Aerial view of the United States military headquarters, the Pentagon.
Jason Reed | Reuters
Text messages received and sent by top Pentagon officials who were part of the Trump administration on Jan. 6, 2021, have been wiped from their government-issued phones, according to a federal court filing that cites statements by the Defense Department and Army.
The text messages from that day — when a mob of Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol — “were not preserved, and therefore could not be searched,” according to that filing.
The document says that Defense Department and Army officials have said: “That when an employee separates from [Department of Defense] or Army he or she turns in the government-issued phone, and the phone is wiped.”
The filing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., was a joint status report from lawyers involved in a lawsuit by the watchdog group American Oversight against the Defense Department, Army, National Guard and Justice Department. That lawsuit seeks records related to Jan. 6 from a group of former Pentagon officials.
The status report was filed in March.
But it came to light Tuesday as American Oversight asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to open an investigation into the Pentagon’s “failure to preserve the communications, which included those of former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, from Jan. 6,” the group said.
The group in its letter to Garland noted that the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General is currently conducting a criminal investigation of the deletion of Jan. 6 text messages from the cellphones of Secret Service agents and officials.
“The apparent deletion of records from January 6th by multiple agencies bolsters the need for a cross-agency investigation into the possible destruction of federal records,” American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer wrote Garland.
“We therefore urge you to exercise your authority to take control of the investigation into DHS’s
alleged deletion of records, as requested by [Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois], and to also investigate [Department of Defense] for the same conduct — deletion or destruction of records that previously had been stored on these officials’ mobile devices, including any text messages (or messages on similar applications, such as Signal or WhatsApp) regarding agency business on January 6, 2021,” Sawyer wrote.
Last week, the House select committee that is investigating the Capitol riot revealed videotaped testimony by Miller, during which the former acting defense secretary contradicted ex-President Donald Trump’s claims that he had requested that at least 10,000 National Guard troops be deployed in Washington before Jan. 6.
“I was never given any direction or order or knew of any plans of that nature,” Miller said in his testimony. “There was no order from the president.”
A public hearing of the House committee on July 21 focused on the fact that Trump for 187 minutes on Jan. 6, 2021, failed to take any action to stop the attack on the Capitol by his supporters.
“Within 15 minutes of leaving his rally, Trump knew the Capitol was under attack. But what did he do? He went to his dining room, turned on the TV, and watched the deadly insurrection he incited in real time as entertainment,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., tweeted during the hearing.