smith for indicting former President Donald Trump in two separate cases.
During a recent segment on “The Five,” Watters called Smith a “nervous wreck” after he unsealed Trump’s grand jury indictment while reminding viewers of Smith’s troubled legal history before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Smith obtained a four-count indictment against Trump concerning his actions to challenge the outcome of the 2020 election. They include willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and false statements.
In June, Smith had secured a 37-count indictment against Trump following a quick investigation into allegations involving classified documents. On Thursday, a superseding indictment was issued, which also included charges against Carlos De Oliveira, a maintenance worker at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida estate owned by former President Trump.
“That was Special Counsel Jack Smith, who looked like a bedraggled nervous wreck, dripping with anger and highly emotional,” Watters said after showing a clip of Smith’s press conference earlier in the day announcing the new charges.
“The last time Jack Smith charged a politician, the case was so weak, it got tossed out of the Supreme Court unanimously. The Biden Justice Department is using obscure federal statutes to put a former president in prison for the rest of his life,” Watters told viewers.
Watters was referring to a case where Smith prosecuted then-Republican Gov. Bob McDowell of Virginia over receiving gifts, securing a conviction that the Supreme Court unanimously threw out.
“These charges are not bribery, not assault, not tax evasion, not sex trafficking. They’re charging Donald Trump under the Act of 1866,” Watters said. “It was used against the [Ku Klux] Klan, and now they are using it against Trump.”
Trump has pleaded not guilty to all counts and has likened the indictments to election interference.