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Johnson asks DOJ watchdog to investigate Mueller team phones over erased information

Johnson asks DOJ watchdog to investigate Mueller team phones over erased information
© Washington Post/Pool

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many On The Money: Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill | Stocks sink after Powell fails to appease jittery traders | February jobs report to provide first measure of Biden economy Senate relief package earmarks B for global coronavirus response MORE (R-Wis.), the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, is asking the Justice Department inspector general to investigate new documents that indicate members of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's team erased some records from their official phones.

"These reports are troubling and raise concerns about record retention and transparency," Johnson wrote in a letter to Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general Michael Horowitz. "Therefore, I respectfully request that your office open an investigation into this matter to determine what, why, and how information was wiped, whether any wrongdoing occurred, and who these devices belonged to."

The letter comes after documents released by the Justice Department this week say information was scrubbed from at least 15 phones. The records cited forgotten passwords, physical damage to the phones and hardware issues to explain the erasures.

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Besides requesting that Horowitz open an investigation into the documents, Johnson is also asking for answers to a number of questions, including when the DOJ was made aware of the issue and if the inspector general has the ability to retrieve the information from the phones. He’s asking for answers to his questions by Sept. 18.

Johnson is also winding down a related probe into the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's contact with Russians in 2016, an inquiry that ultimately transformed into Mueller’s probe. 

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks National Sheriffs' Association backs Biden pick for key DOJ role Bipartisan group of senators introduces bill to rein in Biden's war powers MORE (R-Iowa), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has also sent a letter to the FBI and DOJ asking about the wiped phones.