As a result of wiping their phones during the changeover, the Department of Defense (DOD) was unable to save text messages from some of its top officials regarding the Capitol disturbance on January 6, 2021, according to a watchdog group that filed a lawsuit for the information.
In the days following the Capitol attack, former acting defense secretary Chris Miller and former army secretary Ryan McCarthy’s communications were the subject of a public documents request made by American Oversight.
However, they learned that the records had not been maintained during the legal dispute.
“DOD and Army conveyed to Plaintiff that when an employee separates from DOD or Army he or she turns in the government-issued phone, and the phone is wiped. For those custodians no longer with the agency, the text messages were not preserved and therefore could not be searched,” the agencies wrote in a March court filing.
The revelation comes after reports that other DHS employees, including former acting secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy Ken Cuccinelli, also had their messages deleted during the transition. Following the inauguration, both had their phones reset, which resulted in the loss of any texts from January 6.
Breaking: The Defense Department wiped the phones of top departing DOD and Army officials at the end of the Trump administration.
This is a VAST right wing conspiracy.
— Duty To Warn 🔉 (@duty2warn) August 2, 2022
Additionally, SMS messages from January 5 and January 6 were “erased” as part of a device replacement operation, the inspector general at DHS said to Congress last month.
Any text messages that might be missing, according to the Secret Service, were misplaced during a software upgrade.
First on CNN: Pentagon wiped the phones of top departing DOD and Army officials at the end of the Trump administration, deleting any texts from key witnesses to events surrounding the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, according to court filings. https://t.co/cJWpwXJDGB
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) August 2, 2022
The attempt to collect Pentagon texts might have provided insight into why it took the National Guard so long to receive authorization to enter the Capitol while it was under siege.
The lawsuit demanded access to the contacts between the military officials and former President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Trump’s top of staff Mark Meadows. Additionally, messages from Kash Patel, Miller’s chief of staff, Paul Ney, the general counsel of the Defense Department, and James E. McPherson, the general counsel of the Army, where requested.
MAJOR BREAKING NEWS: Trump’s Pentagon Deliberately Destroyed All Its Texts, Decimating Critical Evidence and National Security-Related Material in What Continues to Look Like—at DHS, the Secret Service, and now DoD—the Biggest Cover-up in American History https://t.co/Mli9LaTdEs
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 2, 2022
The House committee looking into the attack on the Capitol building on January 6 subpoenaed Patel as well.
American Oversight requested an investigation from Attorney General Merrick Garland in a letter, stating that each official’s phone appeared to have been erased following the submission of their records request.
“DOD has apparently deleted messages from top DOD and Army officials responsive to pending FOIA requests that could have shed light on the actions of top Trump administration officials on the day of the failed insurrection,” Heather Sawyer, the group’s executive director, wrote in the letter.
DOD wiped the phones of top departing officials as the Trump administration ended, deleting texts from key witnesses to 1-6, per court filings. Trump replaced the Secy of Defense & 3 top officials at DOD with loyalists AFTER he lost the election. https://t.co/DxUrXB4Y4C
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) August 2, 2022
“American Oversight accordingly urges you to investigate DOD’s actions in allowing the destruction of records potentially relevant to this significant matter of national attention and historical importance.”
Garland has been asked to weigh in on a situation involving January 6 twice in less than a week.
First we learned that the Secret Service had deleted texts related to January 6th.
Then the Department of Homeland Security.
And now we’re learning that the Defense Department wiped the phones of top departing DOD and Army officials as well.
How the hell far does this coverup go?
— Jo 🌻 (@JoJoFromJerz) August 2, 2022
In a letter to the attorney general last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) requested that he look into what he called “the destruction of evidence” at DHS. In addition, Durbin requested that Garland “step in and get to the bottom of what happened to these text messages and hold accountable those who are responsible.”