The Department of Defense (DOD) says it erased text messages from a number of Trump-era top officials relating to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol because it wiped their phones during the transition, The Hill reported Tuesday, citing a watchdog group that sued for the records disclosed.
According to The Hill, American Oversight “filed a public records request for the communications of former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy in the days after the attack on the Capitol. But they were informed during litigation that the records were not preserved.”
“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. For those custodians no longer with the agency, the text messages were not preserved and therefore could not be searched,” the agencies wrote in a March court filing, the news outlet reported.
The revelation comes weeks after reports that numerous officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also had their messages erased during the transition, including former acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy Ken Cuccinelli. Both had their phones wiped following the inauguration.
The Secret Service claims the agency’s text messages were lost through a software transition, The Hill reported.
The inspector general at DHS notified Congress last month that text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 were “erased” as part of a device replacement program.
In response, American Oversight sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate, noting that each official’s phone appears to have been wiped after their records request was filed.
“DOD has apparently deleted messages from top DOD and Army officials responsive to pending FOIA requests that could have shed light on the actions of top Trump administration officials on the day of the failed insurrection,” Heather Sawyer, the groups executive director, wrote in the letter, referring to the Freedom of Information Act.
“American Oversight accordingly urges you to investigate DOD’s actions in allowing the destruction of records potentially relevant to this significant matter of national attention and historical importance.”