The Defense Department reportedly wiped the phones of top officials at the end of the Trump administration, removing any text messages that could have potentially provided information about the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
American Oversight unveiled 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 government watchdog group urged Garland to “exercise his authority as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer to take control of the criminal investigation currently underway by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is investigating the loss of text messages and other January 6 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 claimed Tuesday that it is pursuing this legal action following a Freedom of Information Act request that was filed with the Defense Department shortly after the Capitol attack, resulting in the department saying it ” The top failed to preserve text messages and other communications stored on phones from DoD and Army officers.”
Former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, his Chief of Staff Kash Patel and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy are considered essential witnesses in relation to the Trump administration’s response to the Capitol riots. All three were involved in the Department of Defense sending National Guard troops to Capitol grounds at the time.
The Defense Department and the military, responding to a request for information, said the phones were wiped as part of the protocol. ,[W]When an employee is fired from the DoD or military, he turns to a government-issued phone, and the phone is wiped,” the government told American Oversight in March.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also Asked In July, Garland to take control of the DHS investigation into the missing texts.
“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] Kafri’s failure to take immediate action upon learning these text messages had been deleted makes it clear that he should no longer be handed this investigation,” Durbin said. “That’s why I’m sending a letter today to Attorney General Garland asking him to step up and get to the bottom of what happened with these text messages and hold those responsible.”