Jan. 6 text messages wiped from phones of key Trump Pentagon officials
The acknowledgment that the phones from the Pentagon officials had been wiped was first revealed in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit American Oversight brought against the Defense Department and the Army. The records watchdog group is seeking January 6 from former Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former chief of staff Kash Patel, and former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, among other prominent PentagonIA officials — having filed initial FO just a few days after the Capitol attack.
Miller, Patel and McCarthy have all been viewed as crucial witnesses for understanding government’s response to the January 6 Capitol assault and former President Donald Trump’s reaction to the breach. All three were 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.
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 6. 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 refused to comment. Patel and McCarthy did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Pentagon and the Army also did not respond to requests for comment.
American Oversight is now calling for a “cross-agency investigation” by the Justice Department to investigate destruction of the materials.
“It’s just astounding to believe that the agency did not understand the importance of preserving its records — particularly [with regards] to the top officials that might have captured: what they were doing, when they were doing it, why they were doing, it on that day,” Heather Sawyer, American Oversight’s executive director, told CNN.
Sawyer said that her organization learned the records were not preserved from government attorneys last spring, and that acknowledgment was then memorialized in a joint status report filed with the court in March.
“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,” the government said in the filing. “For those custodians no longer with the agency, the text messages were not preserved and therefore could not be searched, although it is possible that particular text messages could have been saved into other records systems such as email.”
The acknowledgment that the records were not preserved has taken on new significance in the wake of the ongoing scandal over the loss of Secret Service agents’ texts from January 6.
“It just reveals a widespread lack of taking seriously the obligation to preserve records, to ensure accountability, to ensure accountability to their partners in the branch and to the American people,” Sawyer said.
This story is breaking and will be updated.