At the end of the Trump administration, the Defense Department reportedly cleared the phones of senior officials, deleting all text messages that might have provided information about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
U.S. watchdogs released the information in court filings as part of an effort to target the Defense Department and a letter To Attorney General Merrick Garland. The government watchdog group urged Garland to “exercise your authority as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer to take over the criminal investigation currently underway by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been investigating the Jan. 6 loss of text messages and other communications on Secret Service agents’ cell phones.
The Department of Defense (DOD) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. watchdog group claimed on Tuesday that a Freedom of Information Act request was filed with the Department of Defense shortly after the Capitol attack, which led to the Defense Department saying it “failed to preserve sources from the highest echelons of the Department of Defense and Army officials.”
Former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, his chief of staff Cash Patel and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy are considered key witnesses to the Trump administration’s response to the congressional insurrection. At the time, all three were involved in the Department of Defense’s effort to send National Guard troops to the Capitol.
The Defense Department and Army responded to requests for information, saying the phones had been wiped as part of the agreement. “[W]When an employee leaves the Department of Defense or the Army, he or she turns in a government-issued phone and the phone is wiped,” the government told U.S. watchdog groups in March.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also ask Garland took over the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation into the missing texts in July.
“The destruction of evidence that may be relevant to the investigation into the deadly attack on our Capitol is an extremely serious matter. Inspector General [Joseph] Kufari’s failure to act immediately upon learning the text messages had been deleted suggests he should no longer be entrusted with this investigation,” Durbin said. “That’s why I wrote to Attorney General Garland today, Ask him to step in and find out the truth about what happened to these text messages and hold those responsible accountable. “