The Defense Department reportedly wiped the phones of top officials at the end of the Trump administration, deleting any text messages that could potentially provide information about the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
American Oversight disclosed this information in court filings as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the Department of Defense and a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland; The administration’s oversight group urged Garland to “exercise your authority as our nation’s law enforcement chief to take control of the criminal investigation currently underway by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is investigating the Jan. 6 loss of text messages and other communications on the phones of Secret Service agents.
The Department of Defense (DOD) did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.
American Oversight said Tuesday that it is bringing this legal action following a request it made to the Defense Department shortly after the attack on Capitol Hill that the department “failed to preserve text messages and other communications stored on phones from top DOD and Army Officials”.
Former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, his chief of staff Kash Patel and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy are considered key witnesses on the Trump administration’s response to the Capitol uprising. All three were involved with the Department of Defense sending National Guard troops to the Capitol at the time.
The Ministry of Defense and the Army responded to the request for information saying the phones were wiped as part of protocol. “[W]When an employee separates from the State Department or the Army, they surrender their government-issued phone and the phone is wiped,” the government told American Oversight in March.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) as well asked Garland in July to take over the DHS investigation into the missing texts.
“The destruction of evidence that could be relevant to the investigation of the deadly attack on our Capitol is an extremely serious matter. General Inspector [Joseph] Cuffari’s failure to take immediate action upon learning that these text messages had been deleted makes it clear that he should no longer be assigned this investigation,” Durbin said. “That’s why I’m sending a letter today to Attorney General Garland asking him to step in and figure out what happened with these text messages and hold those responsible accountable.”