Some senior Trump administration officials had their phones “wiped” by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S. Army after the former president left office, meaning messages that were sent around the time of the Jan. 6 Capitol breach are no longer accessible, court filings show.
The DOD acknowledged that the phones belonging to former Pentagon officials had been wiped as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by American Oversight, a non-profit watchdog organization.
American Oversight had sought the communications that those officials had with Trump, former Vice President Pence, Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, or anyone communicating on their behalf on Jan. 6.
The watchdog group submitted the FOIA requests pertaining to the records on Jan. 12, 2021, six days after the breach of the Capitol building.
Specifically, FOIA requests sought communications from former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former chief of staff Kash Patel, and former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, Paul Ney, the Defense Department’s general counsel; and James E. McPherson, the Army’s general counsel.
However, in a court filing roughly a year after the request, the Army stated that “when an employee separates from DOD or Army he or she turns in the government issued phone, and the phone is wiped” and that “for those custodians no longer with the agency, the text messages were not preserved and therefore could not be searched.”
The court filing noted, however, that “it is possible that particular text messages could have been saved into other records systems such as email.”