The Defense Department 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. The acknowledgment that the phones from the Pentagon officials had been wiped was first revealed in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit American Oversight brought against the Defense Department and the Army.
The watchdog group is seeking January 6th records from former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former chief of staff Kash Patel, and former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, among other prominent Pentagon officials — having filed initial FOIA requests just a few days after the Capitol attack. The government’s assertion in the filings that the officials’ text messages from that day were not preserved is the latest blow to the efforts to bring transparency to the events of January 6th. It comes as the Department of Homeland Security is also under fire for the apparent loss of messages from the Secret Service that day.
Miller, Patel, and McCarthy were all involved in the Defense Department’s response to sending National Guard troops to the US Capitol as the riot was unfolding. There is no suggestion that the officials themselves erased the records. American Oversight is now calling for a “cross-agency investigation” by the Justice Department to investigate the destruction of the communications.
Six days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, we #FOIA’d DOD and the Army for senior officials’ communications with President Trump, VP Pence, and top staff from Jan. 6.
In court filings, DOD and the Army admitted they “wiped” top officials’ phones.https://t.co/4ffTATwSAR
— American Oversight (@weareoversight) August 3, 2022
The Secret Service has said that its texts were lost as a result of a previously scheduled data migration of its agents’ cell phones that began on January 27, 2021, exactly three weeks after the attack on the US Capitol. Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari first learned those texts were missing as early as May 2021.
J6 committee: “New evidence” suggests Joseph Cuffari “secretly abandoned efforts to collect text messages from the Secret Service and may have taken steps to cover up the extent of missing records.”
Lock him up.
— Duty To Warn 🔉 (@duty2warn) August 2, 2022
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta joined Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday to discuss the court filing and suggested there was a coordinated effort across various agencies to destroy specific incriminating communications. “This is another major concern that obviously officials out of the Trump administration were taking steps to make sure that potential evidence involved in January 6th would not be there,” says Panetta. “I don’t think there’s any question that when you go from agency to agency and find out that key messages have been deleted, something’s going on here that resembles very clearly a conspiracy.”